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Romans 9 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Romans 9 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

(9:11-22) "Whom he will he hardeneth."
God makes some people that are destined to go to heaven and others that will go to hell. There is nothing they can do to change the will of God. Paul says that this is how it should be, saying: "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known" damns most of mankind to eternal torments of hell for things they either didn't do or couldn't avoid doing?
Do humans have free will?
What must you do to be saved?
What the Bible says about determinism and free will
God does not harden people, and therefore they sin. No, they sin: and is God therefore required to soften their hearts? Nay, as punishment he leaves them in their state. That is why Paul mentions the example of Pharaoh, an abortionist (Ex. 1:22), who first sinned and then was hardened as punishment so he would not give in to the Israelites until his country was destroyed.
The author of the SAB also asserts that Paul proclaims that God has destined people for hell. Paul must have felt absolutely useless as an apostle. Why did he work so hard? God had destined people to save, so that would happen anyway, and God had destined others to hell, so why preach to them? All an utter waste of time. Why write a letter to the Romans at all? Everything would go according to God's will anyway, so why not just retire and sit back.
But of course Paul had no such theology and no church father or theologian in the Reformation has ever explained this chapter in that way, God's will toward us is plain and simple: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, Acts 16:30-31. That salvation is available to everyone. To him that knocketh, the door shall be opened, Matthew 7:8.
On “What if God ...”, see verse 22.
On free will, see chapter 8:29.
Let me make one final point: some believe that man still has the ability to choose for God. That he can make a decision to follow God. That theology is utterly rejected by the apostle Paul as the author of the SAB senses. We have no more ability to choose for God as we can choose not to sleep. Our will is fallen as well, and inclined to all kinds of evil. If God didn't call us, and didn't give us a new heart, we would and could never be saved. Salvation is utterly a work of God.
Although we cannot choose for God, cannot will our own salvation, we can call upon God and attend hear the sermons every Sunday as these are the means God has appointed and will bless to give salvation.

12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

On if God loves every one, see John 3:16.
On Esau, I agree with the author of the SAB that Paul does mean the persons Esau and his brother Jakob. This is not about their offspring. The word hate should be understood here as in passing by, as John Gill explains:

it remains, that these words regard their persons, and express the true spring and source of the choice of the one, and the rejection of the other; and which holds true of all the instances of either kind: everlasting and unchangeable love is the true cause and spring of the choice of particular persons to eternal salvation; and hatred is the cause of rejection, by which is meant not positive hatred, which can only have for its object sin and sinners, or persons so considered; but negative hatred, which is God's will, not to give eternal life to some persons; and shows itself by a neglect of them, taking no notice of them, passing them by, when he chose others; so the word "hate" is used for neglect, taking no notice, where positive hatred cannot be thought to take place, [see an example] in Luke 14:26.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

(9:14-22) "Is there unrighteousness with God?"
It sure looks like it!
Man gets all freedom to choose, but God does not? Surely the author of the SAB cannot demand that God loves someone else than he will. It would be like saying to a bride that she is wrong, she shouldn't love her bridegroom, but someone else whom the author of the SAB would like to choose.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

"Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."
Does God want some to go to hell?
On hardeneth, see verse 11.
On if God want some to go to hell, yes, after their guilt has been established and their own conscience will confirm that their judgment is righteous.
But I suppose the author of the SAB wants to say that God predestined some people to go to hell. If that were true, God did lie when he said (John 3:15):

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

It would mean the tears of Jesus would be crocodile tears when he says (Matthew 23:37):

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

But God cannot lie, Heb. 6:18. Therefore God has not destined people to hell. People go to hell for sinning against an holy God and refusing to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that is the sole reason.
And that is how we have to understand this verse as we need to take the previous verse (verse 17) into account: Pharao first sinned by killing the babies of the Israelites, and only then he was hardened. God's hardening of the heart is punishment following sin, it does not proceed sin.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

In verse 11 the author of the SAB has commented that:

Paul says that this is how it should be, saying: "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known" damns most of mankind to eternal torments of hell for things they either didn't do or couldn't avoid doing?

This is not true. No one will be punished for sins he did not commit. Everyone will be judged, depending on the light and knowledge available to him. That is why Jesus says that cities like Sodom and Gomorrha will receive a lighter sentence than cities that have known the gospel, see Matthew 10:15.

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Misquote of Is.28:16, which says: "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste."
This is not a misquote. Paul quotes several portions of Isaiah in this verse. As John Gill explains:

his is an instance of gldm, "skipping", from place to place, concerning which the rules with the Jews were, that the reader:
“might skip from text to text, but he might not skip from prophet to prophet, except only in the twelve prophets, only he might not skip from the end of the book to the beginning; also they might skip in the prophets, but not in the law;”
which rules are exactly complied with by the apostle.

The phrase “Behold, I lay in Sion” is from Is. 28:16. The phrase “a stumblingstone and rock of offence” is from Is. 8:14. The phrase “and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” is again from Is. 28:16. Here we have some difference as Is. 28:16 says: “he that believeth shall not make haste.” But as John Gill explains the words make haste and be ashamed mean the same thing:

“shall not make haste”: either to lay any other foundation, being fully satisfied with this, which is laid by God; or shall not make haste to flee away, through fear of any enemy, or of any danger, being safe as built on this foundation; and so shall never fall, be moved, or ashamed and confounded.