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Jan 31, 2021

Sumarizing Paul's Argument...From 2 Perspectives

Passage: Romans 9:1-33

Preacher: Andrew Repsold

Series: Romans

Keywords: salvation, israel, calvinism, chosen, elect, arminianism, remnant


This message seeks to summarize two different ways of interpreting Romans 9--the classic Calvanistic and the Provisionist positions.


Romans 9: Interpretation Comparison

Two possible flows of Paul’s Logic


Section 1: v. 1-5

3”For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ

for the sake of my brothers…”


                   Calvinistic Interpretation                               

(Same) I would emphasize that these Israelites are the audience Paul has in mind throughout Romans 9. He is thinking of unbelieving Israelites and their objections to Paul’s message, not all reprobate humanity.  

My Interpretation

Paul is LAMENTING the fact that his Israelite brothers are not his spiritual brothers. The majority of them are not spiritual children of God (through faith in Jesus Christ) because they reject Christ as the Messiah.

Section 2: v. 6-13--6”But it is not as though the word of God has failed

 word of God: God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants to be their God and for them to be his people. As it says in Genesis 17:7…  And I will establish my covenant between me [God] and you [Abraham] and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant

to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

has failed: If the physical ‘children of God’ (i.e. the Israelites) are not spiritual children of God in the sense Paul has in mind, hasn’t God’s covenant to the children of Abraham failed? If they are not children of God in the most important sense (spiritually) hasn’t God’s promise to eternally be their God in a covenant relationship ended? Paul answers “it has not failed” because when you properly understand who the spiritual children of Abraham are, there is no tension. For…

7…not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring,

 In other words, it is possible to be a physical descendant of Abraham and NOT be a spiritual offspring of Abraham.

8…it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God,


children of the flesh:

Calvanistic Interp.

Genetic descendants of Abraham AND (as we will see clearly in Galatians 4) Paul is referring to all who seek right standing with God through works of the flesh. As Paul will explain, his Israelite brothers are children of the flesh in this spiritual sense because they have sought righteousness by adherence to the law, not by faith in God.  (a physical and spiritual meaning)


 My Interpretation

children of the flesh: genetic descendants of Abraham. (a physical meaning only)

but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

 the children of the promise:

Those birthed by a supernatural act.

(as opposed to a physical act).

The contrast here is righteousness by a work of God versus righteousness by works of man. 



Those birthed unconditionally by a supernatural act of God.

(as opposed to a physical act or even a conditional supernatural act)

My Interpretation

I (Andrew) think that Paul has been arguing for a conditional supernatural righteousness all throughout Romans. The spiritual birth is indeed entirely a miraculous work of GOD, but the condition of this miraculous birth is FAITH.

I do not think Faith is an unconditional gift of God to certain individuals but that all humans have the capacity and sufficient knowledge (Romans 1:21) to humble themselves and cry out to God for his miraculous help. Jesus himself seems to put this responsibility on humans when asked in John 6, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”


9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son.”


Paul is contrasting Ishmael and Isaac to show that seeking right standing with God through works of man (how well one keeps the law) only leads to spiritual slavery.


 My Interpretation

Paul is contrasting Ishmael and Isaac to show that “children of promise” are born supernaturally AND unconditionally. 


Both Isaac and Ishmael are genetic offspring of Abraham, but the covenant established with Abraham only continues through Isaac’s line. Why? Because Isaac was the “child of the promise.” In Galatians chapter 4, Paul gives commentary on what this means.

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave [Ishmael through Hagar] was born according to the flesh [a work of man], while the son of the free woman [Isaac through Sarah] was born through promise [a miraculous work of God]. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 28 Now you,[f] brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise [born miraculously by a work of God’s Spirit in the way God promised long ago through the prophets!]

Examples of such promises:

-Ezekiel 36:26-27--26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

-Acts 2:16-17 quoting Joel 2:28

16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;

These promises are not emphasizing a spiritual birth that is unconditional, they are promising spiritual regeneration by God’s Spirit. This truth is what Paul is trying to reveal to his fellow Israelites who have been seeking right standing with God through works of the flesh (how well they follow the law.)

10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad:


Emphasizing that salvation is unconditionally determined by God before birth.


My Interpretation

Emphasizing that salvation is a work of God. As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9,

And this [salvation] is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works…”

—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”

God’s purpose of election:

God’s purpose of election expressed here is that election is “not of works but of him who calls.” In other words, nothing Jacob did merited God electing him to be the child of Isaac through whom the Messiah would come (and other aspects of the Old Covenant). Similarly, none of our works merit our salvation (and Paul doesn’t think faith is considered a ‘work’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxakEl8BYBE&t=397s&ab_channel=MikeWinger in the sense that God “owes” you salvation when you cry out to him for help.) Paul is showing that God’s purpose of election remains the same as it was with Abraham: entirely a work of God.

My Interpretation

God’s purpose of election is that the ‘elect’ are so entirely by “him who calls” which includes being gifted the faith necessary to receive him.

This means that the elect have been called into salvation but the reprobate have not (not effectually). If he has not called you, you are unable to seek him (recognize your wretchedness, need for saving and cry out to God for help) since…

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands;

no one seeks for God. (Romans 3:11)



“Loved” and “hated” in this context is not referring to emotion but to choice (just as Jesus uses “hate” in Luke 14:26).

Additionally, Paul is quoting this to show the parallel of God’s choice regarding those who are saved. Just as God chose Jacob over Esau before they were born (to carry on the covenant established with Abraham) so God chose individuals for salvation and damnation before the foundation of the world.   

My Interpretation:

“Loved” and “hated” in this context is not referring to emotion but to choice (just as in Luke 14:26).

That’s all.

13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Paul is still thinking about the perspective of his Israelite brothers from verses 1-5. What would an Israelite find unjust about the “children of the promise” now being people from any nation who are miraculously born of the Holy Spirit, not by adherence to the Mosaic law.

Section 3: v. 14-18--14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part?

Potential injustice: “Righteousness apart from the law” (3:21) is unjust because it means Israel doesn’t have a special standing with God. The Israelites were supposed to be God’s “treasured possession among all peoples” (Exodus 19:5). It is not fair that the law which God gave us so that we could relate more intimately with him has somehow become a barrier to us knowing him.

It is not just that the old covenant (or at least part of it) has passed away when God claimed it would be eternal! It is unjust of God to include the Gentiles into our Abrahamic covenant.

In other words, they are frustrated over God’s generosity to expand his covenant relationship to people from every tribe and nation

 My Interpretation

In Matthew 20, Jesus tells the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard where the workers who have labored for the Master the longest are grumbling because the Master chose to be generous towards those who worked a partial day by paying them a full day’s wage. The master replies, “Do you begrudge my generosity? So the last will be first, and the first last.” (v. 15-16). The laborers who worked all day are not frustrated over getting payed less than the denarius they agreed to. They are frustrated over the generosity of the Master to include the late laborers into a full day’s payment!

Similarly, Paul is arguing against the theoretical Jewish objection that God is unjust by generously extending his covenant of special standing to people from any nation in these “last days.”


Potential injustice: It is unjust of God to unconditionally select people for salvation and damnation before they are born.


By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,


This is describing the elect.

God has the prerogative to be merciful to whomever he wants. He is not obligated to show mercy to everything he creates.

It is as if God is saying “I’ll show mercy to whoever I well please!”

My Interpretation

It is true that God is not obligated to be merciful to humans just because he created them. But the Bible teaches that God’s own character obligates him to be merciful because GOD IS MERCY. He is not ‘stingy’ with his mercy as this interpretation is claiming.

For this interpretation to be true, Calvinists would need to show that in Exodus 33:19 (from where Paul is quoting) God is making this statement to Moses as a claim that he has the prerogative to withhold mercy from anyone he chooses to. As though he is reminding Moses…”though you want to see my glory and desire my presence in the promise land…I don’t have to do any of those things. Don’t try and pressure me to be merciful. I will be merciful to whoever I chose to be.” But the context does not seem to indicate that he is reminding Moses of “his place” and that he has no right to ask for such a thing, because he DOES mercifully show himself to Moses.  It seems that God is declaring with this statement that he is a God who has mercy on those who seek him and desire his presence by revealing more of himself to them.

This is describing those who fear God.

This is a quote from Exodus 33:19 where Moses requests “Please show me your glory” (v. 18) and God responds by saying he will do so to the maximal degree that Moses can experience without killing him for if he revealed his total glory to Moses, Moses would die.

In other words, God is saying to Moses

“I am merciful to those who seek and fear me by revealing myself intimately to them.”

Paul is appealing to this very quality of God in response to the Jewish complaint that God is unfair now to extend his covenant to all people. Paul is reminding them that God is a God who is merciful towards those who seek him, not just those who are physically circumcised or have Abraham as their great grandpa.   

and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

it: Salvation

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this (salvation) is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

it: The ability and choice

to believe in God

God has mercy on whomever he wants to (for unknown reasons, though we can certainly trust they are just reasons), giving faith to them so that they may believe in Him and withholding this saving faith from everyone else. 


My Interpretation

Paul is making a parallel between Pharaoh and the Israelites of Paul’s day (similar to how he compared Israel to Hagar in Galatians). Just as God used Pharaoh as a dishonorable vessel, by hardening him in his opposition to God so that the message of God’s power would be proclaimed to all the earth…so now God is hardening Israel in its opposition to God in order to crucify Christ and initiate the new covenant for all nations and tribes of the earth.

I do not think that “raises up” here means that God chose this specific Pharaoh before he was born to be a vessel of dishonorable use for this very purpose. I think it means that in his opposition to God’s people, God raises this Pharaoh up by hardening him even further for the purpose of spreading the news of God’s power to the entire world. There is evidence in both Pharaoh and the Israelites of Paul’s day that they were hardened beyond normal human will in order to accomplish a greater display of God’s power (in the plagues and the crucifixion) for the rest of the world.

For example, Pharaoh opposes the people of God to such a degree that 10 plagues of God’s power get displayed (instead of just 3 or 4) and the most powerful army on earth gets destroyed. If Pharaoh had released them after just 3 plagues, this level of power would not have been displayed so God hardened an already opposing heart in order for a more glorious display of his power to the world through the plagues.

Similarly, God raises up the Jews of Paul’s day, in their opposition to Christ, to such an absurd degree that even the pagan’s Pilate and Herod are perplexed by it. When presenting them with evidence that there are no legitimate charges against Jesus upon which to incriminate him, the Pharisees and Israelites madly chant “crucify him!” and vote instead to have a condemned murderer released (Luke 23). This is evidence of divine hardening…but in both cases it is for a very specific purpose in God’s salvific plan and to people who have already displayed evidence of hearts which oppose God.

This is describing the reprobate.

God predestined Pharaoh to oppose God’s people so that he could show his power to the whole world.

Look how many times God hardened (but doesn’t that imply that it was not sufficiently hard from birth?) Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus. God therefore is the one who hardens all hearts, destining the reprobate to damnation.

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills and he hardens whomever he wills

mercy on whomever he wills: referring to ‘the elect’, those God predestines for salvation.

hardens whomever he wills:

the reprobate, those God predestines for damnation.

Truth: God is the one who determines who is saved and who is damned.

My Interpretation

mercy on whomever he wills: All who humbly seek him. This means Gentile inclusion!

hardens whomever he wills:

Recall that those who reject God become “futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts [are] darkened” (Romans 1:21). At times, God will harden some of these people in order to display his power to the rest of the world more evidently and accomplish his plan of salvation. In this specific instance of hardening, Paul is thinking about present Israel. What is the reason Paul gives in this letter for hardening the Israelites? It is that God has hardened Israel in order to establish the New Covenant and extend salvation to the whole world through Christ’s crucifixion, not that they would be damned eternally.  

As it says in Romans 11:25-27:

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers:[d] a partial hardening has come upon Israel [ethnic], until the fullness of the Gentiles [ethnic] has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel [spiritual] will be saved…

My Interpretation

Further evidence of this interpretation is found in chapter 11 of Romans.

Here Paul explains that God’s hardening of Israel was not a description of eternally damning them, but was done in order for “salvation to come to the Gentiles.”. He explains that some of these hardened Jews will be provoked to jealousy and be saved!

Romans 11:11-13

11 So I ask, did they (Israel) stumble in order that they might fall (not be saved)? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion (to the New Covenant) mean!

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them (hardened Israelites are not beyond hope of being saved!). 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

How do Calvinists explain that hardened Jews can potentially be saved if hardened means ‘determined by God for damnation?’ And what does “partial hardening” describe according Calvinism?


Section 4: v. 19-29

Theoretical Questioner:

A person predestined by God for damnation.

“If God is the one who determined that I could not believe in him, why does he fault me? It sounds like it is his fault that I do not believe in him.”

My Interpretation

Theoretical Questioner:

A hardened Israelite who opposed Christ as the Messiah.

“If God hardened us in our opposition to Christ so that we, like Pharaoh in his opposition to the Israelites, opposed God so unreasonably that it accomplished what would not have been accomplished by unhardened pagans, namely the crucifixion of an innocent human, why does he still fault us?

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

Humans have no right to accuse God of injustice.

It is permitted and even good to bring to God your frustrations, questions, and confusion for we lack perspective as creatures instead of the creator. Lack of perspective and therefore confusion and frustration is to be expected for us! But placing yourself as judge over God and declaring him unjust is always wrong. Job crossed this line in his lamentation and God responded the same way Paul responds to this theoretical objection. By pointing out that humans never have grounds to accuse God of injustice because they lack all of the necessary information for doing so as the creature.  Job is reminded of this lack of perspective and understanding through four (Job 38-41) chapters of God’s questions to him and Job reaches the proper conclusion that he is not fit to judge the Creator. This is true of all human beings (Isaiah 55:8-9).

My Interpretation


Regardless of what theoretical injustice you think Paul is responding to here, the principle that humans sin when they accuse God of being unjust is what is displayed in this statement.

20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?

Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use

My Interpretation

Paul is not saying that humans don’t influence whether they will be a vessels for honorable use or dishonorable use. Observe how he uses these same terms in 2 Timothy chapter 2:

20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable,[d] he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

All humanity.

(Think Jeremiah 18:1-11)

It could be all humanity but in this context I think Paul is thinking specifically of Israel.


the lump of clay:


The predestined ‘elect.’

My Interpretation

Israelites such as the prophets or the Apostle Paul who were called by God for the honorable use of declaring God’s message of repentance and mercy. 

vessel for honorable use:


The predestined ‘reprobate.’

(The “hardened” from verse 18.)

My Interpretation

Israelites who opposed Christ and caused his crucifixion. (Pharisees, chanting mob etc.)

(The “hardened” from verse 18)

vessel for dishonorable use:

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power


…to the “vessels of mercy” (v. 23)

My Interpretation

…to “all the earth” (v. 17)

desiring to show:


referring to..?? Maybe God’s wrath on the reprobate and his power in destroying them in the lake of fire one day.

My Interpretation

referring to Christ’s death (displaying the wrath of God) and resurrection (displaying God’s power).

wrath and power:

has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction


The predestined ‘reprobate.’

Endured? In what sense would he need to endure those he created to be reprobate? Perhaps a Calvinist would say he is enduring them every day they live on earth.

My Interpretation

Israelites who have opposed God for literal generations!

Endured because he has wanted to wipe them out for a long time (as we saw all the way back with Moses in Exodus 33).

vessels of wrath prepared for destruction:

23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy


The difference between the reprobate and God…maybe?

Question: How does God enduring people he predestined for hell make the riches of his glory known to people he predestined for heaven?

My Interpretation

His covenantal love and mercy!

riches of his glory:


For the elect.

My Interpretation

For Israelites and Gentiles who fear God.

for vessels of mercy:


God’s plan all along has been to extend his covenantal love and mercy to all people by Christ’s crucifixion. And God has predestined that those who believe in Christ will be glorified with Christ since they are united with Christ in his death and resurrection. They will experience glorification of their bodies, just as Christ did, as well as the glory of God for eternity in the new heaven and earth. God is preparing them for this future even now.

My Interpretation

God predestined the elect to be saved.

which he has prepared beforehand for glory 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?


The elect.

My Interpretation

God has called both Jews and Gentiles to his wedding banquet! The call to covenantal relationship is now extended to the entire world.

(Parable of the Wedding Feast, Matthew 22)

us whom he has called:

25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
    and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”


The New Covenant is now also extended to the Gentiles (think torn temple curtain).

Paul comes full circle here and shows that Israelite prophets declared that God would extend his covenant to the whole world. He has been arguing all along that true children of God are not those with the right DNA (Israelites) and now he quotes Hosea prophesying this very truth: that true children of God would come from tribes that were not included in the first covenant (they ‘were not his people’ according to the Old Covenant) and would be called sons of the living God according to the New Covenant. 

My Interpretation

The Gentile ‘elect’. God has chosen some gentiles to be elected to salvation.

Those who were not my people:


Though there are many physical Israelites at the time, only a few of them believe in Christ and are therefore saved.

My Interpretation

Though there are many physical Israelites at the time, only a few of them (a remnant) are elected by God to salvation.

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel[c] be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.”

29 And as Isaiah [1:9] predicted,

If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
    we would have been like Sodom
    and become like Gomorrah.”


If God had not elected those few Israelites who love him, then all of Israel would have been wicked and God would have destroyed them like he did with Sodom and Gomorrah.

Notice, it is God who elects the remnant.

My Interpretation

Isaiah chapter 1 (where this quote comes from) is about God declaring his judgement upon Israel for their wickedness. Here is one of many descriptions in that chapter of why God punished them with enemy invasion and then exile.

Ah, sinful nation,
    a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
    children who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the Lord,
    they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
    they are utterly estranged.   Isaiah 1:4

Paul’s is showing his Israelite brothers that they are the “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” that he mentioned in verse 22. The quote from Isaiah is to show them that they, like Sodom and Gomorrah, are heading towards destruction.

But Paul is making this comparison so that they repent and begin pursuing God by faith. As it says in the verses immediately following this quote from Isaiah chapter 1…


Isaiah Chapter 1-

10 Hear the word of the Lord,
    you rulers of Sodom!
Give ear to the teaching[b] of our God,
    you people of Gomorrah!

(Isaiah is referring to his present Israel as Sodom and Gomorrah here. Sodom and Gomorrah were long destroyed by this point)
11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of well-fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
    or of lambs, or of goats…

13 Bring no more vain offerings;
    incense is an abomination to me.

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,  (human responsibility)

17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow's cause.

18 “Come now, let us reason[c] together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
    you shall be eaten by the sword;
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

It seems to me from reading the context of Isaiah chapter 1 that humans have genuine ability to humble themselves and respond to God’s call or to refuse and rebel. I think the reason Paul is quoting this chapter is to show his fellow Israelites that this chapter could be read of them and that they are not the “remnant” because they seek God by works and not by Faith.

Section 5: v. 30-33


30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.

This is a rhetorical question. Paul is really saying two truth statements. They are…

  1. Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness by adherence to the Mosaic law have attained righteousness because righteousness has always been imputed to people by faith (as was shown with Abraham.)
  2. But Israel, who has been seeking to adhere to the Mosaic Law…the law which was meant to lead people to humble faith in God by making apparent their unrighteousness…did not succeed in reaching what the law was meant to lead them to: a humility and depending faith on God which would then be “counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).

 32 Why? (In other words, “That is precisely what has happened! Now let me explain why.”)

Because they did not pursue it by faith,

but as if it were based on works.

This is the summary statement of everything Paul has been explaining in this chapter! You may have noticed by now that I think the correct interpretation of the point that Paul has been making in every section of Romans 9 is what he just stated above. This chapter, correctly interpreted (in my opinion), has this one single theme. He did not take a rabbit trail to discuss nuances of salvation like “unconditional election” or God’s meticulous sovereignty (aka. divine determinism or theistic fatalism). Every section in Romans 9 is relating in some way to the truth that the Jews did not achieve right standing with God because they sought to do so by their works and NOT by faith in God. None are righteous before God because of their effort or striving.

They have stumbled over the stumbling stone33 as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
    and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.

stumbling stone:

This is clearly a reference to Christ (Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45, 1 Peter 2:4, 6-8, Isaiah 8:14, 1 Cor. 3:9-12, Matthew 21:42-44, Isaiah 28:16, Psalm 118:22-23, Ephesians 2:19-22). He is the

 “stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone” (Acts 4:11). Salvation is found in him alone. “Whoever believes in him will not be put to shame” because they will be glorified and rule with him!

In summary, I believe the differences of interpretation for this chapter arise from one main difference: assuming Paul is thinking of all reprobate humanity as he writes this chapter (which will result in the Calvinistic logic flow) instead of seeing that Paul is thinking his Israelite kin who rejected Christ as the Messiah (those he was lamenting in verses 1-5) as he writes this chapter.  

Since I believe the latter, I interpret all of the theoretical questions in Romans 9 as if they were coming from Pharisaical Israelites.  He is thinking through various objections that they would have to the truth that right standing with God comes through faith in God, not by works of the flesh. Consequently, I do not believe this chapter is about God predestining individuals to be saved or damned before they were born.