Wednesday, February 22, 2012

God Did Not Choose You To Be Saved

Believe it or not, Romans 9 through 11 is not at all about God’s choosing you (or not choosing you) for salvation. Instead, Paul has in mind simply the answer to the question, “What about the promises that God made to Israel in the Old Covenant scriptures?”

Those who read Romans 9 incorrectly begin by assuming that there are a finite number of people who are chosen to be saved from the foundation of the world. In their version of election, God has chosen individual people to be saved before they were even born, and consequently he has chosen everyone outside of that elite group for destruction. This is not what scripture teaches, nor is it what Paul has in mind in Romans 9.

If Romans 9 is not a teaching about individual salvation then what is Paul talking about? As I said earlier, Paul is only talking about God’s promises to Israel. So, he begins by making the point that not everyone descended from Abraham by blood is truly Israel. (Romans 9:6) In other words, God’s promises were not ever intended to be for every Jewish person ever born, but only for certain people (Jew or Gentile) who are truly Israel.

God’s promises to Israel were not to every Jewish person. Paul points out that some Jews are faithful to God and some are not. The ones who are faithful to God are indeed Israel and those Jews who are not faithful to God are not Israel.

Paul anticipates an objection to his argument by someone (perhaps a Jew who rejects Christ as Messiah) with the attitude that says, “Who are you to decide that the Jewish people can be separated into two different categories and say that one is Israel and the other is not?” Paul starts at Abraham and points out that, although Abe had several sons, only one of them (Isaac) was the chosen one, the other seven sons were not chosen. That means that seven out of eight sons of Abraham were not the Israel of God. Physical descent from Abraham, therefore, is not what gives anyone status or claim to the promises made to Abraham’s seed. Next, Paul goes on to point out that Isaac had two sons but only one of them was chosen to receive the promise of God (Jacob). The other son, Esau, was not the chosen of God, even though he could legitimately claim to be a son of Abraham.

So, clearly, the scriptures already confirm that within the family of Abraham there are some who are the chosen and some who are not the chosen of God. But, what does it mean to be chosen? Does it have anything to do with salvation? No. Not at all.

To be the chosen of God, or true Israel, was simply to be the person (or people) who would carry the bloodline of the Messiah and therefore the people of promise through whom God would bless the nations.

Again, nowhere in the Old Covenant scriptures do we read that God chose Israel to go to heaven. This is 
not part of the promise or covenant that God made with true Israel. What did God choose Israel for? Israel was chosen to be God’s instrument to bring the Messiah into the world and to preserve the knowledge of God on the Earth. That’s it. Israel had a ministry and a function, not a promise of eternal life.

As in the case of Jacob and Esau, the two twin sons were chosen before they were born by God’s sovereign choice. Chosen to do what? To carry the bloodline of the Messiah. Jacob was chosen of God to carry the promise of God, not to be eternally saved. Esau was not chosen to be damned forever. The Bible does not teach that. Esau and his descendants had just as much opportunity to serve God and to follow Him as anyone else. Certainly, Esau lost his birthright, but nowhere does the Bible suggest that he also lost his salvation. As far as we know Esau and his children did serve God and probably did go to heaven. But this is not the point and this is not what Paul is talking about either.

The election Paul is talking about in Romans 9, 10 and 11, is simply the identity of the Israel to whom God made His promises in the Old Covenant. Paul is clear to point out that not every Jew is truly Israel and to explain how God has the right to choose some Jews to carry the promise and others not to carry the promise. Again, this is not about salvation, simply about being the chosen or not being the chosen of God to carry the promise of God.

So, who is chosen? God has chosen to bless the faithful remnant of Israel. If a Jew has faith in Christ then they are truly Israel. If they are not trusting in God’s messiah, then they are not true Israel.

Using the analogy of the potter and the clay from Jeremiah 18, Paul goes on to explain how the one lump of clay, which is Israel, is divided by God into two lumps. Out of one lump God may choose to make a beautiful sculpture, but out of the other He may choose to make a cup or a bowl. This is God’s prerogative. 

He can chose to divide that lump of clay and to say “this lump I have chosen for blessing and this other lump I have chosen for destruction.”

Again, this is not about salvation but about who is actually the rightful recipient of God’s promises and who is not. God has created two categories; those who are in Christ (true Israel) and everyone else (those who reject Christ).

Who then are the chosen of God? Anyone who is in Christ Jesus. Who is not the chosen of God? Anyone who rejects Christ as Messiah. There are only two categories. As Paul explains so clearly in Galatians chapter 3, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (v.29)

Therefore, God chose Christ before the creation of the Earth.  This is the only individual person chosen by name before the world began. Christ was the Chosen one.  You and I can decide for ourselves if we want to be in Christ or not.  If we chose to be in Christ, then we are the remnant of God and we are true Israel.  If we chose not to be in Christ, or if we reject Him as Messiah, we are not chosen of God and we are not true Israel. “For He chose us in him (Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” (Eph 1:4)

In Romans 11 Paul uses the illustration of the olive tree as an illustration of how some branches are grafted into Christ and how others are cut off. God has always had a faithful remnant. There have always been faithful Jews and Gentiles in the true Israel of God. Anyone who is in Christ, according to Paul, is a child of Abraham and an heir according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29)

Do you know what this means? It means that Christ is the Chosen One of God. Not you specifically, unless you are in Christ. If you are in Christ (Ephesians 1) then you are Chosen. God does not choose us to be in Christ, but if we are in Him then we are chosen. Jesus is the Chosen One. Not you. Not me. Only Christ. This why God’s Word says that we are chosen “in Him”, not “chosen to be in Him”.

Salvation is a choice and God leaves that choice up to us. Whether we are Jewish or Gentile, Male or Female, Slave or Free, we can choose Christ or reject Him. God’s choice is Jesus. Our only hope is to be found in Him.



Eli Chitaka said...

This doesn't really fully address the calvinist vs arminian debate. All those points and more have been explained and refuted within various doctrinal frameworks.
This is what Christian Smith talks about in the bible made impossible.. interprative pluralism. Even if Romans 9-11 is to be primarily interpreted as you say that does in no way discount Gods sovereign actions in affecting the course of someone's life and thereby what opportunities they have to hear and receive the gospel.
That said I agree God does not choose for anyone to end up away from his presence for eternity, that is counter to his declared purposes. That is not to say that within the unfolding of his purpose of the ages that various individuals and nations will effectively be objects of mercy or wrath for a time.

rineke said...

Thank you, that was another topic I had to rethink. God is working to change my mind every day.