Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Romans in a few words...

This post is borne out of a discussion on the topic of Romans 9 God loving some and hating others...

Here are my brief thoughts on the book of Romans as whole, eventually getting around to Romans 9 and the issue of God's giving mercy to some.

The book of Romans has often been called “Paul’s most systematic theology”. The book is often times divided into neat little divisions, 1-3; 5-8; 9-11; 12-16, and given titles for each section. Often times as readers we approach the book of Romans as if it were several different books with different subheads. I think that reading of Romans is what has lead people to read Romans 9-11 with what I call 21st century glasses, and ignore the overall context, and message of Paul in Romans.

One of the main issues, if not the issue for Paul and the early church was the admission of Gentiles into the people of God. The Jews were the chosen people of God, saw themselves as “in”, and the Gentiles were most certainly out. Throughout the book of Romans Paul addresses this issue.

Romans 1:5 “Through Him and for his name’s sake we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles”
Romans 1:16 “[The gospel] is the power of God first for the Jew and then for the Gentile” [Side note: I don’t think this verse explains the gospel, but rather shows the power of the gospel. Too often people assume that Romans 1:16-17 is Paul’s definition of the gospel, I disagree, but that’s another story for another time]

Paul then goes on to show the sinfulness, and lost ness of every man. Carefully outlining that both Jew and Gentile are sinners in need of God
[1:18-32 — the depravity of all people] [chapter 2 both Gentiles and Jews are sinful. 2:14, 17-29 is especially enlightening]
In fact in chapter 2 Paul goes on to show that just because you are a Jew and have the law it doesn’t mean that you are better than someone else.
3:9 Paul comes to the conclusion that both Jew and Gentile are both under sin.

So we can see here that Paul is weaving this argument throughout the entire book. Jew and Gentile are sinners; neither can claim that they are in because of race alone [nor could they ever do that].

Romans 3:28-29 “Justification by faith” Here is where I follow Wright

Justification in this passage, and the “works of the law” are not referents to the fact that the Jews were trying to earn their salvation by their outward actions. Rather what Paul is referring to here in observing the law is the fact that the Jews believed that their Torah obedience was a badge of membership that set them apart from the Gentiles. It was how you could tell one was a real Jew. Paul challenges them here in this passage stating that God is the God of both Jew and Gentile. Their works of the law were not Pelagian self-righteous works. Once again the Jew/Gentile divide is clear.

Romans 4 — An appeal to Abraham. He was justified before circumcision [Jew vs. Gentile]

Romans 5 — Adam, all are sinners regardless of race. [BTW Romans 5:18 seems to hint at universalism — threw that in there for Nathanael]

Romans 6 — No longer under Law but under grace for all

Romans 8 — The spirit comes to all through faith, not through racial privilege [as if it ever did]

So then we come to Romans 9 [I know this is a real short synopsis of the first 8 chapters, but I don’t want this to go on forever in the hopes that you may actually read it]

We must keep in mind Paul’s central thesis of Jew vs. Gentile [he makes this clear in vs. 7 where not all Jews are Abraham’s descendents]

When we read passages like “Jacob I loved Esau I hated”. Both were Jewish sons of Isaac. Jacob received the promise Esau did not. Is Paul making a referent here to the fact that one was elect and the other not? One was destined for hell and the other not?

I think a better way to read Paul would be to understand that in Romans 9-11 he is outlining his sorrow for the Jewish nation. He wants them to believe in Jesus, he wants to shake them out of the belief that they are on their way simply because they are Jewish [9:1-2; 10:1]. His point is that God has called some who are not Jewish to be a part of his people [9:24-26]. Esau was a Jew, yet he was rejected, the same fate can await you.

He continues in chapter 10 with that thought in 10:11-13 [whoever calls on the name of Jesus will be saved, Jew or Gentile]

Chapter 11 he continues with the grafting in of the Gentiles into the branch further accentuating the fact that the Gentiles are now apart of the “chosen”.

So when someone comes along and tells me that God elects some for heaven, some for hell, and that Romans 9-11 is a clear example of that, I think they are not reading the entire context, and they most certainly are reading the passage through our 21st century eyes. Just because you are a part of Israel does not mean that you are Jacob, you could be Esau. Israel had hardened their hearts, and needed them to be softened so that they could respond to Paul’s call to salvation.

Well, there in as brief a format as possible is my reading of Romans. I skipped a lot of important info as I’m sure will be pointed out. But I think we have to ground any discussion of election in this argument of Jew vs. Gentile. We often times assume that this was not an issue for Paul, and that has led us astray for the most part in my opinion.

And if you read all of this you get a gold star!


Anonymous said...

free will and predestination co-exist. just as there are numerous scientific explanations for many scientific phenomina, there are numerous explanations of what amount of free will and God's sovereignity actually take place in one's life. i don't agree that God doesn't love everybody. God is love.

Anonymous said...


Bernie said...

JP and the Guys, love your blog.

Don't have much time for blogging as you know beyond our usual e-mail debates, but with respect to the sovereign love of God-the love/hate, election thing I preached on from Mal. 1 and Ro. 9, I came upon today as providence would have it (you know providence right? Not the city in New England but more of that great Calvninistic doctrine of sovereingty), this article from John MacArthur posted on his site today, which lays out the deal pretty well.

Maybe since he has a few more years in the ministry than I, and quite a few more degrees in theology and years of seminary than little ole me (which you guys must love), you'll give greater credibility to the argument.


The Love of God and the Non-Elect

Does God love only the elect and hate the non-elect?

By John MacArthur

The fact that some sinners are not elected to salvation is no proof that God’s attitude toward them is utterly devoid of sincere love.

We know from Scripture that God is compassionate, kind, generous, and good even to the most stubborn sinners. Who can deny that these mercies flow out of God’s boundless love? Yet it is evident that they are showered even on unrepentant sinners.

It must be acknowledged, however, that explaining God’s love toward the reprobate is not as simple as most modern evangelicals want to make it. Clearly there is a sense in which the psalmist’s expression, “I hate the assembly of evildoers” (Ps. 26:5) is a reflection of the mind of God. “Do I not hate those who hate Thee, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against Thee? I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become my enemies” (Ps. 139:21-22).

Such hatred as the psalmist expressed is a virtue, and we have every reason to conclude that it is a hatred God Himself shares. After all, He did say, “I have hated Esau” (Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13). The context reveals God was speaking of a whole race of wicked people. So there is a true and real sense in which Scripture teaches that God hates the wicked.

So an important distinction must be made. God loves believers with a particular love. It is a family love, the ultimate love of an eternal Father for His children. It is the consummate love of a Bridegroom for His bride.

It is an eternal love that guarantees their salvation from sin and its ghastly penalty. That special love is reserved for believers alone.

However, limiting this saving, everlasting love to His chosen ones does not render God’s compassion, mercy, goodness, and love for the rest of mankind insincere or meaningless.

When God invites sinners to repent and receive forgiveness (Isa. 1:18; Matt. 11:28-30), His pleading is from a sincere heart of genuine love. “‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezek. 33:11).

Clearly God does love even those who spurn His tender mercy, but it is a different quality of love, and different in degree from His love for His own.

(Today’s post was adapted from John’s book, The God Who Loves, pp. 14, 16).

Anonymous said...

HEY BERNIE!!! OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVEN'T READ A LITTLE BOOK I LIKE TO CALL 1ST JOHN. PARTICULARY 1ST JOHN 4:10, "NOT THAT WE LOVED GOD, BUT THAT HE LOVED US..." WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THAT SUCKA!!!!! alright man i'll see ya sat. nite. lewis isn't coming... he'd rather get drunk.


Anonymous said...

First, screwtapy, best responce ever. Secondly. Acts 15:5-8 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." 6The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.

Its for all of us. As well, God elected Isreal as his chosen nation, not America. So if election is true, then we are all screwed.

As well. Its good to know that BD gets all his insance ideas from McA. At least it makes his intentions not seem as malignant.


John 14:31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

John 3:25 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.

He loved the world so much, that he put his SON whom he LOVED to death so the the WORLD could be saved because he LOVED the WORLD.

Not just the people we like or don't like. Christians need to stop trying to find reasons to send people to hell when they don't agree with them.

The Artist Formly Known As Dr. Nate