Unconditional Election (Seven)

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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)

Romans 9 is a chapter of the Bible which many Calvinists go to in order to try and justify their unscriptural doctrine of unconditional election.

To refresh our memories, unconditional election is the idea that before the foundation of the world, God arbitrarily and without consideration of the freewill of man decided that a few individuals would be saved (the “elect”) and that the vast majority of humanity would become the recipients of God’s hatred, being consigned to Hell for an eternity at the “pleasure” of God.

We have seen repeatedly how this teaching (along with the equally monstrous doctrine of total hereditary depravity) are not based on the Word of God, but instead on ancient heresy borrowed from the heretic Gnostics. It has also been demonstrated that Calvinists take several passages of Scripture out of their context in order to try and justify their positions.

Such is the case with Romans 9.

Before we examine Romans 9 in detail, we need to understand the context of what Paul is writing.

When the Apostle is writing to the church at Rome, there are some Jewish Christians who believe that their Jewish countrymen who are not Christians should still be considered the people of God and saved (even though they reject Jesus Christ). There are several examples of Paul dealing with their arguments throughout Romans. Here are a few examples:

Romans 2:2-You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

Romans 3:5-But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.)

Romans 3:8-And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

Romans 9:19-You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”

Romans 11:19-You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”

These are some of the passages where Paul refers to what these brethren were claiming, and responds powerfully.

Now, in Romans 8 Paul had begun speaking about God’s predestined purpose and His ability to use even the suffering that Christians endure to build up the church and make us more like Christ. He wrote:

Romans 8:28-30-And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

As we noticed in previous studies, the predestining of this passage is in harmony with what God foreknew (which included the freewill decisions of mankind to either accept or to reject God’s gracious offer of redemption and reconciliation). This is not Paul declaring that only “the elect” are called, since all are to be called (cf. Mark 16:15). Rather, this is Paul looking back from the vantage point of the end of time and reflecting on the salvation of God’s people, all to His glory. We must also remember that the ones being discussed are in the church (corporate), and salvation together by the Cross (cf. Ephesians 2:14-16). These facts Calvinists often overlook, yet others have noted them well:

““If there is good reason to question the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 8: 29-30, what other viable understandings might the text suggest? One direction relates to the verb tenses found in the fivefold sequence of God’s actions: he foreknew, he predestined, he called, he justified, he glorified. Many point out that Paul expresses the last step in the past tense (glorified) even though for Paul and all Christians to date, glorification lies in the future. Less often realized is that the third and fourth steps (called and justified) are likewise presented as past events, though God has been and continues to be about the business of calling and justifying people down through the ages. This may show us that Paul is viewing the entire series not from a vantage point within human history but from the end of human history, after God has brought to completion the whole redemptive plan. Seen from the end of history, Paul observes that all Christians who have been glorified have of course been foreknown, predestined, called and justified. As James Dunn suggests: Paul is not inviting reflection on the classic problems of determinism and free will, or thinking in terms of a decree which excludes as well as one which includes. . . . His thought is simply that from the perspective of the end, it will be evident that history has been the stage for the unfolding of God’s purpose, the purpose of the Creator fulfilling his original intentions in creating. 41 A second (non-Calvinist) understanding of Romans 8: 29-30 takes its cue from Paul’s teaching in Romans 5 and 6 that sinners who once lived in Adam’s lineage may (through faith) be incorporated “into Christ” through baptism (Rom 5: 12-17; 6: 3-4). Those now residing “in Christ” live in a new reality and benefit from the mighty events of death and resurrection that Jesus himself experienced. The apostle can therefore address believers themselves (all of whom are “in Christ”) as those who have been buried with Jesus, or as those who have died with him, or as those who walk in newness of life, or as those who will experience resurrection “with him” (Rom 6: 4, 8). Since Jesus is the primary character in the events of God’s redemptive drama, we experience these events only indirectly, by being “in” the lead player. It is difficult to overstate just how significant for the whole of Pauline theology is this corporate vision of the church finding its identity, its salvation, its wealth and its security “in him.” (Jerry L. Walls, Joseph R. Dongell, Why I Am Not a Calvinist, 81-82 (Kindle Edition); Downers Grove, Illinois; IVP Academic)

This leads us up to Romans 9-11.

As we begin our study of Romans 9-11, let’s remember the following.

First, Paul has been arguing about the fact that salvation is “in Christ-“ in the church. What Paul teaches about predestination being in harmony with what God foreknows and about its’ connection to being part of the church (as Calvinists often ignore or downplay) need to be remembered as we continue.

Second, some in the church were claiming that Jews should still be saved, even though they rejected Jesus, because they were the bloodline descendants of Abraham. Paul refutes them through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which will be the focus of Romans 9-11.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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