Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another Perspective on Romans 9: Part II

Paul’s use of the concept of election in Romans 9 is not accurately related to individual salvation (i.e. that God picks individuals to be saved or damned). In verse 11, election is cast in a redemption history light (and as evident by vs 4-5). Paul was neither trying to establish a principal of individual salvation by election, nor establishing, contra-Calvin, that election unto salvation was corporate. He was merely trying to establish the fact that in order to fulfill his purposes (which were salvivic), God made choices among men.

God chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in that regard, and rejected Ishmael, Esau, and others. This choice had nothing whatsoever to do with establishing any pattern concerning personal salvation, nor was it made for personal merit.  These individuals (and their progeny after them) were chosen merely in regard to their role in bringing forth the ultimate promise--Christ. That progeny's counterintuitive rejection of Christ is the point Paul is exploring in Chapter 9.

In verse 16 we do discover something more akin to precedential regarding salvation—that God’s mercy was the determining issue, rather than any merit or lack of merit in his selectees. In the immediate context, this refers to his choices within redemption history, but in the broader context (see chapters 3, 4, 10 and 11), it does service the concept of salvation by grace. It seems that everything in redemption history and in redemption itself, rests in God’s mercy rather than the merits of man. As always, to God be all the glory.

In making these choices in time, which would ultimately result in the fulfilling of his purpose, v. 18 says that God shows favor to some folks and disfavor to others. Disfavor results in obstinacy (hardness) toward the purposes of God, although it is not clear that it causes such (especially in light of v. 30). Pharaoh is used as an example, and at least in his case, hardening was attributed to both God’s action and his. Regardless, the choosing of which is which is God’s alone, and he answers to no one for it, although I think it worth remembering at this point that these are not choices to personally save or damn, but to accomplish his purpose in making these choices.

That purpose is finally specified in vs. 23-24. God saw the end of making these choices prior to that end occurring, that end was his purpose: that Gentiles and Jews would be called together into his salvation in Christ. He endured with great patience those vessels hardened throughout history, because he saw the glory in the end for those vessels of mercy, even us, those Jews and Gentiles being saved in Christ. So God made choices in history, not to demonstrate his methodology in establishing who would go to heaven and who would go to hell, but in order to advance his purpose through history and to accomplish it in time.

Romans 9 is not speaking about election unto salvation at all, as if there could be an explanation of why God, solely by decree, would determine some to be saved and others to burn in hell forever. If anything, Romans 9 is trying to explain why the elect are not being saved--why Jews, despite their status as the chosen, are not embracing Christ. Neither corporate nor individual election unto salvation is in view at all! The conclusion of the explanation, in a nutshell, is that Jews do not accept God’s mercy by faith but try to establish their own meritorious record and end up missing the promised Messiah of the Jewish people.

Parts I, III


John said...

Thanks for this post. It was applying Romans 9 to individual salvation that led me to take a theological detour into calvinism for a few years.

Reading the election verses in the wider context helps avoid that pitfall. For example;

The following verses show Paul's compassion for those who are rejecting Christ, Israel. If Paul were arguing individual salvation, within unconditional election, these verses make no sense. He would be making out that he is more compassionate than God since he is ernestly desiring the salvation of those whom God has 'not chosen'.

"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel."

1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.

Anyway Cheers for post. I found your blog via SEA (society of evangelical arminians).

SLW said...

That is a truly excellent point! And...

Welcome to the Sound!

John said...


by the way, your post provoked me to Blog on this too.