In a day when men in the pulpit and in the study would take the verses of Romans nine totally out of context, infer unwarranted and unscriptural presuppositions (foreknown faith as the basis for election), thus pressing ideologies onto the text that are just not there, John Piper’s scholarly work on what Romans nine is all about is a great defense of Biblical election (unconditional election) that shines a light in the darkness of so much poor analysis and exegesis of this chapter. Romans nine is about the very definition of who God is: the sovereign Lord over ALL things whose name will be proclaimed in all the Earth, being that His glory is the highest good and that His promises never fail.
Two of the main ways this text is gutted of its intended meaning is first, by the majority of interpretors proposing that Romans nine is not about individual, eternal election to salvation, but rather, corporate temporal election to historical roles, such as Israel being elected as God’s chosen people (as opposed to say David being individually elected to salvation). Secondly, there are those who do believe in individual election, but who will say God chose them because they first chose Him (conditional election, if they choose me I’ll choose them). Piper goes to pain-staking lengths to show how great of an error these propositions are by starting in Romans 9:1 and working his way forward in both the Greek and Hebrews texts. He goes into extensive arguments about how these will not stand in the face of the Berean test of Scripture. In addition, he shows the larger context of the previous chapter, Romans eight, displaying how sure the promises of God are to His people, that He will never fail in carrying them out, because, namely, they are rooted in His unconditional electing love.
However, if that’s true, that God’s promise will not fail, what do we make of these promises if the large majority of the Jews, at the official levels, rejected Christ? I mean, having rejected the Gospel, they remain under the wrath of God! Has God’s promises to Israel failed? And if His promises failed to His chosen people, what are we to make of His promises to us, the grafted in branches? Paul’s answer? “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” (Romans 9:6) And thus Paul begins his argument as to why the promises of God did not fail Israel, just as they will never fail us who trust in Christ. Why haven’t God’s promises failed? It comes down to election. God’s promises are rooted precisely in His plan that was set into effect before the foundation of the world. And Piper shows that to be the case very forcefully.
I highly commend this book to all of you who want to delve into a really good study of these controversial passages in Romans. Piper is an excellent scholar and it is very hard to get around these arguments when confronted with them. Many esteem predestination as an unloving doctrine, that it paints God as a mean, old grandfather who randomly chooses some and not others for salvation. That is called Greek determinism, not Biblical election. However, as we see from the Scriptures, God is the most loving precisely in predestination to salvation through the work of Christ on our behalf (and in every instance where election is mentioned in Scripture, that is exactly how it is presented, the love of God electing us to eternal life through Christ). To see that truth opens up the doors of experiencing God’s grace in deeper ways, because you see just how rebellious from the heart you really are, and just how deep into your soul God had to go to first regenerate you and bring you to life from spiritual death, granting you the eyes to see and ears to hear the call of Christ to salvation, and thus moving in you to respond positively to the Gospel message, just as the Lord did to the Gentiles at Antioch in Acts 13:48 and in Lydia in Acts 16:14.
To hear some excellent messages on much of the same material in this book by John Piper himself on Romans 9 (without being too heady), go here:
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