Thursday, February 7, 2008

Romans 9 Part 3

Ironside says the debate surrounding verses 11-13 is needless in light of God’s dispensational dealings. (97) But that, too, is a presupposition not everyone holds. If one does not hold to the dispensational viewpoint, the needlessness of the debate falls away.

With his next point, the apostle focuses us on the eternal issues. Paul now anticipates the obvious objection, “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.”” The answer is simple; God is sovereign. God is not unjust. Some receive justice, others receive mercy. Some receive justice, some receive non-justice, but no one receives injustice.

This is not teaching double predestination. Everyone deserves hell because of Adam’s sin. The fact that God in His mercy chooses to save some does not show that he condemns others. (Barnhouse 28) The fact that God’s love is manifested by the sovereign election of some to eternal life does not prove God sends certain people to eternal death.

Sproul says verse 16 should put an end to the debate. (168) Unfortunately, it does not. Reese concludes, in a footnote, “There is legitimate doubt” this passage is about salvation. (388) But he does not expand on what it is about if it is not about salvation. Cottrell is even more condescending when he states this whole chapter is about election for service. (95) However, these issues are both a matter of the authors bringing their own presuppositions to the text. They do not want God to unconditionally elect people, so they do all the linguistic gymnastics they can to make the text say what they want it to say. In hermeneutics, if one can apply the plain meaning of the text, one should. When this verse says it depends on God to do the choosing, it means God does the choosing. Believing something does not make it true; we must believe what is true.

In his “Word Pictures in the New Testament”, A. T. Robertson agrees that these texts are speaking of individual election: “To Pharaoh (τῳ Φαραω [tōi Pharaō]). There is a national election as seen in verses 7–13, but here Paul deals with the election of individuals. He “lays down the principle that God’s grace does not necessarily depend upon anything but God’s will”” (Robertson S. Ro 9:17)

Paul goes on to cite an example of when God chose to pass someone over: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.””(NASB Rom 9:17) God bore with Pharaoh patiently to show His glory through the most powerful man alive. Not only does Paul give an example, but also the example explains exactly why God did this—for His glory. John Calvin explains this beautifully when he says Paul “endeavours to make it more fully evident, how God, in rejecting whom he wills, is not only irreprehensible, but also wonderful in his wisdom and justice. (359)

“So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”(NASB Rom. 9:18) Again, taking the plain meaning of the text, it should be simple enough to understand what this means. We encounter bad hermeneutics when Barrett says that God’s purposes are governed by mercy. (174) God’s purposes are not governed by mercy, God governs them. Whatever God does is good, God does not do only what is good. There is an important distinction there that many people fail to understand. Calvin makes it clear when he says our mind may not like it or be content with the difference between the elect and the reprobate, but we must not enquire of God why. God told us why: it is because of his will, both choices are God’s will, and we may not ask further. (361) Paul does not fail to understand this. In verse 20, he answers the objection. “who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” We think we know so much, and then Paul puts us in our place. God is sovereign. We cannot make God into our image. Many try to do just this, but His holy word warns strongly against this.



Rhea said...


I've really enjoyed this series that you've been doing. As I said before, it's a tough idea to wrap my head around, but I'm feeling more and more that it is the truth. I do have one question though. To me, I think that this is the biggest issue that I currently have with predestination: If we are born fallen...we are born sinner before we even commit any sin on our own, how is it justice that we go to hell? Let me ask it another way: how is it just for someone to be punished for Adam's sin? A person did not CHOOSE to be born in a fallen state, so how can it be just for them to go to hell for something they didn't do? Now, I completely understand/accept that if we (people in general) break God's Law, then we deserve hell. I get that, but if we're BORN already "broken" if you will, how is it fair to punish that person when he didn't even have a chance?

Is this making sense what I'm trying to ask?

Alan said...

Sure, first let's look at the motive of the question, I am not saying this is your motive but it is usually the motive behind those who morally object to this doctrine. The crux of their argument assumes that if they had been in Adam's place they would have acted differently. But truth be told they would have done exactly the same thing, not only that but they do. Every one of us sins, all the time, and only do we sin. We sin because we are sinners, we are not sinners because we sin. So we are guilty of Adams sin, but we are condemned for our own sin as well.

Rhea said...


I see what you're saying. It's a hard thing for me to understand though...I think that's because emotionally, it's hard for me to think that some people just don't have a chance. It's hard for me to come to grips with that, but I imagine that that's a hard doctrine/believe for ANYONE who examines the scriptures to come to. Yet just b/c something is hard to understand, does not mean that it's not true.

BunGirl said...

Wow -- some pretty heavy stuff in there. Romans has long been one of my favorite books because I love the tone and feel of Paul's arguments. He really lays it all out for us and if we just take the time to read it, the truth is clearly stated.

My pastor did a series last year where he went through the entire book of Romans and discussed every verse in detail. It was fascinating! You might enjoy the message on Romans 9:11-13 which can be downloaded here.

Also, I've included you in an entrecard meme I just posted.

Lincoln said...

It also says that God concluded that all were under sin, that He might have mercy on all.

The idea that He chooses some to be saved while letting the rest fry does in truth amount to double predestination. By choosing a few, He is intentionally relegating the rest to hell, and you can spin your wheels all you want but it's not going to change that fact.

I'll never understand the appeal of wanting to believe in a God who is made out to be a monster like this, except I guess if you believe you're one of the special cuddly people that God loves so much that He simply MUST include you in his exclusive country club of saved souls. I'm sure this belief goes straight to the heads of whacko calvinists, and they usually have the arrogance to match it too.

It wasn't pretty when the Nazis believed it, and it isn't pretty now.