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