Romans 9 in Context: God’s Just Prerogative in Confounding All Confidence in the Law of Works

Introduction

Romans 9 is one of the most controversial and often-misinterpreted passages of scripture among evangelicals. Controversy, however, should not make us timid when it comes to the things of God. This inspired chapter is valuable for teaching doctrine, and should not be ignored or glossed over. At the same time, it should not be treated as a comprehensive statement of Christian soteriology by itself, for the chapter is not written in isolation, but is strongly rooted in the context of both Testaments, touching on concepts present in the other Pauline epistles and the gospels, and quoting from the Old Testament frequently. The goal of this writing is a sound, objective exegesis of Romans 9 to explain the principles therein, expound upon its themes, and to show where and how its teachings fit into the contexts of the rest of the book of Romans, and scripture as a whole. All quotes are from the NKJV unless otherwise specified.

1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen [or kinsmen] according to the flesh,

In the opening of the chapter, Paul displays the strongest of sympathy for his fellow Jews, his apparent inference being that he so greatly wishes their reconciliation in Christ, that he would forfeit his own salvation if that could bring about their being saved.

4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

The tragedy of the majority of Jews rejecting Christ as their Messiah is only heightened when the covenant relationship between God and the children of Israel is considered. It was for Israel that He worked wonders as He did no other nation (Exodus 34:10), and as far as things in this world that pertain to God are concerned, there is much profit to being a Jew (Romans 3:2). Further, the patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the prophets, apostles, as well as Jesus Christ Himself all came from this chosen people of God.

Since they are the people to whom the promises were given and to whom pertain all these blessings, this raises obvious questions: Why are so many Jews unsaved after the word of God has been preached to them? If God made the covenant with Abraham and his children, then why are so many of his descendants altogether excluded from it (Matthew 8:11-12)? Explanation of this apparent discrepancy in light of God’s righteousness is the primary focus of Romans 9.

6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,

Paul’s explanation begins with continuation of a subject brought up back in chapter 3:

“For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?” (Romans 3:3)

He immediately begins to answer the underlying questions with the distinction between national Israel and the true Israel of God, a principle that he put forth in chapter 2.

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:28-29)

It’s on this basis that Paul denies the idea that God’s word has taken no effect: it has, just not within those that men would naturally expect.

7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” [quoting Genesis 21:12]

The point is made that just because one is technically one of Abraham’s physical offspring, this does not guarantee that he will be reckoned as such when it comes to whether he is blessed with faithful Abraham. This is well-illustrated with Abraham’s own sons, his eldest Ishmael, rather than receiving the inheritance of their tribe, was sent away in favor of the younger child of promise, Isaac. So one should not assume that merely being a child of Abraham entitles him or her to the same blessings as he. This line of thought echoes what Christ stated to His fellow Jews,

“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Luke 3:18)

8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.
9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.” [quoting Genesis 18:14]

The distinction between the children according to the flesh and the children of promise is further drawn and clarified here as analogy to the respective states of the natural Jews and believers in Christ. Ishamel was a child of Abraham according to the flesh (his eldest, no less), yet was not the son of promise, and thus not reckoned as his seed. He was blessed, but it was with Isaac that the covenant was established.[a]

Likewise, natural-born Jews are the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, but if they’re not the children of promise, then with regards to the covenant of grace, they’re no more counted as Abraham’s seed than Ishmael was. Who are these children of promise then? How is one accounted as Abraham’s seed? The answer, as will be demonstrated, is revealed in the conclusion of the chapter, and treated more thoroughly in the epistle of Romans and Paul’s other letters. Interestingly, this isn’t the only time that Paul has used this analogy. It also appears in Galatians chapter 4.

“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband.” Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.” (Galatians 4:21-31)

Hagar, in Paul’s analogy, represents the old covenant of works. Her offspring, the children of her bondage, are the natural Jews who are under the law. In verses 10-13, the analogy of the natural children versus the children of promise (represented by Isaac’s twin sons) is extended to show that the works of the law which the Jews perform are irrelevant to whether they will inherit the promises.

10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac
11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),
12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” [quoting Genesis 25:23]
13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” [quoting Malachai 1:2-3]

Just as in the example of Isaac and Ishmael, the example of Jacob and Esau again displays the purpose of God overriding man’s expectations and going against all outward appearances. Yet again the elder and favored heir apparent is rejected by God in favor of a younger supplanter. Paul likewise employs the imagery of Esau as representing the children of the fleshly ordinances in opposition to the children of promise. Just as he lost his birthright and failed to inherit his father’s blessing, so the nation of the Jews that received the covenant at Sinai largely finds itself (for now) shut out of the kingdom, while lowly Gentiles press in and inherit the promises.

The wording “not of works, but of Him who calls” is pertinent to the example. Those who are natural Jews only, the children of bondage who rest in the law (cf Romans 2:17) are confident that they are partakers in the blessings of Abraham because of their obedience to the old covenant. Paul’s contradiction of these notions of self-righteousness is a consistent theme throughout Romans, expressed in his declaration that only faith in Christ can save from sin, and that salvation is impossible through the works of the law.[b] Here, Paul highlights the irrelevance of such works by way of his analogy: one of the twins was chosen before either of them had done anything good or evil, so that God’s purpose according to His choosing would prevail. The one who received the blessing didn’t lay claim to it by either birthright or his works, but was graciously chosen for it by God, as is His prerogative. So in the same way, the point being made is that the works of the law are not a factor in whether one obtains God’s favor. The idea conveyed in Jacob being chosen over Esau apart from any works is that the Jewish keeping of the Mosaic law isn’t the basis upon which God chooses to save, therefore the Jewish pursuit of righteousness through the works of the law in comparison to the Gentiles’ general alienation from God’s statutes isn’t relevant to whether one is chosen. Both have fallen short. This being the case, many among the natural Jews who were born into the commonwealth of Israel have sought to establish their righteousness in the keeping of the law, but have nonetheless failed to obtain the promises of God. All the while the Gentiles, the lowly dogs who were by nature strangers to the promises (Ephesians 2:12), have obtained them by faith in Christ (Romans 4:13, Hebrews 6:12). To a devout Jew who valued keeping of the law highly and thought this something of great worth in the eyes of God, taking the kingdom from those who strive to keep God’s law (albeit imperfectly) and giving it to apparently less worthy Gentile usurpers who obtain it through faith without ever having kept the law might seem quite unjust, which leads Paul to His next statements.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!
15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” [quoting Exodus 33:19]
16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

At first glance, God choosing a heathen over a practicing Jew would seem to convey unjustness in God’s judgments. Here, a key point and theme of the passage is brought out: divine prerogative. That is to say, God’s blessing is His to give to whom He will in His Holy purpose. No one can claim it by accident of birth or merit of deeds. In answer, Paul asserts God’s right to show His covenant mercy to whom He wishes. It doesn’t matter what men want or do, who and how God chooses is His prerogative, no one else’s.

Establishment of divine prerogative, rather than any explanation of it, is Paul’s main thrust here. The grounds for God’s prerogative, though not explained directly in chapter 9, should be evident from the context of the book of Romans: with the obvious exception of Christ, no Jew or Gentile can keep the law in full. All stumble and break its statutes despite their best efforts. Since all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory[c], including the Jews. Since none of us merits His blessing, then none can rightfully lay claim to His favor or obligate Him to extend His covenant mercy. Man cannot ‘elect himself;’ just as in the case of His choice of Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau, it is God’s prerogative to decide to whom the promise goes.

17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” [quoting Exodus 9:16]
18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

The corollary of God’s prerogative in who He wishes to save is that He also has the right to reject whoever He wishes, as no one has power or right to demand a share of His promise. Rejected as they may be from His mercy, God does have use for such people in His plans, and puts them in key positions to suit His own purposes, as in the case of Pharaoh, or those who condemned Christ.[d]

Likewise, God has power over the human will, and can harden it against receiving the word on whatever basis He wishes to suit His purposes. The issue of divine hardening[e] (also referred to metaphorically as blindness and being given over to wickedness, cf Romans 11:25, 2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, Romans 1:28) is not thoroughly explained in Romans 9, since again, Paul’s focus here isn’t explanation of God’s methods, but a defense of His prerogative as sovereign Lord. The scriptures are, however, by no means silent on the issue. It’s addressed several times in the New Testament, including earlier in Romans, from which we offer a cursory overview to provide context for the subject in chapter 9. Jesus spoke of the Jews being blinded to Him and His message after their rejection of Him:

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)

From the context, this was apparently in retribution for their refusal to humble themselves and hear Christ. It must be noted that one cannot simply come to Christ by force of will, it must be granted by God that he may believe (John 6:65); Jesus made it clear that the stiff-necked pride God often characterized many Jews by (as in His criticism of them that’s quoted in Romans 10:20) would in fact keep one out of the kingdom of God.[f]

Divine hardening is often shown as an apparently ‘cooperative effort,’ so to speak. The example cited, Pharaoh, for instance, is shown to have hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15, 32, 9:34, 1 Samuel 6:6) in addition to the near-total blindness to any reason God inflicted upon him which led to his catastrophic decisions regarding Israel. Paul spoke of similar judgment passed against those who forgot God in the opening chapter of Romans:

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting….” (Romans 1:28)

Exegesis of divine hardening wouldn’t be complete without comment on where Paul picks up on the issue of Israel’s being blinded to the gospel. In chapter 11, he expands upon the concept of the Jews’ blindness, indicating that it was done so that the gospel could be shared with all men (Romans 11:32), which is in direct accord with his words to the Jews at Antioch, for though he first stated,

“Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent.” (Acts 13:26)

Yet after they had begun to contradict and blaspheme, he declared,

“It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.” (13:46b)

So God’s use of divine hardening against many in Israel has a greater purpose, though this isn’t discussed in detail until chapter 11. Notably, the blindness spoken of pertaining to the Jews in chapter 11 is shown to not be irreversible, but rather, God’s gifts and calling for and to them will never be revoked.[g]

This state of hardness of heart is also not universal for all Jews, as a small remnant are still saved according to God’s gracious choosing (Romans 11:5), similar to what was spoken in Isaiah 10:22-23 which is quoted later in this chapter. God’s prerogative both to give and withhold His blessing immediately destroys any objection that someone might ‘compel’ God to share His covenant mercies, since, suffice it to say, no one can receive them apart from God’s willingness. However, the idea of God hardening someone’s heart would in and of itself raise objections from some, an expected objection is dealt with by Paul in verse 19.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”
20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”
21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Paul dismisses the objection with his underlying appeal to divine prerogative that he put forth in verses 14-16. Simply, God as Creator has the right to do what He pleases with what is His (compare this to Christ’s words in Matthew 20:15). Man is in no position to question Him or His methods. So from the same group of people, as in the case of Israel according to the flesh, He chooses to save some and harden others. While he does provide one reason why God may harden some men’s hearts below, Paul in fact makes no attempt to directly answer the objector’s ‘why,’ much less justify whatever basis or means God employs in hardening one’s heart, nor need he. Such lines of questioning presuppose that God is somehow accountable to man to explain His actions (contra Job 9:12) or obligated to share His blessing with certain peoples, which notions Paul categorically negates in declaring God’s authority over creation.

22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Paul offers God showing His wrath so that we may understand His glory and mercy as one good reason for His hardening men’s hearts while patiently bearing with them a long time despite their sentence of destruction. It would indeed be hard for finite beings who don’t understand what wrath is to truly understand what mercy is. The author repeats a similar sentiment in chapter 11,

“Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” (Romans 11:22)

Where the unbelieving are concerned, as in the case of Joseph’s brothers, God finds a way to turn even the wickedness of men to His own ends (e.g. Genesis 50:20). Our being “prepared beforehand” refers to God’s working of election and predestination through His power, wisdom, and foreknowledge (which he mentions in 8:29, compare to 1 Peter 1:2) among both the Jewish remnant and Gentile believers.

25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”[quoting Hosea 2:23]
26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.” [quoting Hosea 1:10]

These verses are quoted primarily in reference to the Gentiles, who were formerly excluded from God’s promises, and reckoned by the Jews as little more than dogs. Despite such lowly birth, God’s ultimate plan of mercy towards the Gentiles is hinted at in the dialogue between Christ and the Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7:26-29, heavily implied in Jesus’ sermon to His fellow Jews about mercy shown in Sidon and Syria rather than in Israel (Luke 4:24-27), and concluded by Peter and the Jerusalem council (Acts 11:17-18). This is not to say that God has totally forsaken the nation of Israel.

27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.
28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness[h], Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.” [quoting Isaiah 10:22-23]

Paul quotes these passages as prophetic authority that the salvation of the Gentiles as well as a remnant of the Jews has been God’s plan all along, as He’d declared through the prophets of old.[i] He continues with this idea into chapters 10 and 11, referencing God’s declaration in Deuteronomy 32:21 that He will provoke the Jews to jealousy by foreign peoples who don’t know His law. Note that the word for “short” and “cut short” (syntemno) in verse 28 can also imply something done hastily or expediently. Given the quote’s source (Isaiah 10:22-23), the rendering that the NIV and some other versions employ, “For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality”, is likely more accurate.

29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth [lit. Lord of Hosts] had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.” [quoting Isaiah 1:9]

The wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that received fiery retribution from above are used as figures of utter destruction. They have an end, and a pronounced one at that, implying that if God had not been gracious in granting the blessings of Abraham to a remnant of the Jews, they would have perished as surely and completely as those cities that defied God. Yet it is still a small remnant among the children of Israel both in Paul’s day as well as our own. To the questions that Paul’s statements at the beginning of the chapter raise, why are so many law-keeping Jews are rejected from receiving the promise while many believing Gentiles enjoy God’s blessing, Paul elucidates that this was in fact what God has chosen to do. To objections that this would make God unrighteous for forsaking the children of the Sinai covenant, Paul distinguishes between the nation of Israel and the Israel made up of the children of promise. To charges of unfairness, Paul appeals to God’s prerogative in both bestowing and withholding His mercy, and cites examples of His subverting the expected order of things in making the younger heir to the promise over the elder in the Old Testament. As for many of the Jews, if being born to the chosen people and trying to keep the law of God don’t make one a child of promise, then what does? Why are they descended from Abraham, yet not of the seed of promise? Paul concludes:

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.[j]
32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.[k] For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” [quoting Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16]

The conclusion to the chapter, besides smoothly transitioning into Paul’s discussion on the Jews in chapters 10 and 11, is key to understanding Romans 9. Faith in Christ is in fact what differentiates the children of promise from the natural children of bondage. This was brought out in chapter 4 of Romans when Paul explained who the true children of Abraham are:

“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which [he had yet] being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.” (Romans 4:11-12)

This idea was also conveyed throughout the third chapter of Galatians when addressing the issue of faith versus the works of the law,

“Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. … For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. … And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:7, 26, 29)

In summary, the tribes of Israel are the descendants of Abraham, and ostensibly the heirs to the promise with him. Yet despite their bloodline and keeping of the law, many of them are not truly Israel. God has instead made many Gentiles heirs of the promise with the Jewish remnant, who constitute the true Israel. God has chosen to show mercy to those who are children of promise through faith, and blinded many in the nation of Israel who have largely rejected His mercy through unbelief and trying to establish their own righteousness through the law. In this upset, God displays both His mercy and His wrath, taking the promise from the natural heirs and giving it to foreign people, just as He took the promise from the patriarchs’ elder sons and gave it to their younger, and in His wisdom confounded the wise so that many who weren’t born the seed of Abraham according to the flesh have nonetheless become his children and attained to his blessing: the righteousness which is by faith in Christ Jesus. It’s not unfair for God to do so, because who He shows the mercy of His covenant to isn’t man’s to decide. It is God’s promise, God’s grace, God’s prerogative, according to God’s purpose and on His terms, and therefore God’s choice. As it is also written,

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21)

Amen.

Footnotes:

[a] This even went against Abraham’s own request: “And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!” Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. “But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” (Genesis 17:18-21)

[b] See Romans 3:20-21, 28, 4:13, 7:6, 8:3.

[c] Romans 3:23. That both Jew and Gentile have fallen in sin is a major theme through many of Paul’s writings, expressed perhaps the most poignantly in Romans.

[d] That they being in those positions and having the power they did was to suit the purpose of God is evident from Christ’s words to Pilate in John 19:11: “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

[e] Though typically referred to as ‘divine hardening,’ there is scriptural evidence to suggest that God hardens men through secondary agents, e.g. by turning them over to Satan’s influence. See 2 Corinthians 4:4, Matthew 13:19. Interestingly, Isaiah 6:9-10 seems to suggest that the word of God being spoken to undiscerning people can harden them, possibly lending some credence to the analogy of the wax & clay being respectively softened and hardened under the same sun.

[f] In contrast to the many learned, but stubborn men of Israel, the scriptures strongly emphasize being humble and child-like to the word of God. “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:15) See also James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5.

[g] The quote about God’s gifts and calling being irrevocable is very often misapplied. Its context is in relation to the Jews who have stumbled at the word, but are able to obtain mercy. “And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. … Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.” (Romans 11:23, 28-31)

[h] 9:28 NU-Text: “For the Lord will finish the work and cut it short upon the earth.”

[i] This passage is also extremely strong evidence against those who heretically claim that the majority of unbelieving Jews are saved through keeping the old covenant.

[j] 9:31 – NU-Text omits of righteousness.

[k] 9:32 – NU-Text “of works,” though the qualification “of the law” is hardly necessary to infer that the law is being spoken of, since, 1.) the Jewish reliance upon the law and the superiority of faith in Christ is a one of the major themes repeatedly addressed throughout the epistle, cf 2:17, 3:20, 28, 4:14, 8:2-3, 10:5; 2.) the immediate context of the preceding verse makes this abundantly clear.

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40 Responses

  1. This sounds an awful lot like Calvinism to me. So God decides for reasons known only to him who will be saved and who will be damned, and those who he damns he makes sure will reject him by hardening their hearts? Should the damned take comfort in the fact that, even though they are utterly rejected by God, they still have a part to play in his plan by showing the saved what God’s awful wrath looks like?

  2. CJ,

    @So God decides for reasons known only to him who will be saved and who will be damned

    I only briefly touched on some reasons why God hardens some, and didn’t go very deep into the issue of why others are saved, though the conclusion to Romans 9 shows why one obtains the promise and the other doesn’t. While I do strongly acknowledge God’s sovereignty, rest assured that I’m not Calvinistic.

  3. This does have a markedly Calvinistic flavor to it, although I very much appreciated the work. It seems to me there is a difference between God choosing folk to play a role in producing his ultimate aims in history, and God declaring folk righteous. Both express his grace for humanity: for the former God leaves us clueless about the whys and wherefores of his selections, for the latter God has clearly made faith the determinative issue.

    Were not the hypothetical Jews Paul was attempting to disabuse of their notions actually rather Calvinistic in their their perceptions about their privileged place with God? None of them chose to be born Jewish, but being born that way meant God chose them.

  4. slw,

    @Both express his grace for humanity: for the former God leaves us clueless about the whys and wherefores of his selections, for the latter God has clearly made faith the determinative issue.

    That’s pretty much what the chapter concludes in differentiating unbelieving Israel from the true Israel: the Jews as a nation are largely rejected because they didn’t seek righteousness by faith, there’s no indication of some unconditional rejection at work. To that, I think God’s sovereignty, and therefore prerogative in salvation, is strongly emphasized in Romans 9. Deriving unconditional election from that fact is largely based upon the fallacy that divine prerogative somehow equates to unconditionality.

    @Were not the hypothetical Jews Paul was attempting to disabuse of their notions actually rather Calvinistic in their their perceptions about their privileged place with God?

    They did often carry the presumption of election.

  5. To that, I think God’s sovereignty, and therefore prerogative in salvation, is strongly emphasized in Romans 9. Deriving unconditional election from that fact is largely based upon the fallacy that divine prerogative somehow equates to unconditionality.

    Thanks JC, that really helps me understand your perspective and the entire post much better.

  6. To be perfectly honest with all you folks, I am just perplexed how anyone can get a Calvinist’s reading out of Romans 9 when the Old Testament citations AND THE REST OF THE CHAPTER are taken into consideration! I believe that Romans 9 really is an extremely weak unconditional election passage. Ephesians 1 is emphasised “in Christ” parallelous with the corporate model… I would say that John 6 is the hardest of the passages to deal with.

  7. To be perfectly honest with all you folks, I am just perplexed how anyone can get a Calvinist’s reading out of Romans 9 when the Old Testament citations AND THE REST OF THE CHAPTER are taken into consideration! I believe that Romans 9 really is an extremely weak unconditional election passage. Ephesians 1 is emphasised “in Christ” parallelous with the corporate model… I would say that John 6 is the hardest of the passages to deal with.

  8. Doesn’t God harden people in the same sense in which He hardened Pharaoh’s heart? The hardening results from a negative response to God’s grace or His actions in the earth. God sends men to preach the gospel. Those who reject it (when they could have accepted it and responded in repentance/faith) harden themselves against it. God hardens them only in the sense that He sent the saving message that evoked this response. That is to say, God’s gracious action toward sinful men sometimes gets a negative response, resulting in a solidifying of their rebelliousness.

  9. Excellent comment Vance!

  10. B.P

    It is not a Calvinistic view, It is a Biblical truth in scripture. V.16, so then it depends not on human will or exertion,but on God, who has mercy.

  11. Randy,

    Yes I know that I was jus making a general comment about how I have no idea how Calvinists actually get their point of view from Rom. 9 after really good analysis like the one above.

  12. Randy, Romans 9 states nothing about election being unconditional. The wording of verse 16 is rendered rather poorly in some translations (e.g. “it depends not on human will or exertion”), but it’s literally “so, then — [election is] not of him who is willing, nor of him who is running, but of God who is doing kindness.” Verse 16’s wording describes the one doing the choosing -God, rather than man; it does not imply that God employs no conditions or criteria in His choosing.

  13. Thank You J.C for your response,
    I am not sure were you got your interpretation from on verse 16?

    Salvation is not initated by human choice-even faith is a gift from God. Salvation is not merited by human effort. v.11

  14. Randy, I was quoting the actual wording of the passage from Young’s Literal Translation; compare it to the interlinear. No one’s arguing that salvation is initiated or merited by man. But God doing the choosing, God initiating salvation, and Christ being the only merit thereof doesn’t amount to unconditionality, since,

    a.) There is nothing about the act of choosing that inherently suggests unconditionality
    b.) God initiating salvation doesn’t preclude (but rather supports) His prerogative in setting conditions before one obtains it
    c.) Conditions aren’t necessarily meritorious, including those that pertain to pardon (cf 1 Kings 2:36-46, Romans 11:22)

  15. J.C, Thank you for clarifying your interpretation of the scripture text. Is the NKJV wrong in it’s interpretation of Romans 9?
    You said’ God initiating salvation dosen’t preclude (but rather supports) His prerogative in setting conditions before one obtains it. On what conditions did Jacob do to inherit his election? Does the Scripture text teach that Jacob choose God first? God’s choice of Jacob resides soley in Gods sovereign plan, a perfect example of election unto salvation. And why did God love Jacob and hate Esau? Does verse 11 clarify, that the purpose of God according to election might stand? We can’t deny that the word election is quoted in Romans 9:11.

  16. Randy, the NKJV at the least is more accurate in vs 16 than some other versions due to its usage of personal pronouns.

    @On what conditions did Jacob do to inherit his election?

    Recall that Isaac/Ishmael & Jacob/Esau example were given to describe the difference between spiritual and natural Israel (note vs 8). To take it as some sort of universal example of how individuals are divinely chosen for something is stretching the analogy well outside the bounds of its context.

  17. A note to the believer: Old Testament citations are CRITICAL in Romans 9!!! e.g.—> Jacob/Esau comes from Malachi 1. o to Malachi 1 to see what point is being made in Romans 9!

  18. Thank you J.C for the opportunity to share on your blog. Romans 9 is not an easy topic to discuss on-line, there are so many biblical scriptures to discuss. This text takes you to so many text in the old Testament as well as the new testament. I will still stand on the scriptures that it is talking about individual election, rather than a nation. I definitely consider you a brother in Christ. And you are giving other believers the opportunity to get into their bible and study, Because there are some difficult scriptures that need to be addressed and diligent in studying these wonderful truths.
    God Bless,
    Randy

  19. Randy,

    Are you familiar with the corporate view of election? I haven’t read JC’s post yet and I don’t think that he holds to the corporate view, but I think the corporate view answers your questions quite well.

    For example, the corporate view would see Rom. 9 as mainly being about who constitutes the people of God and God’s choice in how they are identified as God’s people.

    So Paul’s points about Isaac, Jacob, and Esau have to do with God’s choice of who will be the covenant head and representative of His people. The chosen covenant people of God are determined based on their association and identification with the covenant head to whom and (ultimately) through whom the covenant promises are made.

    That choice was entirely up to God (though the Scriptures do show that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had to respond positively in order to maintain their status as God’s chosen covenant heads). The people of God were reckoned first through Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob (from whom they derived their name as God’s people) and ultimately through Christ (the promised seed).

    The point is that God has the sovereign right to name and determine who His people will be and on what basis they will be His people. The Jews were upset that God was now rejecting Israel and receiving the Gentiles. But the point is that God has the absolute right to choose His covenant Head through whom His people will be named and derive their identity. The Jews never had any control over that choice, and they still do not. God has now chosen (and had always planned to choose) Christ as His covenant Head and to reckon His people through union and identification with Him through faith. So the Jews cannot complain that God is being unfair in making Christ His corporate covenant Head and receiving both Jews and Gentiles as His people in Him, since such choices have always been up to God alone. It is His choice (and sovereign right) to say “not my people” to those who were formally His people through their identification with Israel, but who have now rejected the “Seed” of promise, Christ.

    Rom. 11 demonstrates the corporate view nicely. The olive tree represents God’s people built on the patriarchs and the promises given them ultimately finding their fulfillment and reality in Christ. The Jews who were God’s people but now reject Christ are broken off from the elect people of God and the Gentiles who were once non-elect (cut off from the promises of Israel) have now been grafted in to the people of God (the election) through faith in Christ. So Christ is the promised “Seed”, God’s chosen corporate covenant Head and all those who put trust in Him share in His election and become God’s people, while all who reject Him (regardless of works or heritage) are cut off from the covenant people and the “promises”.

    Rom. 11 is big trouble for Calvinism and its interpretation of Rom. 9 in so many ways, while it perfectly supports and illustrates the corporate election view which sees election as conditioned on union/identification with the corporate Head (Christ) and further conditioned on the faith that joins us to Him and His people (His body).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. Thank you for your response kangaroodort.

    You have done a nice job explaining your view on Romans 9. I no that you do not believe in the doctrine of election. I do consider you as a brother in Christ and I have read some of your blogs and I appreciate your Diligence in seeking the the truths of Gods wonderful truths. And I must admit that there are a lot of mysteries on the doctrines of salvation, so thank you for taking time to explain Romans 9 to me. Are you saying that God can choose a nation or choose corporately? But he can not choose an individual for salvation? You also said” God has the sovereign right to name and determine who His people will be and on what basis they will be His people. Was that choice determined before the foundation of the world?
    God Bless,
    Randy

  21. Randy,

    Thanks for stopping by again and considering my comments. You wrote,

    You have done a nice job explaining your view on Romans 9. I no that you do not believe in the doctrine of election.

    I am going to assume this was a mistake on your part since I clearly believe in election (as my comments made clear). What I do not believe is that election is unconditional as Calvinists teach since I see no evidence of it in Scripture and see numerous Scriptures that contradict the concept.

    Are you saying that God can choose a nation or choose corporately? But he can not choose an individual for salvation?

    God can choose however He pleases and He is pleased to choose and name His people based on their union with Christ through faith. Individuals become elect when they are joined to Christ and His elect body through faith, and not before (as Rom. 11 illustrates very well).

    God’s choice of Christ and His body was made from eternity, but one becomes a part of that body through faith. God does not choose certain people from eternity to become a part of that body. As Eph. 1:4 says, we are chosen “in Him”. It does not say that we were chosen “to be in Him”. When God chose Christ to be His corporate covenant Head (from eternity), by extension He chose all who would come to be joined to Him by faith. Just as the Scriptures testified that in Rebecca’s womb were “two nations” and “two peoples” even though the peoples did not yet exist, but only the corporate heads through whom they would receive their identity.

    You should read more on the corporate view when you get the chance. Here is a recent article that is a response to a Calvinist mischaracterization of the view (below). It links to several other articles as well that will help you gain a better understanding of what the view entails.

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/brian-abasciano-responds-to-dan-wallace-on-corporate-election/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  22. Thank you Ben,

    You and youre family have a wonderful Christmas!!
    I will check out your link.

    God bless,
    Randy

  23. Randy,

    Let me know what you think when you get the chance. Have a wonderful Christmas as well.

  24. Corrected an obvious name mix up in my comments on Rom. 9. Did anybody notice?

  25. [...] The distinction between the children according to the flesh and the children of promise is further drawn and clarified here as analogy to the respective states of the natural Jews and believers in Christ. Ishamel was a child of Abraham according to the flesh (his eldest, no less), yet was not the son of promise, and thus not reckoned as his seed. He was blessed, but it was with Isaac that the covenant was established.[a] [...]

  26. Ben,
    I checked out your link, and I have a few questions.
    I was looking in the Bible to see where you responded to Eph. 1:4 says, we are chosen “in Him”. It does not say that we were chosen “to be in Him”.I could not read any where in the bible that said to be in him. It always reads in him. Please correct me if I am wrong

    You said” Rom. 11 demonstrates the corporate view nicely. Here is the proof that that is not correct; read the verse preceding it. It does not say anything at all about nations, or corporately it says, “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 calls; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger,”—referring to the children, not to the nations. Of course the threatening was afterwards fulfilled in the position of the two nations; Edom was made to serve Israel. But this text means just what it says; it does not mean nations, but it means the persons mentioned. “Jacob,”—that is the man whose name was Jacob—” Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” This text means just what it says.
    Look at Jacob’s life and read his history,God loved Jacob.
    Now look at Esau’s life, God did not love Esau.

    “God is his own interpreter,
    And he will make it plain;”

    God Bless,
    Randy

  27. Randy,

    Ben’s point was actually that Eph 1:4 does not say we were chosen to be in him as calvinists often take it, but that we were chosen in him, as Arminians take it and the text actually says.

    As for Ben’s point about Romans 11, he was talking about Romans ch. 11 and Paul’s olive tree metaphor, not the vs. you are citing, Rom 9:11. But what you say about rom 9:11 is incorrect. The original OT context makes clear that the oracle refers primarily to the nations of Israel and Edom. Just look at the original context. The Old Testament often uses the name Jacob to refer to the nation of Israel. And the preceding lines of the Old Testament oracle refer to the people descended from Jacob. So the last line does too. But that does not mean the individual Jacob is not in view at all. He is as the head of the people. But that is part and parcel of the corporate view of election. really, you should read a good article on the concept. You could start with this basic primer: http://evangelicalarminians.org/A-Concise-Summary-of-the-Corporate-View-of-Election-and-Predestination, and then move to this full scale article: http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Clearing-Up-Misconceptions-about-Corporate-Election. You seem to have some of the misconceptions debunked in the full article. These two works were referenced in the article Ben pointed you to.

  28. Arminian,
    Debunked by an interpretation by mere human intellect, not by scripture. Ben’s point was actually that Eph 1:4 does not say we were chosen to be in him as Calvinists often take it, but that we were chosen in him, as Armenians take it and the text actually says we were chosen to be in him as Calvinists often take it. I think you are in err to say that all calvinist say to be in him. You are right the text says you were chosen in him. That is the only way you can be chosen. The scripture does not say Individuals become elect when they are joined to Christ and His elect body through faith, and not before (as Rom. 11 illustrates very well). I believe your definition of the word elect or election is interpreted the way you want it to say. The word elect means what it says: Carefully selected,Chosen. One chosen are set apart. This is what the word means. You can not elect yourself to salvation by your own faith. Only Gods elect, chosen before the foundation of the world.
    2Thess 2: 13-14) But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    You are trying to fit old testament scriptures into Romans 9 to make your point, Your interpretation will not fit the truth of scripture. By the way, “For the children being not yet born, Jacob and Esau were children.It says no where that they were a corporation. So my question to you would be, why did God Love Jacob and hate Esau?

    God Bless,
    Randy

  29. Dear Randy,

    Arminian and others were hardly “trying to fit [the] old testament scriptures into Romans 9″ to make their point as is claimed. Paul himself is using the old testament (with phrases like “just as it is written”) to substantiate his argument in this chapter, in fact he has more OT references in ch.9 than in any other part of the epistle.
    It then behoves us to consider what these references are actually talking about in their original context (lest we falsely think Paul is ignoring what they mean in their OT context as he forms his argument based upon them).

    But first let us refer to the immediate determining context of 9:11 since you repeatedly mentioned it. Your emphasis here in two comments has been on the use of the phrase “the children”.

    Quote:”…referring to the children, not to the nations.” / “By the way, “For the children being not yet born, Jacob and Esau were children.It says no where that they were a corporation.” etc.

    I understand this emphasis is suppose to make us disregard the Gen. 25:23 context where it is a contextually a prophecy from the Lord about the two nations/peoples. This weakens here because the phrase “the children” is actually not found in the Greek text. A reference edition of the NKJV will usually have that phrase in italics to indicate this to the reader.

    Even if the phrase were there it could be argued that you were overemphasising it at the expense of context from which is quoted from in the OT. But as it is your argument for your view on this verse so far on the comments has been an emphasis on the only part of the verse that actually doesn’t exist.

    Coincidentally the phrase “the children” IS mentioned in this section in 9:6-8, where the phrase is used in an entirely corporate sense for the children of Israel; one corporate body who will and one corporate body who will not inherit the promises.

    Quote: “It says no where that they were a corporation.” Actually thus saith the Lord in Genesis 25:23, and as Ben and JC others have pointed out this fits well with a corporate view of this chapter.

    You point out in a ‘by the way’ manner that Jacob and Esau were children, and this is true enough.. but it begs to be said then by the way that Jacob and Esau were also nations (which is the sense in which the Genesis and the Malachi quote referring them… and as the blog post argues, coincidentally is the sense in Romans that quotes them.)

    You essentially told people to look back a verse for the context (and emphasis a phrase). May I recommend you look back a few more verses, see what the author is emphasising, and take seriously the context of the quotes Paul is using.

    You ask us to, “Look at Jacob’s life and read his history,God loved Jacob.
    Now look at Esau’s life, God did not love Esau.”

    There are some events that correlate such. On the other hand Jacob had a pretty rough life, even humbling himself before Esau and calling himself a servant of Esau. Might I ask you to “Look at Jacob’s [the nation] life and look at Esau’s [the nation] life.” The history is pretty eye opening. More importantly though look at the context of the quote.

    Finally (on a more personal level perhaps and sorry to ask), might I ask you to look at your commenting a little more closely. Several times people have explained that it is not a matter of ‘what’ election means but ‘whether God has chosen any conditions for His election.’ The exegesis in this blog post itself points out that it is certainly not conditional on lineage, or works of the law, but upon faith or “belief in the truth” as 2 Thess. 2:13-14 puts it. (It just seems that several times you have repeated things assuming your own defintion, people have said they don’t hold the same understanding of that, but you keep going as if they do).

    May His grace be with you always.

  30. Randy,

    Jay addressed your comments pretty well. So there’s no need to go over everything more. But let me highlight a couple things:

    Your comments on what Eph 1:4 says and Ben’s point about it are confusing. The bottom line is that Ben’s point, which you seem to agree with, though it is hard to tell, is that Eph 1:4 does not say we were chosen to be in him as Calvinists often take it, but that we were chosen in him, as Arminians take it and the text actually says. I did not say that all Calvinists take it as “to be in him”, but that they often take it that way, i.e., many (not necessarily all) do.

    You are really employing a straw man when you say, “You can not elect yourself to salvation by your own faith.” The Arminian view does not hold we can elect ourselves by faith, but that *God* elects us by faith. We are clearly justified by faith. But that does not mean that we justify ourselves by faith. God justifies us by faith, i.e., he responds to our faith by justifying us; he justifies those who believe. In the same way, we are also elected by faith. God chooses those who believe as his own people and recipients of his covenantal blessings, including salvation (that’s also why Scripture clearly teaches that we are saved by faith).

    You also seem to think that the text cited has to do with God literally hating Esau, seemingly unaware that most scholars, including Calvinist ones (see e.g. what is probably the foremost Calvinist commentary on Romans by Douglas Moo) that love and hate here has to do with covenantal election and rejection. We don’t know why God chose Jacob over Esau as the head of the covenant, but that does not exclude anyone from joining God’s people and enjoying the benefits of the covenant. Jesus is the ultimate covenantal head and anyone who is united to him *by faith* becomes part of the covenant and its election and its salvation. (BTW, you do realize that Jacob the man never ruled over Esau the man, and that Esau was blessed of God and that that the 2 reconciled, right? This only underscores that the words Paul quoted primarily apply to the nations Jacob and Esau. But as I mentioned earlier, that does not mean the individuals are not in view at all. They are as the heads of the peoples. But that is part and parcel of the corporate view of election. Let me say again that you should really read a good article on the concept. You could start with this basic primer: http://evangelicalarminians.org/A-Concise-Summary-of-the-Corporate-View-of-Election-and-Predestination, and then move to this full scale article: http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Clearing-Up-Misconceptions-about-Corporate-Election. You seem to have some of the misconceptions debunked in the full article. These two works were referenced in the article Ben pointed you to.

  31. Randy,

    My point about Eph. 1:4 was that the text says we were chosen “in Him”. However, Calvinist election essentially says that we were elected to be put in Him when God irresistibly regenerates us unto the faith which joins us to Christ. Arminian election is an election of believers who have come to be joined to the Elect One, and His Body, through faith. Calvinist election is an election of sinners to eventually become believers and so be joined to Christ. So the Arminian view of election better fits the language of Eph. 1:4 and is vividly portrayed in Rom. chapter 11 in the metaphor of the olive tree.

    If Calvinists roll with the language of Eph. 1:4 and say that sinners were “elect in Him” from eternity, then they would need to explain how sinners can be “in Christ” from all eternity, even before they were born? They would also need to explain how the elect would not then be born saved since they would already be “in Him” (and we know that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Rom. 8:1). This would also mean that they would be saved before putting faith in Christ (so much for sola fide), and that the Scriptures are wrong that say we are condemned and children of wrath prior to being joined to Christ through faith (and being justified by faith).

    So the language of Eph. 1:4 makes a mess of Calvinist election, while it comports perfectly with the Arminian view. Hope that clears things up.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  32. I am young and new to the concept of predestination and am having trouble with it. I cant accept that God would create a being destined for hell, or that He would choose some for salvation and not others when their choices and actions are his doing, as expressed by Calvinism.
    But I accept that in his sovereignty He can reject anyone and save anyone as He so wills.
    But he is all loving, I believe this to death, I believe there isn’t a soul in all creation he doesn’t love. I believe he hates sinners as well. In my view “hate” doesn’t imply “does not love”, belief in Christ clears us of the tittle “sinner” though we may sin, when judgement comes it will not be counted against us but rather righteousness.
    After being presented with strict Calvinistic views on predestination without another view, and then quoted at with lists of scripture, that I didn’t know at the time was quoted out of context, I was deeply depressed. I’d been told that the love of Jesus, the love my life was held up by, was a lie, and that was, apparently, biblical. It made me doubt my faith and God’s love.
    THIS IS THE DANGER OF STRICT CALVINISM.
    I believe that it was only the blessing that i am surrounded by christian friends that helped me through. If I was told that God only loves some and chooses to leave others to eternal damnation upon creation, and then shown (albeit out of context), where it was in the bible a year ago, when my faith was much younger, I highly doubt that I would have kept faith.
    After much research and digging my bible, I believe God predestined the followers of Christ, not the individual, to receive salvation through his son. Weather we follow Christ is entirely our free will, but that doesn’t mean that we gained it by any of our works because even if we made the choice to follow Christ God ultimately makes the choice to save those who make that choice. A choice is not a work. When I’m in heaven and I’m asked, by what means am I there? I will not be able to answer, “by my choice”, but the only answer I can rightly give is “by Gods grace and love”.

    But I am still having trouble with a few things, I have views on them but I’m not convinced of them:

    1) Romans 9:17. Did God create Pharaoh to display his wrath? Was there hope for Pharaoh.
    I like to think that there was. When the bible says “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” I do not think it means
    “For this I created you, that I might display my wrath”,
    as many have tried to convince me, but I think it means,
    “For this purpose I made you Pharaoh, that i might bring you down to display my power”.

    2) Even if we must choose Jesus to be saved, are we able to make that choice without God’s intervention in their hearts? If not, then doesn’t God still choose who to make come to Christ. The corollary being that God looks upon a completely deprived world, where all are sinners, and for some reason picks and chooses who will be saved, and therefore who will be left for hell.
    Currently I think that God presents the gift of faith to all but not all receive it. I do not believe that some are incapable of receiving it, but that in our sin some refuse it. But i cant elaborate on how one would be moved to accept faith without God intervening in their hearts?

    3) Why would God create beings he knew would not choose his son, and therefore be destined for hell?
    I believe Satan corrupted his creation, but this just creates more questions, like: Why did God allow this? Why did god create Satan knowing he would rebel and corrupt man, dooming some of the children God loves so much to an eternity in hell?

    I’m very confused on these matter and they have been really affecting my life?

    May God bless you all,
    Aaron

  33. Aaron, thank-you for your comment. To your questions:

    @Romans 9:17. Did God create Pharaoh to display his wrath? Was there hope for Pharaoh.

    God certainly raised the wicked man Pharaoh to his position of earthly power to display His divine power. I would hardly think that this meant that God created him strictly for that purpose or that there was no hope for him, because being publicly defeated by God doesn’t imply that there’s no hope or room for repentance.

    @Even if we must choose Jesus to be saved, are we able to make that choice without God’s intervention in their hearts?

    The answer is “no.” We hold that God must do a work of grace in the sinner’s heart before he can believe -but that such a work doesn’t irresistibly make a sinner turn to Christ.

    @Why would God create beings he knew would not choose his son, and therefore be destined for hell?

    That’s a deep question all Christians who believe in eternal punishment and full omniscience face. God knowing beforehand that some wouldn’t believe doesn’t imply that they aren’t freely rejecting Him. I can give little answer beyond that God saw it fit to create a universe that would eventually fall into corruption, and at the same time extend His grace so that any of those who seek Him among the fallen might be saved, but condemning the obstinate and prideful.

  34. A couple additions to Josh’s answers to Aaron:

    (1) We also hold that God performs the work of grace in every sinner’s heart at some point, so that all can come to Christ by God’s grace, though not all do. As Josh pointed out, that work of grace (often called prevenient grace) is resistible.

    (2) I think there is a basic, solid answer to your question about why God would choose to create people who he knows will not choose Christ. Here is a basic and concise articulation of the answer from an article on SEA’s site:

    “[There is] an obvious logical problem that anyone who would question the libertarian runs into, and that is the Grandfather paradox. Since the libertarian believes that God foreknows actual future acts, then if God foreknows what a free creature will do in the future, he cannot not create that person, otherwise His foreknowledge of what the person will do would be wrong (since the person would not in fact do what God knew he would do; indeed, God’s foreknowledge of the person’s existence would be wrong as well!), and God cannot be wrong. If you want to introduce middle knowledge (or whatever you may call God’s hypothetical knowledge) then I would just point out, as a friend has done, that “God can only have middle knowledge…of people who will certainly exist at some point. He cannot know what someone who never exists would do; there is no person there to ever know anything about.””

  35. Thank-you both for your replys they’re really appreciated.

    Is this preveninet grace akin to Jesus’ “calling” all mankind to him, but some of us in our sin reject to follow? If so it makes much more sense to me now.

    I don’t think I fully understand this Grandfather paradox? Can he not create a truely free creature and know what the free creature will actualy do and also know what it would have done if things were different? I dont see the paradox, I think im misunderstanding you :S ?

    I believe God upon creating Adam and Eve knew every single one of us, and just as Adam and Eve were originally created in a perfect relationship with him. That all man kind was created to orignally have no need in heaven or hell as we were “good” Genisis 1, living in that perfect relationship. So if the fall never happened each and everyone of us would still be but in that perfect relationship. All this does not to say that god didn’t foreknow that we would fall, or that he was forced into anything, after all he’s God. Because of the fall and our birth into live of sin we deserve hell. God knew all this would happen, why he aloud it I dont know, but I know it happened and i know his will is that all should find redemption. I think im explaining messy, very tired. I talked about it in the questions thread a few days ago.

    I dont think we can understand why God alowed the fall, and i think its logical that we can’t understand it.

    I’m going to have to do a lot more reading :) Time to crack open the heathen smiter (very large and hard study bible, good grip and well balenced for weilding, perfect for the contempory evangelist)

  36. The grandfather paradox goes like this. Say God foreknows that John will have baby Joe, and baby Joe will be the president of the United States. This is in God’s foreknowledge. So God knows and believes this will happen. It is not that he knows it could happen, but foreknowledge states what God knows for certain will happen. Say that God does not want to create John for some reason because he will be a mean guy. So he doesn’t. Well then, God would be wrong about John existing, about Joe existing, about Joe being president. He can’t use what he knows will be to undo what he knows will be, because then that would make him wrong. But more than that, since those things would not be, and he based his decision not to create John on some of those things, then he would not have had the reason to not create John in the first place. But then, that would lead to God creating John anyway, since the reason not to would not be, but then that would bring the reason back, which would lead to God not creating him, and on and on. If God has foreknowledge of something, he cannot change what he foreknows without making his foreknowledge wrong and removing the basis for making the change in the first place. He can use that foreknowledge to make other decisions, but not to change decisions that are part of the basis of his foreknowledge in the first place.

    The name of the grandfather paradox comes from the classic example of it. Suppose a guy (say John) went back in time and killed his own grandfather before he had children. Well, that would mean the guy (John) would never have been born. But if he was never born, he would not have existed to kill his own grandfather, in which case he would not have killed him, which would lead to his grandfather living and John being born and going back and killing his grandfather, and on and on. It is logically impossible to change foreknowledge because foreknowledge simply reflects what will certainly be, though will not be by necessity.

    You also ask if God could not know what people would have done if things were different? Yes. But I think something you said holds the key to the answer to your own question. You said, “I believe God upon creating Adam and Eve knew every single one of us,” Yes, God knows what people who exist at some point would do if things were different. But he can’t know what people who never exist would freely do. No such people exist to know what they would do. Therefore, God cannot not create someone based on knowing what that person would freely do, because then there would be no person to know about. This answers your question. God does not consider whether to create someone based on what that person will do. He knows what people will do who will actually exist. The question of why God would create people he knows will go to Hell is simply not a problem for Arminian theology. It is like asking if God can make a rock so big that even he can’t lift it. It is logically impossible for God to create a rock so big that he can’t lift it. But that does not challenge God’s omnipotence, since omnipotence means he can do anything that is logically possible to do. Similarly, whie he does know all that will be, and knows what people would do in different circumstances, he knows nothing about people who never exist, for there are no such people even to speak if; “they” never exist.

  37. Ah thank-you, I get it now. I would agree that the paradox is gone in the point of view put forward. but i would also say the paradox need not be got rid of yet. When talking to people I get asked the whole rock thing a lot, it never possed a problem to me realy. I always felt the answer was yes, but . . . he can also lift it, which is just as much of a pardox as the question. I think paradox is proof that our logic isn’t perfect, that it isn’t the way God’s “logic” work, the way things truely work. So I never tried to make him fit my paradox’s. He made me and my logic, and the numbers, and reasoning that I’m blessed with.
    When first presented with predestination and Calvinism vs arminianism etc I kept hearing that neither are biblical, I disagree. The thing people kept saying was that arminians believe:

    1) in corporate election
    2) you can loose your faith therefore salvation
    3) that man takes part in his salvation by works

    But corporate election makes sense, to say God predestines the individual is to say he contradicts his own will. (2 peter 3:9)(John 3:16)(John1:29) etc I think scripture supports it massively. To me this is not a secondary matter, this is vastly important, because i feel there are views out there which destroy the heart evangelism and reduce the love of God. The latter being in my opinion what Jesus is all about (1 John 4:8) There are hundreds of people out there distraught, loosing faith, because they’ve been told calvinist views like I was when we didn’t know enough to dispute.

    As for the security I think arminians differ in opinion on that one as does the rest of the christian community. Theres lost to say that once a christian always a christian but Paul oftern warns to keep faith in Christ. I’m not sure myself but in my opinion its a tiny secondry matter that we shouyldn’t be divided over.

    And I think people misundersatnd what a choice/faith is. It’s not a work, I think the bible is pretty clear its not “by faith and not works” God has chosen to chose those that call on his son. It’s at his decision, grace, love and mercy at the end of it all. Our faith is the way, but God provided it.

    I think the term arminian can make people reluctant to say “yes im arminian” because its a theological lable, and most people are very “I’m not anything don’t lable me!” but if you argee with everything and would argue and preach then tough, you are an arminian :)

  38. so i guess im arminian

  39. sorry an arminian

  40. Thank you very much for this article! It explained a lot to me.

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