Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Romans 9 Once More...

“Arminians do the very thing that Walls and Dongell accuse Calvinists of doing with these verses. They read their theology of human free will into Romans 9 in spite of the strong words of that chapter. WHERE DOES ROMANS 9 TEACH THAT GOD CONDITIONS THE SALVATION OF PERSONS ON FORESEEN FAITH? NOWHERE. Rather, Paul repeatedly insists that salvation is the free gift of almighty God, and that he gives to whomever he wants. God has mercy on whom he wants and has compassion on whom he wants (v.15). Salvation ‘depends NOT on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy’ (v.16). God shows mercy on whom he wills to show mercy, and he hardens whom he wills (v.18). And GOD PUTS IN THEIR PLACE ANY WHO QUESTION HIS RIGHT TO DO WHAT HE WANTS WITH HIS OWN CREATURES (vv.19-21)!” (Robert A. Peterson, “Election and Free Will: God’s Gracious Choice and Our Responsibility.” Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007, page 122).

I’m back to examine Peterson’s analysis of Romans 9. In his mind, Romans 9 is all about God doing whatever He wants, giving salvation to only those HE WANTS to receive it. But Peterson continues to fall throughout his book. What he fails to do in numerous cases is examine how one passage lines up with another scripturally. If we examine Scripture, we see that Peterson’s analysis doesn’t make sense in light of other scriptures:

“For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, WHO IS THE SAVIOR OF ALL MEN, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10, NKJV).

First, let’s notice that Paul singles out “those who believe.” If he singles out believers, then who does the rest of “all men” represent? Contrary to Calvinist belief, Paul is not speaking of “all classes of men,” but instead, “every single person,” including believers as well as unbelievers. 1 Timothy 4:10 tells us then, that God is the Savior of all men, INCLUDING UNBELIEVERS!

My next question would be, “How then, can God be the Savior of unbelievers, if He is not willing to SAVE THEM? That is one that I encourage you to ask a Calvinist. Chances are, he or she will turn speechless...

Simply put, then, Romans 9 does not paint God as one who “picks and chooses” certain people over others in salvation. Romans 9 tells us that God has a selection process: that is called “election.” However, when Paul gives the examples of Jacob and Esau and Isaac and Ishmael, he shows us by virtue of the examples what the selection method is: faith. To choose Isaac over Ishmael as the promised seed went against the law of the day (the eldest received the inheritance and blessing----which, in this case, would have been Ishmael); similarly, choosing Jacob over Esau would have been against societal law as well (Jacob was the second-born, Esau was the oldest). Both of these examples “against the law” Paul uses to say that the works of the law are not what God requires. Instead, he requires faith, which is the reason why the Gentiles have received righteousness but the Jews have not (Rom. 9:30-33). The end of Romans 9 tells us that the Gentiles have come to God BY FAITH, while the Jews still seek to do the works of the law (and continue to fight against God’s requirement of faith).

Last but not least, Peterson uses verses out of context to tell us not to question God “picking some and damning others.” But as I just stated, God doesn’t do this. We are told in Scripture, however, why God made salvation possible by grace:

“For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the THE LAW BRINGS ABOUT WRATH; for where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith so that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, BUT ALSO TO THOSE WHO ARE OF THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM, who is the father of us all (as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of Him whom he believed----God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:14-17, NKJV).

Romans demonstrates that grace allows EVERYONE, whether Jew or Gentile, to become a child of the promise. Now which will you choose to believe: the explanation of Peterson or the explanation of Scripture?

Peterson’s theological system (Calvinism) paints God as a mysterious Lord who does anything He wants to because He wants to. And because God does whatever He wants to, you and I get no answers (for, as Peterson says, the answers are all hidden in God).
But if God is the Savior of all men, don’t you think He would want to communicate how men and women can be saved? After all, this is the same God that revealed Himself in nature (Ps. 19, Rom. 1) and in His Word (Psalm 19), did He not?

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