Romans 9: The Sovereignty of God, and Who Will Be Saved


Key Verses:

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
— Romans 9:14–16
Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
— Romans 9:21
As he says in Hosea: ‘I will call them “my people” who are not my people; and I will call her “my loved one” who is not my loved one.’
— Romans 9:25
Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.’
— Romans 9:27

Daily Message:

Paul’s message to many Jews suggested that God had abandoned the Jews and the promises made in the past to Israel. In Chapter 9 of Romans, Paul provides a history lesson and defends his understanding of how God’s sovereignty and God’s plan are not inconsistent with those previously established.

Paul mentions the rich history of God’s covenant with Israel: “Theirs is the adoption of sons, the divine glory, the receiving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ” (v. 5).

He goes on, however, to emphasize the sovereignty of God — God’s freedom and right to extend mercy or compassion to those he chooses. He reinforces this with the analogy of a potter who forms lumps of clay into vessels that serve different purposes (v. 21).

It is important to recognize two points that Paul emphasized here and elsewhere in his epistles. First, God’s sovereignty does not rule out man’s free will. God did not force any of the historical characters of the Bible to behave poorly. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And second, God is not obligated to see that all are saved.

Paul goes on to quote the Old Testament to make the important points that both Jews and Gentiles could be saved (v. 25) and that only a remnant of the nation of Israel would be saved (v. 27).

A Moment to Reflect:

As you read Romans, can you understand how the Jews of the period could be offended and might misinterpret Paul’s message? Can you see why he was imprisoned and persecuted? Does it strengthen your own faith to know that Paul remained steadfast in his faith and continued to pursue his Christian mission in the face of those reactions?