Since I bantered the other day about Romans 3, I guess I should reflect on Romans 9. I would start in the place where I want to end – holding to the majesty and mystery of God. He is Sovereign and can do whatever He wants.
Romans 9 tells us that God has chosen an Elect people. He has, it’s true! It’s the story of the Bible. Israel is called “God’s Chosen People.” And they are. The church of Jesus is chosen too. Romans 9 must be read in the context of what Paul is writing about, otherwise a person could read verse 18 and think that God has chosen who will be saved and who will be condemned.
and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
Out of context this would support the TULIP of Calvinism. Read it in the context of what Paul is teaching, and that is not necessarily the case.
Romans 9, 10 and 11 are a single thread of thought in Paul’s teaching. It is dozens of ideas, but his main teaching is clear. If you read Romans 9 without the next two chapters, you can miss the heart of Paul. Paul’s “heart’s desire” (10:1) is for the Israelite people. They are God’s Chosen People. He wants the nation of Israel to receive Christ and this righteousness that comes from God by faith.
IT IS TRUE, God has elected human beings. In Romans 9, Paul is pointing out that Israel is just that… God’s chosen. God made promises to Abraham that He would keep. The promises would come through the Promised One, Isaac (a foreshadowing of Christ) and even though Abraham would make horrible choices trying to help God out, God would remain true to what He promised. Paul then talks about Isaac’s children, Jacob and Esau. Verses 10-11:
Underline “God’s purpose in election.” What is God’s purpose in electing Jacob over his older brother Esau? That salvation would not be by works (or position) but by Him who calls. It’s not about human effort and an ability to keep the Law. People are not able to live according to God’s righteous standard. The Israelites, while chosen, will be righteous through faith in Jesus. If the Israelites continue to try to be righteous through the Law, they will not be saved EVEN though they are God’ chosen people! They were chosen to be sons; they were given the Law and the Covenant; they inherited Temple worship; they were the ones through whom the Messiah would come! Read chapters 10 & 11 and it becomes clear, the chosen people need the Chosen One. Without faith in Jesus, Paul describes them as being cut off. To be sure, they can be grafted back in! (Romans 11:11-21)
God’s purpose in election is to make this point: it’s not by human effort but according to God’s mercy that people will be saved. “God will have mercy on whom He wants to have mercy on.” So the question is, on whom will God have mercy? In the context of Romans 9-11, he isn’t going to have mercy just on Israel because they are His chosen people. Nope, the Good News is for the entire world. God will have mercy on those not previously chosen.
God has predetermined that those who call on the Name of the Lord will be saved. God has predetermined the plan of salvation through His Son, not specific individuals to heaven or hell. God desires everyone to believe and come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Peter 3:9).
There’s more… but I should end here. Go with God!