How much are you willing to get to know God? What if you discovered something about God that was upsetting to you? What could you do about that? Paul has been describing the position of rebellion that we are all in and the size of God’s grace and mercy to redeem us and make it right. God has been truly amazing in his mission to save his people. But what about those who are not his people? How should we think about the fact that not everybody is saved?
Romans 9-11 are three chapters of a block of thought. That is, for the next three chapters, Paul will take us through the theology of God’s promise being fulfilled for the true Israel and not for the blood line of Abraham. God never promised that he would save everyone.
Romans 8:31-39 celebrated the confidence of knowing that if God is for us, then we have God on our side. Verses 37-39 proclaimed how nothing and nowhere can remove us or transport us away from the love of God. God is for us and God loves us! The condition? We are to be ‘in Christ Jesus’. Then, Jesus will intercede for us. Then, the Spirit will work in us to transform us.
Who then is responsible for our salvation? Did we choose Jesus? No, it is God who chose us (v33). It is God who chose us and is therefore for us and loves us. It is in his love for us that he has chosen us.
Paul has, from the beginning of Romans, claimed that salvation comes to all who believe. There is a human expectation in salvation. It does not find fruit in anyone who does not believe. But even belief and faith come from the fact that God has chosen us.
Romans 9:1-29 contemplates this question: who has God chosen? Wasn’t it the Jews? And doesn’t that make all who were not chosen, innocent?
Paul proclaims the Jews as priviledged and blessed in huge ways and laments that not all who are Jews will be saved.
Paul still has a national pride.
He also has great love for his nation which will be damned unless they believe.
Notice his passion for the lost. This is a passion for both the people and for the message of the gospel.
Notice how linked the gospel is to the Jews – it is through Abraham’s offspring that came salvation!
The children of Abraham are not by blood but by promise! The rules have not changed. It has always been about God choosing one instead of another! Isaac and not Ishmael.
God has not broken his promise. He has not changed his mind. He has not had second thoughts. No, the word of God has not failed. We just need to work hard at understanding his word.
So, if the story of Ishmael and Isaac was not convincing enough, check out Rebekah’s kids: conceived at the same time and yet even before they were born, God had decided which child he would bless.
It is not by works but by the calling of God. I wonder, if Esau had proven to live without sin, would he then still be glorified? I’m thinking yes, hyperthetically, but this is not possible. Unless God redeems us, we are marked by our own sin and rebellion.
“Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.” Rom 9:13
“Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” Mal 1:2-3
I chose Jacob and rejected Esau – this is really the essence of the quote.
How do we juggle the contrast between this statement and the statement that God does not show favouritism? How do we juggle the contrast between this statment and the statement that God so loved the world?
The quote from Malachi is a message of love toward the Jews to remind them of how God has loved them. They received all the blessings of God while Esau has not. We are best to understand the meaning behind love and hate as chosen or rejected – elected or rejected. Along with the election comes the blessings of God. Rejection is absent of that.
Douglas Moo writes: ‘”Love” and “hate” are not here, then, emotions that God feels but actions that he carries out. In an apparent paradox that troubles Paul (cf.9:14 and 19 following) as well as many Christians, God loves “the whole world” at the same time as he witholds his love in action, or election, from some.’ (Moo, Douglas, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1996, p587).
Paul wants to defend the statement of grace that means it is not about us choosing God but about God showing mercy to whom he chooses.
Consider what this means for those who are saved – it is God who knew you before you knew him, it is God who determined to save you, it is God who sent the gospel message to you, it is God who justified you, and it is God who is glorifying you (Rom 8:29-30). But for the grace of God, you would be Ishmael, or Esau, or Pharoah.
Consider Pharoah. God did not determine to save him. But in the story of Pharoah, he saw all the marvelous works of God. He spoke to God’s messenger face to face. He was asked to obey the will of God. But he didn’t. His heart was hard. There was no desire in Pharoah to seek God. There was no heart yearning from him to know and understand the truth. Did God harden his heart? Yes. Is God to blame for his evil? No.
This is the obvious objection from anyone who is curious about predestination and election. If it is not in us to choose God, then when God doesn’t choose us, that’s his fault and not ours. Paul’s answer smacks of rebuke. This is the wisdom of God.
Reflect here on what it means to worship God. He is not the God who we construct and mould. He is the God who moulded and created us! Let’s get that straight.
Paul focuses our attention on the correct angle to consider this topic. It is a miracle that anybody is saved! Some are objects of God’s wrath and others are objects of his mercy. Praise God that for the benefit of those he has chosen, he made his own Son the object of his wrath! For our sake, he hated the son in the same way that he hated Esau. He chose to bless us at the expense of his beloved and eternal Son.
He has made us his people who were once not his people. And we can be part of the promise even though we are not blood children of Israel. But we are now children of Abraham and children of God’s because of the love shown to us in Jesus!
THINGS TO CONSIDER
While a discussion on predestination is important and useful – don’t lose focus on why this passage is put here! We are saved at the mercy of God. The focus in on his salvation rather than his exclusion.
The purpose for Paul writing this section only underscores the need for the gospel. You cannot just sit on your ancestry, upbringing, western culture or any other identity to declare that you are saved! You can’t even declare you are one of God’s children simply because you attend church regularly. No, we must hear the gospel, understand it and embrace it!
Predestination or election does not mean that we don’t do anything either. We know that Esau was rejected because he thought lowly of his birthright. We know that Pharoah was unsaved because of the way he responded to God’s word. We know that a true Israelite by faith – a spiritual child of Abraham – is a child of God because of their changed heart and love for the gospel.
Notice that Paul is certain of the continuity between the Old Testament and the New. Between the God of the Jews and the God of the Christian. He sees Christianity, not as a new religion, but rather a continuation of the true Israel.
How can you know if you are one of his elect? Simple, listen to God’s word, consume it, respond to the gospel in faith. Only the elect will declare with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that he was raised from the dead. If you know this and you know the life changing implications of this, then you are loved by God and praise him for that!
Love The Lord your God a) because he has made you (vv20-21) and b) he has loved you.
Preach the gospel to all. Only in eternity will we know who has been called for glory.
Read the bible for all its worth! There is so much to learn. There is so much to struggle with. There is so much knowledge of God to still discover. The gospel begins for us with God’s knowledge of us! We spend so much time in our lives getting to know things that don’t know us – like stars in the sky, devices that we carry in our pockets, celebrities who don’t know you exist, and about TV characters and their lives – how much time do we spend getting to know the very person who knows you better than you know yourself and who loves you more than you can ever imagine.
Know your Old Testament. The gospel didn’t begin with Jesus in a manger or even with Mary being met by an angel. It began, in once sense, with a man named Abraham who God chose to bless. Learning about the life of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob gives us great insights into the gospel. It shows us how God loves those who are not lovely, trustworthy or brave. That God blesses families even though they hate one another. That God drives his promises forward despite disbelief, deceit and tragedy. How much do we need to hear stories like that to help us battle with our own lives and our own faith.