Calvinism, Predestination, and Bible Interpretation; Part Two

Well, since Britt–a dear friend of ours and a good, godly man–has put it on my mind with his comment, let me make part two to cover Romans 9-11.

I need to keep this short enough for a blog, which will be a lot of work for me, so let me get right to the point:

Does Romans 9 say God Only Wants Some To Be Saved?

Let’s admit one thing to the Calvinists. Romans 9 definitely says that God can and may make people for the sake of wrath and dishonor. It is definitely, inarguably true that one of Paul’s arguments is that God can do whatever he wants, including making people that are destined from birth for wrath and destruction (Rom. 9:15-24).

What Calvinists miss is that there is a conclusion to Paul’s argument. Paul’s argument has a purpose!

First, the purpose. The context of Romans since chapter one is Paul’s Gospel of righteousness by faith vs. righteousness by the Law. From chapter one through chapter eleven, he addresses righteousness as it applies to the Jews and as it applies to the Gentiles.

His argument is that both Jews and Gentiles are supposed to obtain righteousness from God by faith, not by the Law.

Now in chapter nine, he tries to make it clear to Jewish Christian readers–his audience from chapters one through ten; he switches to the Gentile Christians in chapter eleven–that he still cares about Israel.

Verses one through five (of ch. 10) say that Israel matters. Verses six through ten says that Israel is not Israel according to the flesh but according to promise.

Then he launches into telling his Jewish Christian readers that God can choose whomever he wants.

The question the Calvinists fail to ask is, whom does God choose? Instead, they assume that their doctrine, that God chooses randomly (unconditionally) is what Paul is talking about.

However, that’s not what Paul is talking about. Paul concludes his section on God’s choice by saying, “… even us, whom he has called, not of the Jews only , but also of the Gentiles” (9:24).

He then quotes Scripture saying that God would choose a people from among those who were never his people.

Jews and Gentiles

The context since chapter one has been Jews and Gentiles. The context in chapter nine continues to be Jews and Gentiles. The context will stay Jews and Gentiles through chapter eleven.

Notice the heart of his “God can choose whomever he wants” argument in 9:18:

Therefore he has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he wills, he hardens.

So on whom does he will to have mercy, and whom does he will to harden? That question needs to be asked.

I speak to you Gentiles (11:13) … I don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery … that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (11:25).

God has hardened the Israelites and shown mercy to the Gentiles.

Calvinism and Bible Interpretation

It is not good or right to pull one argument out of the middle of a long string of arguments that are all about Jews and Gentiles and the righteousness of faith vs. the righteousness of the Law.

Paul’s topic in chapter 9 is not predestination or hardening. Paul’s topic in chapter nine is still Jews and Gentiles and the righteousness of faith vs. the righteousness of the Law.

Predestination, hardening, and God’s choice are arguments meant to advance his case that his Gospel to the Gentiles is true. His purpose is most certainly not to advance a new doctrine not taught anywhere else in Scripture, nor ever believed by any of the churches he or other apostles started.

God, from the beginning, intended to harden the Israelites and show mercy to the Gentiles, not to make random choices about who will be saved because he only wants some to be saved.

Bible Interpretation and Context

If anyone is open to Scriptures being pulled out of context by the Holy Spirit and applied to a unique situation, it’s me. I believe the Scriptures are living oracles, and I believe the Holy Spirit can guide us in interpreting them.

However, that does not mean that we ought to pull an argument out of its context and use it to disagree with the plain teaching of Scripture. In this case, I’m referring to the Calvinists pulling Paul’s argument in Romans 9 out of its context and using it to disagree with all the Scriptures that say God wants everyone to be saved.

Take a look at 2 Peter 3 sometime. What’s the context of that chapter? Well, the context is actually Peter trying to answer those who say the end will never come because it’s not come yet.

Part of his argument is that God is extending the time so that more people can be saved because he wants everyone to come to repentance.

The people being addressed in 2 Peter 3 are all people. The people being addressed in Romans 9 are nations, Jews and Gentiles.

It’s important to keep things straight.

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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