"I will have Mercy on Whom I will have Mercy"

This study is in the form of a letter. It was written in response to a brother stating something to the effect of; "We can't tell people they have to be baptized to go to heaven. Look at Romans 9; God says he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy? How do we know what he is going to do?"

My first reply was that we know what he said he is going to do and that is what we need to teach. This study came as a follow up to that conversation to show how we must look to scripture to interpert scripture.


I totally disagree. Romans 9 sits comfortably between Romans 1-8 and 10-16 and when you read them through you will give context to 9. Paul begins with a discourse on faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Closing he says in v17, "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'"

Jumping into verse 18, Paul addresses the ungodliness in the world; he says that God will not put up with it. In chpt. 2 he addresses hypocrisy among those who are passing judgment on others. Then, in addressing the Jewish Christians who claim to be teachers, Paul says, "18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—

21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?" (Ro 2) No where does Paul counsel against teaching the truth according to God's word, only against being a hypocrite.

Chapter 3 turns back to the supremacy of faith over the Law with the key statement being: "22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Continuing in chapt. 4, Paul holds up Abraham as an example of faith, contending that it was his faith in the Word of God and not his adherence to a code of conduct that justified Abraham before God.

Beginning in chapter 2 Paul has been expanding upon his assertions of the opening chapter. Continuing on in 5, Paul stipulates the acceptable heart response to the gospel of Christ. Following that we have a logical discourse of union with Christ in baptism and understanding it's ramifications. Chapter 7 expounds upon the nature of sin and the necessity of the sacrifice of the Son of God for there to be any hope for anyone. Following up on the previous chapter verses 14 through the end of the chapter Paul portrays sin not as something we do, but as a personality we are powerless to resist without our Saviour Jesus Christ. The great victory is seen in chapter 8. In Christ Jesus we are free of accusation and guilt. “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Ro 8:31)

All that has been previously said is the foundation for Romans 9. Here Paul, step by step, reveals that it is completely understandable that God has chosen to call even the Gentiles into the covenant of Christ. Not all of Abraham's descendants are Israel, but only the children of Isaac. Not all the children of Isaac, but only the children of Rebekah. Not all of the children of Isaac and Rebekah, but only the children of Jacob, the younger child. From the beginning God has chosen those who are his, those who will receive his mercy.

Why does Paul go to such lengths to delineate the line of Israel? The Jews had trouble accepting that God would allow gentiles into the Church, that is his mercy. He goes so far as to say, “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: 'Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved.'” This coming after referring back to Exodus 33: 19, “For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'” The point is that God himself chooses who he will call and who he won't.

Does this negate the foundation Paul so meticulously laid in chapters 1-8? Not at all! If anything, this should enforce that the teaching is the teaching and we, mere men, have no business telling anyone any different. He has told us how he choses and that is all we have to go on. Can he do differently? Sure, but there is no indication to believe he will.