Romans 9 – God’s Righteousness and Mercy & Roman Defense of Britain

Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification in Roman Britain, begun in 122 A.D. during the rule of emperor Hadrian.
In addition to its military role, gates through the wall served as customs posts.

A significant portion of the wall still exists and can be followed on foot along the Hadrian’s Wall Path. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern England and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Hadrian’s Wall was 80 Roman miles or 117.5 km (73.0 mi) long; its width and height were dependent on the construction materials which were available nearby.

East of the River Irthing, the wall was made from squared stone and measured 3 metres (9.8 feet) wide and 5 to 6 metres (16 to 20 feet) high, while west of the river the wall was made from turf and measured 6 metres (20 feet) wide and 3.5 metres (11 feet) high.

This does not include the wall’s ditches, berms and forts. The central section measured eight Roman feet wide (7.8 ft or 2.4 m) on a 10-foot (3.0 m) base.

Some parts of this section of the wall survive to a height of 10 feet.

Tomorrow, still in the study of Rome, we will look at…

Romans 9
God’s Righteousness and Mercy

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;

“Israelites” – the descendants of Jacob (who was renamed Israel by God).  The name was used for the entire nation, then of the northern kingdom after the nation was divided, the southern kingdom being called Judah.

During the Intertestamental period and later in New Testament times, Palestinian Jews used the title to indicate that they were the chosen people of God. 

Its use here is especially relevant because Paul is about to show that, despite Israel’s unbelief and disobedience, God’s promises to her are still valid.

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

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

“Word of God” – his clearly stated purpose, which had not failed, because “they are not all Israel which are of Israel.” 

Paul is not denying the election of all Israel (as a nation) but stating that within Israel there is a separation, that of unbelieving Israel and believing Israel.

Physical descent is no guarantee of a place in God’s family, faith is the only guarantee.

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.

“Children of the flesh” – those merely biologically descended from Abraham.

The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Celtic people living in ancient eastern and northern Scotland.
We know something about where they lived and what their culture was like from the geographical distribution of brochs, Brythonic place name elements, and Pictish stones.

Picts are attested to in written records from before the Roman conquest of Britain to the 10th century, when they are thought to have merged with the Gaels.

“Children of God” – see v. 4.  Not all Israelites were God’s children.  The reference is to the Israel of faith in Jesus Christ.

9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara 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;)

“Neither having done any good or evil” – God’s choice of Jacob was based on sovereign freedom, not on the fulfillment of any prior conditions.]

“Not of works, but of him that calleth” – before Rebekah’s children were even born, God made a choice – a choice obviously not based on works.

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.

“Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” – equivalent to “Jacob I chose, but Esau I rejected.” 

In vv. 6-13 Paul is dealing with national election – he is portraying the nation Israel (Jacob) over the nation Edom (Esau).

Paul’s intention is evident in light of the problem he is addressing: How can God’s promise stand when so many who comprise Israel (in the Old Testament collective sense) are unbelieving and therefore cut off?

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

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.

Wallsend is an area in North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear, Northeast of England. Wallsend derives its name as the location of the end of Hadrian’s Wall.
It has a population of 42,842 and lies 3.5 miles east of Newcastle City Center.

In Roman times, Wallsend hosted the fort Segedunum. This fort protected the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall.

Paul denies injustice in God’s dealing with Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau, by appealing to God’s sovereign right to dispense mercy as He chooses.

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.

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 honor, and another unto dishonor?

The analogy between God and the potter and between man and the pot should not be pressed to the extreme.  The main point is the sovereign freedom of God in dealing with man.

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:

The Antonine Wall is a stone and turf fortification built by the Romans across what is now the Central Belt of Scotland, between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde.
Representing the northernmost frontier barrier of the Roman Empire, it spanned approximately 63 kilometres (39 miles) and was about 3 metres (10 feet) high and 5 metres (16 feet) wide.

Security was bolstered by a deep ditch on the northern side. The barrier was the second of two “great walls” created by the Romans in Northern Britain.

Its ruins are less evident than the better known Hadrian’s Wall to the south.

Construction began in 142 A.D. at the order of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, and took about 12 years to complete.

No one can call God to account for what He does.  But He does not exercise His freedom of choice arbitrarily, and He shows great patience even toward the objects of His wrath. 

In light of 2:4, the purpose of such patience is to bring about repentance.

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.

9:25-26 – in the original context these passages from Hosea refer to the spiritual restoration of Israel.  

But Paul finds in them the principle that God is a saving, forgiving, restoring God, who delights to take those who are “not my people” and make them “my people”.

Paul then applies this principle to Gentiles, whom God makes His people by sovereignly grafting them into covenant relationship.

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:

9:27-29 – the two passages from Israel indicate that only a small remnant will survive from the great multitude of Israel’s. 

God’s calling includes both Jews and Gentiles, but the vast majority are Gentiles, as v. 30 suggests.

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

Septimius Severus, also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa.
As a young man he advanced through the cursus honorum—the customary succession of offices—under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus.

Severus seized power after the death of Emperor Pertinax in 193 during the Year of the Five Emperors.

After deposing and killing the incumbent emperor Didius Julianus, Severus fought his rival claimants, the generals Pescennius Niger and Clodius Albinus.

Niger was defeated in 194 at the Battle of Issus in Cilicia. Later that year Severus waged a short punitive campaign beyond the eastern frontier, annexing the Kingdom of Osroene as a new province.

Severus defeated Albinus three years later at the Battle of Lugdunum in Gaul.

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 Gomorrah.

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.

9:30-32 – a new step in Paul’s argument: the reasons for Israel’s rejection lay in the nature of her disobedience – she failed to obey her own God-given law, which in reality was pointing to Christ.

She pursued the law – yet not by faith but by works.  Thus the real cause of Israel’s rejection was that she failed to believe.

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

“Law of righteousness” – the law that prescribed the way to righteousness.  Paul does not reject obedience to the law but righteousness by works, the attempt to use the law to put God in one’s debt.

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

“Not by faith’ – the failure of Israel was not that she pursued the wrong thing (i.e., righteous standing before God), but that she pursued it by works in a futile effort to merit God’s favor rather than pursuing it by faith.

“That stumbling stone” – Jesus, the Messiah.  God’s rejection of Israel was not arbitrary but was based on Israel’s rejection of God’s way of gaining righteousness (faith).

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

Roman Defense of Britain

Hadrian was Roman Emperor from 117 to 138. He re-built the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma.
He is also known for building Hadrian’s Wall, which marked the northern limit of Roman Britain.

Hadrian was regarded by some as a humanist and was philhellene in most of his tastes.

He is regarded as one of the Five Good Emperors.

Hadrian was born Publius Aelius Hadrianus to an ethnically Italian family, either in Italica near Santiponce (in modern-day Spain).

His predecessor Trajan was a maternal cousin of Hadrian’s father.

Trajan never officially designated an heir, but according to his wife Pompeia Plotina, Trajan named Hadrian emperor immediately before his death.

Trajan’s wife and his friend Licinius Sura were well-disposed towards Hadrian, and he may well have owed his succession to them.

Why did Hadrian build his wall?

After the Romans invaded southern Britain, they had to defend it. They built roads, so that soldiers could march quickly to deal with trouble.

 They also built three very large army forts, and lots of smaller camps, for soldiers to live in. At first these forts were built of wood, later they were built of stone.

Scotland was not part of Roman Britain, although in 84 A.D., the Romans won a big battle against the Picts who lived in Scotland.

In 122 A.D. the Emperor Hadrian ordered his soldiers to build a wall between Roman Britain and Scotland.

The wall ran from Wallsend in the east to Bowness on the Solway Firth. You can still walk along parts of Hadrian’s Wall today.

In 140 A.D., the Romans added another wall further north. It’s called the Antonine Wall.

In the 3rd century A.D. there was fighting along Hadrian’s Wall. Emperor Septimius Severus had to come to Britain to fight tribes invading from Scotland.

Although his soldiers won the battles, he got sick and died at York in 211 A.D.

Why did the Romans build roads?

Roman soldiers needed to march from one part of the country to another quickly. So the Romans built roads.

Roman roads were made from stones, and were better than muddy tracks for travel on foot or in carts.

So they made travelling around Britain easier for everyone. You can still see the remains of some Roman roads today.

How did Roman Britain defend itself?

Britain was on the edge of the Roman Empire. People living outside the empire sometimes tried to attack Roman Britain.

Some were pirates in ships. The Romans kept a navy to defend Britain. They also built forts on the coast.

Soldiers kept watch at the forts, and fought any enemies who tried to land in Britain.

The forts are called Saxon Shore forts, because many of the people attacking Britain at this time were Saxons. The Saxons were people living in north Germany.

The Romans also had to defend Hadrian’s Wall, against attacks by Picts and other tribes These people lived in northern Britain, outside the Roman part. Soldiers sent to defend the wall lived in forts and camps.

The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant’Angelo (English: Castle of the Holy Angel), is a towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano, Rome, Italy.
It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. The Castel was once the tallest building in Rome.

Fun Facts:

The Saxon Shore fort at Portchester was so big that hundreds of years later people built a whole castle in just one corner of it!

Roman soldiers would build a camp, with a ditch and a wall of wooden stakes at the end of a long day’s march!

Roman ships had pointed rams at the front end (prow). This was for smashing holes in other ships.

Sailors in the Roman navy wore blue, just like sailors today. Most soldiers wore red tunics.

Most Roman ships had oars as well as sails. The biggest ships had more than 150 oars, with one or two men working each oar.

…roads and places.