Friday Files: Hamilton on Romans 9

, posted by Godismyjudge

Robert Hamilton’s commentary on Romans 9 generally fits under the category of “election of Nations”, but it contains several unique features worth mentioning. Hamilton considers God’s election of Israel as a form of particular prevenient grace, unconditionally dispensed solely at His discretion. This grace provides increased opportunities for salvation, but doesn’t actually save. God provides a general prevenient grace to all mankind, which is sufficient to enable faith, but He gives this particular prevenient grace only to some.

Hamilton starts out with the introductory context of Romans 9, by explaining that the question in Romans 3:3 is essentially the same one in Romans 9:6. He also explains Romans 8:29-30 as corporate rather than individual election; an election that establishes the grounds on which the Body will be comprised in relation to the Head and the individual is considered as elect only insofar as they are considered united to Christ.

In considering Romans 9:6 and 9:7, Hamilton makes three key distinctions: 1) the spiritual descendents of Abraham (i.e. believers), 2) the physical descendents of Abraham in accordance with God’s promise (i.e. the Nation of Israel, excluding Ishmael, Esau and their descendents) and 3) all the physical decedents of Abraham. He considers “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” to be a reference to #1 and “neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants” to be a reference to #2. Thus Romans 9:6 is a brief (but to be revisited) response to the objection that God’s word failed if the Jews are rejected, and Romans 9:7-21 discuss God’s favoring the Nation of Israel with particular prevenient grace. Hamilton strengthens his position based on the many OT quotes that were about Nations, not individual salvation (i.e. the choice of Jacob in the womb, Jacob have I loved, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy).

Hamilton sees hardening as a withdrawing of general previnient grace as a punishment for sins. From sinners, God is free to either harden or bestow particular prevenient grace. The objection is why does God still blame the hardened and the answer is God is sovereign. Verse 22 starts a transition from discussion of national election to discussion of corporate election to salvation. Hamilton explains that Paul uses the parallels between physical and spiritual Israel to explain the Jew’s current rejection. Hamilton leverages Romans 11 to explain that hardening isn’t irreversible and election is corporate and conditional.