We often hear passionate debates about divine sovereignty. Is God really sovereign? Is there any limit to his sovereignty (which, of course, would mean he is not sovereign)? Especially, when it comes to the matter of salvation, how should we think about the sovereignty of God and the responsibility or actions of the individual? Paul addresses these matters in chapter 9. He has noted the blessings that have come to us as Gentiles: the gift of the Spirit, adoption as God’s children, future glory, election, and the assurance of never being severed from God’s love.
But Paul is also greatly concerned about Israel: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (9:2-3). The promises now extended to the Gentiles, is it possible that they have been withdrawn from Israel? Of course not! The sovereign God has promised: “It is not as though the word of God has failed” (9:6). In his sovereignty, God calls to himself all whom he desires, and that includes both Gentiles and Jews: “In order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory--even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (9:23-24) In another letter, Paul wrote that Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:6-7). The true sons and daughters of God are those who, from both Gentiles and Jews, believe the promises and trust God. God’s grace is broad and wide, and it includes us who now believe!
Nations of all the earth rejoice
before you, Lord, our sovereign King,
we serve with cheerful heart and voice.
The earth will echo songs we sing!
Lord, you are God, and you alone
give life and breath and being here;
we are your work, and not our own;
your sheep, your children, free of fear,
for you are good, divinely kind;
and great your grace, your mercy sure;
all peoples of the earth shall find
your truth is power that will endure. –Isaac Watts (1740)