- Why Know Jesus?
- Rightly Dividing the Word of God
- Doctrinal Declarations of Faith
- The Providence Of God
- Fall Iinto Sin and the Corrupt State of Man
- God’s Eternal Decrees
- The Trinity
- Of Apostolic Faith
- The Attributes Of God
- Christ Jesus
- Mans Will and Free Will
- Election and Predestination
- True Faith Justification and Repentance
- Adoption and Sanctification
- The Perseverance of the Saints
- Assurance of Salvation and Good Works
- Doctrinal Studies
- The History of the Pentecostal Movement
- Errant Pentecostal Doctrines And False Apostles And Prophets Introduction
- Periods And Confirmations Of God’s Revelation
- The Foundation Of The Church
- The Baptism With The Holy Spirit and The Filling of The Holy Spirit According to Scripture
- Signs Wonders Healing And Miracles For Who And By Who?
- The Apostles The Difference Between True And False
- Real and False Prophets
- The Prophets Of The New Testament
- Personal Conclusions
- CAN A CHRISTIAN BEAR ARMS AND DEFEND HIMSELF AND OTHERS
- (Italiano) E’ BIBLICO PER UN CRISTIANO USARE LEGITTIMA DIFESA PER SE E PER ALTRI?
- The Sanctity of Life and Value of Human Life
- The Importance of the Family to God
- Roles In The Family As In The Church
- The Role of Man and the Responsibilities of a Husband
- The Role of the Woman and the Responsibilities of the Wife
- Responsibilities of Father and Mother to Teach Train and Discipline their Children
- The Responsibilities of The Children in the Family
- The Letter of Paul to the Romans Introduction
- Romans Chapter One
- Romans Chapter Two
- Romans Chapter Three
- Romans Chapter Four
- Romans Chapter Five
- Romans Chapter Six
- Romans Chapter Seven
- Romans Chapter Eight
- Romans Chapter Nine
- Romans Chapter Ten
- Romans Chapter Eleven
- Romans Chapter 12 Verses 1-2
- Romans Chapter 12 Verses 3-11
- (Italiano) Introduzione Alla Lettera di Paolo Ai Romani
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo Uno
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo Due
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo Tre
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo Quattro
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo Cinque
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo Sei
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo Sette
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo Otto
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo Nove
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo Dieci
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo 11
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo 12 Versetti 1-3
- (Italiano) Romani Capitolo 12 Versetti 4-11
- Mission Ministry
Welcome to our website. Peace and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be your abundance and God bless you greatly. We wish to introduce.Read More
Romans Chapter Nine
Romans Chapter IX
Introduction to to chapter IX:
Paul has just finished the previous section of his letter to the Roman believers with a victory declaration.
The eternal and complete victory of those who believe in Christ. This declaration had begun in verse 28 where Paul states that ALL things work together for the spiritual temporal and eternal good of those who love God and are called according to God’s purpose. He then proceeds to describe who the called (the elect) are, and describes people who were elected by God’s sovereign will, grace and mercy, those who were foreknown and predestined by God to be called effectually to salvation and therefore justified and already destined to be glorified in Christ.
These believers, Paul states, have a total and complete victory over ALL things because God’s gracious work of redemption keeps them completely and eternally secure to the end of life and victorious beyond this life into eternity. Because of the declarations mentioned, especially those we find in verses 29-30, Paul most likely anticipates some questions or objections that would arise in the minds of the readers. Therefore he writes this section, to give them some answers in regards. Paul also shifts gears somewhat, as he begins to address his concerns for the Jews’ salvation and eternal destiny. This chapter opens up a whole new section of Paul’s discourse to the Romans.
This is a very important section as he continues for the next three chapters ending with chapter 11. Paul speaks in this section of his love and concern for the Jewish people and their final salvation, the salvation that will come at the end of the age, which will occur at the second coming of Jesus, when the remnant of the Jewish nation will accept Jesus as Messiah and will usher in the Millennial Age and Messianic Kingdom on earth. (Let’s remember that until Revelation was written the Apostles all believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ and therefore the national repentance of the nation of Israel, thing that still has not occurred, but will in the near future).
However, this is not all Paul speaks about, for in chapter 9 he addresses whatever questions could have arisen in the minds of the readers with what he had concluded in the previous chapter, as we said, especially the idea that God had foreknown and predestined people to be saved.
This is a hot and controversial topic still today in the church. It is perhaps one of the most misunderstood doctrines in the church and one of the most ill interpreted doctrines. Because of this today many believers think that the doctrine of sovereign election or predestination does not even exist in the Bible, therefore they believe that it is a false doctrine. They also believe that it depicts an unjust God. Answering these objections is a challenge we must confront and we must let the word of God give us the correct answer.
I believe in this chapter Paul masterfully explains this doctrine and gives us the answers to these questions and objections. We will be examining Paul’s answers together with the rest of what Scripture says regarding this doctrine and I trust that there will be no more doubt as to what is true and what is not.
Romans Chapter 9
Romans 9:1-5 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.
In these first five verses of the chapter Paul pours out his heart and his feelings for the Jewish people. Paul begins by making sure his true feelings in this matter are clear, he is sincere and he declares it by saying that he is speaking truthfully by some spiritual loving burden that was placed in his heart by God himself.
This is not a concern that strictly comes from his ethnic and racial preference as perhaps many people might have today for their own ethnic and racial groups. That would be and is a strictly human. It’s not morally wrong, yet it’s a human concern perhaps slighted by a sense of favoritism. Paul’s concern for the Jewish people instead is a genuine concern that stems from God’s heart and mind. He says that he tells the truth in Christ and that he is not lying and that his burden of truth comes directly form the Holy Spirit that bears down on his conscience. The origin of his concern therefore is in God not in himself.
Jesus made some very important statements regarding God’s truth. Jesus said that He was the way the truth and the life [John 14:6], He also said that He had come to bear witness to the truth and that those who are of the truth listen to His voice [John 18:37].
These are important statements because Paul is appealing to the truth of God and it is in that truth he operates. He wants his readers to know this, it’s not Paul’s truth, it’s God’s truth, it’s therefore absolute truth, it is part of God’s character and His heart and mind not a human subjective truth or partial truth but God’s truth and he follows that in his spirit and mind. God’s truth makes Paul live and work and act. Jesus also said these words:
John 8:14-16 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.
John 8:42-47 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
Paul is aware of Jesus’ testimony of God’s truth, Paul always spoke the truth in Christ, there is no doubt that Paul always spoke God’s truth and in God’s truth through the Holy Spirit. However, he really wants to make sure the people to whom he writes know this and are sure that they know that what he is speaking is in line with God’s truth, and it is.
The God given grief and sorrow that Paul has in his heart is a witness of the Holy Spirit together with his conscience.
Men and women before salvation, before being regenerated by God, before being born again, still have a conscience, but their conscience becomes hardened by sin because the Holy Spirit is not in them to bear God’s witness to their own conscience and to maintain it bendable to God’s will and God’s word and His emotions.
Paul’s emotions, his grief and sorrow instead are perfectly in line with God’s grief and sorrow over the spiritual condition of the Jewish people. We learn this truth by looking at how Jesus reacted to the Jews’ rejection of God’s truth and even of Himself.
Matthew 23:37-39 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ “
Luke 19:41-44 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
In these two passages we find declarations of Godly love and we see and hear and feel the grief and the sorrow Jesus has in His heart for the nation of Israel. Not hatred, not despising, but love and godly sorrow.
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and over the Jewish spiritual hardness but not so much because they offended Him or did not accept Him as a person. Jesus’ grief and sorrow is not a selfish human one or that He regarded some kind of personal rejection as we would. Instead He grieves and weeps because it is first and foremost an offense to God’s grace and love for His people, and it’s a rejection of God Himself. He is sorry also because this rejection seals their momentary desolation and damnation. Jesus’ grief and sorrow is God’s grief and sorrow for having to see the destruction and damnation of almost an entire ethnic group of people, Jesus’ own people according to the flesh, God’s chosen people.
That’s godly sorrow, godly grief. Even in the Old Testament God would cry out to His people through the prophets imploring them to turn from their wicked ways and turn to Him to receive His mercy and blessings but they would not, and God tells them He is grief stricken over the fact that He had to punish them for their disobedience. He calls them to repent because He does not want to have to judge them, but even then they would not listen:
Ezekiel 33:10-11″Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?” ‘ 11 “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’
So we see that Paul’s grief and sorrow like Jesus’ is godly and it originates in God’s heart before it hits Paul as a godly burden and not a human one.
Paul wishes that he could be accursed or cursed so that his own people according to the flesh could be saved instead. This is a great and noble desire and even this type of desire is Godly.
Yes, because God has actually done this, He cursed, for a brief moment, His only begotten Son and made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us [2 Corinthians 5:21].
Galatians 3:13-14 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Jesus has actually became a curse for us!
So God and Jesus not only knew that this was a necessary thing to do, they agreed to do it, in concert, Father and Son agreed to curse and be cursed, so that many could be saved. That’s the same kind of spirit Paul has.
However, Paul knows that his wish and desire to be accursed for his own people is a noble desire, but in no way does he despise his own salvation and God’s grace and mercy toward him. He also knows that the believers’ security and salvation are irrevocable and eternal. After all he did declare the believers’ security and eternal salvation in the previous chapter, so he knows that this desire of his is an impossible reality, but that is how much godly love Paul has for the Jews.
It’s the same kind of love God and Jesus had for them and the same love they have for the entire world. This very issue also makes us understand today what Paul later declares in chapter 11 how antisemitism behavior is completely anti-Christ and anti-God. We must love all peoples, yes, but certainly not hate any, including the Jewish people, as God has some very heavy duty things to say to those who hate Israel (and therefore even the true church).
Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
(Abraham equals the nation Israel but the church as well, the children of faith).
After this statement Paul makes a list of the privileges that a Jew had and still has at this time. He declares that it is to them and from them that the revelations of God pertain, all through the prior ages even to that very moment in history.
Indeed the Jewish people had been to that moment the most privileged people in the whole world and through them everything that pertained to God had come to the light and was revealed to them and through them. It is from them that salvation it is revealed to the world. Even Jesus declared such truth:
John 4:20-23 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
Salvation is of the Jews because Jesus the Savior and in His flesh He is Jewish and this cannot be undone by anyone. After all Jesus did die as a real man, a man made of flesh and blood, right? His body and His blood were given as a real sacrifice. We celebrate the Lord’s supper, remembering His sacrifice, it’s His bodily, fleshly,human life that He offered as a sacrifice, His real human but innocent and precious blood that He shed for us.
He was a Jewish man, a real man who hung on the cross and also God who hung on the cross, 100% God, 100% man, a Jewish man. Let’s not forget this, in fact if we have to be honest, Jesus still is a man, although glorified, still there is a real man seated at the right hand of God, a Jewish man according to the flesh. Does this fact bother you? If it does a spiritual check is in order. Let’s face it church, if you despise Jews you despise your salvation and your Savior!
It suffices to see that the truth of the Gospels claims that Jesus Christ is the Christ and that He is of Jewish origin and of the genealogical lineage of king David, from the tribe of Judah,
see [Matthew 1:1-24];[Luke 3:23-36].
In fact already Paul in the beginning of this very epistle to the Romans declared Jesus Christ as Jewish in the flesh, in His body, in His humanity:
Romans 1:1-4 Paul, a bond servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
According to His human body the son of man is a Jew of David’s seed, in His divinity supernaturally He is the Son of God.
Paul describes the entire array of blessings that the Jewish nation is blessed with, the privilege of being a Jew entails these things: the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came.
So as we see great is the standing of the Jewish people in God’s program, so great as we have said, that the Savior of mankind has come from there. There is no need to expound in detail every aspect of the blessings we read here, for who is a reader of God’s word can recognize the importance and the deep value of these things here mentioned by Paul and how they are tied to the Jewish history and the Jewish people.
In other words, if it were not have been for God’s chosen people we would not have all this even in the church, in fact there would be no church. So let us tread carefully when we want to despise the Jews, because God will not take this lightly nor should we do such a despicable thing.
After Paul mentions all the blessings God has given as privilege to the Jewish people, after he mentions that Jesus Christ according to the flesh comes form this people group, he changes gear and not only recognizes Jesus Christ as a Jewish man in the flesh but he declares Him to be over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen
Make no mistake, Jesus Christ is not only a Jewish man according to the flesh, not only is He the King of Israel according to the lineage of king David but He is the Lord of all, the Lord of lords and the King of kings, because He not only is wholly man, He is the eternally blessed God, period.
There is no argument here, in the mind of Paul who Jesus Christ really is. Yes, He is a man, but what a man! He is God in the flesh, God made man, God who decided to come into this world as a man, He is the great I AM!
Oh there is incontestable proof that He is God, you just have to take a close look at Scripture to see that even Jesus Himself declared that He ia equal to God, that He is God.
He said it and God the Father confirmed it. His disciples declared it, Paul declares it several times in His epistles. Jesus accepts worship from people. If He were not God He would have not accepted worship nor veneration, it is enough to see this fact in the attitudes of others when someone attempted to worship a normal, regular man. Let’s look at some instances in Scripture:
Man, God’s and the Demons’ Testimony of Jesus’ Deity :
Matthew 2:11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.(Him not her).
Matthew 17:5-6 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.
Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Mark 3:11-12 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.”
Luke 5:7-8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
John 1:48-49 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
John 20:27-29 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus by the way accepts this testimony every time.
Jesus’ Own Testimony of His deity:
John 5:17-19 But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” 18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
John 10:30-33 I and My Father are one.” 31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”
But I think that the most startling claim, Jesus ever made about His deity was this one:
John 8:56-59 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” 59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him;
Some say that when Jesus said in John 8:58 before Abraham was I AM, is not a reference to the name YAHWEH, in other words that the words I AM here are not the same as the proper name of God. I beg to differ with this interpretation. I believe that Jesus meant exactly that and the Jews understood exactly what He was saying, this is evident by the fact that they wanted to stone Him.
Why did they want to stone Him if they did not understand this as meant that He was God? From what did they understand that He was declaring to be God? They understood it from His declaration. He is declaring to be eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, when He said before Abraham was I AM, that’s what He meant. So even if not by the fact that He used the words I AM as a reference to the proper name of God nevertheless He did declare to be God as Him who is from everlasting to everlasting, and the Jews knew this truth to be connected only to the everlasting God.
This my friends was understood by the Jews, and it has to be understood by us also, only YAHWEH is the everlasting One, the ever existing One.
This does in effect bring out the very essence of the declaration “ego eimi” in the Greek, He said “before Abraham existed I exist” , declaring His eternal existence and let’s remember that the Gospels in the original text are written in Greek but that Jesus did not speak Greek but Aramaic, so what did He say in Aramaic? He says the same thing it says in Greek, “before Abraham came into existence I exist”
In many languages it is impossible to preserve the expression I Am in this type of context, for the present tense of the verb “to be” would be meaningless. To make sense, one must say “Before Abraham existed, I existed” or “… I have existed.” It may be useful to introduce a marginal note calling attention to the special form of the Greek text and its relation to other passages containing I Am. (from the UBS Handbook Series. Copyright (c) 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies)
So we understand that in any case, the correct interpretation of this passage is the general interpretation of the context with the grammar and the logical meaning of the text, this is what Jesus was declaring here, in other words His eternal existence and therefore His deity, which takes Him to mean that He and YAHWEH are One and the same.
The Jews recognized this meaning very well and therefore wanted to stone Him for blasphemy. It is obvious that Jesus and the Father (YAHWEH) are one and the same, if indeed we believe in the Triune God and that Jesus with no problem was declaring Himself to be God. Even if the word ego eimi in itself did not mean literally the same as YAHWEH, it certainly is implied in the meaning of His statement.
Men and Angel’s reaction to other men trying to worship them:
Acts 10:25-27 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.”
Acts 14:11-15 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,
Revelation 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Look at the difference of the reaction between Jesus and other men and angels when people tried to worship them. Jesus accepted the worship and the declarations of His deity as well as declaring such Himself, while other men and even angels rightfully rejected such worship.
Paul then declares this great truth here in the end of this verse, Jesus is God, as he has done in other epistles. Paul never stopped mentioning that Jesus is God and that He is Lord of all.
Even other Apostles made such declarations, see references:
[Ephesians 1:20-23];[Philippians 2:9-11];[Colossians 1:15-18];[Titus 2:13];[2 Peter 1:1].
Romans 9:6-10 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.”
Nevertheless, even though the Jews have rejected Christ and even though Paul cannot be cursed to allow the Jews to be saved and even though it seems that although all the revelations, privileges, promises and covenants, service to God and the like were granted to the Jewish people, and they seem to have missed out on God’s salvation and promises made to them through the fathers in the Old Testament, Paul claims that the word of God has indeed been effective just the same.
God always keeps His promises and His prophecies are always fulfilled. His promises, covenants and prophecies toward Israel not only have been fulfilled, some of them, but they all will be fulfilled by the time God has done with His program.
All of them will be fulfilled in and trough Jesus Christ, some have been until now, others will be at and after His second coming. God’s word therefore has taken effect, is taking effect and will take effect because God has a program, He planned it down to the most intricate detail and it will all go exactly How He planned and declared it will. No one can stand up before God and stop His design and purpose, no one! Even in Isaiah God declared:
Isaiah 55:8-11 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
So we see that God’s word always accomplishes what God wants and it will accomplish and will prosper always in the things God wants and in the things for which God sends it. This declaration though, as we see, was preceded by another truth.
This truth is this, we human beings cannot always understand what God is doing and why He decides to do the things He does and the way He does them, because we cannot reach His understanding, His wisdom, His knowledge and we cannot see the entire design from the beginning to the end in the way He can and does.
God tells us that His word does not return void to Him, it accomplishes what God wants, always!
God’s word is a double edged sword, it actually can bring forth two different results.
God’s word wounds, kills, destroys and it heals, gives life and builds up! It all depends on two basic things, what God wants to do with it and what kind of soil the seed of God fall upon. The type of soil is one key, even Jesus claimed this in His parable of the sower [Matthew 13:18-23].
In fact the disciples asked Jesus why did He speak in parables and He gave a very interesting answer:
Matthew 13:13-15 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’
God’s word can open eyes as well as make one blind, it can give understanding or confuse, it can open ears or make one deaf, it can melt a heart or harden one. It all depends on what type of heart it falls upon, if it falls upon deaf ears, blind eyes and a stony heart and God’s will is not to give hearing, if it’s not to open eyes, if it’s to keep a heart hard, that’s what will happen.
The example of the Jews in Jesus’ day is evident,the word of God was given them for a specific purpose, to make them remain hardened against it. For some others instead it was designed to be understood and to bring life and healing.
God’s word itself confirms that God does this, ahead in this chapter Paul makes a startling declaration which really places many in a difficult situation as far as understanding why God would do such things:
Romans 9:17-18 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
This is not the only Scripture where this kind of thing is said though:
[Exodus 4:21];[Exodus 10:20];[Deuteronomy 2:30];[Joshua 11:20]
Isaiah 44:18 They do not know nor understand; For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, And their hearts, so that they cannot understand.
Isaiah 6:9-10 And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 “Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.”
Look how God tells Isaiah to go and make their hearts dull, their ears heavy and shut their eyes,all by the preaching of God’s word. This passage was also a prophetic reference to what Jesus said and did as listed in [Matthew 13:13-15], as it is quoted by Jesus Himself as to what He was doing in His day.
These Scriptures really put many believers at odds with God and how God decides to do things. However it is God who, as the Scriptural references say, allows the hearts of these people to remain hard and because of this decision their hearts become harder under the influence of the word of God.
Why does this really startle and shock many believers? Because they do not understand several key points of God.
The first one is this: we read before in Isaiah 55, that God’s ways are not our ways and God’s thoughts are not like ours, we cannot always understand why and how God does things. This actually could and should be enough to allow us to resign ourselves and accept what God does and how He does it and still trust His wisdom and knowledge, after all that is part of having faith, trusting Him even when we do not understand what He is doing.
There are other issues as well, and we will see some of them as we get further into this chapter, but suffice to say that, another issue is this one, more and more believers unless they understand what God is doing they cannot trust Him, and this is a very serious problem.
Thirdly, many believers cannot understand, or they entirely reject what God declares in the Scriptures because they misunderstand God and also misunderstand several key doctrines that allow us to know God and the way He truly is.
If believers fail to get to know God as He truly is and they fail to understand Scripture properly they will obviously have a lot of confusion in their mind as to what certain things really mean. Even when they could have the chance to understand what God is doing and how He is doing it, they still would not know and that’s exactly what happens regarding this subject.
This is why Paul is saying that God’s word indeed had the exact intended effect it was supposed to have even though the majority of the nation of Israel had rejected and was rejecting and still rejects Jesus Christ.
God’s intended effect was and is that Israel would be hardened in part so that because of this the Gentiles could be saved by the Gospel and be a part of the kingdom of God, see [Romans 11:7];[Romans 11:25] .
This fact can be and has to be encouraging for us even today, because even though we preach and teach God’s word and we seem to see few positive results we must believe that God’s word always accomplishes what God intends it to accomplish. We may not like the results but it does not really matter, God will do what He wants, the results belong to Him no to us or our expectations.
God is in control of the end results not us, we must then trust God regardless. What would Jeremiah have to say? He faithfully preached God’s word and through out all the period of his ministry not even one person that we know of, listened and obeyed God’s word. Was his ministry a failure? No! Not at all! God did exactly what He wanted to do with His word through Jeremiah’s preaching.
God gave very reassuring messages to Israel through Jeremiah and He made promises and gave prophecies that seemed not to ever come to pass in the immediate, but they eventually did ans some still have to be fulfilled in time, God fulfilled and always fulfills His word. God told Jeremiah in fact, that He had called him to be a prophet to the nations and that he called him to do what?
Jeremiah 1:9-10 Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. 10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant.”
As we see from God’s word itself God put His own words in the prophets mouth, to speak them and to do what with them? Root out and pull down, destroy and throw down as well as to build and plant.
We understand from this that the purpose of God’s word is not exclusively to build up and plant only, as many believers think it is, but also to root out, pull down, destroy and throw down.
Before one can build and plant, often one must destroy throw down, root out and pull down. It must be said however, that all this is done for good, God’s purpose is the ultimate good, but for whose good? Paul told us in
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.
God makes all things work together for the good of the elect, of the believers, but not for impenitent sinners, those who are so by their own choice and therefore remain children of Satan. For them, things do not ever work together for good.
Understanding this concept is key to understanding that when God decides to root out, destroy and throw down He does it justly and wisely and when He judges and punishes and destroys it means that it is the right thing to do.
God punished Jesus Christ who did not deserve to be punished, God placed all the sins of many upon Him and then judged and punished His innocent only begotten Son so that the sins of we who believed and those who believe in Him will be remitted forever.
Is this fair? No it’s not fair that Jesus the innocent Lamb of God had to be punished for our sins, because it is us who deserved God’s eternal wrath and punishment. However, even though it was not fair it was necessary, otherwise there would have been no chance for anyone to be saved from God’s wrath!
Let’s keep this fact always in the forefront of our thoughts because it is the key to understanding God’s plan and design for the world and the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles, and therefore even of ours. This fact should pave the way to understanding better the doctrine of election, doctrine that Paul mentions again later in the chapter.
Anyway, when God judges and punishes and destroys therefore it means that it’s what He has to do. He has to do it, it’s in His Holy character, He cannot leave evil and sin unpunished. Let’s say respectfully speaking, it’s in His DNA although God does not have a true DNA like us. It’s in Him also to be gracious and merciful. So He reconciled these character traits on the cross, in Jesus Christ.
However, there are people who will remain outside of the scope of God’s saving grace. This is an unfortunate thing but it’s a reality we must face. Paul explains this later in this chapter.
Now, remaining outside the scope of God’s saving grace, obtainable only, and I repeat only, through personal faith in Jesus Christ’s work of redemption, in other words the Gospel, see [Romans 1:16],is never a good thing. In fact it’s the worse possible situation that a person can find themselves in.
When God’s word then gets preached it always accomplishes what God wants it to accomplish. It is God’s will and design that His word cause two different results, as we said it either saves, gives life and heals and builds up or it hardens, judges, destroys and literally brings death.
Paul said it like this in:
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge( the word of God, the Gospel) in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.
I think this is a very clear concept, the preaching of the Gospel,the word of God and even the witness of the true Christian life are to some the aroma of life leading to life and to some the aroma of death leading to death.
Now you know why some people act around us believers as if we smell bad, we do smell bad to them, we remind them of death, their death. That’s why they do not want to stay around us. While instead others seem to be attracted by us or by our words, to them we smell like life, eternal life.
So we see that the word of God justly accomplishes what God intends it to accomplish, always!The result just depends upon what type of person hears it. The word of God expressly teaches us that there are two types of people in the world, those destined to be saved and those destined not to be saved and upon which of the two the word falls upon will determine the result, and here is the shocker, it’s God’s will that it is this way. We will have the chance to address this concept further later in this chapter.
Let’s move on now, so, we established that even though the Jews rejected and were still rejecting the Gospel, and this as we said is very serious because they were rejecting and are to this day rejecting the only means to salvation, still God’s word was and is effective and was and is accomplishing what God wants it to accomplish, we now understand this concept I hope.
Paul now says 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
Now, what does this all mean? Paul is saying that although a person is a Jew, an Israelite, this elective choice of God as far as a national belonging was concerned, did not constitute a real belonging to the true spiritual life an Israelite was to have by faith in God. In other words, one can be a Jew physically, in other words circumcised in the flesh, and still not be an elect to God’s salvation, and there are millions like this in the world today. Mere national belonging did not and does not constitute the spiritual status of salvation see [Romans 2:25-29].
Neither is all the natural seed of Abraham to be considered the children of God’s promise because only the true seed or lineage first of all was to be only through Isaac. What does this mean? Simple, that the children of Abraham according to God’s promise were only to come trough Isaac and not through Abraham’s other children. Abraham had children by Hagar, that was Ishmael
[Genesis 17:18-23], and by Keturah [Genesis 25:1-4] but the messiah’s lineage and therefore the promised seed, Jesus Christ the savior, was going to come only through Isaac’s lineage not from the other children of Abraham.
Sorry for the Arab people, therefore the Muslim, that have their origin form Abraham’s other children, but they are not the children of promise. Even because of this the Koran and their religion are not and cannot be the true revelation of God. As we saw salvation comes from the Jews, namely Jesus Christ a Jew in the flesh, descendent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This is true, as Jesus Christ the Messiah and Savior of the people from all the nations of the world, came from Isaac not the other children of Abraham and so any child of God, adopted by God through faith in Christ is a child of promise from Abraham’s seed, child of Abraham trough faith in Christ through Isaac’s lineage. Hence the promise of God in [Genesis 12:2-3] where God says to Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through him. This has happened and is happening and will happen through and by Jesus Christ, Abraham’s seed, Isaac!
So what Paul states next is true, not all those who are Jews in the flesh or circumcised in the flesh are to be considered children of God. They are not all children of God, even Jesus had something to say regarding this subject when He addressed the Pharisees, after all they were Jewish according to the flesh and they did think they were God’s chosen people yet, Jesus said this to them:
Matthew 23:15-16 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
Jesus also said this in the Gospel of John:
John 8:37-44 “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” 39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You do the deeds of your father.” Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father–God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.
So as we see clearly by Jesus’ declarations not all the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh can be considered God’s children and that’s what Paul’s saying here. Jews who rejected and reject Christ as well as any other person for that matter who does the same is not a child of God but a child of Satan and that they remain.
This is what Jesus said about this very fact to the Jews:
John 8:24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
Romans 9:9-13 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 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.”
Now Paul’s writing takes a very interesting bend, from here on he begins to speak words that are misunderstood and ill interpreted by many. First of all in verses 9-10 he continues to talk about the fact that the promised word of God and the promised seed was to come through Sarah, in other words Isaac and so far all is well, see [Genesis 17:19]. Then Paul opens up what today has become a Pandora’s box or a proverbial can of worms, a passage that has wreaked havoc in the church.
What he says next seems to continue only in speaking of the national context of God’s election regarding Israel but in reality it is not so completely. Paul is implying from this point forward that an individual and personal election on God’s part actually exists. Not to see it is wanting to be blind, is wanting to not see it.
It is true that Paul is speaking also of a national election but the implication of the entire discourse in this chapter is actually salvation and spiritual life and a true standing before God and it is clearly demonstrated to be claimed as an individual and personal way and not only speaking of the election of people groups.
Paul in fact is making several point here, the first one is that only those are God’s children who are according to the promised seed, Jesus Christ, through Abraham and then Isaac and these are not and will not only be Jews. That’s the first point.
Now he’s actually beginning to explain another concept,God’s sovereign election. But let’s ask a very important question!
Is the concept of God’s election that Paul begins to talk about here only pertain to a national election or ethnic people groups or does it pertain also to election on God’s part through belonging to a covenant made between Father and Son and being elected by God personally and individually to become a part of it as individuals?
To answer properly we must examine carefully what the context of the text says to us and it must be weighed by the entire counsel of God. We know that the general context here is referring to God’s word having effect and that Paul is trying to build an argument regarding the Jews and the Gentiles and how the Gospel was designed to harden in part the Jewish people so that the Gentiles also could become part of God’s salvation plan, that’s why Jesus told Nicodemus that
“God so loved the world, He sent His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”
The famous John 3:16 passage many like to hold up and claim to actually discount the doctrine of God’s sovereign personal and individual election.
All Jesus was saying was that He came to save people (the elect) out of the entire world and not only out of Israel and this would have been through faith in Him and His redemptive work.
No one objects to this part of what Jesus meant. It is through faith in Him we are saved that is not the issue. The issue is not even the whoever believes in Him, because it is truly whoever believes and that actually could be and is any one at all that believes. However we see right in this passage that an individual participation to faith is implied and not a national one. We understand therefore that the words whoever believes imply that not only the faith is individual and not ethnic, but consequentially the sovereign election of God also has to be individual and not national.
Who believes has this great and gracious privilege, is made to be part of God’s everlasting covenant and receive salvation. Or I should re word this, anyone who is chosen, or elected to believe will believe and is already privileged to be a part of God’s everlasting covenant.
The problem at hand is the actual explanation of how this all actually occurs and why it occurs.
This is where many believers clash heads in doctrinal battles and the proper interpretation of this passage from here on is what either makes or breaks the meaning.
We are still talking of how Abraham’s seed has proceeded, but here Paul clearly begins to show that God’s election or choice is not only exclusively relegated to nations, and that is not all that Paul is explaining.
The text clearly shows us that God’s sovereign election includes individuals and not only to decide what nations or lineages came forth from those individuals.
This is clearly seen in the next verses, Paul mentions that Rebecca conceived by one man, Isaac two sons, Esau and Jacob. Interestingly enough why does Paul say what comes next if it was only a national choice from where the seed would come from?
It would not make sense that Paul would now make the next statement: (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),
Here very clearly Paul is saying that God chooses people for His own express purposes. He chooses individuals to bring forth His purposes and these individuals are chosen for the very purpose of bringing forth good purposes and evil purposes that fit His overall design, which is only and exclusively good. In other words God can choose evil people and allow them to remain evil but use them for His good purposes and use them so that even through the evil they do God brings forth good for the good of His elect.
This is evident by what Paul says, that either child in Rebecca’s womb was yet not born and did not yet do any good or evil.
This statement is huge, why? Because it shows us that God did not choose one of the two based on any other fact than His own sovereign choice and for His own reasons, reasons that were not determined by His foreknowledge of the deeds in the lives of either person.
So this first of all proves that God’s foreknowledge in Biblical terms does not mean that God chooses people based on any future consequence or behavior good or evil of that person or even whether or not a person believes and another does not.
This is a very important thing because it really sinks the erroneous way of explaining foreknowledge as some do. Some say that God predestines people to salvation based on the foreknowledge of the fact that He knows who will believe in the Gospel and who will reject it.
They say in this sense God predestines to be saved those whom He knows will believe, and those He knows that will not believe? Well, they just will not be saved and that is what foreknowledge and predestination is for them. This doctrine has flaws that render it erroneous.
The first flaw is just that this kind of thinking fully denies the statement that Paul makes here. God chose Jacob and not Esau because He wanted it that way, not because He knew that Jacob was going to live better than Esau or because Jacob was going to have faith and believe while Esau was not. Both men, in fact, came from the same father and the same mother, both men grew up in the same environment and family and both men were wicked sinners. The name Jacob in fact means deceiver and that is what he was. So what made God choose him instead of Esau?
It did not depend on the wickedness or goodness of either man. In fact Paul already taught us in this letter in chapter 3 where he showed us that there is no one that is righteous, no not even one and there is no one who seeks God. So God did not and does not choose based on what he foreknows of the person He chooses, but He chooses whom He chooses because that’s what He desires to do.
God chose to have mercy on Jacob and not on Esau!
Why? Who knows! We do not know why and we do not have to know why God chooses who He does rather than choosing another for the purposes He does. He is God and He has His reasons I am sure. This is what we call a mystery, something that is not revealed to us fully. God in fact tells us this in His word:
Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
There are things, motives and reasons that are secret and hidden and those belong only to God and there are things that are revealed to us in His word and those and only those are for us to know.
Secondly, another flaw in the way the anti-predestination or anti-election people teach foreknowledge, is that in their doctrine man is sovereign and God acts in accordance to man’s will and man’s decisions.
Well, it’s the opposite of the truth! God is sovereign over everything and every one, it is the creature that submits to God’s choices and to God’s will not God to man. “Well” someone will say, “does not man have free will?” “ Did not God give man the power to choose?”
The answer is not as simple as a yes or a no. In fact the answer is yes and no! Yes, God gave man the power to choose, but when and how did He do this? Adam and Eve were spiritually alive beings, without indwelling sin before Genesis 3. To them God gave the opportunity to exercise free will, they were free people, free from sin’s power and therefore they could freely choose what to do and they did. They chose poorly and they paid the consequences of their choice. Oh yes, man can and still has a limited freedom of choice. Certainly! But only when it comes to non moral and non spiritual issues.
Man can still choose what kind of clothes to wear, what kind of car to drive, even what person to marry, although a Christian should seek God’s will on that one, man can choose what foods to eat and what house to buy, man can choose if he should go to work using the highway or the normal road and yet on moral and spiritual matters man does not have free range of choice. Why?
The key to understanding man’s free will is this one, Adam and Eve could freely choose to do God’s will or disobey Him because they were spiritually alive and free from the power of sin to rule their will.
After their rebellion things changed drastically. The word of God teaches us that we all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory [Romans 3:23], the word also teaches us that we are all without exception sinners and spiritually dead in our sins and trespasses [Ephesians 2:1-4].
Now a dead person, either physically or spiritually cannot make decisions,they’re dead! Whatever is true in the physical is true in the spiritual. If a person is physically dead, regarding their physical lives what decisions can they make? Obviously none! If a person then is spiritually dead on the other hand what kind of decision could they make regarding spiritual matters? The answer is the same, none!
The word of God teaches us also that we are slaves to sin in our sinful unredeemed nature
[John 8:34-36]. Now a slave is not free to do as they please but they can only do what is commanded them to do by their master. We know though that even slaves have a range of limited freedoms, that is the same with this subject.
Man’s freedom of choice therefore is very limited and limited to what man’s sinful nature allows. If we are slaves to sin therefore we do not have the freedom to decide and choose God’s will and even if we knew God’s requirements we would not choose to do them. The sinful unredeemed nature to which man is a slave is man’s master and would not, does not allow to do God’s will.
When God regenerates us however, He gives us new birth and we become spiritually alive again, then we are set free from the power and the mastery of our sinful nature, [John 8:36];[Romans 6:1-14].
It is now, when our old man is dead, crucified with Christ, and only then that we are free from sin’s power and mastery and we have again the will to choose and to do God’s will. Before then we could not and did not want to anyway, because being a slave to sin does not mean that we hated to sin, in fact we liked sin and liked to practice it.
After we are no longer under sin’s dominion and power we may still sin but we do not like it any longer, in fact we grow to hate sin in us and we have the power of God in us to be able to freely choose God’s will and to do it, but before hand we could not.
So the answer is that man has a free will when man is regenerated and born again not before. How can a person who is completely enslaved to sin, completely under sin’s dominion and power have a free will? No, he or she will always choose to do wrong or decide against God’s will. How can a natural man understand the things of the Spirit? They cannot, even the Bible tells us so:
1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
If we only truly believed what God’s word clearly says we would avoid so many problems in the understanding of His word.
Thirdly, from Paul’s text here in Romans we understand another important thing and yet another flaw in the anti-predestination supporters’ doctrines. Paul says: that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls.
God has a purpose according to His own choice, election really means choice. An elected official is chosen by its constituents, a person does not elect themselves. An elected person is a passive subject, in other words it receives the action, does not perform it. A person that elects themselves is a dictator but we know how dictators usually end. We are not self appointed spiritual dictators, at least not some of us, but some actually think they have appointed or elected themselves. This would be spiritual pride, there are a lot of spiritual prideful people who think they have deserved to be saved or they earned their salvation because they believed.
Yet, it’s the purpose of God according to His election, God is the one who chooses whom He will elect and then the person receives the action of God’s choice and therefore all the consequences of that person’s life are actually dictated by God’s choice regarding that person and not exclusively of his own, except sin; sin is man’s responsibility not God’s. God therefore calls, as Paul says here, so that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls.
Ops, not of works but of Him, God, who calls! But let’s ask now a pertinent question what does God’s calling have to do with national identity? Does God call a nation or a people group? He could though, but as we explained in the previous chapter God’s call is made up of two categories, a general call and an effectual call, and in this case we are talking about two individuals Jacob and Esau.
In the previous chapter we did speak of a general call. Many are called, Jesus said, but few are what? Few choose to be saved? Does He say that? No! But few are chosen, or few are the elect
[Matthew 20:16];[Matthew 22:14]. So what does this mean? Is this spoken about people groups or individuals? Individuals obviously, just look at the parable in this last reference.
Even if it is the people groups that are “elected” or chosen, still the groups are made up by individuals. It’s the individuals out of the groups that are called and therefore even the various individuals have to be elected. The many people within people groups are therefore called, by the general call of salvation, the Gospel,but few of them are elected or chosen.
As I said if we really take God’s word in it’s entire context we see more clearly if we want to, what God is really saying.
The effectual call is the call that is answered positively by the elect to salvation, they hear the call of God and eventually they respond to it in a positive manner. Why? Because since it is God’s sovereign choice that they do so they are placed in the position by God to do so [Acts 13:48]. Hence, faith, faith is given and activated in the person by God Himself, faith God attributes to that person as personal faith, no problem there, it’s our faith, but given to us by God yet it’s ours. We believe in Jesus and in God, no problem.
Yes, it’s my faith, your faith OK, but it is not from us, it is the gift of God, it is part of God’s grace [Ephesians 2:8-10], the gifts of grace that God gives us in order to place us in the position to believe and obey the Gospel call. It is God who creates faith and completes faith in us [Hebrews 2:2].
All this therefore, even as Paul said in [Ephesians 2:8-10], is not of works lest any one should boast, he repeats here, now he goes further, by God’s sovereign election, not of works but of Him who calls.
He confirms here the Ephesian passage but actually re enforces it with this statement, seeing that God’s sovereign election is God’s grace in action toward people who would otherwise go into perdition. This statement here in fact corroborates the entire passage found in [Ephesians 2:1-10] and it’s exactly all about what we talked about thus far.
So we can understand that the context even here in this passage of Romans regarding election and the call has to do with individuals and it has all to do with salvation. After all, Esau and Jacob are individuals, even though, yes nations were in their loins, it’s not exclusively about nations that we are talking about but two individual persons, through which, yes, nations would come, but more importantly through which Abraham’s seed and Isaac’s seed Jesus Christ would come from, and through whom the adoption into God’s covenant would stand for all nations!
Nevertheless, God’s choice always is of persons, individuals. God chose Abraham, God chose Jacob and then Joseph. He chose Joseph to save his people. Out of 12 brothers He chose Joseph.
Speaking of this, to show how God’s choice is always to work all things for the good of His elect, look at what Joseph tells His brothers:
Genesis 50:20-21 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
God can and will transform evil deeds into good! Joseph’s brothers meant for evil what they did, selling him into Egypt, but God allowed it to happen so that He could bring good from this, so that many people, even the Egyptians could be saved alive through Joseph being there.
God chose Moses and He even chose Pharaoh to bring about His purposes for His people and for His glory. Jesus, God, chose 12 disciples and yet one of them was evil and chosen to do evil, but all this was because Scripture had to be fulfilled. Judas was chosen by Jesus purposefully to do exactly what he did. Jesus Himself and Scripture tells us this is so:
John 6:70-71 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” 71 He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.
John 13:18 I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.
John 17:12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
Judas was an evil person, chosen like pharaoh was during Moses’ times to do evil against God and His people but a necessary evil, an evil that entered to be a part of God’s purpose and through the evil deeds of these people as through the evil deeds of many others God brings about the good of His purpose and His glory and power are manifested, that’s really a part of the teaching that comes in the next verses of Romans 9.
So we have to arrive to the conclusion that, since God did save some individuals amongst the ethnic group of the Israelites, the elect must be referred to the individual persons,and since the same is true of the Gentiles,we have to conclude that the election is not ethnic, but individual.
If indeed the election was strictly referred to the people groups, in other words Jews and Gentiles then ALL would be saved. Instead we clearly understand by this passage Paul wrote that being Jewish was not an automatic access to be considered children of God, in fact those who the Bible calls elect are only those who are saved, the remnant elected by grace through faith given by God, these amongst the Jews as well as the Gentiles, individuals belonging to specific people groups but not the people groups.
So, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls.
There is therefore an election to good and to righteousness and salvation and there is an election by consequence to evil and to perdition.
Of this we will talk about more later because it needs not to be misunderstood what it means to be not elected to salvation or elected to perdition, because many misunderstand what this means and therefore they accuse us who believe and teach the biblical doctrine of election of portraying an unjust God, but we will see that it’s not like this at all. God is not ever unjust and neither is the doctrine of sovereign election.
In fact Paul quoting Old Testament Scripture says: 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.”
God’s choice, why we do not know, was that the older should serve the younger. He could have done it the other way around, just as he could have reversed His choice between Peter and Judas. It was not a matter of personal preference as we understand it from a human earthly prospective. From a godly, all knowing prospective things may look, in fact they will certainly look and certainly are different.
In this case and in the face of human tradition God changed His choice. The tradition warranted that the eldest son have the promises and the blessings, yet God chooses the younger to receive the promise and the blessings, why?
Because God wanted it that way, he desired it to be that way. Paul in fact later on will bring this subject to light. It’s God’s choice and the way God chooses that’s the way it will go,whether we like it or not, but we do not have to like what God does or who God chooses, we have to accept it, that’s all.
Then God may startle us with a statement we have a real hard time understanding: As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.
Ouch, that hurts our poor human ears, does it not? This does not seem to be within God’s character. We thought God loved everybody unconditionally. How can He claim to love Jacob and hate Esau?
I thought that God was impartial and sees us all the same, how can He love one and hate another? Does God actually hate people? Yet, this Scripture says just that.
Wow! Now Paul must be presenting to us an erroneous image of God, Paul is presenting us an unjust God, who loves a person and hates another without apparent reasons as we see from the text.
Previously Paul said that God chose Jacob not based upon either good or bad deeds of either children, so it’s not because Jacob would be a better person than Esau or because Esau would be a worse person than Jacob.
So what in the world does this mean? How and who does God hate? It’s really not hard to explain, yet many do not understand what this means because they do not want to face the complete corrupted and depraved nature of man. This is one of the reasons why Paul went to great lengths to explain in the beginning of this letter the complete corruption and the depraved nature of man, see chapters 1:18-32 to 3:20.
It is essential to understand this concept because if we misunderstand it we loose all possibility of interpreting properly many passages of Scripture regarding salvation and election,which has to do with salvation and also this one.
Paul however, gives us the answer to what this statement really means in the next verses.
Before we get there let’s make something clear, God is love and it’s in His nature to love His creation, yet God is holy and righteous and He does hate wickedness and sin.
This statement here Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated, must be seen in that light, and in the light of the explanation that comes next.
God does not hate someone just because, He will always hate sin and wickedness and those who practice it, the Bible is clear about this. The saying God loves the sinner and hates the sin is only partially true but not entirely, and we will see why and how this is.
Let’s remember one thing, Jacob was a sinner just like Esau, and before they were born God, in a Scriptural sense of sin did not regard one better than the other, otherwise God’s choice would have been dictated by the works of the person, but Paul already made clear that this was not the case.
Romans 9:14-19 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
So what in the world does Jacob I have loved and Esau I hated mean? Paul now, before specifically giving the answer to that, answers first with a question. Paul anticipates the famous statement people give us when we talk about God’s sovereign election. They would object saying what they tell us.
“ These things cannot be right because by saying that God chose Jacob rather than Esau simply by sovereign choice, in fact you are confirming that God loved Jacob and hated Esau, so you are portraying an unjust and capricious God! God is not like this”
This is what they say and this is the objection that Paul anticipates. So we also must anticipate this objection and as Paul did we must be capable to respond to it in a biblical and doctrinally sound manner.
Paul does, first anticipating the objection and asking himself with a rhetorical question. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?
So can we based upon the facts we have thus far think for one single moment that God is unjust or unrighteous because He seems to love a person and hate another? Paul says absolutely not!
God is not unjust or unrighteous, ever! He does things always based upon perfect righteousness and justice, perfect knowledge and wisdom! Here therein is the first problem. The problem is not with God but with us who cannot understand God’s choices as He does because we are imperfect, we are not perfectly righteous, just, wise and do not have perfect knowledge.
Secondly, God hates only wickedness and unrighteousness and sin. So God’s hate must be seen in this light. It’s true, God did not choose Jacob over Esau based on His foreknowledge nor their works, either evil or good, yet He chose in light of another attribute He has. His mercy! God wants to have mercy on sinners, although He hates sin and sinners, nevertheless He desires to have mercy on them, that’s part of who He is. “Wait!” You say! “I thought God loved sinners and hated the sin?”
Scripture does not lie, it seems to be paradoxical, but God loves people and wants to have mercy on them but God hates sinners and sin! “No!”You will object! OK! Let’s see if Scripture gives us a straight answer about this.
Psalm 5:4-6 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You. 5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. 6 You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
OK, now we can sit here and try to make all kind of mental gymnastics and gyrations or we can take the word of God at face value. What does this passage say?
God does not take pleasure in wickedness, the proud will not stand in His sight, God hates all workers of iniquity. God will destroy the liars, the LORD abhors the murderers and those who practice deceit.
The word hate in this passage means sane’ (saw-nay’); a primitive root; to hate (personally)
New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.
The word abhors in this passage means ta` ab (taw-ab’); a primitive root; to loathe, i.e. (morally) detest
New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.
It does not get any clearer than that. God hates all, workers of iniquity.
It says hates all! He abhors, loathes, detests the sinner.
Not He hates the sin and loves the sinner, He hates and abhors all sinners. This is really a great problem because the Bible claims that we are all sinners. So what conclusion do we have to arrive to? Actually, according to these declarations, either they are wrong, but they are not, or God hated even Jacob as he also was a sinner, a worker of iniquity. So how does God love sinners and save them then? How did He claim to have loved Jacob but hated Esau?
Romans 9:15-17 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
Paul says now, that in light of all this it depends on whom God will have mercy and on whom He will have compassion, it’s His choice and prerogative only.
Paul gives us the answer, this is how God reconciles His hatred of sin and sinners and judging them with loving them and saving them. Through His mercy! Through His mercy He sovereignly elects some sinners to be saved and to them He shows mercy. He decides, chooses to love them in spite of their sins. He did and does all this through His predestination of a multitude of sinners that He previously decided to have mercy upon through faith in Christ’s work of redemption. In other words they were chosen to be in Christ and in Him alone He loved and loves us, not ever independently or separately from Him.
Ephesians 1:4-7 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
The others upon which He did not choose to have mercy, He leaves to their own devices and leaves them in their own sin, but this happens by consequence, passively and not actively, more about this later. Anyway, it’s God’s mercy that makes Him save the sinner but it’s a predetermined mercy, this is what it means to have loved Jacob and hated Esau. As we saw, hating sin and sinners is what God’s holy, righteous and just character requires and He does it.
However, the measure of God’s hatred of Esau is not due to indistinct and indiscriminate preference of one over the other, rather it’s based on a decision of mercy. God’s predetermined choice of Jacob and any other whom He chooses to save determines His mercy and His love for that person.
It’s God’s mercy displayed upon whoever He decides to have mercy and compassion. It’s His unalterable choice. Why does He choose one person over another? We do not know exactly, but it’s His prerogative. Does not God have the right to choose upon whom He wants to show mercy? Is it unfair? No! We may think it is but it is not. God can and will do exactly what He desires to do, He can, He’s God, that’s why!
The fair thing God should have done would actually be that He let EVERYONE go to hell! That would be perfect justice! Objecting to this fact is a dangerous thing because it would be claiming that Scripture and therefore God is lying when He says that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23], and that the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23], and that there is no one righteous, no not even one and that there is no one who seeks God and no one who does good, not even one, and that we all have gone astray,and that there is no fear of God before their eyes, and that the whole world is guilty before God [Romans 3:10-19].
According to these facts alone God has the right and just judgment to send us ALL to hell without excuse or objections. So, no! God is not unjust if a person goes to hell because we all deserve God’s punishment.
So if God did not actively decide to have mercy on some, we would passively all go to hell, all of the entire human race from beginning to end except Jesus Christ would deserve to go and would go to hell because of our sinfulness. God chooses upon whom He will have mercy and if He did not do so through Jesus Christ, we would all be doomed to hell and justly so.
We did study much of this truth also in the previous chapter when we did cover extensively the subject of predestination and election, but let’s repeat some important things regarding this point right here.
The bottom line is this, in the doctrine of election God is not unfair or unjust at all, why?
Because, ALL men would be destined to hell regardless, ALL WITHOUT EXCEPTION, for Scripture teaches us this and we have had ample opportunity to see this so far.
Also, because Jesus’ sacrifice IS INDEED EFFICACIOUS for ALL those whom God elected to believe without leaving anybody out, and this would be without fail and without exception, so that Jesus’ work of redemption is efficacious and completely powerful and sufficient for ALL the ones He died for, this does not leave anybody out.
ALL those whom the Father gives Him WILL come to Him, and those who come to Him He will never cast away [John 6:37-39],[John 17:2-3].
So God in this case is completely and absolutely fair, especially fair to Jesus as well as to men, because in this case not even one single drop of His precious blood is wasted nor anyone for whom Christ died goes to hell because they did not have the chance to hear the Gospel call or to reject it.
So, if ALL men regardless deserve to go to hell because of their sinful state, they would indeed go and justly so if it weren’t for God’s merciful and gracious intervention in their lives.
If then all men would rightly go to hell according to God’s perfect justice, then even if He decided to send all men to hell He would not be unjust at all, would He be?
No, not at all!
Instead, however, if in His love, mercy and grace God chose and predestined some of those condemned people who were going to hell anyway, if left to themselves, to be saved. How is He unjust or unfair if He does not intervene in the others’ lives and lets them instead go to hell, the place where they were going anyway by their own choice and will?
Is He unjust because He chose some and not others even if the ones who He did not choose deserve eternal punishment regardless?
God would be unjust to send people to hell IF and only IF there was something morally good in the persons that go to hell, but since (I hope we know by now), everybody deserves hell and no one really deserves salvation, how would God be unfair or unjust for choosing some to be saved in His always perfect, good and acceptable will?
The problem, however, is this – men go to hell because they are sinners, rebellious to God, idolaters and God haters whether they hear the Gospel and reject it or not.
We have seen this to be true previously in the study [Romans 1:18-32],[Romans 3:10-19],[Romans 3:23].
So it is God who chooses to have mercy and compassion upon whom He wants to and those are the ones who will be saved, they are the ones He loved.
The concept that God does what He wants how He wants was clearly understood by the human authors of Scripture as God revealed this truth to them, look at what this passage says for example:
Psalms 115:3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Therefore God has the prerogative to have mercy upon whom He wants to and compassion upon whom He wants to have them. He is God and He does whatever He pleases!
Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
So we cannot ever say that God is unjust or unrighteous because He chose one person over another. It would not be right either that God ever chose anyone based on any level of morality or good works either, otherwise His choice would be tainted by man’s works of righteousness but it cannot be like this as Paul states in this verse.
First of all the Scripture did show us that God sees everybody in the same way [Romans 3:10-20], the description of this is total evil and wickedness. So much so that even though some may be more evil and wicked than others, it is not the actual percentage of quantity of evil one person has more or less than another that makes God judge the person, rather the fact that ALL are sinners to a degree and this is enough to condemn, we have seen the description also of mankind in [Romans 1:1-32].
In addition to all this, God’s word also tells us that any amount or type of righteous acts we may perform are as filthy rags before God.
Isaiah 64:6-7 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. 7 And there is no one who calls on Your name, Who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us, And have consumed us because of our iniquities.
Back to Romans 9 now. In this passage we also see the confirmation that we are indeed speaking of individuals when it comes to God’s choice and election and the following verses also confirm this fact.
It’s because God shows mercy that He chooses some to receive His grace and therefore His salvation, it never depends from the person itself. The person is a passive subject that receives the action of God’s grace and mercy and this is ALL done because God has made it possible. How?
Through Jesus Christ’s work of redemption and when? Not exclusively only at the cross, although the cross is when the whole plan unfolded and was fulfilled, but actually God put all of His plan together in eternity past. It is then when He chose to have mercy on the elect of all ages, Old Testament and New.
God chose Jacob as He chose us, any of us who believe. We do have to take into consideration that Jacob believed in God and was actually really converted after many years and not at birth as we all did.
We find the actual record of his conversion in [Genesis 32:24-32], this happened and everything else that happened to Jacob in his life was however dictated by the choice God made to have mercy on him, in other words, God choosing him led Jacob to his own salvation,it was not Jacob’s choices rather God’s choices that dictated Jacob’s destiny, in spite of his sins and poor choices.
While Esau’s life took a whole different turn did it not? Why? Because God had not chosen him therefore Esau was “abandoned” to his own desires and destiny, destiny that did not lead to salvation. In fact the descendants of Esau called Edomites in the Bible have always been Israel’s (Jacob’s) enemies and enemies of God as well.
All through out the Bible God judged the Edomites to the brink of destruction. This was their destiny because of God not choosing them for mercy, yet all the evil they did, they did it and God had nothing to do with it. They did it because they were sinners just like any other person that is born into this world and as such they obeyed their own sinful nature and not God.
So we see that any person including us, believed because it was God who chose to have mercy on us in Christ before the foundation of the world [Ephesians 1:3-14]. This fact is confirmed also by many other passages of Scripture: [Acts 13:48];[Romans 8:29-30];[Romans 11:7];[1 Peter 1:2]; [Revelation 17:8].
Therefore we see that what Paul is saying here is that it only depends on God’s mercy, but God’s mercy poured upon us through Jesus Christ was already predetermined to happen before the foundation of the world, when God the Father and the Son agreed to put together His plan of redemption for mankind. They planned and agreed to save some (many) people from their destiny of eternal damnation.
It was at this point that God in His foreknowledge decided whom He would choose to save out of all the people of all ages and the entire world. It was then that God the Father gave the elected persons to His Son and it was then that all this was declared by God. It was then that their names were written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Without this merciful plan and intervention NO ONE would have had the possibility to be saved from eternal damnation. These fact are confirmed to us by Jesus Himself in [John 6:37-40]; [John 6:44-47];[John 6:63-66];[John 6:70];[John 15:16-18];[John 17:2-3];[Mark 13:20]; also [Nehemiah 9:7-8].
It is God who has mercy therefore, He had it and has it upon those whom He chose to have it, even before the world was created. Therefore it does not depend upon him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
Therefore according to this passage as we clearly see Paul is actually speaking about individual people, it does not depend on him who wills or on him who runs.
As we stated even earlier it is not man’s will that decides by itself to believe or to be saved. This is a huge verse because it completely shatters man’s free will theory of choice for believing in order to obtain salvation. It also shatters the fact that salvation can be obtained by works, by efforts. Running here is a synonym of working or making an effort.
It only and exclusively depends on whether or not God has chosen to have mercy on a certain person. That’s what determines the salvation of a person or even the abandon of another person to their own sinful desires.
This brings us to the next verses, even these very important verses in the doctrine of election, very important verses to comprehend properly.
Romans 9:17-18 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
I like it when Paul says this, “for the Scripture says (to Pharaoh)”
There can be no argument when the Scriptures speak. Well there can be, however we cannot really argue with what God says. We can misunderstand what it says, we can even not want to understand what it says, but with what it actually says we cannot argue. In this specific case Scripture is addressing Pharaoh. God is addressing a man who despised and defied Him. Yet, God admits that even this man Pharaoh, this head of state, this powerful authority, was raised up, or was placed into power by God Himself.
God placed this particular man during this particular time so that He could manifest His own power through what decisions were made by Pharaoh so that the consequences of those very actions played right into God’s will and purposes.
God chooses people to be saved and even chooses evil people to be part of His master plan to bring about His plans and purposes. God takes evil and through His own power works out good from evil, good to benefit His elect, His people, His children, and also to manifest His own power and glory.
We see here that although evil is permitted to seemingly triumph for a short time, it cannot and it will not triumph over or thwart any of God’s purposes and plans, quite the opposite.
This is true in so many cases where God confirms in His word that this is so. God uses evil people for His own purposes, to display His power and glory. God permits, allows evil to be but God has the ultimate control over the actual damage that evil can do and quite often God draws good from evil for His own glory and for the good of His own people.
This He did in so many cases. Let’s look at a few of these instances:
God allows Satan to tempt Job through many extreme difficulties, yet Job’ faith stands and God blesses him more than before: [Job 1:6-12];[Job 2:1-6];[Job 42:10-17].
God allows Joseph’s brothers evil intents to sell Joseph into slavery, into Egypt. This wicked act first was intended to kill Joseph, God does not allow this, He had a different purpose for many people including them. Joseph’s brothers sell him as a slave. Yet this evil act almost destroys Jacob’s life, sends Joseph to Egypt where he gets unjustly accused of something he did not do and gets thrown into jail.
God however has a purpose for all this,God blesses Joseph and makes him rise to power from where he saves perhaps millions of people from dying of hunger and also saves his family. After the reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers,his family moves to Egypt where God blesses them. You can find this entire story from Genesis 37:1 to Genesis 50:26.
Yet this verse stands out and it proves the point:
Genesis 50:18-21 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
As we see in this passage of Romans God chose Pharaoh to display His power and glory and He did it by allowing Pharaoh’s heart to remain hard against Him and His people Israel.
God declares to have chosen even other kings, pagan and idolatrous men so that through them He would still show favor and mercy to His people even when they were in captivity due to their own sinfulness and rebellion. [Isaiah 44:28];[Isaiah 45:1-7].
Even Daniel declared that it is God who raises up kings and removes them as well,
[Daniel 2:20-21]. God does all this for His purposes and so that even those who do not belong to Him as elect to salvation will all work for the actualization of His glory and His plans and purposes and the good of His children and people.
Through king Cyrus and Darius God allowed His people to return to the promised land and rebuild, the city and the temple with all expenses paid and protection from these kings.
This happened even in Jesus’ case, which is the possible worse case of all if seen from a human point of view. One of His own chosen disciples betrays Him, although Judas was chosen by God and Christ for the sole purpose of betraying Jesus according to the Scriptures [John 13:18]; [John 17:12].
Judas we know how he ended, he hung himself, this did not end up good for him, yet from such a heinous act of betrayal God has brought forth the greatest blessing of all time. Same can be said of the Jew’s rejection of Christ and subsequent unjust condemnation of Jesus to death into the hands of the idolatrous Romans, yet see what Peter says about this:
Acts 2:22-24 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know– 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.
It was the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, the predestined decision and choice of God to deliver Jesus into the hands of sinners to be crucified and put to death. His determined purpose, God used wicked men to bring about His salvation in the way it had to be done according to the plan. Were these men responsible for what they did,? They sure were and God severely will judge and has judged those who took part of this wicked plan and yet it was God’s predetermined purpose that this would occur, it was His will. God will not leave evil unpunished even if and when it will suit His will and purposes.
Look at what Jesus tells Pilate:
John 19:10-12 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
Jesus made everything very clear for us here, Pilate a high official of the Roman Empire, a person whose authority any person would fear, a person who had the actual prerogative to put Jesus to death or let Him go from the human and the law’s stand point, yet Jesus tells Him that if it were not for God’s will and purpose Pilate would have absolutely no power against Him.
Yet Jesus does not release Pilate from the responsibility of the decision he is about to make, nevertheless those who delivered Him to Pilate had the greater sin, Judas and the Jews would have a greater punishment for their sin against Him, yet Jesus does not condone Pilate or the Romans for theirs either. However, the power and the purpose was all of God.
We see here at work something very particular, and it’s this, man is and always will be held accountable and responsible for his wicked actions and decisions even if they can fit God’s purpose and design. It means that God can and has and will choose wicked sinners, even Satan himself to bring about His predetermined purpose yet the evil and the responsibility of evil is only attributable to man and not to God.
This is the mystery of how God’s predetermined will and purpose and His sovereignty mingle together with man’s evil intents while remaining separate from evil. God’s good intents and purposes are brought to pass even trough man’s evil plans and intents. God controls and limits evil’s path of destruction by overriding it by His good will. Man’s always responsible for his own wicked deeds even if the person is chosen by God to bring forth His will.
This is what happened to Pharaoh and Judas and every other unsaved wicked person God has raised up to demonstrate His power and glory.
However, Paul throws us another statement our poor Armenian contaminated ears disdain to hear,
Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
So far I hope we understood what it means that God has mercy on whomever He wills, and this I am sure still does not sit well with many, but now, Paul says something that is mind- boggling for many, it was even for me at one time. However, we can make sense of it if we try hard to find the true biblical meaning. However, if someone does not believe in the doctrine of sovereign election it still will not make much sense.
God hardens whom He wills to harden. Wow! At first glance this appears to portray an unjust God, because if God hardens someone’s heart in an active way then God has a part in promoting evil in that person and in addition to this He leaves that person without any hope of redemption.
So what to make out of all this? First of all we have to say that God does not, I repeat does not harden people’s hearts in a direct and active way. In other words He is not the author of the hardness of man’s hearts. However, God is never the direct author of evil.
God as we did see allows or permits evil, however God controls and limits the extent of evil so it will not become as evil as it could. If it were not for God’s complete sovereignty even over evil and who creates and promotes it, evil would indeed triumph. However, since God is omnipotent, omniscient and completely sovereign evil cannot ever triumph. Sometimes it seems that it does but in reality it never does.
However, you ask: “What does this have to do with God hardening man’s heart?”
Everything really! Why? Because when it says that God hardens a person’s heart it has to do with the restraint God places on the power of evil that controls that person. What must be said at this point is that the hardening of man’s heart by God is not what people call Double Predestination, that is the doctrine that says that God actively chooses the elect and actively generate faith in them while He actively hardens others hearts.
God DOES NOT directly harden people’s hearts as we said, this would indicate that He actively produces evil in the person. This would be against God’s character, there is no evil in God. Rather the hardening Paul talks about, is when God removes His restraint on the evil that a person already has in them. This action makes that person prone to be more and more evil, but it is the person who is evil and NOT GOD. God therefore abandons these people to their own evil exerting less restraint upon the evil of that sinner.
It’s the person’s heart that is already evil, upon which God has placed His restraint. In the moment God begins removing the restraint the person’s heart by consequence becomes more evil.
We need to understand that man’s heart is hard and deceitful from the beginning of the person’s life. Scripture tells us that man has a hard heart, in fact that man’s heart is made of stone and that man’s heart is sick beyond cure.
Ezekiel 11:19-20 Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. See also [Ezekiel 36:25-27].
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Man’s heart is made of stone, it’s already hard, it’s deceitful and desperately wicked, wicked without hope.
We see then that God does not need to harden a person’s heart for it is already hard, however, God through His sovereign choice or election has definitely the power and the will to change a person’s heart. God therefore changes the hearts of those upon whom He decides to have mercy, while He leaves hard the hearts of them upon whom He will not have mercy. God’s hardening therefore is passive and not active as His choice of those who will continue to be wicked is not active but passive, it’s a consequential choice not an active one, God does not choose who will go into perdition, He only chooses those upon whom He will pour out His mercy.
Now some people will insist that this is an unreasonable doctrine and that even if God chose those He wants to save only, He is still choosing the others to go to hell and they say, this is not God,God would not do this, this God we preach in this doctrine would be unjust in doing this. We had ample way to see that this is not so, God is not unjust to send wicked sinners to hell, to allow them to continue to go where they would justly go and furthermore and not less importantly,where they want to go. They are in the highway to hell by their own choice even though they cannot help being there and are unable by themselves to get off of it. This is another biblical, spiritual paradox.
We see therefore that God’s hardening is consequential to His not having mercy on someone, and this fact is not unjust, because God Himself declares that about Himself, as we read, He said to Moses: “ I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and compassion on whom I will have compassion”.
This concept therefore is biblical, comes from God’s lips to our ears, now as Jesus says: “ He who has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying”.
God’s hardening therefore works on the the same concept as the fact that God permits evil to occur while still restraining it. In some cases, He chooses to take some of His restraint away although they are never totally removed. This is very good news actually, God’s restraint does prevent man and Satan and his demons to be as evil as they could be. However, it does not make a man more righteous or more good, just less evil.
God DOES NOT actively predestine those who go into damnation, neither does Scripture teach this.
It is Adam and Satan who have predestined ALL human beings to be sinners and, therefore, to deserve eternal punishment [Romans 5:12-21], not God.
This is what it means to be hardened by God, because if God abandons that person to their own sinfulness a person’s evil heart not restrained by God will progressively become more and more evil and therefore more and more hard toward God and His will.
We have previously seen that God has used His word to harden and to render insensitive the hearts of certain people.
Isaiah 6:9-10 And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 “Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.”
This happened because God chose this to be such, yet all this is not unjust at all, because if God had not predestined these people to have mercy upon them it’s a relative consequence that the word of God has always been and always will be e progressive hardening of their already hard and desperately wicked heart. This however, is not God’s fault but it’s the person’s fault being that they are a sinner who is spiritually dead and morally totally corrupt.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.
Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”
Here Paul anticipates yet another objection and one that we hear often when this doctrine is presented.
The objection is this one, if all this is God’s choice and His will, if a person’s destiny is set, actually decided by God, why then does God still judge man? Why does God still consider man guilty?
It seems then that if a person will behave based upon the direct and indirect choices of God, if man by himself cannot help himself but sins and chooses to disobey God, then it does not depend on man but on God who chooses that and that because He elects a person for mercy while leaving others in their own sinfulness, why then does God still find fault in man? Why does God condemn those persons if it’s all predetermined? Is this not unjust?
On the surface these seem legitimate questions, yet we know by hearing many other believer’s arguing these points that they are really not legitimate questions at all, but questions that are dictated by a spirit of contention and spiritual pride and also a lack of biblical understanding, especially a lack in knowing who God really is.
Paul however certainly anticipates these objections and answers in a way that perhaps nobody would expect him to answer.
Romans 9:20-22 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
Here Paul really wants the readers to understand the very essential truth about God we all should really come to grasp with.
Paul says in other words: “ Who do you think you are o man to talk back to God in this way? How do you dare question God?”
He is absolutely right about this fact. However, man and especially the believer seems to have some kind of exclusive right to have to know what God does and how He does it and why. Yet, this is not so. Paul’s quotation that comes after this is most likely drawn form the Old Testament Scriptures where it is actually God Himself that asks the same question.
Isaiah 45:9-10 “Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’? 10 Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?'”
God in this passage actually is much more severe about this as He says, “Woe” to them who strive with their maker. The Lord is the creator and the maker of all things created, He is the master potter. He says in other words: “You want to argue with someone? Argue with the other men but not with Me, the creator!”
Woe is a term used that means utter destruction! It is a serious issue, to strive with God! It’s a damning issue! Not to take lightly! Yet, people do it all the time, even in the church they do it. Questioning God’s justice and fairness just because people do not understand what God is doing and why is a very dangerous thing. In fact we already have seen in [Isaiah 55:8-11] God already told man that His ways are not like man’s ways and His thoughts are not like man’s thoughts that His ways and thoughts are higher than man’s and man cannot attain to a full understanding of God’s decisions and of His ways.
As we also previously see in [Deuteronomy 29:29], there are unrevealed things that remain in the secret counsel of God and are not for us to know, they belong to Him. This is one of those things.
God lets us know that He elects people to salvation, that it is He who chose those to be saved before the foundation of the world, He lets us know that it was then He wrote all those names in the Lamb’s book of life. He lets us know that these are the persons He chose to love through Jesus Christ His only begotten Son and the only ones He gave to His Son to save. He let’s us know that it’s His choice He wants to have mercy, because if it were not like this no one would have had the opportunity to be saved.
He makes a lot of things known, like why He did it. He did it because man is so utterly corrupt and depraved that man cannot seek God nor want to seek God, man is spiritually dead so man cannot and will not respond to God if it were not for God’s own intervention. We also understand that every man is justly condemned to eternal damnation for their sins and that this is the just retribution for man’s sin and hatred he has toward God, so that who actually goes to hell does go there because they deserve to go and so God is not at all and ever unjust to let them go there as many would think He would be.
Nevertheless God does not let us know why He chooses one person over another, He does not let us know why He chooses to save a person that is morally worse than another, although we did see that His foreknowledge and election are not based upon the goodness or evil of the persons chosen.
So what is it? We do not know! We should just be thankful to God in humility that He chose us, instead we actually have the courage to object. I wonder if we liked it better if He hadn’t?
Yet it is so much more of an ego booster to think that one had something to do with their decision about their salvation. Yet, it’s not like that and we should not object as to why God chose who He did and why He did not chose others.
In fact, as Paul says and God says, would the clay, which is nothing if it were not for the potter that works it and forms it into something, would this lump of pasty wet dirt, say to him who forms it, what are you making? No!
The clay has no right as to question why the potter formed the clay into the vessel he wanted to form. So neither does man have the right to question God regarding what He decides to do.
Therefore if God wants to have mercy on one person rather than another He has the sovereign right to do so. He is the maker and therefore He can do whatever He wants with His creation.
God Himself declared that He would have mercy upon whom He wanted and compassion upon whom He desired, He declared this fact so why does man have such a hard time accepting this fact about God?
They have a hard time accepting this fact because, as we did already explain, they have a faulty view of God and a faulty view of man and therefore of themselves. This universe, this world, God’s creation is NOT about the creation, it’s about the creator. No man deserves to be saved! So what’s the problem if God is so merciful He wants to save some while He leaves others to their own devices?
Would that not be proof enough to man that man without God is nothing and can do nothing and that therefore man needs God for everything?
All things are created by Him and for Him, for His own honor and glory!
Colossians 1:15-17 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
Revelation 4:11 “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”
There are several passages of Scripture that insist upon the fact that God makes choices for one single purpose, His good pleasure and His glory, that’s all. In the end, although God is definitely love and definitely merciful and that He wants to be and has to be such, the ultimate goal of God’s entire plan of redemption He put into motion is to glorify Him, for His glory and honor, why? Because as we read before He is God and He is worthy of glory and honor and this is what He will get from His creation.
He will get glory and honor and show His power from His creation in two ways, one way is through those He decided to save and the other is through those He will not save and will judge. Either way He will receive glory and honor forever and show forth His power through this.
Yet, many so called believers do not want to accept all this as we said because they have a faulty understanding about who God and how God truly is and who and how man really is.
God IS! Man without God is nothing! God is omnipotent, man is impotent before Him, God is omniscient, man is limited in his understanding and man is finite, God is sovereign over all things, man cannot change his destiny and has very limited control.
God is the creator, man is the creation, God is eternal, man is finite and even though man will one way or the other live eternally eventually, yet man depends on God’s mercy and power as to what kind of eternity man will have. God is omnipresent, man is not. God IS, man without God is nothing but a bunch of water and minerals. God is absolutely holy and pure and blameless, man is unholy, wicked, dirty, and an impure sinner. Do we begin to see the problem here?
Therefore in light of all this, how can a bunch of dirt have anything to say to the One who gives it life? What can a dirty, filthy, unholy sinner say to an absolutely holy, pure and blameless God? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!
Isaiah 40:21-24 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. 23 He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. 24 Scarcely shall they be planted, Scarcely shall they be sown, Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, When He will also blow on them, And they will wither, And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.
This is the difference between God and man.
Isaiah when He had a vision of the majesty and holiness of God what did He say?
Isaiah 6:1-5 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.”
Are there some who would still argue about how God does things? Yes, I’m afraid so!
Many so called believers object with God’s word, with His ways, with His decisions and the scary thing is that although they cannot conceive to think about God as being unjust, and He is not unjust, nevertheless they are actually the ones that are actually accusing Him of being unjust. Yes, the very ones that accuse us who believe in the doctrine of election of portraying the image of an unjust God, are actually the ones that accuse Him of being unjust, we never do and we seem to understand from Scripture God’s sovereignty and also His mercy as we have been the recipients of it.
Their erroneous doctrine actually portrays and unjust God and an impotent God and a God who submits to the will of man, and even worse, they actually strive with their maker about how and why He does things and then lie about it saying that they have faith and believe in His word, while they actually deny God’s word and what it teaches as well as denying God’s power and many of His attributes. They also strip away from God His glory by giving it to man instead, insisting that man’s faith and free will alone are the vehicles with which they were able to chose God.
God did say, woe to those who argue with Him and how He does things. Arguing with God’s choices and objecting to what He does and how He does it is a damning thing.
Oh, yes, I know they think they are arguing with us, other believers who, according to them, teach an erroneous doctrine, yet in reality they are not arguing with us but they object to what and how God does things, because God actually does what He says He does in His word.
Paul is faced with the same objections, or at least he tries to prevent them from happening by saying what we just read and studied.
Paul then goes on actually giving us at least a brief and yet sufficient explanation as to why God does what He does and chooses who He chooses,while He leaves others to themselves.
He says, Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Here it may seem that Paul is only and exclusively speaking about the difference of God’s choice between the Jews and the Gentiles and that all this strictly means that God chose to have mercy upon the Gentiles as well so because of this He had to harden the Jews to do that. This we can perceive also from other passages we find in
Romans 11:15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Romans 11:25-26 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Even though all this is true even within this context, I would want you to notice the grammatical language Paul uses here as well as in Romans 11.
Even though he is talking about the election of the Gentiles to salvation, Paul does not ever, in both these sections, speak only of the general election of ethnic groups, such as Jews and Gentiles, but he is always making reference of the elect as individuals who are a part of those people groups.
Let’s see if it is like this or not. Paul continues to speak about the potter and the clay and he says, that it is the potter’s prerogative to make vessels according to how he desires they be used. Vessels are the people, each vessel is an individual.
So Paul is saying here, looking as far as verse 24, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Even us, whom He called from amongst the Jews=vessels, individuals from the Jewish ethnic group, also of the Gentiles=vessels,individuals from among the Gentile ethnic group.
Of us whom He called, from amongst the Jews as well as the Gentiles! Of us whom He called means each and every individual (vessel of honor, individual made for glory) foreknown, predestined and then called, therefore justified and glorified, see [Romans 8:29-30].
The vessels here mentioned are men and women from among the Jews and the Gentiles whom God chose to have mercy upon. It is therefore evident by the logic of the discourse that if God made all the vessels from one lump, in other words if He created and formed every human being in both people groups from the same matter, namely clay, both Jews and Gentiles are all individual vessels of clay, and if He did choose some of those vessels to be vessels of honor while the reverse logic is that those not chosen to be vessels of honor have to be vessels for dishonor. It’s an obvious thing.
What if, Paul says, God wants to show His righteous judgment, His wrath and therefore also His power, and He patiently endured, in other words, as He still has today enduring patience toward those who are not chosen for mercy even though they are destined to eternal perdition, and what if instead He wanted to make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory?
So we see that the completion of this discourse is exactly verse 24, among those vessels of honor God chose and made, there was even us, whom God called out of both ethnic groups, the Jew and the Gentiles. We see then, when it comes to the elect that it always is about individuals that the Bible speaks about and this passage is no exception.
The Scriptures show us that election speaks in the context of election to salvation and it is about individuals and not only choices regarding ethnic groups or that the election Paul speaks about is uniquely meant about the Gentiles or the Jews as entire people groups.
Look specifically at Acts 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Wow, as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed! This passage specifically confirms that election is not a choosing of Jew or Gentile but that amongst the Gentiles are some who were elected or appointed as it says here, to eternal life and those and only those believed.
I am sure as it is today that many hear the Gospel but not all respond positively to it, so this passage does give us the answer of why there is a positive response as well as a negative one, every one who was appointed, by who? Themselves? No! Appointed by God to eternal life , those believed. These were the vessels of honor created for glory, individual persons from among the Gentiles, as well as the ones that came, are coming and will come from amongs the Jews.
I would want to spend a few words though as to what Paul meant when he said that God wanted to show His wrath and power and that is why He endures with long-suffering the vessels prepared for destruction. First of all we must qualify what it means that the vessels were prepared for destruction. This again is not an active preparation on God’s part for some to be discarded in hell.
In other words God did not make or choose people specifically to go to hell.
Let’s remember that the Scripture teaches that ALL men are destined for perdition. So, if God made the vessels He made them all but they all were made by God and all for a time would have destined to be dishonorable vessels. This was made evident by Paul several times during this epistle, we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, no one is righteous, no not one, there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God, no one who practices goodness, not even one, all have become unprofitable and all have gone astray, no one knows the way of peace and there is no fear of God before their eyes. Even in [Ephesians 2:1-6] Paul tells us what condition we all once were, including himself.
Therefore, God in order to make vessels of honor had to first change the vessels from dishonorable to honorable vessels. It is also described how God does this and with the same language used here in:
Jeremiah18:3-4 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
This is what God did, He made it again into another vessel as it seemed good to Him. The vessel of dishonor thus became in and through Christ the vessel of honor.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
We, the elect, are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. This is what the master potter did. He undid the marred pot and re-created in Christ a new one. These are the vessels of honor, Paul speaks about and he specifies that these vessels of honor are re-created for glory, the glory of God and also the glory of the elect,[Ephesians 1:12];[Ephesians 1:14]; those He foreknew He also predestined, those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified and those He justified He also glorified. [Romans 8:29-30]
There is a description of this complete glorification also in:
1 Corinthians 15:50-53 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
The vessels that are reserved for destruction, let’s remember and never forget that they are not created directly and purposely for that matter. In other words, God does not, let’s always remember this, actively harden a person, the person is already predisposed for condemnation and wrath and the hardening is the doing of the person. Every person is and would be condemned and damned without God’s merciful intervention and election.
I know, this perhaps seems, and I repeat, seems unfair, but there is no fairness in the entire salvation process if we are honest with ourselves. The only fair thing would be that every single human being without exception would go into perdition, or hell.
This is because if someone yet is not convinced, every single human being is a sinner and the wages of sin is death, there is no one that is righteous, no not one, except Jesus Christ that is. So what’s fair about God condemning His own Son, the only righteous, sinless person ever existed and absolving some people already destined to perish because of their own sins? Nothing is fair about this! Yet, God’s love and mercy is such that this was, is, the only way He could save some people from sure destruction.
Until man has an opinion of himself that is higher than it should be this concept will never be understood never mind accepted. Until man sees himself as having still some shred of moral goodness, thing that God’s word says we do not, then man can never accept the doctrine of election. Until man does not see himself utterly unholy, impure and unrighteous and entirely damnable before a holy, pure and righteous God, this fact, that Paul describes here for us called the doctrine of sovereign election, will never be accepted. This is the real problem man has, he sees himself too good and righteous and sees God less holy and righteous and sovereign than He really is. Most people have too high a view of man and to small and low a view of God.
Also, man thinks for some reason, that God owes them something, I got news for you, God does not owe us absolutely anything. God does not give salvation as a reward for believing or else if it were a reward it would not be grace,it would not be a gift. A gift comes from the giver with no strings attached and in this case, what seems to be a reward for the sinner is actually a reward for His Son, a reward for agreeing and allowing Himself to be crucified in order to save some people, people who the Father gave Him as a reward, the people for whom He died [Isaiah 53:10-12]. These are people who would otherwise continue to hate God and choose to go to hell without any objections.
So the vessels prepared for destruction are just such because they themselves choose and want to remain that way, so that there is no unfairness at all in God, just absolute justice toward these and mercy toward those He chose to have mercy upon.
God will endure with great patience the vessels prepared for destruction, His general merciful and gracious patience is shown to the unrepentant unbelieving vessels. Even Jesus said this:
Matthew 5:43-46 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
God patiently deals with the unrepentant sinners, this does not mean that He will not bring about justice and that He will not judge them [Luke 13:1-5].
God will judge them and will in the meantime use them also to demonstrate His power and glory over evil. For He is sovereign over all and He will use everyone to bring about His purposes in this world and in the next. He did that with many characters in the Bible, a few of the most famous: Satan, Joseph’s brothers, Baalam, Judas.
Proverbs 16:4 The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.
God’s power and glory in wrath are demonstrated in two ways, the first way, they are demonstrated through the cross of Jesus Christ and how God has triumphed over the evil one and evil ultimately defeating them and showing His sovereign power over them and saving sinners who otherwise had no way out [Colossians 1:16];[Colossians 2:15];[1 John 3:8];[Romans 8:38].
The second way with which He demonstrates His power and glory is through His wrath and judgment as God will also be glorified through this.
It takes power to save a sinner but it takes power to damn a sinner to hell, and with them, the devil and his angels. Because only a being more powerful than them can have power over them.
Unsaved man now thinks that either God does not exist, although man knows He does
[Romans 1:18-21], and man thinks he can get away with his sins, although he knows he cannot get away with them [Romans 1:32].
God’s judgment is going to display His power, it does even now in the world, as God unleashes His judgment and His wrath there are very powerful episodes of cataclysmic proportions, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, plagues, famines, wars, these things have always been attributable to God’s judgments in the Bible. In fact to Pharaoh regarding this exact context God said, remember?
For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
The power God referred to was His wrath and judgment He unleashed upon Egypt and Pharaoh himself [Exodus 7:19-25];[Exodus 8:1-32];[Exodus 9:1-35];[Exodus 10:1-29];[Exodus 11:1-9];[Exodus 12:1-51].
So God’s wrath is poured out from heaven upon all wickedness of man [Romans 1:18], make no mistake, God judges now and today, He does not have to and will not wait until the final judgment to unleash His wrath, He told us this throughout the entire book of Revelation. God will demonstrate His power and glory even upon the world before the final judgment.
God judges sinners even in the immediate and not only in the final eternal judgment. The final judgment is the ultimate display of God’s power and glory, see [Revelation 20:1-15].
Paul is clearly declaring here the doctrine of God’s sovereign election, it’s all about the vessels, or the individuals and not the national electionof either Jew or Gentile that Paul is talking but of individuals, plain and simple.
Although nations came from him, God chose Abraham as an individual even before he was circumcised. Abraham was an idolater but God chose him out of idolatry to know and serve Him [Nehemiah 9:7-8]; God chose Jacob over Esau, Jacob an individual and even though God chose him as well to bring forth a nation (Israel) Jacob still had to come to a conversion in his life before he could do this.
God chose Moses and individual, although Moses did not know God personally, was tending sheep in Midian but got to know Him because of God’s choice and God sought Moses not the other way around. God chose Pharaoh a wicked individual so He could show His power and glory and save His people. God chose Baalam an individual and a wicked sorcerer to bless His people. God chose king David and individual to be King of Israel and a forefather of the Messiah. God chose king Cyrus an individual a pagan king. to have favor on His people and finance the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple.
God chose twelve men to be the Apostles, twelve individuals among which one was a devil and Jesus’ traitor, Judas, even he was chosen for that very purpose and chosen specifically by God to do what he did. God chose Paul an individual, while he still was going to arrest Christians, while he still was hating and persecuting Christ, God chose Him. Paul did not choose Jesus nor was Paul seeking Jesus. God chose Lydia an individual and opened her heart to believe. God chose individuals appointing them to eternal life, those who were appointed to eternal life believed
[Acts 13:48], as we see God has always chosen individuals not nationalities, the election is individual and not strictly ethnic. In fact it has all to do with the famous verse we all know:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16
That’s exactly what Paul is saying here in Romans 9:24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
The statement question Paul asks here is very simple to understand, the election of God is of vessels, individuals, from the entire world and not from the Hebrews only, this is for sure, nevertheless it’s of a remnant from both Jews and the Gentiles, a remnant elected by grace.
So we see that the famous John 3:16 statement our anti-predestination friends like to quote so happily in trying to undermine this doctrine, although it’s a very neutral passage it actually agrees more with the doctrine of sovereign election than the Armenian heresy of salvation through man’s free will decision power. Why? Simple, it coincides with this passage here in Romans 9and other passages of Scripture, namely that God saves the individuals He chose, before the foundation of the world, chosen for salvation, appointed to eternal life in Christ, from all the people of the world and not Israel only, yet the elect are all individual vessels, we see passages that confirm all this, especially:
Acts 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Let’s take a quick look at this passage and break it down so that there are not doubts as too what it means.
It is true that if we take a cursory analysis of the Greek word appointed or ordained, used here we find that this could also mean be prepared, or predisposed as some like to say predisposed themselves to be saved, but this is not an honest and proper exegesis of the text.
In fact the Greek verb that we are analyzing, is used in the passive voice. What does this mean and how important is this detail?
It means that the Greek, being very different from English, especially the ancient Greek, use of verb forms differ greatly from ours.
It is crucial that we take this into account when analyzing any text of Scripture, because we know that those who wrote the Word of God were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that every word is written in the right form and in the right place. Unless we accept that the Scriptures are perfect in every respect, any other thing is just smoke.
Therefore, as we saw the verb were appointed or ordained is in the passive form. If the text could prove that the action was made by the subject there would have not been the use of this form and voice because the grammar itself teaches that the use of this form indicates that the action in which the subject is involved is external to him, it is not the subject that does the action but that receives it.
This shows us that the correct expression is: “… all those who were ordained …” and not “… all those who predisposed themselves…» because the grammar requires this to be so!
The passage thus shows us that it was not the people to prepare themselves to believe, or any thing the person had or was but they received the action from an outside source and power namely God. He appointed or ordained them to eternal life and therefore consequently to believe in order to receive it. This is the true meaning of the phrase, and shows us why out of the Gentiles, that is to say, those individuals who were appointed or preordained by God or predisposed by Him believed.
Therefore, when we say that, whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, it’s true, it’s whoever believes, but we see why whoever believes, believes. That this is so, is also confirmed by Jesus in what follows in John 3
John 3:18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Jesus says, He who does not believe is already condemned, this proves that those who do not ever believe are already condemned even beforehand, that’s why they cannot and will not believe, in fact Jesus tells us this explicitly in the following verses
John 3:19-20 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
Not because we by our own will choose to do so but because God had mercy on us, that’s why we believed. Paul just told us so a few verses before, Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
From the Jews and from the Gentiles, God chose to have mercy on some, (many) and therefore prepared those chosen vessels, individuals, to receive His mercy and to honor Him. This is the meaning of this chapter so far.
Romans 9:25-33 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.” 26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.” 27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved. 28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.” 29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, and we would have been made like Gomorrah.” 30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
This passage we just read is now a section that speaks of the inclusion of the Gentile vessels into God’s salvation plan. Paul is now insisting to explain the election of the Gentiles as whole group. This does not negate the individual election we already saw in the previous passages.
Paul is basically continuing from the last part of the previous passage where he mentioned that the vessels of honor destined to receive mercy and glory are not exclusively only from the Jewish ethnic group even if God had intimated previously that Israel was His chosen people,it has been evident all along, as we saw mentioned even in chapter 2 that not all those who are of Abraham’s seed after the flesh are actually all children of God, he mentioned this also in the beginning of this very chapter, see [Romans 9:6-8].
It always has been that those who had faith in God’s promises and lived by faith were the real saved remnant even in the Old Testament days. Faith has always been the basis for salvation. God’s grace first, when God had grace toward any individual this individual had faith, that’s a given, it’s a biblical fact.
This also confirms that God’s unmerited favor called grace is indeed His sovereign choice of an individual upon whom God chose to have mercy and for this reason the person was and is given faith. It’s not the other way around. Just look even way before the law of Moses, before the New Testament so many centuries before, thousands of years before it still worked like that.
Genesis 6:5-8 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
God chose to have mercy and grace on Noah and because of this fact the following verse ensues
Genesis 6:9 This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.
In a wicked and perverse generation, God chose to have mercy on Noah and for this as it is in every case, Noah or any other person that receives grace and therefore mercy, walks with God, has faith and walks with God. Having faith is a consequence of being chosen by God to believe and walk with Him. Faith I say it and repeat it is not a human decision and it is not found in every person, or as many teach God gives a measure of faith to everyone therefore everyone is capable of believing. No! Scripture denies this fact explicitly, look at what Scripture says about this:
2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.
OK, having said this, back to Romans, Paul is saying that the God chosen individual vessels, are not only chosen from the Jews, they are chosen out of the Gentiles as well.
Paul now makes references to the Old Testament Scriptures to show the fact that God has always wanted to include the rest of the world in His salvation plan. It was not only from the Jews He chose the vessels of honor. Paul quotes part of
Hosea 2:23 Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’ ”
Let’s remember that the church was a mystery in the Old Testament and that the prophecies of the Old Testament always include the Jewish people as an actual national identity. What Paul is saying here is that through a restored Jewish people God would also call those who were not His people, namely the Gentiles and He would call them His people and they would in turn call Him their God.
This has happened through the first church, which was entirely made of Jewish elect and it will also happen again at a later time in the period known as the Millennium or the Messianic Era. The Gentile nations will enter into the blessings of God’s promise and salvation not through the church any longer but through the conversion of the nation of Israel at the coming Messiah, namely the second coming of Jesus. So this prophecy has a dual fulfillment, both only through the same conduit, Jesus Christ. So here is the inclusion of the rest of the world into God’s salvation plan.
Paul now continues quoting from Isaiah, namely from [Isaiah 10:22-23]. He uses the LXX,(Septuagint) which in Isaiah 10:23 is quite different from the Hebrew text.
Nevertheless, Paul is under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and he is quoting this because regarding Israel, the national ethnic people group or the nation, only a remnant of this group a remnant elected by sovereign will would be chosen and saved. True about everyone.
This was true of the nation then and it will be true of the nation in the future, immediately before Jesus’ return.
Zechariah 13:8-9 And it shall come to pass in all the land,” Says the LORD, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one- third shall be left in it: 9 I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ”
God is exactly talking about the nation of Israel here, not the church or the Gentiles. For every given era of God’s dealings with His people (Israel) there is always a remnant saved by God’s grace, even at the end of this age and for the beginning of the next one,there will be a remnant. There was one in Paul’s day as well, in fact Paul talks about this in the next verse, quoting
Isaiah 1:9 Unless the LORD of hosts Had left to us a very small remnant, We would have become like Sodom, We would have been made like Gomorrah.
Although Paul is applying this to his days, this has applied to every era that the Jewish nation has incurred before and after a judgment of God.
There has always been a remnant, small in fact compared to all the Hebrews in the flesh there are, the ethnic Jews. Without a small remnant even in Israel God would have wiped out the entire nation as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah, where only Lot and his daughters narrowly escaped. Israel’s wickedness had neared Sodom and Gomorrah’s wickedness, that is why God’s word says, righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people.
Paul asks, about all these facts what shall we say? The Gentiles were not looking for God nor were they looking to be righteous nor did they seek God’s righteousness and yet they found them. Why?
They in fact found the righteousness that comes through faith, faith in Christ. While instead Israel that attempted to be justified before God by working to attain righteousness through the law did not attain it. Why? Paul says, because they did not seek to receive it the way God always wanted them to have it, through faith in Him, His promises of a Messiah, they rejected Jesus when He came and therefore rejected the only “object” of faith in which they could have received salvation.
This was confirmed throughout Scripture. Here are a few references:
Hebrews 3:15-19 Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Lack of faith = disobedience.
John 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
see also, [Genesis 22:14].
The faithful people of the Old Testament days all had faith in God’s promise of Messiah and they were waiting for Him, see [Hebrews 11:1-40]. God’s requirement has always been faith in Christ, either before the cross as faith in a promise to come as after the cross and resurrection as a promise fulfilled and as a finished work. Faith is the key, it was for the Jews, it is for the Gentiles. The majority of the Jews rejected God’s promise when He came, yet to any of them as well as to any Gentile, He gave the right to become children of God if they believed in Him.
John 1:11-13 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
This last passage of John is a parallel to what Paul is saying here. Jesus came to the Jews, but the majority rejected Him, but a remnant received Him, to them He gave the right, or the power or the authority to become children of God. How? Believing in His name, in other words by faith.
Yet, as not to deceive the reader John adds a very important clause to this statement of salvation trough faith in Christ. He adds that who believes in Jesus believes because they are born again not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man but by the will of God. It is God who wills, just as Paul had told us in [Romans 9:15-16].
As we see then, it’s not because the will to believe is found in our selves, the flesh, in other words it does not have human origin, it cannot be found in us. The will to become children of God, born again of the Spirit does not come from any other person’s will, it cannot come from our parents, from our god-parents, it could not come form the priest, the bishop nor the cardinal, it cannot come from religion or any man made idea or desire, it comes strictly from God.
This was a very great prelude to what Jesus told Nicodemus just a few short chapters later:
John 3:3-8 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Jesus says: the Spirit, the wind, the breath of God, He who gives life, blows where it wishes, not where man wishes. You cannot tell the wind “blow here or there”. The wind is directed where it goes by an invisible power that gives it the direction it wants it to go, so is God’s Spirit. He goes where He wishes doing the Father’s will according to the Father’s choices and the Son’s finished work.
So we cannot tell God where He can or should give new birth, it’s His wish and will to blow where He wants, we can see the results of the wind blowing yet you cannot tell from where this comes from. In other words we cannot question God’s choices or motives of why it blows where He wants it to, so is everyone born of the Spirit, in other words this is how one is born of the Spirit, not by religious works, not by man’s will or efforts but by God’s Spirit and His choice. This is where faith in Christ comes from!
Back to the text of Romans, the Jews as Paul says, tried to obtain to be righteous through their own efforts by trying to keep, to perform, to live out the law of God, but they could not, it’s impossible to do such a thing for a person. In addition as we said it had always been God’s intention that they live by faith in His promised Messiah to come, they did not do that.
The Scriptures are clear on this subject:
Galatians 2:15-16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
Galatians 3:10-12 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
Now look at this last passage, in verse 11 Paul quotes an Old Testament Scripture found in
Habakkuk 2:4 “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.
So we see as we had confirmed already that God always sought to be justified by faith not works.
In Galatians again Paul is saying that it’s impossible to keep, to continue in all the things which are written in the law to do them. This is confirmed also by James that tells us:
James 2:10-12 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
It’s impossible to keep the entire law without ever transgressing it in one point, to which we become guilty of transgressing all of it. The law of God, its commandments are all interconnected one with another and every transgression of any single commandment is a transgression against the person and character of a holy and righteous God, so we always offend Him, not just break a law. So the offense is worse than one thinks it is, this is why we are cursed, we offend God and fall short of His glory, His perfection.
Jesus when He spoke to the young rich ruler condemned him for not being able to keep the entire law, condemned him for unbelief, he condemned him specifically of idolatry, covetousness and unbelief.
Matthew 19:16-22 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” 17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, ” ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19’Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
He condemned Him of unbelief because the young man did not recognize who Jesus was. He called Jesus a good teacher, so he called Jesus a good man. Jesus rightly said only God is good. Jesus was saying that the young rich man did not recognize Him fro who He truly was, God and not just a good man. Secondly although apparently the young man was a moral good person from the human stand point he still lacked love for God in such a way that he had idolatry and covetousness in his heart as he demonstrated that he loved his money more than God, so he actually violated the first and foremost commandment which is love the “Lord your God with all of yourself”
Jesus left the first part of the greatest commandment out on purpose. Perhaps the young man thought he loved his neighbor as himself yet he loved himself even more than God and that’s idolatrous and sinful, that’ also a transgression of the first commandment
Exodus 20:2-3 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 You shall have no other gods before Me.
This young man did have other gods before Him, his god was riches and his unbelief in Jesus as Messiah was a double condemnation. He lacked faith and was a transgressor of the law.
The law in fact was given not to obtain righteousness before God but to show the impossibility of obeying it and fulfilling God’s perfect requirements, the law in fact was given to show that the sin is utterly sinful and to teach what sin is.
Roman 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”
1 Timothy 1:8-11 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
The law is made for the unrighteous not the righteous, why because by it the sinner knows he is a sinner and knows he cannot live up to it.
Yet, the Jews, most of them tried to fulfill God’s law to be justified before God. All this did was build into them a self righteous spirit, which is nothing else but a spirit of religiosity based upon a person’s performance. In other words, they would use their own standards of righteousness measuring their righteousness and spirituality by comparing themselves one with another and not comparing themselves with the actual perfection the law required, for if they did so, they would have realized how far they were from the perfection the law required. They would actually have seen themselves as wicked and unrighteous, yet they thought to be righteous instead.
Much of this also was due to their manipulation of the law of God into man made laws and traditions that were easier to keep than the law itself.
They replaced God’s commandments with man’s laws and traditions and Jesus did condemn them for doing so, see [Matthew 15:8-9]; [Mark 7:6-9].
Jesus also said that if the persons righteousness would not surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees one cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven [Matthew 5:20]. The normal person, the ordinary person saw the Scribes and Pharisees as very righteous people, for that was the impression they would give externally, yet inside in their heart they were as dead as unrighteous as anyone else. This was because their righteousness was self righteousness.
The problem was and is that the law cannot ever give righteousness and can never justify a sinner, there is a righteousness apart form the law, the righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ! That was the righteousness that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:20. See also [Romans 3:21-26].
Let’s apply this information to us believers, let us not fall into the deception of thinking that we are righteous or we are justified because of what we do. Let us be careful not to fall into the deception of thinking our spirituality is due to our church activities or what we do as Christian work. Let us not fall into the deception of creating a substandard of spiritual values and rules by which we operate and call that God’s word or God’s commandment, such as an example, taking things that the Bible gives us freedom to do, such as wearing jewelry and makeup or even drinking alcoholic beverages and prohibit these things saying that one is more spiritual if they abstain from these things to the extent of calling them sinful.
They are not sinful until they cause us to sin, of this we need to be careful. We know that anything in excess is not good. It can be anything, even food can become sinful. We know that drinking is not sinful until it becomes drunkenness, that’s what the Bible commands us no to do, not to become drunk, but drinking is not sinful, or it may be when our drinking may cause someone else to become drunk. Such as drinking in the presence of someone who has no self control with alcohol and being a stumbling block for that person by allowing him or her to think it’s OK for you they can do it also, but the they fall into drunkenness.
If we are aware of things that are not sinful that we do but that can cause a weaker brother to sin, we must in that case abstain to do them in front of them.
Would it be better to avoid all things that could cause us to sin such as drinking alcoholic beverages? Certainly, if a person however has self control and does drink moderately and does not get drunk they can,it’s not sin.
However, to think one is more righteous or spiritual than another because a person dose not drink is wrong. That is a personal choice that has no bearing on the level of spirituality or righteousness a person has respect to another. Yet, that is how many believers measure themselves, how they think that they must measure their level of righteousness. I’ve got news for you, we do not have any righteousness in ourselves that can make us less or more right before God except Jesus’ righteousness.
That’s what justifies us before God. How we live is only a reflection of our spiritual understanding and our love for God but mainly if we live righteously which we are commanded to do and must do and desire to do, it’s all due to God’s grace and power living in us through the Holy Spirit. Our sanctification process has nothing to do with our standing justified before God, that’s all Jesus merit and work in our behalf.
The Bible tells us not to approve ourselves by comparing ourselves one to another, that is not the right standard to use. The right standard to use is Jesus for it is in His image we must be conformed.
2 Corinthians 10:12-13 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
We sanctify ourselves not because of our righteous meritorious behavior but actually because we arrive to cooperate with the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, that’s why the Bible tells us that without holiness, in other words without sanctification and some degree of righteous behavior and desire we cannot see God or enter in the Kingdom, our being born again of God’s Spirit will produce in us righteous behavior. Not perfect, but the desire to live righteously not to gain God’s salvation and favor but to please and love Him who first loved us.
Scripture is clear on this,
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Paul is saying that the salvation that God has put inside us, through the gift of the Holy Spirit is to be outwardly displayed yet it is not the person but it’s God who works both to desire and to do for His good pleasure.
Paul says this same thing in:
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
It sis God who will sanctify us completely and keep us preserved blameless entirely, He will do it.
Must we cooperate with God in this? Yes, that’s another one of those biblical paradoxes, where the will and power of God mingles with human will and effort. It’s God who gives us the desire to cooperate with Him anyway!
2 Corinthians 3:4-5 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,
So we must not be like the self righteous Jews or as some self righteous Christian movements are today, who teach that we now must become meritoriously righteous in order to maintain our salvation and this is only our personal effort. They teach that God saved us from our past sins but once saved we must become perfectly righteous in order to maintain our salvation through human effort.
The Jews in fact stumbled and fell on this reality as Paul goes on saying
For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Jesus was placed in Zion, in Israel as a stumbling stone and a rock which offended the pride and self righteousness of the Jews in such a way that they fell even harder as they did not want to place aside their pride and self righteousness and humble themselves before God by repenting of their sins. Jesus always offended their pride and self righteousness and because of this they hated Him and wanted to kill Him. In addition He a man claimed to be equal to God, unbelieving in Messiah, in God’s promise they laid aside the only way they could be saved and justified and obtain the righteousness that came from God through faith and yet they also saw Him and witnessed the power of God at work in Him. They stumbled though on Jesus who was placed there for that reason at that time. However, their falling away because of this placed another remnant called by God through election and grace, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles, that whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s law must work together to bring conviction by the Holy Spirit, for He is the actualization of the Gospel and law in the persons who hear the message, Jesus told us this in:
John 16:7-12 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Man will be convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel and law of God which is included in the Gospel, by the church.
This is because there are two results from the preaching of God’s word and we already saw this previously, the humbling and saving effect which leads to repentance and the hardening effect that leads to more hardening and rejecting of God’s truth and eventually to death.
Jesus will be a stumbling block and a rock of offense, in two ways, for some He will make stumble and offend their pride in such a way that they will surrender to God, (the elect) and they will never be put to shame, some instead will still stumble and be offended in their pride, they will still fall before Him, they will not surrender to God, their offended pride will do what it did to the Pharisees, it will harden their hearts to the truth and they will reject it and be shamed forever.
Jesus put it this way:
Matthew 21:42-45 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
Whoever stumbles and falls because of this stone and humbles themselves, in other words repents will be broken but saved, whoever will stumble and remain hardened, the stone will fall upon them and grind them to powder, that’s God’s judgment.
1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:
Peter in fact is not referring his letter to the Jews only but also to the Gentile believers, Jews and Gentiles together, the elect from both ethnic groups,so we understand that God always speaks about the elect as individuals chosen by Him to be a part of the Everlasting Covenant in Christ.
Peter also talked about this issue Paul is speaking here in Romans, Peter also quotes Old Testament Scripture to address the elect as his letter is addressed to the elect the chose ones,
1 Peter 2:4-10 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
Those who have come to Christ as a living stone, rock [1 Corinthians 10:3-4], rock and stone that was rejected by men and still is rejected often, but yet was chosen by God and is precious to God and to all who have gone to Him, and this makes all them, us, who have gone to Him also living stones that are being built up together as a spiritual house for God, this is also another confirmation that the vessels, the stones in other words are individual vessels and stones, because to make up house the stones or the bricks are built up one by one.
Nevertheless, Peter quotes the Old Testament Scriptures that Paul cites in the same context, to those who believe, both of Jews and Gentiles the stone, Jesus is precious, to them who are disobedient, who do not believe, either Jews or Gentiles He is the stone which the builders rejected, He became the cornerstone of the building, the church, His body, see [Ephesians 2:20-22], Jesus as we said before was a stumbling block for the Jews who rejected Him and is a stumbling block and a rock of offense to all who are disobedient to the word.
Any one who humbles themselves before Him is a chosen generation, a royal priesthood and a holy nation, God’s own special people proclaiming the praises of Him who called us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. Not having been His people but now are and not having obtained mercy but now having obtained it. This people is inclusive of elect vessels, or stones as Peter calls us, of both the Jews and the Gentile nations.
It is obvious that both Paul and Peter make references and allusions in all this to the rebellious Jews that rejected Christ and included in the elect who received Him both ethnic groups. This brings up the continuation of the next chapter in line with Paul’s discourse regarding the Jewish nation’s spiritual condition.