Romans 9:1-29 — The problem and wonder of election (part 2)

We ended the last blog with the question, “If our salvation is based on God’s election alone, isn’t he then choosing capriciously who to save and who to damn to hell?”

The short answer to this is no.  It’s not capricious.  God has a determined purpose and plan that stands behind every decision he makes.  The problem, of course, is that he hasn’t completely revealed the details of his plan, nor the reasons for each decision he makes, namely, why he chooses to save some and not others.

That’s why I said in the last blog, no matter how much we look at this issue, we can never fully understand it.  We can never fully understand it because God has not fully revealed everything yet.

Because of this, many people cry out that this choosing is unjust.

And when God says,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion,” (15)

and Paul writes,

God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.  (18)

they say, “It’s not fair!  How can God choose to have mercy on some and not on others.  How can he simply send people to hell because he chose to harden them, instead of showing them mercy.  You can hardly blame them.”

After all,

Who resists [God’s] will?  (19)

Paul gives two answers.  First,

Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'”  Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?  (20-21)

In other words, God is the creator.  He has every right to do what he pleases with what he’s created.  He has every right to use what he’s created for whatever purpose he chooses.

But then Paul says something interesting.  He says,

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction?  (22)

What is he saying here?  I think what he’s saying is God made his plans, and then essentially told those he prepared for destruction, “Prove me wrong.  Prove to me that I made the wrong decision, and that you deserve salvation.”  And he waited.  And waited.  And waited.  But the more he waited, the worse things got.

You see this in the land of Canaan, the land God gave to the Israelites.  After Abraham initially arrived there, God told him,

In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.

In other words, though God had determined to judge the Amorites for their sin, he was not bringing immediate judgment.  He gave them every opportunity to prove they were not worthy of destruction.  But all they did was prove day by day that they deserved to be destroyed.  And when God brought the Israelites back out from Egypt, he used them as the instrument of his judgment on these people.

God did the same with the world before the flood.  Noah warned the people for 120 years that destruction was determined for them.  And they had all that time to prove God wrong.  That they weren’t that bad.  But all they did was prove that they deserved destruction.

In short, it’s not as though people go to hell even though they have every desire to seek God and follow him.  It’s not as though they’re saying to God, “I repent of my sin.  Please forgive me,” and God says, “No.  I haven’t chosen you.  You’re not part of my plan so you’re going to hell.”

But people from their own volition choose to reject God, and no matter how much time God gives them, they only prove their worthiness of destruction.

That’s why Paul can say,

It (our election) does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.  (16)

If election depended on our desire or effort, we’d all be dead because none of us would ever on our own choose to follow God.  Therefore, his election is based purely on his mercy and grace.  More on this next time.

 

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About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: crossroad-web.com 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください: crossroad-web.com
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