Recently Added
to Exposition of Romans:

3:9–20—Conclusion: OT confirms that humanity is under sin’s power
(January 26th 2019)
Romans 9:24–29—God calls remnants of Jews and Gentiles to be his children.

24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only
but also from the Gentiles?
25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”
27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea,
only a remnant of them will be saved,
28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.”
29 And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”

We will misunderstand chapters 9–11 if we fail to recognize that their keyword is mercy. So advises Charles Cranfield. The fuel that has kept the engine of God’s purpose of election running through the ages has been his sovereign mercy—see verses 11, 15, 16, 18, and 23. God has prepared “vessels of mercy” for glory, Paul said in verse 23. In the passage now before us he specifies the origin and number (at least in relative terms) of those people.

God’s hand of mercy reaches out not only to Jews but also to Gentiles. In verse 24 Paul speaks of “even us whom he has called.” Like Paul, some members of the church in Rome were Jews. Others were the offspring of Ishmael, Esau, and other ethnic groupings who were previously rejected from God’s purpose. These global masses of humanity greatly outnumber the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

To make his case, Paul quotes from the OT prophets, first Hosea and then Isaiah. I will not comment on Paul’s loose style of quotation and creative hermeneutics. You can consult Cranfield, Douglas Moo, and others for those details.

Hosea: Gentiles now qualify as God’s beloved children
In verses 25 and 26, Paul quotes from Hosea 2:23 and 1:10. Hosea’s prophecies concerned the northern kingdom of Israel when those ten tribes were steeped in idolatry. Because Hosea foretold their future restoration, Paul saw a similar extension of God’s grace to Gentiles and applied the prophecies to them. So did Peter (1 Peter 2:10).

Gentiles had been aliens and outsiders, unloved. Robert Utley comments, “If God could restore the idolatrous Northern Ten Tribes, Paul saw this as evidence of the love and forgiveness of God that would one day even include the idolatrous pagans (Gentiles).” Now Jews and Gentiles alike who respond to God’s grace are adopted as his beloved children (Romans 8:15).

Isaiah: A remnant of Israel will be saved
In verses 27 and 28 Paul quotes from Isaiah 10:22–23. Israel’s population soared “as the sand of the sea” in fulfillment of God’s promises to the patriarchs (Genesis 22:17), but the nation fell into unbelief. Although the event foretold by Isaiah in this prophecy is not certain, it seems to be God’s judgment on Judah through the Assyrian invasion under Sennacherib.

God’s judgment came “fully and without delay,” first on Israel through Assyria and then on Assyria itself for its claim of sovereignty over Jerusalem. Only a remnant survived the Assyrian onslaught before an angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.

Paul introduced the remnant concept in verses 6–8 with his statement that “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” Only the children of the promise are reckoned as God’s true offspring. It was true in Paul’s day as it is in ours that only a small number of Jews respond to the gospel, and consequently the majority are “vessels of wrath” destined for destruction. For that matter, only a small percentage of Gentiles have walked through the door of salvation God opened for them.

The remnant fulfills the promise
Paul sees the righteous remnant (“vessels of mercy”) as emblematic of God’s faithfulness to his people, because the remnant is proof that God’s word has not failed, as he stated in verse 6. Paul has pulled from the Scriptures multiple promises that have been fulfilled through God’s elective purpose. God will remain true to his promise by preserving the few—his “sons” (in the case of Gentiles), his “offspring” (in the case of Israel).

That word “offspring” (literally “seed” from Greek sperma) no doubt caught Paul’s eye in the second quotation he drew from the major prophet (Isaiah 1:9) in verse 29. Again, God’s preservation of the faithful few is cause for hope. Unlike Sodom and Gomorrah, Israel will never be wiped from the earth. God’s mercy sustains Israel as it sustains everyone born of God.

Remnant theology will form the crux of Paul’s argument in chapter 11 (see especially 11:5).

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right
to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh
nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
(John 1:11–14)