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?