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Posts Tagged ‘Romans 9

Romans 9, Predestination and Total Depravity

Here is a blog link to a great blog where the writer writes about Romans 9, predestination and total depravity.  Overall I am greatly impressed with his logic, exegesis, and his writing in general.  I highly recommend it.

Misreadings of Romans 9

I have told this story before but I once knew a Calvinist who admitted to me that he read Romans 9 nearly everyday.  To him, Romans 9 was the backbone of Calvinism.  It was his refuge when he doubted the sovereignty of God in salvation.  This Calvinist saw God’s sovereignty in individual salvation all in Romans 9.  He said that he also read John 6 and Ephesians 1 nearly as much as Romans 9 but Romans 9 was his refuge when in doubt.

Calvinists believe that Romans 9 is the go to chapter to tear down Arminianism.  They see Romans 9 as teaching that God elects some to salvation while electing others to damnation.  Well, not really.  Most see God electing some in Romans 9 but ignore Calvin’s comments on Romans 9:23 and his “horrible decree” of double predestination.  I have met a few Calvinists who have no problem with Calvin’s view on double predestination and some affirm that Romans 9 does teach this view.  R.C. Sproul, for example, acknowledges that Calvin taught this from Romans 9:23 but he can’t swallow the idea that God elects people to hell.

So how is it that Arminians can read Romans 9 and miss the clear evidence of that personal election?  As an Arminian, I love Romans 9.  I don’t have any trouble reading the text and dealing with the issues involved.  I have dealt with it here on my blog from time to time.  Arminians have never ignored the text nor is there not an Arminian reply.  I once heard a Calvinist teacher say, “Romans 9 shuts the mouths of Arminians and leaves them humbled at the sovereign grace of God in salvation.”  In reality, Arminians have dealt with the text since Arminius.  We have always understood that Romans 9 is a chapter that Arminians had to deal with and we have.

In short, when we read Romans 9:30 to Romans 10:4 is becomes clear what Paul is dealing with.  He is not dealing with individual persons here but cooperate groups.  Gentiles and Jews.  Paul is arguing against the Jews who would say that they are the elect of God because of their race.  Paul is arguing that people are saved by grace and that God has the sovereign right to save whoever He chooses.  If God so chooses to save Gentiles instead of Jews, that is His right as God.  Notice Paul’s use over and over again of Israel and the Gentiles.  He never once even mentions salvation in Romans 9.  The word salvation doesn’t appear until Romans 10:1 which is Paul praying for the Jews to be saved through Christ (which would be pointless if absolute monergism were true).  There is no doubt that God chose Israel in the Old Testament for the purpose of the Messiah (Romans 9:1-5) but not once is salvation mentioned in Romans 9:1-5.  The Jews were the chosen nation for the Messiah but this did not guarantee individual salvation.

So here is the premise.  Calvinists read Romans 9 with the presupposition that the point is God is sovereign in individual salvation and He has elected some to salvation and others to damnation but we are not question His absolute sovereignty in this issue (Romans 9:18, 20).  Calvinists see individual salvation in Romans 9.

The Arminian reads Romans 9 and sees the sovereignty of God in choosing to move past the chosen people of Israel to the Gentiles but He will save all who call upon Him in truth (Romans 10:13).  Romans 11:32 is clear: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.”  The Israelites are now disobedient to Him by rejecting His Son but God will save both Jews and Gentiles through Christ Jesus (Romans 10:4).  Arminians see God choosing groups in Romans 9.

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.

A Word About Romans 9 Before We Begin

Romans 9 has tripped many people up.  I have known people who read the book of Romans and when they get to Romans 9, they skip to Romans 12.  It seems people can’t seem to follow Paul’s reasoning in Romans 9-11 as they had in Romans 1-8.  Yet when we skip Romans 9-11, we miss seeing the hand of God involved in His saving work.

So why am I only dealing with Romans 9?  Why not first deal with Romans 1-8 before laying hold of Romans 9?  And why not do a study of Romans 9-11?

The answer is simple: time.  It would take me well over a year (perhaps two or more) to cover Romans 1-8 as I would like to.  No doubt Romans is a wonderful book and it is my favorite epistle.  It is the closest thing we have to a systematic theology book in the New Testament and it lays down Paul’s theology masterfully.  Christ is exalted in the book of Romans and His saving work is glorified.  God is seen as the sovereign God who sends His Son for our salvation.  The book of Romans is a deep book.  You cannot merely cover Romans in just a few blog posts.  It would take too much time to dive into the depths of the riches of this book.  Perhaps if I were a full-time student or a full-time Bible teacher, I might could devote long studies to the book of Romans but I simply cannot.  Between my family and my work, I don’t have the time.  I do recommend two main commentaries on Romans.  The first is by Dr. Vic Reasoner and can be found here.  The other is by Dr. Jack Cottrell and can be found here.  Both of these are worth the price for them.

Secondly, why not deal with Romans 9-11?  Again, time.

But why deal with Romans 9 at all?  Because I have seen many people read into Romans 9 what they want to see.  I have watched Calvinists for years read into Romans 9 “God’s absolute sovereignty in His unconditional election of people.”  I have had Arminian friends who were not strong in their Arminianism fall into Calvinism because of Romans 9.  Dr. R.C. Sproul says that he was an Arminian for the first five years of his salvation until he read Romans 9 and he could not get around it.  Sproul states that he finally bowed his head to the sovereignty of God but not his heart until later.  For Sproul and many others, Romans 9 is the point where they find Calvinism to shine.  I have read many works by Calvinist theologians and every single one of them point to Romans 9 as the bedrock for unconditional election.  I have had a Calvinist friend admit to me that he reads and re-reads Romans 9 often because he finds such comfort in finding Calvinism in the Bible especially here (and he adds he reads John 6 and Ephesians 1 in there as well).

Calvinists see Romans 9 as the picture of unconditional election.  They see the sovereignty of God dripping from every verse in Romans 9.  They see their own salvation pictured here and the reason why they hold to unconditional election.

That said, if you can show Romans 9 then to not teach Calvinism, you can show the Calvinist their errors.  On the other hand, when Calvinists can take Romans 9 and teach their view of unconditional election, Arminians are often hard pressed to give a reply.  This is why we Arminians must answer.  We must not sit by and allow Romans 9 to cause other Arminians to embrace Calvinism.

Thankfully Arminians before me have paved the way.  It is foolish to think that since the times of Arminius, no Arminian has replied to the Calvinist in regard to Romans 9.  Of course we have.  But with the rise of Calvinism today in the Western Church, Arminians must again wrestle with Romans 9 and provide a clear exegesis of the text. Sadly, few are willing to join this fight.  I have known several non-Calvinist churches (not Arminians per se) who completely ignore Romans 9-11 when preaching a series on Romans.  We must not do this.  We must show that we can properly use the Word of God to provide a biblical basis for our faith.  Arminianism does not rest upon the works of Arminius but upon the Word of God if in fact Arminius was sound in his exegesis of key texts.  The duty of the Arminian is to open the Word of God and provide sound exegesis.  I hope to do just that.

I will have more to say about Romans 9 in a longer introduction to come.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/31/2013 at 12:06 PM

Preparing for Romans 9

I am preparing an entire series coming up on the blog on Romans 9.  My prayer is to be biblical, to offer correct exegesis of the chapter, and to provide Arminians with a look into this controversial chapter.  Calvinists have used Romans 9 for years to prove the doctrine of unconditional election and many Arminians have tripped over this chapter.  Dr. R.C. Sproul even stated that for the first five years of his salvation, he too was an Arminian but he couldn’t get around Romans 9 and so he surrendered with his head to Calvinism but not his heart until later.

I will be using several Bible commentaries to help me work through the chapter including F.F. Bruce, Jack Cottrell, and Vic Reasoner.  I also hope to add Matthew Henry and Adam Clarke in there as well.  Romans 9 is a wonderful chapter that has confused many.  I pray that we can all learn from Romans 9 even if you disagree with me over Arminianism.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/28/2013 at 12:18 PM

Posted in Romans 9

Tagged with ,

Working Through Romans 9

No doubt Calvinists come to Romans 9 and they read into the text “unconditional election unto salvation” all through the text.  One Calvinist brother stated that the text is so clear about God’s sovereign choice in salvation that to miss it should be borderline heresy.  I, of course, disagree.

This morning I spent the morning reading and re-reading Romans 9.  Over and over again I was struck by how clear it is that Paul is not speaking about election unto salvation.  It is clear to me that Paul the Apostle is arguing against the Jews who would argue that by virtue of race, they are the promised elect of God.  Paul is saying “no” to that.  He is arguing that God is sovereign in His choice to reject Israel whom He had previously chosen because they rejected His righteousness because of their pursuit of it through the Law.

Let us briefly cover the chapter.  Notice how Paul begins in Romans 9:1-5.  It is clear from these verses that Paul is not speaking about individual unconditional election to salvation.  Not once in Romans 9:1-5 does he mention salvation.  He mentions the blessings that have come to his people, his kinsmen (v. 3) because of God’s choice (vv. 4-5) but he never mentions salvation.  His point is national Israel and not individual salvation.

To back this up, notice Romans 9:6-13.  When we read these verses the idea that Paul is speaking of national Israel is clear.  When we come to verses 10-13 and compare these verses to Genesis 25:19-26 we find the story is clearly speaking of nations or peoples and not individual salvation.  Malachi 1:2-3 is cited in Romans 9:13 and when we read Malachi 1:2-3 in its context, we see that again God is speaking of nations and not individual salvation.

When we come to Romans 9:14, we find the passage that Arminius felt best is asked about the text.  The question asked by Calvinists is whether God is just or unjust to sovereignly choose individuals to salvation or damnation.  Arminius states that Romans 9:14 is the key question to ask.  Is God unjust to reject Israel because of their rejection of His Messiah?  Paul establishes in Romans 9:14-29 that God is not unjust and in fact He has raised up a remnant among the Gentiles and the Jews (v. 24).  Paul points out that this remnant of the faithful were prophesied about by Isaiah in Romans 9:27-29.

Romans 9:30-33 closes by powerfully showing that Romans 9 has been about God’s rejection of national Israel for His remnant of grace (the Church we might say).  The only way, argues Paul, to be part of this remnant is by faith.  This is the Arminian argument.  God’s elect are those who are justified through faith (Romans 5:1; 1 Timothy 4:10).  The elect is not an arbitrary number that God choose before time but rather He elected His Son who died so that through faith we might enter into this remnant of grace (Romans 11:5).

I am thankful to part of the remnant of grace by faith!  I praise God for the gift of His Son who died in my place for my sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  What a wonderful salvation is found in the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:27-28).  I rejoice in God’s sovereign choice to save all who come to Christ in faith (John 6:37, 40).  Surely our Savior is mighty to save!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/28/2012 at 11:28 AM

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