This is the great question, from Romans 9:14, that has caused much debate over the centuries as it pertains to election, going back to Pelagius and Augustine, and even as Paul shows, during his own day. If God chooses to have mercy on one and not another, is He at fault, is it unjust? Paul’s answer? By no means! But why? He gives two pieces of evidence from the old testament to back up his claim that God is indeed not unjust in His sovereign election:
Tag: Romans 9
Job’s Suffering Under a Sovereign God
In the Book of Job, Job is essentially sifted like flour at the hands of Satan, by the permission of God. Job loses just about everything except his life and his wife. He loses his children, houses, live stock, servants, everything. He even loses his health for a time.
From the very beginning of the book, in the first chapter, it is clear God is the one in charge and in control of Satan’s sifting, using it and even purposing it for His good, just and right purposes that are pure and free from evil. In fact, God initiates the conversation with Satan, the one who would perform this very sifting. He says to Satan in Job 1:8, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” He then goes on later to give Satan permission, as well as boundaries, of what he can and cannot do to Job.
While all of this is true, God cannot be charged with evil or injustice of any kind. He is pure and holy, wise and almighty. There are no evil motives with God in this. And yet, to the difficulty of our understanding, He permits and even asks Satan to consider Job as a target for calamity. He initiates and prompts Satan to strike Job. This is hard to swallow. What is God up to? What is His goal in this?
Close to the end of the book, after all the calamity of the first two chapters Job experienced, he goes through a list of sins and trespasses to try and figure out what he has done to have received such calamity. It seems he assumes those things happened because of something wrong he had done.
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles … were … separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” – Ephesians 2:11-12
When reading this statement by Paul, in his mind, being separated from Christ means being separated from the commonwealth of Israel and the covenants of promise. They are all one in the same. The promise made to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets, is the same promise we Gentiles inherit through faith alone in Christ alone. We are grafted into the Vine, which is Christ. We become a part of Israel, that is, God’s saved people for all time. There is no segmentation of Israel versus Gentiles. Christ has brought that wall down and we are the same: Israel, the people who have believed God and are reckoned as righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Another, Christ.
If you really want to dive deep into the implications and ramifications of God’s grace and mercy to us in Christ, you really need to take the time to listen to this series of sermons on Romans 9 by John Piper. It is unfortunate these passages get skimmed over, ignored or nuanced to such a great degree there is nothing left but hollow theology. There is gold here if you will spend the time with it. Romans 9 answers these questions (though Romans 10-11 continues the answers as well):
- “If God has made such great promises to us in Christ that will NEVER fail (as explained in Romans 8), why is it that a majority of Israel rejected Christ, the only One who could save them?”
- “If all of Israel is not saved, and God’s promises have failed them, what are we to make of the promises of God given to us in Romans 8?”
- “Is God required to show mercy to everyone?”
- “Is God free to show mercy to whom He pleases?”
- “Is God bound by what the creature does or doesn’t do, or is He free to do as He pleases, to His own glory and for His own purposes?”
- “From where did our faith come from?”
As I have been reading through Genesis the past couple of weeks, something has become clear to me as the story line has progressed. We all know the story of Jacob and Esau, well, at least some of you reading might. As Paul says and properly interprets of this story in the latter part of Genesis, particularly as he says it in Romans 9:10-13, “When Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”
Now of course everyone’s first immediate reaction to Romans 9 on election in particular is that this story of Jacob and Esau Paul cites is talking about God electing their temporal lots in life, not their eternal lots. And even then, the election spoken of, so goes the popular thought, is one of groups of people, not individual people, that is the election of Israel instead of Edom, as opposed to Jacob and Esau. That is at least how most people immediately interpret it nowadays, so as to lighten the hardness of the verses that come after these later in Romans 9.