“An act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereignty” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 670) 

Five Conditions of Election from Romans 9 

Before giving consideration to this chapter of Romans it is important for us to realize why Paul begins the argument he does in verse 6. Paul has just finished expounding the major tenants of the gospel. He began by showing the depravity and sinfulness of all man kind, both Jews and Gentiles (1:18-3:21), making particular reference to the fact that “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly …but he is a Jew who is one inwardly” (Rom. 2:28-29). Then Paul made known the great doctrine of justification by faith alone using Abraham as the example for all who would follow in Romans 3-4. 

Having established the foundation of the faith, he then masterfully deals with outworking of grace in the life of the believer (sanctification) in chapters 5-7. But Paul continues his discussion of this amazing grace by bringing to its ultimate fulfillment in Romans 8, where he assures the Christian of the restoration of the creation and the final glorification of the saints. And He ends it with the great statement of Romans 8:38-39: 

“For I am convinced that neither death, no life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

An informed reader should find themselves at some what of a dilemma. If God chose Israel and loved Israel, then how can Paul assert that some Israelites are outside of salvation? Has God’s love failed? Has God’s word, His promises to Israel failed? Paul’s response shows us not only God’s basis or condition for choosing Israel, but for choosing all those who would be His people. 

  1. Conditioned upon the promise of God (9:6-9)

“That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but rather the children of promise are regarded as descendants.” (8) 

As his first illustration of God’s choosing people, he calls upon the example of Isaac and Ishmael. Here you had two sons from one father Abraham, who was the father of the Jewish faith. Yet it was not the son who was conceived by means of human wisdom and human effort (Gen. 16), but the son who was conceived by divine intervention that was regarded as the true beneficiary of the promises of God. 

It is significant to notice that God’s promise in Romans 9:9, which was made in Genesis 18:14 preceded the actual birth of Isaac. Thus God’s choice could not be based upon anything in Isaac, but rather Isaac was simple the offspring who fulfilled the divine purpose and proved the faithfulness of God’s word to both Abraham and Sarah. 

  1. Conditioned upon the calling of God (9:10-13)

For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, but because of Him who calls (11) 

In keeping with the line of patriarchs, Paul moves from Isaac to his sons Jacob and Esau. One might tempt to argue from the previous example that God’s choice stemmed from the condition in which they were born, Ishmael being born an illegitimate son of Hagar and Isaac being the legitimate son of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Yet the example of Jacob and Esau eliminates that possibility for they were both born to the same mother, Rebekah.  

However, God demonstrates his independence in choosing Jacob the younger brother over Esau. And in doing so God has established a condition that is contrary to the natural order of heredity. How could God declare before either of them were born or had done anything that the blessing and birthright that rightly would belong to the older would come to the younger? It is here we see that reality of Romans 8:38-39 begin to come to life. Why did Jacob prevail? It was because God loved him. 

  1. Conditioned upon the compassion of God (9:14-18)

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (16)

“So then, He has mercy on whom He desires and He hardens whom He desires.” (18) 

In response to the possible object that God cannot indiscriminately choose whom ever He desires, Paul appeals to mans need for mercy. As Paul has made clear from the first 3 chapters of this epistle all of mankind stands in need of compassion and mercy from God.  God is not some how unjust because he does not extent mercy to someone. In fact, if there were a reason why God was indebted to show someone mercy, then it would no longer been an act of grace. Those who are truly God’s people are not those who have done anything, but rather simply those who discover the mercies of God. 

He here appeals to the example of Pharaoh as one who did not find mercy. When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, he had already determined that His instructions to Pharaoh would not be accompanied with mercy, but rather demonstrations of God’s power. As a result of God’s revelation to Pharaoh, his heart was hardened and he was eventually destroyed by the waters of the Red Sea. It is interesting in midst of the discussions about living a Purpose Driven Life; I have never found many people who discuss the purpose of Pharaoh’s life. It seems that people are all too eager to presume that God who never allow them to suffer the same fait as Pharaoh. Yet Hebrews 3-4 contain serious exhortations to us to avoid the hardening of our own hearts. 

  1. Conditioned upon the will of God (9:19-26)

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” (19)

“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory,” (22-23) 

Using the imagery of a potter molding clay, Paul presses home the point that God’s choice depends upon God’s will and God’s purposes. This potter fashions from one lump of clay two different types of vessels: the one a vessel of wrath and the other a vessel of mercy. So too God fashions from the masses of humanity to distinct groups of people: those upon whom He will demonstrate His wrath and His power and those upon whom He will make known the riches of His grace. And just as the potter is sovereign over the clay, God is sovereign of mankind. 

We must also be willing to accept the reality of this verse as well. God has created some people who will not be saved, who will not experience His mercy, but upon whom He will glorify Himself through the demonstration of His wrath and revealing of His power. Yet at the same time we must recognize that the focal point of eternity will not be those who suffer wrath, but those who manifest the riches of His glory. Yet let us note with what patience God deals with those “prepared for destruction,” and let move us to bear with unbelievers patiently as well. 

  1. Conditioned upon the word of God (9:27-29)

“For the Lord will execute (make, cause) His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” (28) 

Since God as already laid out the plan of redemptive history in His Word, all that remains is for it to be executed on the earth. So here we see that the real reason why not all Israel is saved is because God has declared that it is only the remnant that will be saved. We as Christians, as those with the mind of Christ, stand in a unique position of being able to watch that which God has declare come to pass.  

This then finishes the argument that Paul began in verse 6, “it is not as though the word of God has failed.” No just the opposite is true! The word of God has demonstrated itself to have been successful at what ever purposes God has established. Consider already just in this chapter how many times God’s word has shown itself true: the birth of Isaac, the choice of Jacob, the hardening of Pharaoh, the making of a people out of those who were formerly not a people, and the preservation of a remnant within Israel. 

Implications for Evangelism

  • First and foremost, if we are willing to recognize that the ultimate determining factor in a person’s salvation in God’s choice of them according to his own will, it should drive us to prayer. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” (Rom. 10:1) Notice the connection between the heart’s desire and prayer. Paul recognized that if His heart’s desire was to be fulfilled God was going to have to bring it to pass.

 

  • Second, since God’s calling and election of individuals has come to them through “the word of promise” (8-9), what He has said (12, 15), and the written word or Scripture (13, 17, 25-29), the responsibility falls to us to proclaim the promises of God, to preach the “word of Christ” (10:17). There is only one means by which those how have been chosen come to faith and that is through the word of God. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn. 10:27) And how will his sheep hear His voice if what He has spoken is not made known to them?
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