Vol.XI No.XII Pg.7
February 1975

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Dear Bro. Turner:

Please explain ROM.9:16; and how does this fit in with the necessity for obedient faith?


"It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy". Gods mercies are bestowed according to Gods will. Man can will to serve or not to serve God, but the outcome is God determined. God decided to bless the faithful, and condemn the unfaithful — it is His will, therefore, that is finally and eternally executed.

The Jew tended to forget this (as do some of us), seeming to think that (a) because he was a fleshly child of Abraham, God had to save him; or (b) because he kept (?) the law, God had to save him. Paul has already shown that all accountable men sin, and are by justice condemned. He has also shown that our only hope is forgiveness through Christ; and that this is offered to all who put their trust in Him. But the Jew (generally) rejected Christ, putting their trust in their fleshly relation to Abraham, and in their law keeping. Such is the context that brings about ROM. 9:16.

In ROM.9:1-3 Paul shows his great concern for his people (Jews), who have indeed received many blessings from God (vs. 4-5). But even from a fleshly viewpoint, they are not all Israel which are of Israel. (A place in the chosen lineage was by promise: Gods will and doing. It was Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau; who were children of promise. (vs.13, is from MAL.1:2-5, and refers to results of a time much later than the before-birth choosing previously mentioned.)

In context, ROM. 9:16 rebukes the Jew (and anyone) who would forget the author of law or promise, and begin to think they could control their eternal destiny apart from God. God chose a class on whom He would bestow mercy. (The "us" of vs.24: Christians, both Jews and Gentiles — those of all nations who would trust in Christ.) The "sure mercies of David" are the results of promise of Christ, and "by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (ACT.13:32-39). We classify as recipients of the promised blessings when our trust in Christ prompts us to obey Him as Lord.

The contrast is not between "faith only" and "obedient faith;" it is between trusting in self and in God. Expositors Greek Testament puts it well: Everything in religion depends on the nature of the start. You may start from faith, from an utter abandonment to God, and an entire dependence on Him, and in this case a righteousness is possible which you will recognize as righteousness of God, Gods own gift and work in you; or you may start from works, which really means in independence of God, and try to work out, without coming under obligation to God, a righteousness of your own, for which you may subsequently claim His approval, and in this case, like the Jews, all your efforts will be baffled.

Thank God for the capacity to come to God, and to give Him the glory.