Continuation from ďBrief discussion on some disputed passagesĒ
Calvinists normally hold that Rom. 9 teaches unconditional election and double-predestination.
Vs. 16 ". . .it [God's choice] does not depend on the man who wills. . ."
Vs. 18 refers to double-predestination.
Vv. 22,23 refer to "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" and "vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory."
Vs. 24: The election involved is not a national election because vs. 24 states that the vessels of mercy are "us, whom he called not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles" (i.e., believing Christians).
Arminians argue that the first part of Rom. 9 deals with God's choice of nations and their roles in his plans.
Vv. 1-5 make it clear that the context is that of national choice.
Vv. 6,7: This is confirmed in vv. 6,7 because all Israelites were not saved, and all Ishmaelites were not damned.
Vs. 13: Paul cites Mal. 1:2, in which God says that he favors the nation of Israel over the nation of Edom. Furthermore, the phrase "I hate/I love" is a Hebrew idiom meaning "I do not favor/I favor" (see Luke 14:26-hate father and mother).
Vs. 16 refers to God's choice of how to lead the nation of Israel through the wilderness, which was independent of Moses' will in the matter. Personal salvation is not in view in the original passage (Ex. 33:19).
Vs. 18 is in the context of vs. 16 (see above) and vs. 17, which refers to God's temporal destruction of the Egyptians when they wanted to destroy Israel. The verse teaches that God caused his choice of Israel to stand regardless of Moses' attempts to help or Pharaoh's attempts to hinder. Neither Moses' nor Pharaoh's personal salvation was in view in these passages.
Vv. 21-23 refer to nations which have either a glorious or judgmental role in history. Two interpretations are possible:
God allows evil nations to exist and often uses them to bless the chosen nation Israel. Today, believers are able to participate in the covenant blessings of Israel because they have been "grafted into the rich root" of God's purpose in history.
Another explanation is that the "lump of clay" in vs. 21 refers to national Israel. God has the right to divide Israel into two vessels: unbelieving Israel, which has become a "vessel of wrath prepared ("fit" or "suited") for destruction," and believing Israel which, along with Gentile believers, has become a "vessel of mercy."
Note: Any interpretation of Rom. 9 must account for the transition that Paul makes from national choice in vv. 1-24 and individual salvation in vv. 24-33. Therefore, neither view can claim that the other is completely out of context. The question becomes one of which transition is more believable, and makes the most sense of the Old Testament quotations.
The final note above makes a good point.† In my reading of Romans 8-11, in particular Romans 9, I will try and satisfy what is pointed out and demanded in the note.† First I will briefly go through Romans 8-11 so as to get the entire context of the passage, then I will interpret Romans 9.
(8:1-8) A personís mind, which is set on the flesh, is death.† It is hostile to God and does not, indeed cannot, subject itself to Godís Law.† The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace and is able to please God.† The Law of the Spirit in Jesus is life.† It sets us free from condemnation and the law of sin and death.†
(9-11) Now if Christ is in someone, their body is dead because of sin, but the/their spirit is life/alive because of righteousness.† If someone has the Spirit dwelling in them, they belong to God and arenít in the flesh.† God will give that person life to their mortal bodies.
(12-17) We have the Spirit of adoption and not slavery, so we must live according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh.† The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are Godís sons and heirs of God with Christ, glorified with Him, if we suffer with Him.† (18-25) Our sufferings are small compared with our future glory.† For creation waits eagerly for the revealing of us, the sons of God.† It was subjected unwillingly to futility.† It groans and hopes for freedom, groaning in the pains of childbirth.† We, having tasted the Spirit, now groan also for redemption, hoping for the future.
(26-30) The Spirit helps us† in our weakness and intercedes for us.† It searches our heart.† God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called for His purpose.† God foreknew and predestined those to be firstborn among men, made into Christís image.† These people are called, justified and glorified by God.† (31-39) God is for us, loves us and freely gives us all things so nothing and no one will be against us, condemn us or separate us from Godís love.† In all things we conquer through God who loves us.
(9:1-5) Paul wishes he could be separated from God for the sake of the Israelites to whom belongs adoption as sons.† They who are Godís people by physical descent from Abraham.† (6-13) But only the children of the promise are Israel, not all of Israel by descent (children of the flesh).† The promise: Sarah will have a son.† Also that God chose Rebekahís twins before their birth (before they could do anything good or bad) because of His choice alone, not by their (or anyone elseís) deeds.† God chose their destiny, and who He would love, before their birth.
(14-18) God chooses who He will have mercy on.† He is just.† A manís future does not depend on that man, but on God who has mercy.† An example of this is Pharaoh.† God has mercy on whomever He wants to, and He hardens whomever He wants to.
(19-26) Man should not answer back to God asking: ďWhy does God find fault?† For who can resist His will?Ē† The potter has the right to use the clay from the same lump as He wishes, to use some to make clay vessels for honourable use, and some for common use.† God endured vessels of wrath prepared for destruction to make known His power and to demonstrate His wrath.† All this was done so the riches of His glory could be made known upon the vessels of mercy, prepared beforehand for glory.† He calls us Gentiles for this purpose.
(26-29) Isaiah said of Israel: ďOnly the remnant will be saved; for the Lord will execute His word on the earth quickly and thoroughly.Ē† Isaiah said Israel would have suffered the same fate of Sodom and Gomorrah if God had not given them a posterity.† (30-33) Gentiles got righteousness (even the righteousness which is by faith) yet they did not pursue it.† But Israel possessed a law of righteousness but did not arrive at it because they didnít pursue it by faith, but did so as though by works.† They stumbled over the stumbling block placed by God.† A rock of offense that is to be believed in.
(10:1-4) Paul desires that they will be saved.† For they have a zeal for God, but not in according with knowledge.† They donít know about Godís righteousness and seek to establish their own, so they donít subject themselves to Godís righteousness.† Christ is the end of the Law to righteousness for all who believe.† (5-13) The man who practices the righteousness based on the Law shall live by it.† If you confess Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead then you shall be saved.† Belief in someoneís heart leads to righteousness.† Confessing with his mouth leads to his salvation.† ALL who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.† (14-15) They (Israel) cannot believe unless they hear from a preacher.† A preacher cannot preach unless he is sent.
(16-17) Not all obeyed the Good News.† So faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes through the word of Christ.† (18-21) They have heard but they do not know.† God has stretched out His hand to them, a disobedient people.
(11:1-7) God has not rejected His people.† He foreknew them, He kept a righteous few during the time of Elijah, and had kept a righteous remnant according to His gracious choice during Paulís time.† But grace is not grace if it is based on our works.
(7-10) God caused Israel to be unable to see and hear, only those He chose found what Israel is seeking,† The rest were hardened.† (11-16) They stumbled so salvation came to the Gentiles, not so they would fall.† Because their sin is riches for the world, how much more will their fullness be!† This is said so Israelites may become jealous and be saved.† Their acceptance is life from the dead.† If the root is holy, the branches of the tree are also.† (17-24) Branches were broken off The Tree so Gentiles could be grafted in.† These Gentiles should not become arrogant toward the other branches as the root supports them, not vice-versa.† The branches were broken off because of their unbelief.† The Gentiles were grafted in because of their faith, but because God did not spare those natural branches, He wonít spare any conceited Gentile.† So they should fear God.† Kindness is given to those who continue in Godís kindness, else severity is handed out.† To those cut off, kindness is given to them if they turn from their unbelief.† For God grafts in unnatural branches, so how will much more will He graft back on natural branches who turn back to Him.
(25-32) God has hardened Israel for until all Gentiles He has planned have come int.† And so all Israel will be saved.† Evil will be removed from Israel.† According to the gospel they are enemies for us, but according to the election of God they are beloved for the fathersí sake.† For Godís gifts and calling are irrevocable.† Gentiles were disobedient, but shown mercy because of Israelís disobedience.† Israel has been disobedient that because of the mercy shown to the Gentiles God may show mercy to them.† For God has shut up all in disobedience so He may show mercy to all.
(33-36) The riches of Godís wisdom and knowledge are very deep.† His judgments are un-searchable and His ways unfathomable.† No one can counsel God or know His mind.† To God be the glory forever.† From Him and to Him and through Him are all things.
Interpretation of Chapter 9:
Paul is talking about the nation of Israel in vv.1-5.† He has a strong desire for their salvation (kind of like Moses in Ex.32:30-35).† He continues to talk in the national sense, saying that not all of the nation of Israel will be saved, only those (including Gentiles) who are children of the promise (i.e. Israel by faith).† (So the Arminians are correct in saying vv.1-9 are national even though no direct mention of Ishmaelites are mentioned).† In vv.9-12 Paul says the promise was also that God chose Rebekahís twins before their birth, before they had yet sinned or done righteous deeds.
In verse 13 Paul quotes Malachi 1:2-3.† The verses in Malachi there were talking about Jacob and Esau in the national sense (Nation of Jacob [Israel], Nation of Esau [Edom]).† Paul here uses the quote referring to them as individuals, while referring to the consequence for their nations of Godís favouring of Jacob and not Esau.
So from v.1 to v.13 there has been a shift from national towards individual (though not yet a complete shift).† Vv.1-6 is about the nation of Israel.† V.7 says that they were named as a nation through an individual (Isaac).† V.8 retains this national sense by talking of the children of God being children of the promise.† The promise was made about individuals and subsequently about the nations born through them.† Paul again talks of the nations through individuals in v.13.
Paul then talks about Godís will.† In v.15 he quotes what God said to Moses in Exodus 33:19.† Then God was telling Moses He has mercy and compassion on whichever man He chooses.† So Paul has now made the total shift from nations, to nations through individuals, and from that to individuals.† In v.13 Paul notes Godsí choice of nations through His choice of individuals.† Then from here Paul says how God is just and has mercy and compassion on whomever (individuals) He pleases.
So having now made this shift, Paul talks about Godís choice of who He will show mercy and compassion to (v.15), and how this choice does not depend on the will of the individual concerned (v.16).† Iíd agree with the Arminians that Paul and God in Exodus 33:15 are not referring to personal salvation.† Iíd argue that what is being talked about is mercy and compassion on individuals whom God chooses.† So Iíd disagree that v.16 talks of God leading the nation of Israel, but God leading men along their paths, and having mercy on any man He pleases.† So Iíd suggest that although personal salvation is not directly referred to here, but that because Godís mercy is intricately related to those He saves, the reference is indirect.
Paul then uses part of the Exodus story to illustrate this.† He quotes what God said to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:16.† God says to Pharaoh how He has planned for Pharaohís life to run and fit in His total plan Ė To demonstrate His power in this individual, so His glory is proclaimed throughout the earth.† God showed mercy on Pharaoh in allowing Pharaoh to reign.† All of what God says to Pharaoh in that passage in Exodus is God telling Pharaoh of His actions and plans for Pharaoh and the Egyptians.† Paul is noting that God had a plan of Pharaohís life within His plan for Egypt, and all of history.
So it is clear from this context that Paul is talking about individuals in v.18.† Paul is saying that God has mercy on some individuals, and hardens other individuals as He pleases.† So Iíd agree with the Calvinist view that this verse refers to double predestination.† But I would agree with the Arminians that neither Mosesí or Pharaohís salvation was in view, but Paul was talking about all of mankindís salvation in v.18.
In vv.20-23 Paul is talking of all individuals being used by God (as is His right as creator) as either vessels of mercy or wrath.† The lump of clay Paul talks about is the lump that, figuratively, God made mankind from. The context shows Paul is talking about individuals, this lump must be the one from which God made all men.† So I would disagree with both Arminian interpretations.
Paul then says how God has chosen people from within Israel and within the Gentile nations to be called ĎHis Peopleí.† The final verses in the chapter talk of God first saving only a collection of people from the nation of Israel and how the whole nation did not suffer the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah (which it deserved) only because God gave them a posterity.† Then Paul shows how some Gentiles attained righteousness they did not pursue (God gave them it) and how Israel pursued righteousness not by faith, so did not attain it.† In His sovereignty God put a stumbling block for men to believe in which Israel stumbled over, a rock offensive to men.
So the Calvinist interpretations are the ones that seem to fit what Paul is saying, and the Arminian interpretations clearly donít fit the context.
The next two chapters describe Godís sovereignty in His planning of the salvation of the Gentiles.† How He hardened Israel so individual Gentiles chosen by Him can become part of His family.† How no one can be saved unless they hear the Good News, and that they cannot hear these words unless a preacher is chosen and sent by God.†† Israel is not rejected by God, in His plan He keeps a righteous remnant from His nation until all the Gentiles He has chosen are grafted in.† God has done all this to save His people, those chosen by Him, and to show His mercy and power.† Mercy to Gentiles, and because of that, mercy to Israel.
Copyright Steven Shaw 2000