Pastor David B. Curtis


Only a Remnant!

Romans 9:24-29

Delivered 02/19/2012

We continue this morning in our study of Romans chapter 9. I know that this has been a difficult chapter for many. Some of you have probably even felt your stomach tie in knots as you were confronted with the truth of God's absolute sovereignty.

Romans 9 is the clearest, most in-depth teaching on the absolute sovereignty of God to be found in Scripture, and fallen man finds this hard to accept. Why is this doctrine so difficult for us to accept today? I think that it is because throughout the Church today, with almost no exception, the theory is held that man is a "free agent," and therefore lord of his fate and determiner of his own destiny.

Arthur Pink said this, "God's sovereign election is the truth most loathed and reviled by the majority of those claiming to be believers. Let it be plainly announced that salvation originated not in the will of man but in the will of God, that were it not so none would or could be saved. For as a result of the fall man has lost all desire and will unto that which is good and that even the elect themselves have to be made willing, and loud will be the cries of indignation against such teaching. Merit mongers will not allow the supremacy of the divine will and the impedance of the human will. Consequently they who are the most better in denouncing election by the sovereign will of God are the warmest in crying up the free will of fallen man."

The emphasis in Romans 9 is on the sovereignty of God, brought forth by a question about Israel's rejection. Israel was a unique people in the plan of God. They were sovereignly called into existence and set aside as God's people. They were given promises, and covenants, and God led and guided them. It was to them that Christ came.

Israel, God's chosen people, rejected Jesus Christ and crucified Him, and at the time of Paul's writing they were rejecting the proclamation of the gospel by the apostles. So the question arises; how can the gospel be true if God's people, the Jews rejected it? And if the gospel is true, has God gone back on his promises to Israel? Romans 9 becomes, in a sense, an apologetic—a defense of the gospel, as well as a theodicy— a defense of God. Paul's first major premise is:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; Romans 9:6 NASB

God's promise was never meant to be realized in the nation as a whole. God's promises were always limited, they were to the true, spiritual Israel—the children of promise.

That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Romans 9:8 NASB

God is not bound by physical descent or flesh. He "counts" as "children of promise" whom he pleases. God acts this way, it says in verse 11:

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, Romans 9:11 NASB

"So that God's purpose according to His choice would stand"—in choosing Jacob and rejecting Esau, God had respect to nothing but His own purpose. The choice is solely in God and His sovereign choices. In other words, the point is that only some from Israel are part of the people of God.

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? Romans 9:22 NASB

"What if God, willing to demonstrate His wrath"—Does God have a right to display his wrath? Yes, He does. But how could He apart from the entrance of sin into the world? When you talk about God's absolute sovereignty over every event in time a question that often arises is, What about sin? If God controls all things where did sin come from? Last week I said that, It was God's will that sin should enter the world, He decreed it. This is the supralapsarian position. This is a hard subject for most believers. So let's look at this again from a little different angle. The majority of this material is from chapter 3 of R.C. Sproul's book, "Almighty Over All." Chapter 3 is entitled, "Who Dunit?" I want to take us back to the garden and the first sin and see if we can discover where sin came from:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27 NASB

Notice what God says about His creation:

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:31 NASB

So God creates a world, He creates Adam and Eve places them in the Garden of Eden and says, "It was very good." And then Adam and Eve sin and mankind falls into spiritual darkness. How did this happen? Who in the Garden could have possibly caused this to happen? In the Garden were God, Adam, Eve and Satan. So it must be one of them that caused sin. Which one? Some will say it was Eve, since she disobeyed and ate the fruit. Let me ask you this, Did Eve have it in her power to create sin?

Jonathan Edwards in his essay, "The Freedom of the Will" wrote that men everywhere always act according to their strongest inclination at a given time. Men's will is never free! So consider Eve:

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6 NASB

How did Eve choose evil when God created her good? Since Eve was created good then her inclination must have only been good. Jesus, who was good said;

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. John 4:34 NASB

So moral goodness means the desire to obey God. So how could Eve have done evil when she was good? In order to do evil she first had to stop being good. So what or who changed Eve's inclination? She could not have changed her inclination from good to bad because she was good. So something outside of her must have changed her from good to bad. But who? Adam? He was also created good, so his inclination was also good and could not have changed Eve's inclination to bad. Was it the Serpent, the Devil? No, Satan did not have the power to change the inclinations of humans. Though he did tempt and seduce men, he did it by appealing to man's twisted inclinations. This is why he could not temp Jesus. Jesus' strongest inclination was to obey the Father. So Satan could not be the culprit. So if it couldn't be Eve or Adam or Satan who's left?

Did God have the ability to change men's inclinations? Yes, He does, He does it all the time:

"Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel." For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the LORD your God. Exodus 34:23-24 NASB

Three times a year all men had to go to Jerusalem to worship on the pilgrim feast days. How could God say that "no man shall covet your land?" He could say this because He controls the inclinations of men. God didn't say no one will take your land, but no one will covet your land. Nobody even wanted their land.

Why would God change Eve's inclination and cause man to fall into sin? So He could display His wrath:

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? Romans 9:22 NASB

Many people have difficulty imagining God finding any glory in His wrath, but He does. He is pleased with His wrath. It is just as much an attribute of God as is His love.

R.C. Sproul Jr. writes: "We cannot imagine God looking at His wrath like unwanted pounds He wants to lose, if only He had the power. No, God is as delighted with His wrath as He is with all of his attributes. Suppose He says, 'What I'll do is create something worthy of my wrath, something on which I can exhibit the glory of my wrath. And on top of that I'll manifest my mercy by showering grace on some of these creatures deserving my wrath.'"

God cannot sin, He is holy, but he did create sin. The Westminster Confession of Faith defines sin as "any lack of conformity to or transgression of the law of God." So where does the law of God forbid the creation of evil? It doesn't! And someone may reply, It doesn't forbid the creation of evil because man cannot create evil. That's right, and that proves the point that God created evil.

Sproul Jr. says, "It was his desire to make his wrath known. He needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures. He wanted to make his mercy known. He needed, then, something that deserved wrath on which he could show mercy instead. All of this serves his eternal and ultimate desire, to glorify himself."

When we think of God's glory, we often think of those things which impress us, things that we like. We praise him because we like what he has done, because it benefits us. We don't often think of the glory God receives from his wrath. If we don't see the glory in God's wrath we are going to have a hard time seeing why God caused the fall. But because of the fall, God will exercise his wrath and show his mercy. How will he show his mercy and remain just? Through the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, where the innocent died for the guilty. Back to Romans:

And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. Romans 9:23-24 NASB

Syntactically verse 24 is joined with verse 23, since "whom" refers back to "mercy".

But materially verse 24 begins a new paragraph. So we ended last time with 24 and we will begin with it today. Who are the "vessels of mercy?" They are those whom God has "called"—this is connected with God's call in verse 11, "not because of works but because of Him who calls." The promises of God were not to all in the nation but to the called.

even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. Romans 9:24 NASB

Now I said last week that "us" referred to Paul and the Romans saints, but this may be a reference to "us Jews". Paul tells us that the called are, "Not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles"—what does Paul mean by this? Most see this as saying, that God not only chooses some out of Israel to be vessels of mercy, but he chooses some from the Gentiles also. Although that is true, I don't think that is what Paul is saying here. The word "gentiles" here is from the Greek ethnos, which is also translated "nations". Chapters 9-11 are all about Israel, and I think what Paul says here is dealing only with Israel.

To understand what Paul is saying we need to realize that there is a distinction between "Jews" and "Israel". When the Bible talks about Jews, who is it referring to? I think that many Christians would answer this question by saying that the Jews are the 12 tribes of Israel, God's covenant people. But this is not correct! The term "Jews" was first used in the Babylonian captivity. The Babylonians called them Jews because they were from the land of Judah. At the time of the writing of the New Testament, during the Roman kingdom there were only two tribes in the Palestinian area; Judah and Benjamin. There were certain individuals from other tribes, but for the most part, it was only the two tribes. It was only those two tribes who were called "Jews".

Let's back up and look at the history of Israel so we can understand this. Israel became a nation at Sinai when God gave them His law and entered into covenant with them. They were called the "house of Israel".

For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel. Exodus 40:38 NASB

Here the term "house of Israel" refers to the 12 tribes, the nation Israel. The 12 tribes remained united until after the death of Solomon.

Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice...So the LORD said to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. "Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. "However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen." 1 Kings 11:9-13 NASB

When Solomon died in 926 or 925 B.C., the northerners refused to recognize his successor Rehoboam. Subsequently, the north broke away and was ruled by the House of Omri. The northern kingdom of Israel flourished until it was completely destroyed, and its ten tribes sent into permanent exile by the Assyrians between 740 and 721 B.C.

So the house of Israel was split into two kingdoms. The 10 northern tribes were known as the Northern kingdom or House of Israel. And the 2 southern tribes were known as the Southern kingdom or Judah:

But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. 1 Kings 12:17 NASB

Both of these kingdoms, Israel and Judah, became harlots and forsook the Lord:

"And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. Jeremiah 3:8 NASB

They were both immoral and ungodly, but God only divorced Israel. Why was that? He could not divorce Judah, because it was through Judah that Messiah would come:

Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, "Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. Genesis 49:1 NASB
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Genesis 49:10 NASB

In Ezekiel we learn more about the sin of these two nations:

The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, "Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother; and they played the harlot in Egypt. They played the harlot in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and there their virgin bosom was handled. "Their names were Oholah the elder and Oholibah her sister. And they became Mine, and they bore sons and daughters. And as for their names, Samaria is Oholah and Jerusalem is Oholibah. "Oholah played the harlot while she was Mine; and she lusted after her lovers, after the Assyrians, her neighbors, Ezekiel 23:1-5 NASB

The Mother is the 12 tribe nation of Israel. The two daughters are the southern kingdom, Oholibah, and the northern kingdom, Oholah. These two kingdoms came out of Israel as a result of the two wives and two marriages of Jacob. The capital city of Judah was Jerusalem, and the capital of Israel was Samaria.

God was their husband until the divorce decree, which we find in Hosea. A divorce requires that the wife receive the bill of divorce, and then she was put out of the house. The house in this context is the land of Palestine, the bill of divorce is the book of Hosea, and the putting out of the house was taking Israel into the Assyrian captivity.

Then the LORD said, "Thus will the sons of Israel eat their bread unclean among the nations where I will banish them." Ezekiel 4:13 NASB
Israel is swallowed up; They are now among the nations Like a vessel in which no one delights. Hosea 8:8 NASB

So Israel is among the nations, she has been swallowed up. But God promises that one day the two houses will be united:

say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand."' "The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. "Say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. Ezekiel 37:19-22 NASB

Notice that verse 21 says, "I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations." This is a promise of restoration and this is the same phrase we see in:

even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. Romans 9:24 NASB

What Paul is saying here is that the called are from both Judah and Israel. "From among nations"is a reference not to Gentiles but to Israel, the ten northern tribes. Let me try to prove this. Notice what Paul does next, he quotes Hosea:


Paul shows that Israel's calling from among the Gentiles was according to God's plan as revealed in Scripture. When Paul wanted to make a point, he went to the Scriptures. You can't argue with God's Word. Paul is quoting here from:

"I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they will say, 'You are my God!'" Hosea 2:23 NASB

This is what Paul quotes, but he paraphrases. To get the meaning we need to go back to chapter 1. Hosea was a prophet to Israel, the northern kingdom of the ten tribes. He prophesied during the eighth century before Christ:

When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD." Hosea 1:2 NASB

At God's command, Hosea married a woman named Gomer. She either was a harlot when Hosea married her or she became one shortly afterwards, for she conceived children out of whoredom.

So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. And the LORD said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. Hosea 1:3-4 NASB

Hosea lived out a parable; as his wife was a harlot to him, so Israel was a harlot to her husband God. "Jezreel" is from an agricultural term that refers to everything from the sowing to the harvest. So God refers to the first son as the sowing and harvest of Israel. So God is telling Israel that He is going to sow them in the nations, but there will come a time when He will harvest them out again. He later tells us that the harvest will occur at the same time that the harvest of the house of Judah occurs. That harvest began with the Messiah and continued until the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. And it continues until this day as God calls His people unto Himself.

"On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." Hosea 1:5 NASB

The phrase, "break the bow" is a term meaning destruction of the nation's military might. This happened in 733 B.C. when Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrian General, overran Israel.

Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the LORD said to him, "Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them. Hosea 1:6 NASB

The name "Lo-Ruhamah" means, not my loved one or not pitied. Lo‑Ruhamah demonstrates that they would be placed out there without the mercy of God.

"But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the LORD their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen." When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said, "Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God." Hosea 1:7-9 NASB

The name" Lo-ammi" means, not my people. So Hosea marries a woman, she becomes a prostitute, she has three children, one named "scattered," one named "not my loved one", and another named, "not my people." Those names have reference toward God's attitude toward adulteress Israel. The children of Israel are scattered, not loved, and not the people of God.

So Israel's relationship with God was to be severed and Hosea 2:23 points this out. This is referring to Israel, the ten northern tribes, not spiritual Israel. Israel had broken the covenant and would experience the covenantal curses of Deut. 28.

Yet the number of the sons of Israel Will be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And in the place Where it is said to them, "You are not My people," It will be said to them, "You are the sons of the living God." Hosea 1:10 NASB

Again we see a promise of restoration. Now watch the next verse:

And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, And they will appoint for themselves one leader, And they will go up from the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel. Hosea 1:11 NASB

Judah and Israel are gathered together, with one leader. This phrase "go up from the land" is equivalent to "out of the nations" that we have in Romans 9:24. Ezekiel gives this same promise in:

"Say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. Ezekiel 37:21-22 NASB

Here we see that God takes them "from among the nations" which is the same phrase as in Romans. Israel had been scattered among the nations and they would be gathered out from the nations.

So this prophecy that Paul quotes is related to Israel, and not the Gentile nations. Paul is not applying this passage to the Gentiles.

John Piper writes, "If Jews were really a "no people" and could be declared "my people," then Gentiles who were "no people" could be declared "my people." Gentiles were no people. They had no covenant claims on God. But now God has sent his effective call and many of them are saved—they are part of his covenant people." What do you think of that? I think he may be right.


Paul quotes directly from Hosea 1:10. Where was it said of them, "ye are not my people?" They were not God's people, He had divorced them. But there will come a time what they shall be called, "sons of the living God."—this is a title that is in opposition to sons of idols, or dead gods. They will once again be called children of the Living God. Both of these quotations were originally addressed to Israel, the ten northern tribes. Then Paul quotes from Isaiah:


Now Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah as loudly testifying of the doctrine which he is declaring. "Isaiah cries out" is the Hebrew Krazo, which is an impassioned utterance. We also saw part of this quote in Hosea 1:10. Isaiah in 10:22, quoted here by Paul, testifies of the rejection of the great body of the Jews, and of the election of a small number among them. This is the proposition with which Paul began, "They are not all Israel which are of Israel."

For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, Only a remnant within them will return; A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. Isaiah 10:22 NASB

Who is Isaiah speaking of here? Well he is talking about the Assyrian captivity. Who was it that Assyrian captured? It is Israel, the ten northern tribes. Isaiah predicts that due to the Assyrian invasion, Israel will be greatly reduced in number, only a remnant would return. The word "remnant" means, that which is left. This Scripture demonstrates that God's promises do not pertain to the mass of Israel but are fulfilled in the remnant.


This is a quotation from Isaiah 10:23. The context of Isaiah's prophecy was that of the apostasy of the northern kingdom of Israel and the judgment of God through the Assyrians. But Paul uses this here as a warning to his fellow Jews. God is going to judge Israel thoroughly and quickly and only a remnant will be left. Paul is quoting Isaiah who talks about the Assyrians invasion but I think he is also using this is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70 by the Roman armies.

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, "An enemy, even one surrounding the land, Will pull down your strength from you And your citadels will be looted." Thus says the LORD, "Just as the shepherd snatches from the lion's mouth a couple of legs or a piece of an ear, So will the sons of Israel dwelling in Samaria be snatched away-- With the corner of a bed and the cover of a couch! Amos 3:11-12 NASB

This is a vivid picture of judgment. Any saving of Israel would be like a shepherd saving a couple of leg bones or part of an ear. These little bits of rescued evidence were to prove that a shepherd had not stolen or sold one of the sheep.

"You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Amos 3:2 NASB

Israel had a special relationship with the Lord, and therefore, it also had great responsibility. God is going to save a little of Israel from judgment.


Here he is quoting from Isaiah 1:9. The word "posterity" is the Greek word sperma, which means "seed". He changes remnant to seed, it means the same thing.

Unless the LORD of hosts Had left us a few survivors, We would be like Sodom, We would be like Gomorrah. Isaiah 1:9 NASB

Who is Isaiah talking to here? The previous three quotes were about Israel, is this one also. Look at the context:

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Isaiah 1:1 NASB

"The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem."He is speaking to Judah. A "seed" or remnant will be saved from Judah and a remnant will be saved from Israel and these two will be brought together to form "all Israel" or true Israel. Paul's primary focus here is Israel, not the Gentiles. As a result of Israel's salvation the Gentiles would also be called.

Israel might object to the doctrine of sovereign election, to the fact that God chooses some, not all, to be saved. But Paul, in verse 29 quoting Isaiah 1:9, shows that if God had not intervened in sovereign love and mercy, they would "all" have become like Sodom and Gomorrah. God's election destroyed none, it's the sole reason that any were spared.

"Lord of Sabaoth"—is Lord of the armies of heaven. "Sodom and Gomorrah" are pictures of total and complete destruction. A devastating judgment, from which a tiny remnant will escape is seen in the beginning as Lot and his family escape from Sodom. Which is a foretaste of the Exodus and finally the New Exodus. Only a remnant, a seed, escaped the destruction of Jerusalem as the true seed of Israel fled Jerusalem as their Lord told them to.

"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. "Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; Luke 21:20-21 NASB

Only the remnant, the true seed, escaped and the rest of Israel was made like Sodom and Gomorrah, totally destroyed. This verse clearly shows that being an Israelite was not enough to secure either exemption from divine judgments or the enjoyment of God's favor.

Paul draws from Hosea and he draws from Isaiah as proof that God planned that not all Israel would be saved. The only reason anyone believes is because God has chosen them.

Verses 24-29 round off the first stage of the argument of 9-11: God has done what he said he would do. A remnant, not all Israel (v6), was saved.

I believe that any opposition to the truth of Divine sovereign election arises from ignorance of, or blindness to the utter sinfulness and wholly lost state of mankind. If you understand "total depravity" you understand the need for sovereign election. "All" would be damned unless God, in mercy, intervened.

So what does all this mean to us? Believers, our salvation is as secure as its foundations, and there is no surer foundation for our salvation than the elective will of God. My will can change, but God's cannot. Therefore, my salvation is as secure and certain as the immutability of God. If He does not change then my salvation is secure, for it began with His will and it rests on His immutability.

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