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It is written:
“(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.” 13 As it is written, “JACOB I HAVE LOVED, BUT ESAU I HAVE HATED.” (Romans 9:11-13)
Does Paul mean that God literally hates some individuals before they are conceived?
Is the Apostle trying to teach that some are predestined to Heaven and some to Hell before they are even born?
Not at all; but when these passages are removed from their context, they may be misunderstood to so teach.
One of the arguments of the Jews at Rome was that a person should be saved based upon their bloodline. It was a common belief among the Jewish people that because they were the physical descendants of Abraham, they were “the elect.” This belief among some was so strong that they went so far as to claim that a Jewish person would be saved, even if they rejected Jesus!
In the opening verses of Romans 9, Paul points out that this just is not the case.
Romans 9:1-9-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 according to the flesh, 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. 6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED.” 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.”
Paul points out that God does not deliver salvation and the privilege to serve Him based upon bloodline. After all, Abraham (through whom Jesus the Messiah was eventually born) had other sons besides Isaac (such as Ishmael). Yet God chosen to bring the Messiah into the world through Isaac. Even though Ishmael was a child of Abraham, that did not necessarily make him the one through whom Jesus would be born.
Paul goes on to make his case:
Romans 9:10-13-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.” 13 As it is written, “JACOB I HAVE LOVED, BUT ESAU I HAVE HATED.”
Again, notice the point: both Jacob and Esau were bloodline descendants of Abraham; yet God had chosen to bring the Messiah into the world through Jacob, and not Esau.
Please observe that when Paul talks about “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,” he is not discussing that God had predestined some people to Hell and others to Heaven before they were born. He is simply making the argument that one’s relationship to God is not dependent on bloodline!
Do you see how passages can be misused when they are removed from their contexts?
More to the point, Paul is discussing the subject of God’s election in regard to nations. He is going to move from bloodline to national and ethnic descent. He is going to get to the crux of the Jewish Christians claims that being Jewish should give an unbelieving Jew access to salvation!
Several things indicate this.
First, notice that Paul begins mentioning nations in verse 12.
Romans 9:12-it was said to her, “THE OLDER SHALL SERVE THE YOUNGER.”
Now, where is that verse found?
Genesis 25:23-And the LORD said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”
Notice that Jacob and Esau were prophetically identified from the womb as being the fathers of two great nations. From Jacob came the people of Israel; and from Esau came the nation of Edom.
Now, Paul mentions nations again:
Romans 9:13-As it is written, “JACOB I HAVE LOVED, BUT ESAU I HAVE HATED.”
In context, this statement was made in Malachi; and it was made LONG AFTER Jacob and Esau had died!
Malachi 1:2-4-“I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.” 4 Even though Edom has said, “We have been impoverished, But we will return and build the desolate places,” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever.
When the statement is made, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated,” the text is not discussing the individuals of Jacob and Esau; rather, it is discussing their descendants, the nations which came from them!
“This is a favorite passage of extreme Calvinists, especially those who believe in double-predestination. For it appears to say that God not only loves just the elect, but also that He even hates the non-electFew scriptural texts are more misused by extreme Calvinists than this one. 85 First of all, God is not speaking here about the individual Jacob but about the nation of Jacob (Israel). In Genesis when the prediction was made (25: 23 NKJV), Rebekah was told, “ ‘Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body…. And the older shall serve the younger.’ ” So the reference here is not to individual election but to the corporate election of a nation—the chosen nation of Israel….“Third, God’s “love” for Jacob and “hate” for Esau is not speaking of those men before they were born, but long after they lived. The citation in Romans 9: 13 is not from Genesis when they were alive (c. 2000 B.C.) but from Malachi 1: 2-3 (c. 400 B.C.), long after they died! The evil deeds done by the Edomites to the Israelites are well documented in the Old Testament (e.g., Num. 20). And it is for these that God is said to have hated them as a country. Here again, this did not mean that no individuals from that country would be saved. In fact, there were believers from both Edom (Amos 9: 12) and the neighboring country of Moab (Ruth 1), just as there will be people in heaven from every tribe, kindred, nation, and tongue (Rev. 7: 9).” (Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free: A Balanced View Of Divine Election, 84-85 (Kindle Edition); Bloomington, Minnesota; Bethany House Publishers)
Again, isn’t it amazing the harm that can be done when a passage of Scripture is removed from its context?
When we look at these passages in context, we quickly begin to see how and why the Calvinistic teaching of unconditional election is not from the Word of God.
What shall we take away from this lesson?
First, in Romans 9, Paul is dealing with some Jewish Christians who were claiming that unbelieving Jews were still the people of God because they were physical descendants of Abraham. Paul shows the fallacy of this thinking, pointing out that Abraham had other sons, and yet God chose to bring the Messiah into the world through the bloodline of Isaac and Jacob. This is not talking about people being predestined to Heaven or Hell before they are born!
Second, Paul moves from the bloodline argument in Romans 9 to discuss next how God has the right to set up and establish a nation or reject it, regardless of the ethnic origins of said nation. This will especially be important to remember, as Paul is going to argue that God had the Divine right to choose the nation of Israel as His people, and He has the right to reject them and to establish the church in its’ place.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.