Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Romans Bible Study #20 A Non-Calvinist Interpretation of Romans 9 (Part 1: 9:1-13 - Video and Notes)

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Study Notes

"God arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction. " John Calvin

Vs. 1-5
  • In Chapter 1, we saw Paul’s heart towards the church, even being in constant prayer to God for churches to which he had never even been. Here we see Paul’s heart to the Jews, his own people, especially towards those who had rejected Christ.
  • Paul here again affirms that the covenants and the promises which were made to Abraham and his descendants belong to Israel. Chapters 9 - 11 should dispel any notion that “God has not rejected His people who He foreknew” (as he will say later in 11:2). God’s faithfulness to Israel over the last 2000 years in keeping them together as a people though they have been scattered all over the world and then finally bringing them back to their homeland is further testimony that God still has a covenant love for Israel.
  • Paul will continue to reveal his heart towards his people Israel (which by extension we would have to believe is God’s heart towards them also) in saying in 10:1 “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them (Israel) is for their salvation.”
  • Despite Paul’s explicit desire to perish in the place of these hardened Jews, five-point Calvinists teach that Christ does not share Paul’s expressed intentions.[92] One has to assume that those interpreters believe Paul was more merciful and self-sacrificial than the Savior who inspired these very words. It is inexplicable, given Paul’s Spirit-led appeal of self-sacrificial love, to promote a doctrine that teaches Jesus did not intend to sacrifice Himself for these hardened Jews (1 John 2:2; 2 Pet. 2:1).”( Dr. Leighton Flowers)
Vs. 6-8
  • The “word of God” here is not merely the written written word, but rather the spoken word, i.e. “the gospel.” (Chapter 10:8 makes that clear) In vs. 6, he is saying that it is not as though the gospel has not accomplished what it has set out to do.
  • Vs. 6b-7 echoes 2:28-29 (read it). There is a natural Israel and there is a spiritual Israel. There are natural Jews and there are spiritual Jews.
  • Paul has already taught clearly and at length that salvation is intended for those who believe, regardless of their nationality.
  • Abraham had two sons - Ishamael and Isaac. In vs. 7, Paul quotes Genesis 21:12 where God tells Abraham that He had chosen Isaac over Ishmael. Ishmael was the son that Abraham made by His own works (He just decided He was going to help God and fulfill the promise that God had made with him previously). Isaac was the child of promise.
  • What was the promise and how did it come? Read Romans 4:13-16. The promise (in Paul’s shorthand) was that Abraham and his descendants would be “heir of the world.” This would not come by lawkeeping but through faith. This was not a promise of salvation but a promise of blessing.
  • Read Gen. 12:2-3. This is the original promise that Paul was referring to. Israel was to be made a great nation and would be blessed of God. That is the first part. The second part was “you shall be a blessing...in you all the families of the earth would be blessed.” How was that to come about? First of all, the Redeemer Messiah was to come through them. Secondly, it was God’s intention that the good news of the gospel would come through Israel to bless “all the nations of the earth.” This was revealed through the progressive revelation to the prophets of Israel over the course of a thousand years.
  • Jonah was a good illustration of God’s determination to bless the nations of the world through Jewish messengers, even if He has to use a disobedient one! In NT, Paul Himself was a further illustration of this. He was a passionate opponent of the truth of the gospel, but in a blinding light God turned Him into a passionate proponent of the gospel.
  • This is the essence of election (God’s choosing) in Romans 9. When we see “election” we should not always assume that it is choosing for salvation. Many times in scripture, election has to do with choosing for service, i.e. God’s choice of certain vessels to bring the good news to others...to bless others.

Vs. 9-13
  • Paul uses two choices that God made in Abraham’s descendents to illustrate God’s purposes. The first choice is Isaac over Ishmael (which he already alluded to in vs. 7). Isaac was the promised child. Through him Messiah was to come. Through him, Israel was to be blessed and to be a blessing. However, did God care at all for Ishmael, the one through whom the promise did not come? Yes he did! Read Gen. 16:10;17:20. Note also that in chapter 25:12-18, God records Ishmael’s descendents. He obviously cared for Ishmael and Ishmaelites!
  • In Gal. 4:21-31, Paul uses Isaac and Ishmael as an allegory to show the difference in those who come by law and those who come by promise. Ishmael is a type of those who try to come to God by their own works. Isaac, as the child of promise, is a type of those who come to God by faith. (Remember, in Romans 4, we learned that God does not regard faith as a work, but as the opposite of works)
  • The second illustration that God uses is between Jacob and Esau, Isaac’s twin sons. As God preferred the second born Isaac over the first born Ishmael, so God chose the second born Jacob over the first born Esau. Esau was clearly the stronger of the two. He was a hunter....a real man’s man. Yet God chose the second born...even before they were born. Paul tells us that the choice of Jacob was not based upon Jacob or Esau’s works, but “because of Him who calls.” Vs. 12 quotes Gen. 25 in saying that “the older will serve the younger.” One was preferred over the other. Nothing at all is said about salvation, but rather the choice is choice to service.
  • Notice also that it was not just a choice between two people but between two groups of people. The full prophecy that God gave to Isaac’s wife Rebekah in Genesis 25:23 is “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.” This selection or election was of two nations. I believe that Paul is still carrying on the same allegory that he had just used of Isaac and Ishmael earlier in the chapter and also in Galatians. The allegory here is between those who try to come to God based upon their own works (ironically, the Jews of Paul’s day) symbolized first by Ishmael and here by Essau, and those who come to God by faith, symbolized first by Isaac and here by Jacob.
  • Flowers - “The promise given to Abraham is to bring the Word through his lineage so as to bless all those who believe. When God says that “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed,” he is referring to His promise to bring the Word (the Messiah and His message) to all peoples through the nation of Israel. Ishmael and his descendants (Ishmaelites) were not chosen to fulfill that promise. Esau and his descendants (Edomites) were not chosen to fulfill that promise. Jacob and his descendants (Israelites) are chosen to fulfill that promise, and God is just to make this choice despite the fact that all three are direct descendants of Abraham.”
  • ...Esau was the more likely choice of the two brothers given his natural qualities as a hunter and his being the first-born. Jacob was the weaker, or lesser, of the two brothers and certainly not more deserving to carry out this noble purpose. The point is that God did not choose to save one of them and condemn the other prior to their birth, as some attempt to read into this text. Instead, He chose to make His power known through the weaker, less likely candidate (just like He did with young David, 1 Sam. 16:7). We must understand that this gracious Potter most often chooses spoiled clay to fulfill His promises.”
Vs. 13
  • Most Calvinist teach (and I believed) that this verse taught that God hated a baby before he was even born. Yet, that is certainly not what this verse is teaching!
  • Read Luke 14:26. God certainly did not mean hate here as we would commonly use the word. Virtually no one believes this, as it would fly in the face of reason and scripture as well. God would not have us to literally hate our parents when he also commanded us to honor our parents. Instead, this is a Jewish idiomatic expression of choosing one over another for a greater purpose. “Instead, this passage should be understood to mean that individuals must choose to follow God’s will over the will of even the most beloved in one’s life. I In other words, this is the idiomatic way of communicating that one is to choose Christ and His noble purposes over one’s parents and their common purposes.”
  • Where did God say “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated?” Not in Genesis, but 1500 years later in Malachi, when both boys had been dead for many hundreds of years.
  • Read Malachi 1:2, 3 This clearly is talking about the nation of Israel (Jacob) and the nation of Edom (which was the name of the nation made up of Esau’s descendants).
  • Obadiah 1:10 (written against Edom) “Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever.”
  • Both Malachi and Obadiah reflect on Edom’s attacks against Israel throughout their writings, giving a clear cause for God’s declared hatred for Esau, which was directed against his posterity, the Edomites. It is also clear from the original references that individual salvation was not in view, but national blessing (because of the references to Edom’s land and inheritance, rather than an individual’s eternal destiny).’
  • So was Esau himself cursed of God? We have no record of it. Esau and Jacob were enstranged early in life (mainly because of Jacob’s actions!), but were reconciled later in life. Jacob loved Esau and Esau loved Jacob. There is no record that God ever hated Esau, but only preferred his brother (the real meaning of vs. 13) over himself. He hated Esau’s posterity because they opposed Israel. God cursed Edom just as He promised He would in the original promise to Abraham in Genesis 12. “I will curse those who curse you.”

St. Paul, in these words, had any view to God’s sovereign power, as the ground of unconditional reprobation (the idea that God predestined some to go to hell). And beware you go no further therein, than you are authorized by them. Take care, whenever you speak of these high things, to “speak as the oracles of God.” And if so, you will never speak of the sovereignty of God, but in conjunction with his other attributes. For the Scripture nowhere speaks of this single attribute, as separate from the rest. Much less does it anywhere speak of the sovereignty of God as singly disposing the eternal states of men. No, no; in this awful (awe-inspiring) work, God proceeds according to the known rules of his justice and mercy; but never assigns his sovereignty as the cause why any man is punished with everlasting destruction…The sovereignty of God is then never to be brought to supersede his justice. And this is the present objection against unconditional reprobation; (the plain consequence of unconditional election;) it flatly contradicts, indeed utterly overthrows, the Scripture account of the justice of God.  John Wesley”

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