Reflections on Election in Romans 9

Is Romans 9 telling us about salvation? Is it telling us about nations or individuals? Theologian Tom Schreiner published his thoughts on election in Romans 9 in the March 1993 edition of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

One thought on “Reflections on Election in Romans 9

  1. The statement, “I will show mercy to whomever I choose; I will have pity on whomever I wish” (Romans 9:15) seems to be saying that God blindly chooses to save some people.

    This implies that God also blindly chooses to condemn others to hell. St. Paul has quoted Exodus 33:19 for that statement. The quote is following the Golden Calf incident of chapter 32. God chose Moses over firstborn Aaron. It was not blindly that God chose Moses, but because of Aaron’s sin in forming the idol for the people to worship. The inclusion of this story by St.

    Paul in Romans 9 continues his motif of the firstborn being passed over in favor of the younger brother. In v. 9 Isaac is chosen over Ishmael and in v. 13 Jacob is chosen over Esau. St. Paul’s point is not that God predestines to heaven and hell, but rather that God will pass over the unrighteous firstborn (the Jews) in favor of the righteous younger brother (the Gentile).

    God did not do this arbitrarily. He did this because the Jews hardened their hearts against the acceptance of Jesus. They refused to accept the obvious fact that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus spoke to the Pharisees on this very subject. “If you were blind there would be no sin in that. But 'we see’, you say, and your sin remains” (John 9:41).

    “But you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:26). St. Paul then introduces the example of Pharaoh as one who refused to believe something that was obvious (vv. 17-18). Some have wrongly concluded that these verses prove that God arbitrarily makes some people hard-hearted against the Gospel.

    It is important to note that when Scripture says that God hardened someone’s heart it means that God let that person suffer the consequences of his freely chosen action. “And Pharaoh seeing that rest was given, hardened his own heart, and did not hear them, as the Lord had commanded” (Exodus 8:15; see also 8:28 & 9:34).

    God deals with individuals according to their decisions. If one refuses God then God may let that person suffer the consequences of his own freely chosen action. “And so God has given those people over to do the filthy things their hearts desire” (Romans 1:24 GNT [Good News Translation]).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *