Election, non-election, and Romans 9

I. Partial summary of last week: We must understand the greatness of God's electing love.

A. Christ loves the church in the way husbands ought to love their wives (Eph 5:25, 28). If a man loved his wife in the same way that he loved every other woman, wouldn't that be adultery? Why do you think it is important for a wife to know that her husband loves her in a special way?

B. Christians are children of God. Does a parent love his children in the same way he loves every other person's children? Is it important for the child to know that he is special to his parents?

C. If you accept the truth that God sends unbelievers to eternal punishment in hell, is it a much bigger step to believe that God does not love these people in the same way as He loves those that He saves? In fact, why would we insist upon God loving the people He punishes eternally in the same way as He loves those that He blesses eternally? Isn't that a strange kind of love?

D. Do you think that God loves the demons?

E. Predestination means that God can save whomever He wants--the decision of who is saved is ultimately in God's hands. So if God loves everybody the same way, why didn't He choose everybody?

F. It is important to understand that God loves His saints in a fuller way in order to really be struck with the greatness of God's love for you. God wants us to know that we are special to Him. But if He loves us in the same way that He loves those who perish, how are we special to God? How would you feel if your parents said to you that they don't love you anymore than they love every other child? Let us take comfort and joy in this intense, powerful, individual love that God has for us! It should be a strength to our hearts.

G. How could you take security in God's love if his love was the same for you as it is for those He torments eternally in hell?

II. Last week we saw that God chooses who is saved. This week we are going to look at that further and also look at the truth that God also chooses who will not be saved.

A. God's eternal decree of whom He would not saved is called reprobation. Whereas election means that God chooses whom He will save, reprobation means that God chooses who is not saved. Reprobation necessarily follows from election. Since God could have saved everybody, but not everyone is saved, then we must conclude that God deliberately chose to leave some people in their sins.

B. Reprobation, like election, is unconditional. The non-elect are not rejected because of their sins-- because they were worse sinners than the elect. Instead, just as Christians are chosen based only upon the purposes of God and nothing in them, so also the non-elect are rejected solely due to the good pleasure of God's will--not because of anything in them or anything they have done. However, the reason that this rejection leaves them to eternal punishment is because of their sins. If they weren't sinners, this rejection wouldn't result in their eternal torment. So while they are not reprobated because of what they have done, they are punished for what they have done (sin). That is, God's rejection of the reprobate is not because of their sins (just as God's choice of the elect was not because of any goodness in them), but God's punishment of the reprobate is because of their sins.

  1. Did God pass over all of the fallen angels and leave them in their sins (see 2 Peter 2:4)? 2. Was that unjust? Would it be unjust for God to pass over some of the fallen human beings?

III. Before we begin, it is important to see the importance of understanding the truths of unconditional election and unconditional reprobation. These truths are not ugly, but beautiful!

A. As we come to know God's ways, we come to know God (Exodus 33:11). These are very significant aspects of God's ways, therefore as they are used by the Holy Spirit they will bring us to know God better.

B. These truths very powerfully make us feel and know our utter dependance upon God's unconditional mercy. And the more we are aware of our dependance upon God, the more we will trust him.

C. Do you dare to say that God has spoken something that is irrelevant, unimportant, and unglorious? How would you feel if you wrote a book for your children and they said that whole passages and chapters were not important?

D. We must always remember that in this life we can never know who is not chosen.

IV. Introduction to Romans 9:1-24

A. The place of Romans 9 in the epistle:

  1. Romans chapters 9-11 are a unit. They were written to deal with a great difficulty: the Jewish rejection of the Messiah.
  2. Specifically, Romans 1-8 has the great foundation of Christian hope--the certainty and security of God's promises (see the climax of 8:28-39). But, the promises (word) of God seems to have failed the Jews, since God made such amazing promises to them and they are not saved as a whole. Therefore, what basis does the church have for believing that God's promises to them will be fulfilled? Our Christian hope is at stake! Paul deals with this problem in Romans 9-11.

B. The question we must ask ourselves in Romans 9 is this: Is Paul teaching corporate election to historical roles, or individual election to eternal destinies in this chapter? The corporate interpretation tries to avoid Paul's teachings of unconditional election and reprobation in this chapter by saying that Paul is not dealing with salvation in this context or individuals. Thus, on that view all this chapter teaches is that God unconditionally chooses who will and will not be the main players in the history of the world. The other interpretation understands that Paul is dealing with individual salvation, and therefore Paul is teaching unconditional election and reprobation.

C. The main argument for the corporate view is that the OT references on which Paul builds his case do not in their OT contexts refer to individuals or eternity, but to nations and their roles (vv. 7, 9, 12, 13).

  1. Is it more important to consider the OT usage of the verses, or the way Paul uses them in context? Must Paul use them in the same way as the OT?
  2. Do the biblical writers ever see the historical truths in the OT as pointing to spiritual realities? Don't they especially see the history of Abraham as having the fullest application to salvation?
  3. Is it even convincing to say that these quotes cannot apply to salvation or individuals in their OT context (see Gen. 21:12; 18:10, 14; 25:23; Malachi 1:2, 3)?
  4. Read Galatians 4:21-31. In the OT context, the events Paul is referring to seem to deal only with historical issues, not salvation. Does Paul apply them to salvation in this passage?

V. Understanding Romans 9:1-24

A. Examining vv. 1-6 and their connection to vv. 6-24 to discover Paul's flow of argument.

  1. In vv. 1-3, why is Paul in so much sorrow?
  2. Does Paul's distress concern individuals? eternal destinies?
  3. What is the hope Israel had (vv. 4-5)?
  4. How do the promises to Israel compare to the plight of Israel?
  5. What problem does this raise (v. 6)?
  6. In the first sentence of verse 6, Paul says that the word of God has not failed-- even though it seems like it. The next sentence he begins with “for.” Does this indicate that Paul is going to undertake to solve the problem?
  7. Do you think Paul would have raised with this problem if he wasn't going to solve it?
  8. In verse 6, the second sentence, what does Paul state as the solution to this problem?
  9. Do you notice that everything he says in the verses after verse 6 is either a defense of this assertion from verse 6 (vv. 7-13) or an inquiry into further issues this raises (vv. 14- 24ff.)?
  10. Do you see that we have to interpret verses 6-24ff. in light of this problem which those verses are designed to address? Isn't this simply a matter of taking the passage in its context?
  11. Since the problem of vv. 1-5 involves the eternal destinies of individuals, doesn't that seem to argue that the solution to the problem, offered in vv. 6-23ff., also deals with the eternal destinies of individuals?

B. Examining vv. 6-13, where Paul explains and defends his solution to the problem raised by vv. 1-6.

  1. What two examples does he point to in order to support his argument (see vv. 7 and vv. 9-11)?
  2. Verse 8 is intended to shed light on verse 7. How does it do this?
  3. Does the phrase “children of God” in verse 8 give you a clue as to whether or not Paul is discussing salvation (see Rom. 8:16, 17, 21; Eph. 5:1; Phil. 2:15)?
  4. In verse 9, is the “word of promise” which designates a person as a “child of promise” God's declaration about what He would sit back and watch to happen, or take action to make happen?
  5. Look up Galatians 4:28. Are Christians children of promise like Isaac?
  6. Therefore, were Christians chosen unconditionally like Isaac?
  7. What does verse 10 say?
  8. On what did God base His choice of Jacob and rejection of Esau, according to verse 11? On what didn't He base His choice? Was His choice unconditional?
  9. When verse 11 speaks of God taking action so that His purpose might stand, how does that relate back with verse 6 about how the word of God hasn't fallen?
  10. According to this verse, why doesn't God's word fail?
  11. Is predestination, then, the means that God uses to keep His word from falling?
    1. How does predestination keep God's word from falling?
  12. According to verse 13, how did God feel about Esau?
  13. Look at 2 Timothy 1:9, which seems to parallel Rom. 9:11. Does 2 Timothy have salvation in view?
  14. Through the examples of Isaac and Jacob, Paul has demonstrated the ongoing principle by which God keeps His word from failing--unconditional election. In verse 6 Paul said that the word of God has not failed because not everybody in the ethnic nation of Israel is part of the true spiritual nation of Israel--to whom the promises really belong. Isaac and Jacob illustrate that becoming a member of the true Israel is dependent upon God's sovereign choice, not being a mere physical descendant of Abraham or our choice to first believe in God, and therefore God's word cannot fail--since God irresistibly acts to maintain His purpose through unconditional election. Does this make sense?

C. Paul's solution to the problem of vv. 1-6, presented in vv. 6-13, raises some problems of its own. Paul deals with them in vv. 14-18, and he further clarifies and supports his teaching of vv. 6-13.

  1. What objection is raised in verse 14?
  2. How does Paul answer this in verse 15? How do God's words to Moses argue against the fact that God is unjust in unconditional election?
  3. Verse 15 is a declaration of the nature of God. How does this argue that it must extend to every act of God's mercy--and thus salvation?
  4. In verse 16, what is the general inference that Paul draws from verse 15?
  5. According to verse 16, who does election not depend upon? Who does election depend upon?
  6. In light of the context and Paul's flow of argument in this chapter, are we justified in concluding that this verse regards the eternal destinies of individuals?
    1. For many reasons that are evident to you, the answer is clearly yes. Here is another reason you may not have thought of: Verse 16 is a restatement of verse 11 (and, as we saw, an inference from verse 15). Both of those texts were salvific and individual. Thus, v. 16 must be slavific and individual.
  7. In verse 17, who raised up pharaoh? Why? Was God acting on a whim?
  8. Could it be argued that in hardening Pharaoh's heart, God was acting in love for His elect?
  9. Was God's choice to raise up Pharaoh based upon anything about Pharaoh?
  10. What was it based upon?
  11. In verse 18, what is the general inference that Paul draws from verse 17?
  12. In light of this, do any forces outside of God determine God's decision in whom to give mercy to? whom to harden?
  13. If someone came to you and said, “I am so rotten I could never believe, there is no hope for me,” how would you use the doctrine of unconditional election to encourage them?

D. Once again Paul has to face more objections! Vv. 14-18 raise an objection that Paul answers in vv. 19-24ff., and this also allows Paul to give us great insight into the ways of God.

  1. What objection is raised against Paul in verse 19?
  2. Would anyone ever say this to an Arminian?
  3. According to Paul's response in vv. 20-21, is it prideful to object to the doctrine of unconditional election? How does what Paul says in these verses go to the root of the problem for many people who object to this doctrine?
  4. According to vv. 22-23, is it wrong for us to humbly probe into the depths of God's wisdom in unconditional election?
  5. According to verses 22-23, why does God prepare objects of wrath? What effect should this have on you, if you are an object of mercy?
  6. Why does God delay judgement--exercise patience--on the vessels of wrath?
  7. The vessels of wrath and mercy are from the “same lump.” Does this show unconditional election and unconditional reprobation?
  8. Who prepared the vessels of wrath in verse 22?
  9. Who prepared the vessels of mercy in verse 23? When were they prepared?

F. Finally, let us ask some probing questions about this chapter:

  1. Why would God be unrighteous not to elect unconditionally (see verse 15)?
  2. With this in view, why is it a dishonor to God to deny unconditional election?
  3. Would you agree or disagree with this: “It is the glory of God and His essential nature mainly to dispense mercy (but also wrath--Exodus 34:7) on whomever He pleases apart from any constraint found outside of God's own will. This is the essence of what it means to be God. This is His name.”

VI. What effect should this have on us?

A. Sobered by God's awful severity.

B. Humbled by our total dependance on His unconditional mercy.

C. Irresistibly allured by the infinite treasury of His glory to be revealed on the vessels of glory-- us.

VII. Summary of why God must elect unconditionally to be righteous.

A. Unrighteousness is acting in a way that contradicts God's nature.

B. It is the nature of God to be free in giving mercy (and wrath) to whomever He pleases (Romans 9:15; Exodus 33:19).

C. Thus, in unconditional election (and unconditional reprobation) God is acting in accordance with His nature as the utterly free, unhindered and authoritative God.

D. Therefore, God is not unrighteous in unconditional election (or reprobation). In fact, it seems that He must do so to be righteous.

VIII. How should we respond to the righteousness of God?

A. Love the honor of God's name.

B. Esteem God's glory above all things.

C. Do only those things which accord with this love and esteem.

D. Human deeds are righteous if they are fitting expressions of man's complete allegiance to maintain God's honor and display His glory

VII. Further verses.

A. Ephesians 1:4

  1. The word for `chosen' in Eph. 1:4 indicates that we are chosen “out of” something (the world) and thus there are those who are not chosen and still belong to what we were chosen out of.
  2. Further, this shows that we are not only removed from a state of condemnation, but from the company of the condemned. You are a chosen and special race unto God--different from the condemned (1 Peter 2:9).

B. Proverbs 16:4

  1. Why did God make the wicked?

C. John 10:26

  1. Why didn't these people believe?
  2. So what must happen before a person will believe?

D. John 8:47

  1. Who hears God's words?
  2. Why didn't these Jews hear God's words?

E. John 12:37-40

  1. According to verse 38, why weren't they believing?
  2. According to verse 40, why else couldn't they believe?
  3. Who hardened their hearts? Why?

F. Mark 4:11-12

  1. What is one reason Jesus spoke in parables?

G. Matthew 11:25-27

  1. According to verse 25, what has God done?
  2. According to verse 27, how does a person come to know the Son?

H. 1 Peter 2:7-8

  1. What doom were unbelievers appointed to?
  2. One may object “all this verse says is that those who disbelieve are appointed for doom. But it doesn't mean that God appointed them to be unbelievers.” But as Wayne Grudem points out in his Systematic Theology, the Greek word for “appoint” here must, because of its construction, be referring back to at least two things--not just one. Thus, not only are unbelievers appointed to stumble because of their disobedience, but they were appointed to stumble in the first place.

I. Revelation 13:8; 17:17

J. Jude 4

K. Romans 9:17-23; 11:8-10

L. 2 Thess. 2:11

M. Acts 13:41

N. Luke 2:34

O. Isaiah 6:9, 10

P. Deut. 2:30

Q. “Many talk of salvation as if it were a birthright.”

IX. Purposes of God's decree of reprobation.

A. To fully magnify God's holiness by displaying His utter hatred of sin, which is the utter contradiction of His holiness.

B. To fully magnify God's justice.

C. To show the elect what they deserved so that they will appreciate their salvation more deeply.

D. To bring about greater thankfulness from the elect.

E. To exalt and magnify God's mercy.

F. To lead us to a greater trust in God and encourage purity in us.

G. To make it more evident that salvation is entirely undeserved--if everybody was saved, salvation might seem like a birth right.

H. To lead us to a greater abhorrence of sin.

I. In Romans 11:11, 31, what is one reason for the hardening of the Jews?


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