God’s Motives Made Clear in Romans 9 – History & Theology, Part 71

I the past several blogs we have been looking at the motives of God in saving sinners. We have gone from Ephesians 1:5-14 to Isaiah and Ezekiel. In the last post we looked at Romans 3:23-27. Today we will focus on one passage from Romans 9. Let me just say at the outset that the reason Romans 9 is so hard for people to deal with is that it deals with issues from the perspective of God, Who is centered upon Himself and not man. When a human being who is centered upon self and full of religious humanism reads Romans 9, it is hard to swallow and so it is said to be hard and mysterious. The main thought of Romans chapter 9 is not hard to understand. But it is very hard to submit to such a thoroughly God-centered passage.

Romans 9:6 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. 9 For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, 11 so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

This is a shocking passage when we read it from a human-centered viewpoint. What can it mean in reference to the children of the promise? The Israelites were children according to the flesh or according to who their parents were. Isaac was a child that was from the promise of God and in some way a supernatural conception. The text tells us without equivocation that not all of physical Israel were of true Israel. Why is that? It is because it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but it is the children of the promise. This is a tremendous revelation of the promises and purposes of God. Paul then shows through the example Jacob and Esau how that works out in reality. It was before the twins (Jacob and Esau) were born that God had already made a choice and it had nothing to do with the choice of the twins. Let me repeat the thought of that sentence by putting it in a different way. According to the text Isaac was a child of promise. The next generation was born to Isaac’s wife Rebekah. Jacob was the child of promise and Esau was the child of the flesh. Before they were born God had made a choice and Jacob was the child of promise rather than Esau.

People can try to explain this away by saying that it referred to nations or other things, but we must be honest with this text and ourselves. There is nothing within Jacob that made him the child of promise and there was no act of his that was foreseen by God that made him a child of promise. In fact, the text tells us that this was all so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand. We must wrestle with this point and try to get at the heart of it. What were the motives of God that are expressed in this text? What were some things listed that could not have been the motives of God? God’s motive is seen in v. 11 where we see He did it this way so that His purpose of choice would stand and it would not be by works. We simply must see the ramifications for this in context of our series on Augustinian versus Arminian theology. Augustinianism teaches that salvation is by God’s choice and work. Arminianism teaches that salvation is by the choice of man and by at least one work of the free-will. Our text is specifically against the Arminian view. It states that salvation is by God’s choice and not by the works of men.

As we look at the text above, surely it can be seen that God’s motives in saving sinners are from Himself rather than the act of a human will. We can argue about these things and draw out many fine points from philosophy, psychology and common sense, but the text says what it says in its own context. The only motive for the salvation of human beings given in the text is God’s motive of Himself. Salvation is all of grace and nothing of works.

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