Romans Chapter 9 verses 28 to 33 – 4 Attributes of a Sovereign God - JS Gillespie 

Consider the apostles presentation of the truth of Divine election in 9:15-24. 

We saw that in a biblical understanding of the election and sovereignty of God 4 Divine attributes are preserved. 

As you come to consider this great matter for yourself always check does my view of election preserve these 4 key Divine attributes, preserved by the apostle in Romans chapter 9, if it doesn't you do not have a biblical view of election and in fact you may not have a biblical view of God! 

In election and sovereignty God preserves His right to: 

To Decide (9:15-18) 
To Determine Purpose 
To Design 
To Display / Demonstrate His Glory 

To Decide (9:15-18) 

I think that it must be very difficult for a Christian to disagree with this, that God has decision making capacity and that He uses it and yet in some views of election it is woefully absent: corporate non-election and Arminianism. 

Do we have a vision / a picture of God only as the father in the parable of the prodigal son, awaiting the sons return or have we combined this view with the preceding 2: the Shepherd going out and finding the lost sheep and the woman searching the home till she finds the lost coin? 

Even in the parable of the prodigal son with the picture of a patiently waiting and longing father we are aware that this father was waiting for one particular boy out of  many thousands of boys, his boy! What had made him his boy? 

“But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”(Isa 43:1) 

“mine, mine, mine, I know thou art mine....” 


“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.”(Joh 17:6) 

“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” (Joh 17:24) 

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” (Eph 1:4) 

It is Divine election (Rom 8:28) - “called” : 'kletos' that gives rise to the believers destiny (Rom 8:29) 

So God has the right to decide and exercises that capacity to decide. 

A God who lacks that ability to make decisions is a God who is either: 

Unable to save – He cannot extend His grace to me, and I have no desire to come to Him for salvation (Rom 3) 
Unable to govern – Everyone, anyone, unconditionally must receive His grace and mercy, irrespective of repentance and faith in Christ. 

I must preserve in my understanding of God – is capacity to make decisions. 

To Determine Purpose (9:17) 

Even in a Pharaoh, God had a purpose for him! 

What Moses declared, Pharaoh displayed 

“Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” (Exodus 5:2) 

For this reason Pharaoh arises between the 2 sections on sanctification in Romans : 

The doctrine of sanctification (Roms chps 6, 7, 8) 
The practice of sanctification (Roms chps 12, 13, 14) 

Even here in the Epistle to the Romans, Pharaoh is still sub-serving the purpose for which he was raised up all of those years ago: 

To declare Gods name throughout the whole earth resulting in 
The separation of His people from the world and from sin 

For if this carnal spirit of Pharaoh, a man in his pride, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” (Exodus 5:2), marks my heart and my life, there will be no work of consecration and sanctification in me. 

Maybe we are a little more subtle than Pharaoh. 

Maybe we wouldn't say: “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” 

Perhaps we will blame others: 'who does he think he is?' or 'imagine saying that to me?' or 'I'm not going to have the brethren say that to me.' or 'I'm old enough and mature enough to lead my own life without 'them' telling me what to do.' 

God had a purpose for Pharaoh: “to declare my name throughout all the earth” (9:17). 

God decided on that purpose! 

To Design 

God reserves the right to deliberately and intentionally design what He creates 

The clay is not simply thrown at the wheel as the Potter waits with bated breath to see what will be thrown off on this occasion? 

Who chooses the personality? 

Who assigns the traits? 

Who gives the peculiar mixture of strengthens and abilities? 

Who determines which character traits will be missing? 

Who decided that this Pharaoh would be marked by a sense of determination? 

It must be notes that at critical times there has been supplied particular men and women who seem strangely fitted for the task in hand! Is this mere coincidence? 

Pharaoh and his determination 
Joseph and his patient humility, lacking malice and vengeance 
Samson and his strength during days of Philistine oppression 
Gideon and his faithfulness and dependence on God in days of compromise 
Mary and her purity 
Hannah and her devotion, faithfulness and commitment 
Miriam and her careful devotion to a little brother abandoned on the Nile 

To Display / Demonstrate His Glory 

To display His Glory in all things 

Even in those who reject Him! 

So if I have a man sided view of God, an unbalanced view of God, a God who is only gracious and only compassionate then what about those who are lost? 

Are they just a mistake? 

People God would have loved to save but just couldn't quite manage it? 

Are they just casualties of coincidence? 

Born in the wrong place at the wrong time? 

So the view we have of election in Romans chp 9: 

God chooses to extend His mercy and compassion on specific individuals for His own inscrutable reasons (9:15-18) 
We do not know why certain individuals are the recipients of this grace for that reason lies in Gods will (9:15) 
Was it not for that Sovereign choice of God to extend His mercy and compassion, no one would be and no one could be saved (Rom 3:11; 9:16; Eph 2:1; John 6:44; John 6:65) 
When God chooses He moves towards us by His: 

Word (9:6) 
Will (9:15) 
Work (9:25ff) 

Such a movement of Grace must reach its appointed and designed conclusion and is thus irresistible (9:6; Isa 55:11) – if God decrees it, it will happen. 
Salvation is therefore not of: 

“blood” - link to Abraham (9:7) 
“nor of the will of the flesh” (9:8) 
“nor of the will of man” (9:11) 
“but of God” (John 1:13) 

Gods effectual calling and saving Grace motivated by His will to save always achieves what is decreed in the eternal purposes of God (9:6). Gods Grace also extends out in a general way; as a Grace that is common to all men. Just as the believer brings a taste of heaven to an insipid world, which men spit out and a light into a dark place that is not appreciated at all, so too Gods Grace extends out in a general or common way; not with the intent of saving but to long-suffer (9:22). 

In so long-suffering with sinners who have fitted themselves by their sins to destruction and in passing over those sinners with respect to His saving Grace God confirms their destiny as the inevitable conclusion to the path which they have chosen. It is mans to sin. It is Gods to seal. 

Furthermore for that purpose God has deliberately made them (9:21). 

Because God possesses and practices these 4 Divine attributes then God is able to accomplish 3 great works: 

To Call a People (His Church) (9:24-27) 
To Complete or Finish a Work (9:28-29) 
To Confound mans Ways and Mans Wisdom (9:30-33) 

To Call a People (His Church) (9:24-27) 

He is able to call a people – His church; this is the group of: Jews and Gentiles in 1 body (9:24) 

“even us” - says the converted Pharisee to a group of Gentiles. 

What is this “us”? 

The church: Jew and Gentile, bond and free together (cf. Roms 16) 

How could He build His church as prophesied unless He is in control? 

Does 9:25 indicate election however? 

Maybe all v25 means is that in the future people will get saved, they will respond to the gospel, they will turn from their sin and because of that, they thus make themselves loveable? 

Maybe you're overstating that position of election! 

Perhaps you're exaggerating election? 

So is it possible that God is: 

not making people loveable but rather 
finding people who are loveable – maybe because of their response to the gospel? 


Change in the position of this people: from not beloved to beloved. What causes that change? Could man himself bring about such a change? Consider Eph 2:1ff; Rom 3:10ff; Jer 13:23 : “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” Even if we were to say that us becoming His beloved were due to a change in us, even if our change of position were due to a change of Gods attitude brought about by a change in our character we are still left with the problem that such a change in us must itself have a cause! The reality is that such a change can only come about if He works in us: “you hath He quickened....” (Eph 2:1ff). 

That change in position is linked to a change in relationship (9:26): “the children of the Living God.”. Here is a change of relationship brought about by a change of nature. Can a man make himself a child of God? Can a man make himself the child of another man? Only by birth, new birth, or by paternal adoption can this happen. The initiative comes from God. 

Notice the illustration and context of Hosea 2:23. God illustrates through the actions of Hosea, exactly what He is about to do and where the initiative lies. Hosea is to go beyond what is due or what is owed to his undeserving and unfaithful wife (Hosea 3:1ff). Such an action will be “according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel” (Hosea 3:1). Hosea will buy back his wife. This is undeserved and initiated by God. 

God cannot take such an initiative in salvation, unless He is a God who: 

Determines purpose 

To Complete or Finish a Work (9:28-29) 


The Greeks had a word for a journey that stops, but which stops because it has reached its destination, its intended end point: 'teleo' – to not only stop but to finish and complete. 

“for He will finish the work” (9:28) – it is that word 'teleo' infact it is 'teleo' with a prefix 'sun' which means to 'completely finish' the work. 

The point is very simple: if there is no intended destination, how can that destination ever be reached? 

Only if God has a definite and determined purpose in mind can that goal ever be realised. 

Not only does God perform a complete work but with confidence He declares that His work will be completed (9:28b) and curtailed in righteousness (9:28). 

If the work of salvation was initiated by man how could God “cut it short in righteousness”? He could only surely cut it short in unrighteousness. 

To Confound mans Ways and Mans Wisdom (9:30-33) 

What have we learned so far about salvation? 

We are justified by faith (Rom 4) 
Salvation is a work initiated by Divine Grace (Rom 5) 
Salvation is founded upon the finished work of Christ (Rom 3 + 4) 

and that we had to earn a right to it all? 

No that last bit – we didn't learn! 

Salvation is received (5:11) as a gift freely given (5:15-16) 

So then there is nothing I do to merit or cause God to give that gift, rather I trust Him that He has made provision for me in Christ at Calvary and that He will perform what He has promised. 

Justification by faith is thus faith in a person. 

What do you do to get a freely given gift? 

If you have to do anything to get a freely given gift, it isn't a freely given gift! 

If it is by grace then it is simply received. 

Only because salvation is by Divine choice and election can it be that those who have done the most to receive it fail (9:31) and those who have done the least succeed (9:30). 

But Israel (9:31) surely went about it all the wrong way didn't they? 

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Mat 23:23) 

And so they did! 


How can you “attain” : 'katalambano' – to take, to seize, to lay hold of  - to what you never attempted to apprehend? Only if another comes and gives it. 

Rom 9:30 is really an echo of: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luk 19:10) 

God sets the gospel as a stumbling stone! 

How can anyone be saved with such a gospel! 

If you were going to come up with a religion, would you really do it this way? 

A crucified Saviour? A spat upon and abused Saviour?


Part of our bible study teaching series of messages preached systematically through Paul's letter to the Romans. Free to download audio mp3 recordings of this sermon and other sermons are available at the end of this blog and on the website page.  

Yours by Grace in Christ  

Dr J Stewart Gillespie