Art Toombs Ministries

Online Bible Commentary

The Chosen
Romans 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (NKJV)




Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome during a three month visit to the church in Corinth, Greece in late 56 and early 57 A.D. The letter is heavy with Christian Doctrine, Christian teaching.

Chapter 9 marks the beginning of a new topic from the Apostle Paul. He launches into the problem of Israel’s unbelief. Chapters 9-11 discuss this topic.

In this passage, Paul writes of the sovereignty of God. He addresses the subject of predestination and election. This is a complicated subject and commentaries differ.

Previously, Paul wrote “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30). It is important to note that prior to God’s predestination of individuals, He foreknew those whom He chose, or called.

Paul begins this passage by writing “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!” (v. 14). God is a righteous God, and His relationship with people reflects that.  

Paul then quotes from Exodus 33:19 “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ " (v. 15). God is a God of mercy and compassion. But He is also a sovereign God and bestows mercy and compassion upon those whom He chooses.

“So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” (v. 16). God determines upon whom He will show mercy. We cannot control this process by doing good works.

Paul then uses an illustration to prove his point. He quotes from Exodus 9:16, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’ " (v. 17}.

The Pharaoh of Egypt worshiped an idol, the sun god, Ra. His heart was already hardened to God. God did not condemn Pharaoh. He had already condemned himself.

So, whenever God wanted the Pharaoh to release the Israelite slaves, He hardened Pharaoh’s heart even more. Pharaoh’s hardened heart brought plagues upon himself and his people, as God withdrew his mercy from them. This caused the Pharaoh to release the Israelites, demonstrating God’s “power” and the name of Yahweh was “declared in all the land”.

“Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.” (v. 18). God, in His sovereignty, and foreknowledge, is the One who decides to whom He will have mercy upon.  

“You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" (v. 19). Paul raises the objection of men that He should not find fault with them when none can resist Him.

“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ “ (v. 20). God’s answer to this objection is that God is God and we are not. He has created us. The created does not have standing over the creator. God is sovereign and does what He wills.

Paul illustrates again, this time using the example of the potter and the clay. He writes “Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (v. 21).

God can make one person a vessel to honor Him and another person a vessel to dishonor Him. Again, we must remember the role of God’s foreknowledge in His plan of election.

God knew, before we were born, everything about us (Jeremiah 1:5). God knew who would accept Him and who would reject Him. All of our days are written in God’s book before one of them comes to pass (Psalm 139:16).

Paul writes “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (v.22). God is a patient God.

He is even patient with those “vessels of wrath” who have “prepared” themselves for destruction. Those who have rejected Him are given many, many chances to accept Him. But, alas, they still reject Him.

Paul concludes this passage with “and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (vv. 23-24).

And to those whom God foreknew would accept Him, those “vessels of mercy”, He showers them with “the riches of His glory”. These riches are not bestowed just on believing Jews, but also on believing non-Jews, Gentiles.

God’s chosen people are not determined by their heritage. Not all Jews were God’s chosen people (Romans 9:6-8), just those whom He foreknew would choose Him.

Salvation is available to all people, all who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, regardless of their heritage or background.