Romans 9 is one of the hardest chapters in the whole Bible because it explains election, which many believers simply cannot accept.
But I cannot, before God, skip Romans 9, which is the culmination of the repeated refrain in Scripture of “You are my people!” and “You are my God!” I know that this is a challenging truth, and I remember struggling with it when I was younger. My husband embraced it first, through the writings of Luther and Jonathan Edwards. It took me longer. I realize now it was because as R. C. Sproul explains in his sermon, I grew up in a pagan land and it was cross-cultural for me. I knew the Bible was the Word of God and talked about predestination and election, but I made it palatable for myself by adopting one of the myths that R. C. Sproul says is common
and which he dismantles in his sermon.
But I was closing my heart when I read Romans 9-11. If you read that honestly, the truth cannot be covered up. It is clear. God does choose those who will be saved. Shocking? Yes. Important? I believe it is, though I wouldn’t bring it up when I’m speaking to an inter-denominational group. You definitely can be saved without believing in election, yet any weakness in your theology weakens the whole grid. But on this blog, with the women we have, I feel we should look at this in depth over the next few weeks. Tim Keller likens it to hard candy. It is hard on the outside, but once you savor it and get to the inside, it so so sweet. It is WONDERFUL to realize that in the end, I do not have control, but that an
omniscient, loving, and just God does.
Every time I go into prison and witness the joy of these women of faith, I realize they have truly accepted God’s sovereignty, that though their circumstances are really so hard, they trust Him and find joy in their “God and their King.” They, because they know they have been chosen, are overwhelmed at His amazing grace. One beautiful thing about election is that if our salvation is truly based on God’s election, we can never lose our salvation. If is based on our tender-heartedness or wisdom in choosing Him, then that is a shaky foundation.
Election is a HARD yet SWEET truth, like candy that is hard on the outside and sweet inside. But I fully realize it will be hard at first.
I expect we will have disagreement in these next few weeks, but I ask that you listen and study with a teachable heart, and to express your opinions in love. I am praying for all of us to know the truth, for the truth is what sets us free.
1.What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday: Romans 9:1-14
2. Read Romans 9:1-5 and describe how Paul feels about his fellow Israelites who are his kinsman “according to the flesh,” but are not his kinsman according to the Spirit.
3. Read Romans 9:6-9.
A. Are all Israelites children of the promise according to verses 6-7?
B. Who are true children of Israel?
C. How does Paul illustrate this through the comparison with Isaac?
4. Read Romans 9:10-13
A. Challenge question: Usually the firstborn got the blessing, the lion’s share of the inheritance — how did God reverse that with Esau and Jacob? Why do you think He did that?
B. What point is Paul making through verse 11?
C. Read verse 13 and also this from D. A. Carson, and then share your thoughts.
God’s Elect People
God sets his affection on his chosen ones in a way he doesn’t set his affection on others.
The striking thing about passages like Deuteronomy 7:7–8 is when Israel is contrasted with other nations, the distinguishing feature includes nothing of personal or national merit; it’s nothing other than the love of God. God’s love is directed toward Israel in a way it’s not directed toward other nations.
This discriminating feature of God’s love surfaces frequently. “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated,” God declares (Mal. 1:2–3). Allow all the room you like for the Semitic nature of this contrast, observing the absolute form can be a way of articulating absolute preference, and yet God’s love in such passages is peculiarly directed toward the elect.
Similarly, in the New Testament we read Christ “loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). Repeatedly the New Testament tells us that God’s love is directed toward those who constitute the church.
D. What question concerning election does verse 14 ask and what is the answer?
Tuesday-Wednesday: Sproul’s Introductory Sermon
Because this is such a misunderstood doctrine, and many have formed their theology more on the basis of what seems fair to them than on the basis of Scripture, I want to take time this week with Sproul’s message. He died last year, was a giant in Reformed Theology, and a clear expositor of God’s Word. You may know him from Ligonier Ministries or his book, The Holiness of God. And, as you can tell from the audience response in this message, greatly beloved.
5. Have you studied election in depth before? Do you know what your particular church teaches concerning it?
Listen to this, and I advise note-taking.
6. Share any comments or notes.
7. Sproul gave some examples to show how we live in a pagan culture and are influenced by its thinking. Share one of his illustrations and the point he was making.
Sproul says because we have been raised in a pagan land, we haven’t grasped the power and dominion of God. With the glasses illustration, the point he was making is that people would say he had the free will to throw his glasses up, but then the law of gravity brought them down. He argued that it was all of God, for he had no power in himself to even throw his glasses up because:
8. Sproul says that this is one lie people in a pagan land believe:
Unless a person has the moral power within his soul to do what is right, he is not free.
How did Sproul dismantle that?
9. Why is it important to remember we were dead in our sins? That we were slaves to sin? How does this show we are dependent on God for salvation both from the penalty of sin and the power of sin?
I remember saying to Steve, “But Scripture says whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
He said, “That is true, But we cannot call upon the name of the Lord without His Spirit breathing life into us, for we were dead.”
10. Sproul dismantles the following mythical thinking — this is the one I embraced when I was younger:
God looks ahead to your life and knows what you will choose and on the basis of that makes his selection.
What is wrong with this thinking?
Tim Keller became convinced of election through discussions with Kathy when they were dating. Here were some of her questions.
A. If you were the one who chose Christ (rather than God choosing you) what quality was it in you that made you choose Him that an someone else did not have? How does this lead to a works based theology?
B. If salvation is on the basis of your tender-heartedness or wisdom, then how secure is your salvation?
11. If we truly believe we are chosen, we are more appreciative of grace. Sproul also gives an example of how we begin to take grace for granted with an illustration from his Bible teaching days in a Christian school. What was it?
12. A wise apologist dismantles what he knows will be the objection before it is even voiced. How does Paul do that in Romans 9:14?
13. What is your take-a-way and why?
Laura I encourage you, when you have the time, to read Revelation 7:1-8. As Sharon stated these verses clearly tell us the 144,000 are representatives of the tribes of Israel. 12,000 sealed from each tribe. The word sealed indicates God’s declaration of ownership and His protection. Paul tells Christians in Ephesians 4:30 they (we) were sealed by the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption. I hope what I’ve shared has helped.
The Jehovah Witnesses teach and believe only 144,00 of their members are going to go to Heaven. That’s why they go door to door trying to convert people. Each member is working and hoping they will be chosen. I think that knowledge can add to the confusion of the number 144,000.
10. What’s wrong with the thinking that God looks ahead to your life and knows what you will choose and on the basis of that makes His selection is that it strips God of His sovereignty and makes us think it was our good works as to why God chose us. We cannot choose Christ and turn from our sins unaided by God because we’re no longer saved by grace – Gods sovereign grace.
A. I think I answer this question above.
B. If salvation is based on my tender-heartedness or wisdom it isn’t secure at all because once again it’s based on what I do not His grace.
11. The illustration that Sproul gives from his teaching days that gives an example of taking grace for granted…when he gave an assignment, he gave a due date. Each time the due date came a certain amount of students asked for a couple more days, which he gave and that number grew each time. The third time students asked for more time just expecting he’d give it and when he said no, they began to complain that it wasn’t fair because he did it before. He called one student out who was especially vocal and said your assignment was late the first two times therefore I’m going to give you an F on both of those…that would be justice! Asking if anyone else wanted justice the classroom went silent.
If we experience God’s grace once, we’re grateful, twice, we’re jaded and the 3rd time we not only expect it, we demand it.
13. My take away for this week is the reminder of how hard this doctrine is to wrap our heads around. I have learned to take it in faith because I believe it is Biblical. I always think of Isaiah 58:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD.” Thank you Dee for being obedient in leading us in this study.
This group really has pondered well. I think it is important to realize the absolutely sovereignty, goodness, and wisdom of God. And to admit this is a mystery, but we will trust Him.
I wish this was a 2 week study. I have been working 10 hour days and have had events going on both the weekend before and this weekend. I haven’t had time for the discussion part and I really wanted to participate in that aspect.
I understand Dawn. It is a hard topic.
I had planned to do it for a few weeks, but I also find it is so upsetting to some that I want to move on. It is a mystery, and I’m content if people recognize God’s sovereignty and leave the mystery to Him. Though I am Reformed in my theology, I realize many here are not, and I don’t want to have this blog turn into an argument.
Dee, I hope my questions weren’t upsetting to anyone. I just truly don’t understand all of this and need help. I feel like Susan; all these thoughts swirling in my head.
Oh no — I can tell that you and several others were upset by the whole topic. It is a hard truth initially, and I felt I needed to go there to complete the You are my People journey. For some the truth is very calming, for others upsetting. I like the idea of allowing God to reveal the mystery of it to His children and simply moving on.
Thank you Wendy for the sweet comments. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly my overcoming the devastation I have faced in my life is absolutely most definitely a God-thing!!!
13. I’m sitting here in the pecan orchard contemplating my take-a-way as I pick up pecans. What stood out to me this week was the two tracks running parallel analogy. I think it was Bing’s husband who shared that with her. Election, God’s Sovereignty, and God’s love for His rebellious human creatures are just too overwhelming for my limited thinking to comprehend. I accept by faith with joy God chose me to worship Him. I would also like to say there is a depth of compassion here on this blog that is rare in this world. And that too is a God-thing! Looking forward to what God has in store for us here in future days. I thank God for each and every one if you. ❤️
Great take-a-way, Tammy. You must live in the south — I’ve forgotten where!
My take away:
“(Election) … is hard on the outside, but once you savor it and get to the inside, it so so sweet. It is WONDERFUL to realize that in the end, I do not have control, but that an
omniscient, loving, and just God does.”
“One beautiful thing about election is that if our salvation is truly based on God’s election, we can never lose our salvation. “
Oh, joy! Much joy! And to be able to pray for the salvation of those we love and trust the choice of election to an omniscient, loving, just God.
Wonderful take-a-way, Bing.
Tammy, I love the image of you sitting in the pecan orchard contemplating!
I had a real interesting conversation with my daughter this morning about this topic. She had a much more relaxed perspective (when she wasn’t getting mad about it!), telling me stories of how, in college @ Northwestern in St. Paul MN, students would be outside class just shouting & angrily arguing back & forth over election. She said, “In the end, whatever is true, what can we do about it–God is God! I think we just need to let go, trust Him & not worry about it!” It sounds so simplistic—but, maybe that’s the ultimate answer. Just let it go & trust God that He knows best.
Oh my, Wendy. That’s exactly what I don’t want to happen on this blog so we are moving on. Your answer is good.
13. Take away. I still believe God let me have a say after He first chose me, but I understand better the Calvinist viewpoint.
I hate that I haven’t been able to stay active this week. I keep hoping to get my time better managed but still struggling to be here as much as I’d like. I did want to share this short article on election I think is a good summary: https://www.crossway.org/articles/10-things-you-should-know-about-election/
Here’s an excerpt:
Divine election is not based on God’s foreknowledge of your faith.
Faith isn’t the ground of election, but its fruit. It isn’t the cause of election, but its effect. We don’t get chosen by God because he foresees that we choose him. Rather we choose him because in eternity past he graciously chose us.
Thus, God’s choice of some hell-deserving sinners was not dependent on any will other than his own. Election “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Thus, election is monergistic. It is the fruit or effect of one will, God’s will.
Thank you, Liz.
Great article, Lizzy.
I’m moving on for several reasons — but so thankful for the loving group here.