Romans 9, pt. 6

Posted: July 15, 2010 by graysutanto in Romans 9
Tags: , , , , ,

14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?… Here Paul foresees and anticipates what he knows will be an objection for surely Paul had received this objection before. Here the fallen man is prone to say that God is unjust in choosing one over the other. How can this be fair? And Paul emphatically answers: By no means!… There is indeed no injustice in God’s part. No one receives less than what they deserve. The elect receives mercy, which is more than they deserve, while the reprobates receive justice, which is exactly what they deserve. Paul continues to defend the justice of God in verse fifteen.

15For he says to Moses , “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”… This is the basis in which God elects His people, as Paul quotes Exodus 33:19. The context of this quotation was God’s response to Moses when Moses prayed for the salvation of the whole people. As if God said that it will depend entirely upon His good pleasure regarding who will receive His mercy and whom His wrath. God has the complete freedom to do what He wills. The basis of His righteousness in electing some and passing over others is that he can do what He pleases – that His authority alone is sufficient. This means that God is never externally influenced to make a decision. For to say that there was something external to God that incited him to bestow mercy upon one and not the other would be making mercy much less mercy, and God much less of a God.

16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy….Paul concludes his previous thought with this summary – that salvation depends not on human will or any sort of merit in man, but solely on God’s mercy. This is the very essence of grace, and no one has a claim to the mercies of God. This passage further reinstates salvation by grace alone, with nothing in the human will that can illicit the grace of God. Some theologians express the view that the grace of God co-operates with the will of man to bring about salvation and perseverance, but it seems to me that Paul’s argument thus far does not leave any place for the will of man as playing a part in salvation.

17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,”… This refers to the Pharoah of Exodus. For this very purpose I have raised you up,…the Hebrew uses the causative conjugation of a verb here, literally meaning “I made you stand”. Paul here is arguing that God was perfectly sovereign even through Pharoah’s disobedience; that it was God who preserved Pharoah. That I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Pharoah then, as mighty as he might have been, and as persistent as he was in being disobedient to God was preserved by the will of God to show forth His power. This is used by Paul in support of God’s sovereignty in using the reprobate for His glory, and God was fully righteous in predestining Pharoah to destruction. It follows from this that it would be meaningless and futile to content against the will of God, that even the disobedience of the reprobate is used by God in the secret decree of His providence.

18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills… Paul sums up his argument thus far, coming back to the fact that God has mercy on whomever it pleases Him, and hardens whomever He wills. This statement implies that all men deserve wrath and are not entitled to God’s mercy. The word “hardens” here does not mean mere permission, but also the operation of the wrath of God.

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Comments
  1. Omar F. says:

    Hm,

    (1) “This means that God is never externally influenced to make a decision. For to say that there was something external to God that incited him to bestow mercy upon one and not the other would be making mercy much less mercy, and God much less of a God.”

    What if God unconditionally chooses to be influenced by external circumstances? Like you said God can do whatever he wants, why can’t he pick–freely and from his good pleasure–to be influenced from external circumstances? If so, then that makes the following weak: “This means that God is NEVER externally influenced to make a decision.”

    This is to confuse first-order decisions with second-order decisions. My first-order decision can be, for example: “I desire to be influenced by external circumstances”. With that first-order decision, I base my second-order decisions on it. Now here God is still sovereign since his first-order decisions are not being externally influenced, but not so with his second-order decisions since that’s his “good pleasure”; his “good pleasure” is for his second-order decisions to be influenced by external circumstances.

    (2) “Some theologians express the view that the grace of God co-operates with the will of man to bring about salvation and perseverance, but it seems to me that Paul’s argument thus far does not leave any place for the will of man as playing a part in salvation.”

    Again there is a simple solution to this. There is a distinction between God picking some salvific plan X and the content of “X”. God can pick X unconditionally, but the content of X or what X describes is conditional. This satisfies what Paul is saying, but still does not get you this unconditional election. Here is an example, Let “X” be the following:

    (X) God conditionally saves the elect.

    Now surely the CONTENT of (X) or what (X) is saying is conditional. However, God choosing (X) ITSELF is not conditional. Rather God unconditionally chooses (X) from his good pleasure. The point of all of this is that your exegesis is wanting; most of your comments on the passages don’t follow.

  2. graysutanto says:

    Hey so we talk again Omar hehe

    hmm it seems to me that ur offering an interpretation that just does not give the simplest explanation as to what the text says.
    But I am intrigued because I know you are a mullonist, what is your approach to Romans 9?
    What is it about unconditional election that is so absurd to you?
    If you find that my exegesis is wanting, I dont believe that your argument that God wants to make his first order decision to be influenced by external forces could be found anywhere in Scripture.

    We can philosophize all we want, speculate and ask what if’s or we can discuss what the Bible actually says about God.
    Hmmm I also remembered that you dont agree with Sola Scripture…. which I found odd. Why?

    God bless

    • Omar F. says:

      I randomly checked this website again, and found a reply; didn’t think that there would be one.

      Here are some comments to your response:

      You say: “hmm it seems to me that ur offering an interpretation that just does not give the simplest explanation as to what the text says.”

      First, I fail to see why your explanation is simpler. Also, according to your Reformed background, why would that matter? If Romans 9 says something complex but true so much the worse for a false but simple explanation of the text.

      You say: “But I am intrigued because I know you are a mullonist, what is your approach to Romans 9?”

      Well, my first post was supposed to show that it is by no means necessary that Romans 9 be interpreted in a Reformed fashion. I don’t really think that Paul is giving us a doctrine of unconditional election in Romans 9. Paul says things like: “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” Sure we can agree with that but why does that imply unconditional election? Paul answers who God, from his good pleasure, chooses to have mercy on in chapters 10 and 11 of Romans; I don’t think he answers it in 9. In Romans 9, Paul, more or less, bullies the Jews into giving up the idea that salvation is an ethnic thing. In other words, Paul is simply telling his audience what God CAN do and not what He DID do. He tells his audience what God DOES about salvation in the following chapters of Romans.

      One thing Molinism does do is help us understand what Paul means by phrases like “He hardens whom He desires”. But this is no longer doing exegesis but trying to develop doctrine which I think the Reformer does a bad job at because they think that phrase is incompatible with a Libertarian freedom (notice how the Bible says nothing about that that phrase is incompatible with L.freedom).

      You say: “What is it about unconditional election that is so absurd to you?”

      Believe it or not, logically speaking, unconditional election is actually COMPATIBLE with Molinism on a certain level. However, I don’t think it is taught in Scripture nor is it taught in the majority of Church history (which for me is an immediate red flag). And at the end of the day, it strikes me that the doctrine is at odds with God’s nature.

      You say: “If you find that my exegesis is wanting, I dont believe that your argument that God wants to make his first order decision to be influenced by external forces could be found anywhere in Scripture.”

      This seems to misunderstand the nature of what you were doing. There is an important distinction between: (1) what Scripture says and (2) How we understand what Scripture is saying. Scripture provides us with (1) and it does not provide us with (2). My first post should be understood in the realm of (2) and not (1). If you actually look deeper into your own “exegesis”, you’ll see that even what you were doing is actually (2) and not (1). My view helps us understand two types of sayings: On the one hand, people exercising faith and becoming saved (e.g., mostly in the gospels, and on the other hand, God saving people (e.g., mostly in Paul). Your view seems to be an extreme that leans towards the latter.

      You say: “We can philosophize all we want, speculate and ask what if’s or we can discuss what the Bible actually says about God.”

      Again, this is to misunderstand what we are doing. I’ve made this distinction before, but I fear that I must make it again. There is a distinction between your interpretation and the Scripture. And there is also another distinction between what the Scripture says and how we understand what the Scripture says. You get those two distinctions confused. What you were doing is the following: you were doing a little bit of FALLIBLY interpreting the Scriptures and a lot of trying to understand what the Scripture is saying; and once more, your UNDERSTANDING of what the Scripture is saying is NOT found in Scripture. So you’re doing just as much philosophizing as I am when it comes down to it.

      You say: “Hmmm I also remembered that you dont agree with Sola Scripture…. which I found odd. Why?”

      The interesting thing is that I find your above statement to be odd too. Both Eastren Orthodoxy and Catholicism deny Sola Scripture. And they make up the majority of Christendom. So basically you’re the minority.

      I can say tons of things about why I think it’s false, but the following two GENERAL claims will have to suffice:

      (1) Sola Scripture is not taught in Scripture.

      (2) Sola Scriptura goes against 1500 years of Church teachings (And Augustine won’t even help you here).

      In Christ,
      Omar F.

  3. Brian says:

    Clarification Omar please. So God’s “first order” decision is to allow Himself to be influenced by the decisions and choices of people. Is that irrespective of whether those decisions are righteous, moral etc; or does He then monitor the usefulness of those decisions for His eternal purposes?
    Does foreknowledge mean that God knows of those decisions and thus factors that into His first order decision… or is He not bothered what those decisions are because He has surrendered the right to interfere? so God becomes which… 1. Liberal or 2. A censor or 3. Reactive to our decisions. Your thoughts please.

  4. Omar F. says:

    Brian,

    You say: “So God’s “first order” decision is to allow Himself to be influenced by the decisions and choices of people.”

    I think you’re misunderstanding what I was doing. I was simply giving a counter-example. The point of the counter-example is to show that at least in SOME circumstances God can both be sovereign and be influenced by external circumstances. A good example of this where it ACTUALLY happens, I think, is with election. I think election is based on Faith in Christ.

    Keep in mind that a counter-example to Gray’s statement (i.e., “This means that God is NEVER externally influenced to make a decision.”) requires me to give at least ONE instance where God is influenced by external circumstances to show that it’s false. So I don’t think that God is ALWAYS influenced by external circumstances. Hence, your question: “Is that irrespective of whether those decisions are righteous, moral etc; or does He then monitor the usefulness of those decisions for His eternal purposes?” is sort of irrelevant since I didn’t really say much or need to say much about the EXTENT of which God is influenced.

    The example I give is “(X)” (I would go back and reread that section to understand what I mean). That’s a good way to understand what I mean by unconditionally choosing a conditional election.

    And I am sorry, but I don’t really understand this question: “Does foreknowledge mean that God knows of those decisions and thus factors that into His first order decision… or is He not bothered what those decisions are because He has surrendered the right to interfere?”

    I am a Molinist, so I think God knows counterfactuals of the sort: “If person S were placed in a set of circumstances C, then S would FREELY preform some action A”.

  5. […] Reformation Coalition: Romans 9, Pt. 7 (see also part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). […]

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