Romans 9 - Part 1
I recently posted on Romans 8:28-30. In the comments section one of my new favorite bloggers (although I think he is tragically wrong about a bit of his theology), Daniel, noted that he understood Romans 9 different than I did. I searched through his blog and read the three articles that I could find. I will probably reference parts of his analysis throughout this series. Hopefully Daniel and everyone else will note that this is not a personal attack on Daniel. He and I both love Jesus and accordingly we both of Truth. To love truth is to hate error. We would both be derelict of duty if we did not earnestly contend for truth.
Daniel stated that "The very heart of Calvinism is built around a particular interpretation of Romans 9." While Romans 9 certainly speaks the truth of the Doctrines of Grace very clearly, it should be noted that the entire system does not live or die off of one text. There are many texts that in my opinion clearly teach Calvinism. John 6, for example, is probably quoted just as much if not more than Romans 9. The same could be said about Ephesians 1 and 2, Romans 8, etc.
With that we can begin the discussion of Romans 9. We must remember that Romans 9 comes on the heels of Romans 8 that has the great chain of redemption (v. 28-30). Based on this reality Paul says, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" Here, Paul speaks of a category of people who are different than the rest of the world. Paul uses different terminology for the same people in verse 33: "Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies…" Paul then gives the great promise to these elect that nothing can separate them from the love of God. However, these people of God, "the elect", do not at first glance appear to be the same people of God of our Fathers (viz. the Jews). If the promises that were once offered to the Jews have not been satisfied, then what is to guarantee that this promise will be delivered? To this objection the great orator begins his discussion of Romans 9.
"I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen."
Paul is a Jew and has deep compassion for the state of his brethren according to the flesh. He longs for their salvation and wishes that he could even be accursed if it would mean their salvation. This is very important along with the following two quotations: "belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory" and "from whom is the Christ (anointed one / Messiah) according to the flesh. Paul is sorrowful and wishes he could take their place (viz. accursed and separated from Christ).
Now, we must remember that this is the beginning of Romans 9. In the verse 5 verses we have a distraught Paul who laments the eternal peril of their souls. He longs for them to have the blessings which include adoption as sons, glory, the one who delivers people from their sins (the Christ). This is the backdrop of Romans 9. Try as some might, this cannot be ignored.
Insert Polemical Theology (we must now view a competing view that seems to deny this truth):
"However, while his argument deals with the eternal salvation of the Jews in his lifetime, Paul is not necessarily discussing the salvation of the individuals that he mentions in his illustrations."
"Paul did not intend to prove from these illustrations that God had damned Ishmael or Esau. With the possible exception of Heb. 12, the Biblical record is quite silent concerning the eternal futures of either of these individuals. This is not the focus. Paul is only illustrating that in the past not every physical descendant of Abraham was selected to be a recipient of God's temporal blessings. This means that now God is not obligated to give eternal blessings to every Jew regardless of their rejection of Christ."
First, I must contend that Hebrews 12 seems to make clear the eternal state of Esau. Second, we must ask ourselves why it is that Paul is so distraught for these first few verses about the salvation of the Jews, but then would use illustrations that apparently do not deal with the subject matter. What is the election that was discussed in Romans 8? What is causing Paul great sorrow and unceasing grief? Paul is using his illustrations for the purpose of explaining the election just mentioned. It is this reality, that most of his Jewish brothers were not elect, that causes his sorrow. It is this reason that he begins to use his illustrations. It seems clear to me to look at the following illustrations in light of what he has been talking about.
Daniel himself has recognized that Paul’ thesis is going to deal with the question of how God is faithful without granting eternal salvation to every Jew. However, he then concludes that the illustrations are only dealing with "temporal blessings". I can find no reason from the text to make this leap and ample evidence that would suggest otherwise. I must ask Daniel (and I do not mean to put him on the spot necessarily) if he is denying what seems evident from the text in order to maintain his previous view. I think we can all relate to this. Before I was a Calvinist, I found myself doing the same thing in several locations (and this is one of them).
That is all for the first look at Romans 9. All we have done so far is to introduce the series, consider briefly the literary context (following Romans 8), and evaluate Paul’s motive in light of his first 5 verses. From this we have asked whether it is legitimate for Daniel to maintain his view of the following illustrations.
In the next post, I will begin to move through the illustrations and hopefully show that we are building up to a great affirmation of Reformed Soteriology.
In Christ alone,