More thoughts on Romans 9
Over the last 2 weeks, I have received a number of really thoughtful emails with thoughtful questions about Romans 9 and my two sermons on that chapter (which can be found, here). This such a challenging section of Scripture. Thus I want to offer some further thoughts on election in particular.
1. In Romans 9:6-13, Paul is describing God’s election of a family line for his story of redemption:
- “…not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.'” (v.7)
- “As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (v.13)
Paul is being clear that there is a narrative of redemption that is tied to an ancestral line: Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Moses to David to Jesus… God chose that family line, ‘in order that God’s purpose of election might continue.’ (v.11) The good news in this election is that because it is based on God’s choice, and not on the particular merit of the family line, we can be confident that God will accomplish the purpose that He intends.
Take-away: God has chosen a group of people (through Isaac and Jacob’s line) who will bring His message of redemption to the whole world. He elected a people for his narrative of redemption through His Son.
The follow-up question to this statement is: What about Ishmael and Esau and their family line? We know from the Old Testament that God also had a special relationship with Ishmael (Genesis 16) and Esau (his family became the Edomites). God didn’t forget about them and His longing is that the Ishmael and Esau families, like all the families on earth, would respond to the narrative of redemption He is working out through the line that goes through Jesus. Election in verses 6-13 is a choice, by God, to create a way of salvation through His son, that is declared through His people.
2. The image of the potter and the clay is really important for understanding how God is working.
- First, God is the potter. We are the clay. God IS working… in every person that you see. He is revealing His grace (as Paul writes above in Titus 2.11). He is working in the circumstances of our lives. He is inviting us to respond to Him. We can’t see all the work, but He IS doing it. In everyone.
- Second, Paul makes a clear note in v.23 that God must prepare us, in order for us to receive His glory: “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” God never creates something for destruction. The Scriptures do not teach that anywhere. Instead, the Scriptures teach that after God creates, His creation fell away from Him. All of us. Humans, who bear His image, all choose, at some point, to worship something that is not God. In our places of being far from God, of worshiping something other than God, God prepares us for glory so that we can become vessels of mercy. God is always working, in every person we meet, inviting them to respond. We must respond if we want to have a relationship with Him.
3. You can know if you are elect.
It’s actually pretty simple:
- If you are following Jesus in faith.
- If you have asked Jesus to forgive your sins.
- If you are inviting Jesus to lead your life through the presence of His Holy Spirit.
- If you are seeking out corporate worship and trying to live with integrity with what you believe.
- If you are asking, ‘Am I elect?”
I am so confident of this because Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)” The only reason you are wondering if you are elect is because the Father is working in you and drawing you to Himself. Keep responding to every prompting and nudging. Do what He says. He loves you. You are elect.
4. I want to reiterate what I said at the end of the sermon, treat EVERYONE as if they are elect, because you don’t know what God is doing in them right now- especially through you!
Romans 9 never, ever permits us to be smug, judgmental, or lazy towards anyone. As people who are elect, we are never told to label others or to feel superior over them. In fact, our response to Jesus is a response to the one who said “…even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)”
The church is full of the elect. Praise God! And the elect must be the hands and feet, the heart of compassion, the volition of empathy, and the will of service to a broken and busted world that is desperate to know the love of God. Be the elect. Tell the narrative of God’s redemption that came to us through His choice of a family that ran through His Son, Jesus. Treat everyone you meet as the precious vessel that our loving Father, the potter is working on, so that they can experience mercy and be a vessel of mercy to the world.
You are elect, act like it.
God is working in everyone you meet, treat them like it.