Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Quick Note on Romans 9

Some months ago I started a series on Romans 9 but got bogged down with work and other matters that made me lose some steam and due to time, lost track of the series.  I hope to get the series back up soon.  Until then, enjoy this short note on Romans 9.

I was reading the “conversion” story of a man who converted to Calvinism.  His story was interesting for one major reason and that was that he was saved in a Calvinist church and remained a Calvinist for many years before questioning some points of Calvinism but mainly the atonement.  He landed on his feet as an Arminian in his understanding of the atonement but sadly, he went back to Calvinism.  He is now reporting this as a “reconversion to the truth.”  He also is doing the typical Calvinist mantra of “surrendering to Scripture” or “surrendering to God’s grace.”  It is sad to read.

One major portion of Scripture that has been used to sway people toward Calvinism has been Romans 9.  Calvinists love to quote especially Romans 9:14-18 where we read (NASB):

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 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.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

It is taught by Calvinists from this text that election is based on the unconditional nature of God.  God sovereignly draws the elect to Himself and He sent His Son to redeem His elect.  When Arminians (or others) reject this view because it brings injustice to the character of God, the Calvinist will repeat Romans 9:14.  If you say that God has given us free will to either receive or reject His offer of free salvation, the Calvinist will reply with Romans 9:16.  If you bring up how sinners, by no choice on their own, bring glory to God by going to hell by His sovereign choice the Calvinist will reply with Romans 9:17.  The doctrine of unconditional divine election is based, says the Calvinist, on Romans 9:18.

What is missing here is the entire focus of Romans 9-11.  As Dr. Jack Cottrell correctly sums up about Romans 9: this is a focus on divine election to service (which is unconditional) and not to salvation.  Cottrell points out that salvation never appears in Romans 9.  Not once.  John Piper, in his exegesis of Romans 9:1-5, struggles to find salvation in there.  Romans 9:1-5 is clear that God sovereignly chose Israel for His purpose in bringing forth His Son but salvation is not mentioned.  Service is the key.

Romans 9 is all about service.  The Jews were arguing that by virtue of race they were saved.  Paul is saying no.  We are saved by grace.  Israel was chosen for service but each Jew has to repent on their own (Romans 10:1-4).  This happens by the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17).  The view of Romans 9 is not on unconditional divine election to salvation but to divine service for the purposes of God.  God has the right to choose whoever He desires for His purposes.  He did this with Israel, Pharaoh, Esau and Jacob, etc.

So service is the key to Romans 9.  Service and not unconditional election to salvation.  But we will deal with this more later.

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