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“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?

I believe strongly in the Doctrine of Election and the Sovereignty of God in salvation. Most of my friends and those that I hang out with do as well. Yet I sometimes wonder if in the midst of considering these important truths we forget why it is that people do not go to heaven in the first place. Why is it that people will not be saved? What is it that keeps men out of heaven? When they stand before God on judgment day and say, “I would have trusted in you, but You did not elect me…You did not choose me or I would have believed,” will they find a sympathetic ear.  Or to put it in more biblical terms will they say, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” (Rom. 9:19).

So then whose “fault” is it that people do not go to heaven? Is it God’s? After all, He did not choose them. He did not elect them. If that is why you think that people do not go to heaven, (or to put it another way…why they go to hell) then I think you have failed to understand the truth about the character of God and the character of man.

The Character of God.  First, and foremost, we must always remember that God is Holy, Holy, Holy. (Isa. 6:3, Rev. 4:8). Because of He is holy, He expects us to be holy as well. In fact, it is only other holy beings, such as the angels, that are allowed to be in His presence.

Second, God is Righteous and Just. It is a necessary outflow of His character not only to declare that which is contrary to His own character to be impure and unholy, but also execute perfect justice on all offenders of His holiness. And though we may look at this world from time to time and say, “If God is just and righteous, why do the wicked remain unpunished?” To which I can only say that there will be a day when the “righteous judgment” of God will be revealed (Rom. 2:5)

Third, “God is love” (1 Jn4:8). He is a good God, compassionate and full of lovingkindness. If we believe that God takes pleasure in destroying sinners, I think we have misunderstood His heart. While God may take pleasure in maintaining justice, it does not please Him to punish the wicked. “For I have no pleasure in the death of the of everyone who dies,” declares the Lord God, “Therefore, repent and live.” (Ezek 18:32). In fact, the clearest demonstration of God’s love was His sending His Son to save the world from their sins. The cross stands as a testimony of God’s love for His enemies, because He demonstrated His love not in dying for the righteous, but sinners. Christ sacrifice would be the instrument through which God would be able to reconcile His enemies to Himself. Yet, for those who have trusted in Christ, He did not just make these enemies friends, but made them a part of His family. He adopted them as sons and gave them a share of Christ’s inheritence.

The Character of Man. Yet when we consider the character of man we must realize one important truth. He is be nature a sinner and an enemy of God. He is a sinner, because he has inherited a corrupted nature from his first father, Adam. He is a sinner, because he has failed to live his life in perfect conformity to the holiness of God and has failed to give God the glory that was due to Him alone. 

He is an enemy, because He has set his will in opposition to God. He seeks glory and honor and immortality not through obedience to His Maker, but through His own selfish means. He may claim to seek God, but will not seek Him on His terms. He make seek to be righteous, but will never submit to the righteousness of God. He will be more than pleased to set himself as the judge of others, but never allow himself to be judged by God.

Yet, as I said earlier it was for men like this, like you and me, that Christ died. And God took great pleasure in preforming the act of redemption. So why is it that people will not “repent and live.” It is not because God has not made salvation availble to them, but because they refuse to make peace with God. They refuse to acknowledge their hostility toward Him and submit themselves to Him and to entrust themselves to Him. They would rather continue in their own ways and spit on the goodness that He has shown to them in this life. “Though the wicked is shown favor, he does not learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:10, cf. Rom. 2:4-5)

So in the end why do people not go to heaven…. They don’t want to.  

Otherwise they would be willing to submit themselves to the righteousness of God which comes through believing in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, “for if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believe resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.