Sunday, April 22, 2012

Another Perspective on Romans 9: Part III

Mercy and Faith
Verse 19 of Romans 9 begins an aside in Paul’s dissertation. He has a hypothetical responder object to the repercussions of Paul’s presentation, arguing that if all depends on God’s mercy, than those hardened cannot be blamed for their hardness. This, of course, presages Paul’s revelation in chapter 11 that currently, a hardening has come upon the Jews. Hardness is not presented there as a necessarily persevering quality, so the response is more directed at the hypothetical questioner’s arrogance than at establishing any principle of deterministic election.

Regardless, the principle that God can do what he wants with whom he wants is the prerogative of creators. Potters call the shots, not pots. Who, then, is in a position to question God’s motives or demand anything from him? The created can but accept their lot, and be as they have been made to be. There is hope, however, in faith as we shall see.

Vs. 22-24 is Paul’s way stating what Peter said as well. There is a patience in God, holding back the expression of inevitable wrath, so that everyone destined for mercy can be shown it. Peter keys that to repentance, Paul keys it to faith (not only in this chapter but throughout his writings). So whatever this may be saying about God’s predetermination, by the end of the argument, it is said that faith is the means by which one gets into the class of promise.

Vs. 25-33 pull all of these concepts together in application by showing that God’s purpose was inviting a people, made up of Jews and Gentiles, to righteousness. This promise was entirely a matter of God’s mercy, rather than arbitrary status or works, and is accessed through faith. And not just faith, but specifically, trust in that stumbling block that is Christ. God had to make choices in time to bring this promised Rock into place, but now that he is, whoever puts their trust in him will never be ashamed.

The principle of Romans 9 is not that God arbitrarily chooses certain individuals to be saved and others to be damned. Instead, it teaches that anyone who receives God’s promise by faith and relates to God on the basis of his mercy, rather than works, will be part of his people. God is God and can do as he likes, but if Gentiles, regardless of lacking the Jews' “God-givens,” can be made righteous by faith, anyone can. And by God, you too, whoever you may be, can.

Parts I, II


Kevin Jackson said...

Great series SLW. As Paul says in Romans 10, anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.

Have you heard David Pawson's series on Romans 9? It is very good. here is the link if interested.

Marvin said...


Honestly, I have to re-read this a few times so I can fully understand it (haven't fully yet). Not because the presentation isn't good, but because of what my background is.

It's always been my goal to understand where all the parties (denominations in this sense) are coming from.

Thanks.. God bless..

SLW said...

I had not heard of Pawson's treatment, but judging from the synopsis in the link, I will have to. That synopsis could be written about my approach to Romans 9-

SLW said...

I'm sure it's my presentation! I take comfort in realizing that Paul's clunky communication style was used of God, so there may be hope for me! ;-)

I cannot speak for my denomination in these issues, for we are a fairly broad tent and have not specified minutely what doctrine should be concerning them. In general terms we are Arminian, but I could see certain kinds of Calvinists being relatively comfortable among us.

As far as this series goes, feel free to ask anything you'd like. I'd be more than happy to respond the best I can.

Tejas said...

I agree, but doesn't God already foreknow who's going to come to him and who isn't? Doesn't he already know who will repent and turn to Jesus and who won't? Doesn't he already know who will receive salvation by faith and who won't?

SLW said...

Welcome to Sounds.

Because God is omnitemporal, outside of time with all time equally before him, he does know what for us is future. That is not the same as saying the future is set in stone because God's knowing is observational not deterministic, or causal (not to say that there are not aspects caused by God's action). So at any given time within creation, God sees "already" what will unfold in creation without it being necessary that he determine it. So he knows who will be saved because they repented under conviction and turned to him in faith without the necessity that he determined arbitrarily, by fiat, who that would be.

Godismyjudge said...

I enjoyed the series SLW and I agree, Romans 9, is about God's mercy. Some people think that God can only have any mercy at all, is if election is unconditional, but that's in idea they bring to the text, not one they take from it.

God be with you,

SLW said...

Thanks, Dan, for stopping by.

What I don't get about belief along that line is how God's actions can be attributed to mercy when all has been predetermined, orchestrated and put in place by decree. How is it mercy, or forbearance, if people do exactly as has been determined by God, including sinning and rebelling, and then are rescued, again by divine decree, and quite apart from any self-determination. How is it mercy if everything is only as God determined it to be. Where is the forbearance in that? That is not mercy, it's design.