Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Is speaking in tongues Biblical?


It has always seemed a bit odd to me that the church has become so divided and contentious over something that the scripture speaks so clearly about. It could be that people think speaking in tongues sounds weird, or they were taught by somebody that it was of the devil, or they were so perplexed by it that they just assumed it was nonsense. Either way, I will begin this blog by stating that speaking in tongues is certainly Biblical. Why? Because it's in the Bible and was clearly practiced by the early church including the Apostle Paul.

Many questions surrounding the topic of speaking in tongues are often discussed: Is it still for today? What about pagan cultures that "speak in tongues" during their demonic rituals? What types of tongues are there? What does speaking in tongues do? When is it appropriate to speak in tongues? How is speaking in tongues related to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? Can everyone speak in tongues? And so on and so forth.  I intend on answering many of these questions in this article, and hopefully it will be a blessing for all who are searching for Biblical answers about this commonly discussed topic.

We will begin by answering two questions at once: Is speaking in tongues for today? And, what about pagan cultures that "speak in tongues" in their demonic rituals? First of all I want to explain why some people think that speaking in tongues is a gift that is no longer in use. There is a certain school of thought that interprets a passage in 1 Corinthians 13 to mean that speaking in tongues has ceased, here is the passage:

"8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

Notice in verse 8 it says "where there are tongues, they will be stilled" and in verse 10 it says "but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears." Some people including a popular Bible commentator named John MacArthur believe that this passage is saying that tongues will be stilled (cease) when the canon of scripture is complete. That is, they believe Paul was referring to a future time when all of his letters and other New Testament scriptures would be combined together to form the Bible (the canon of scripture), and that when the Bible was completed tongues would no longer be necessary because we have all that we need in the Word of God.

The problem with this is that in context this passage is not referring to the completion of the Bible. I would even argue that there is not even the slightest indication that Paul is referring to the canonization of scripture here. The overwhelming contextual evidence of this passage points to Paul referring to the resurrection, not the completion of the Bible. So when he says, "but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears,"  he is referring to Christians receiving their glorified  bodies in which they will be equipped to fully understand God's love and see clearly those things which our current faculties do not have the capacity for. Even though we now have the canonization of scripture there are still many things that we only know "in part." If Paul was referring to the canonization of scripture he would not have used the phrase "we" (verse 9) including himself and the Corinthians who were all dead by the time that scripture was canonized. Paul was speaking of something that both he and all of the Corinthian believers would experience together, namely, the resurrection. The at the resurrection we will be equipped with what we need to fully know certain things that were only able to be partly known during our life on Earth.

Now some people often allude to the fact that many pagan cultures use a sort of "gibberish" in their demonic ceremonies and rituals. They have asserted that because this "gibberish" sounds like what many Christians sound like when they speak in tongues then it must be that Christians are practicing a pagan exercise when they do so. This is unwarranted however because the Bible teaches that speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift from God to a believer, not a gift from the devil to an unbeliever. It could be argued much more effectively that Satan, who envies God, attempts to manifest a counterfeit version of tongues among these Pagan rituals. Or it could also be that these rituals are merely using inane gibberish and not a "counterfeit tongues" at all! Therefore, it's really nothing but baseless speculation going with this argument, not a valid Biblical objection.

This leads naturally to our next two questions: What types of tongues are there? And, what does speaking in tongues do? There are two different types of tongues, one is where God empowers an individual to speak in an Earthly language that he/she has never learned for the purpose of evangelism (Paul calls it a "sign to unbelievers" in 1 Corinth 14:22), the other is where God empowers a person to pray in an angelic language for the purpose of praying God's perfect will. 1 Corinthians 13:1 says, "If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." Here in ch. 13 Paul begins naming a list of spiritual gifts that people could use while explaining that using them in love is the key, the first gift he mentions is the two different types of speaking in tongues (1. speaking all the languages of the earth and 2. speaking the language of angels). An example of the first type of speaking in tongues is found in Acts chapter 2:

v. 1-8-"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?

So here we see the disciples of Jesus gather together in prayer on the day of Pentecost. The next thing you know they become filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. In this particular instance God caused the tongues to be in the languages of those who were visiting Jerusalem for Pentecost and they were able to hear God's word. It was a "sign" to them that God was speaking through the disciples. In the very next part of the chapter all of those who were present got saved and were baptized. So it is clear in scripture that one way that the gift of tongues manifests is in an Earthly language for the purpose of evangelism, but what about the tongues of angels that Paul refers to in 1 Corinth 13? Many Christians call this type of tongues their "prayer language" and Paul explains it in 1 Corinthians chapter 14:

v. 2 "For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries."

In this chapter Paul is explaining the operation of tongues as a prayer language. He show us that when one prays in tongues it is ultimately the Holy Spirit praying through us. Our "spirit prays" and our spirit is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in us (see 1 Corinth 6:19). Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 14:14 saying, "for if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays."  This powerful gift is very helpful for a person who is called to be a prayer warrior in the church. A person with the gift of tongues can use his/her gift to allow the Holy Spirit to intercede through them according to God's perfect will, sometimes with "groanings"(see Romans 8:26). Our Earthly languages can only partly describe God's will, but when the Holy Spirit prays through us in the language of Heaven (angels) He is able to perfectly describe God's will. Paul encourages the one who prays in tongues to ask for an interpretation because not even they can understand what they are praying, but what they are praying is from God (1 Corinth 13:14).

Our next question is: When is it appropriate to speak in tongues? I will begin my answer by addressing the first operation of tongues (speaking in an unknown Earthly language for the purpose of evangelism). In this scenario the Bible gives us one primary example which we discussed out of Acts chapter 2. I do not see any major guidelines being set forth for this specific operation but I do see two primary conditions being met. 1. Being empowered to speak in the unknown tongue. 2. Having people present who speak that language. So basically we should use this operation of the gift whenever God allows us to, trusting Him to sovereignty orchestrate the situation.  

Now, with addressing the operation of tongues as a "prayer language" I have to say the Bible does set forth some guidelines as to what the appropriate use of this gift should be. The reason the Bible gives us guidelines regarding this operation of the gift is because usually nobody can understand what you are saying when you use it. 

1 Corinthians 14:23-25- "23 Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you."

So here Paul explains that when the church assembles it would be better for the person who is addressing the crowd to speak a word of prophecy rather than tongues because if an unbeliever or ungifted person is among the crowd they will not be able to understand you if you do. Paul explained why tongues normally isn't understood by others earlier in the chapter saying, "2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation." So Paul basically advocates for the use of tongues to be generally done in private because He would rather the church be strengthened by words that people can understand. However, Paul does give permission for tongues to be used while addressing the assembly if someone who is gifted to interpret is present: v. 27- "If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; 28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God."

So what does all this mean practically? If you have the gift of tongues it would be put to good use by using it primarily in a private setting. Does this mean it cannot be used at church? No because Paul says, "do not forbid to speak in tongues (1 Corinth 14:39)." But it does mean one should use it wisely. If you are addressing the church corporately do not speak in tongues unless you have an interpreter. If you are using it during worship be aware of who is around you and use discretion as to whether or not you could be a distraction to their worship. If you are in a setting in which it would be inappropriate to pray in tongues audibly, do so inwardly. And finally I think it is healthy for the church to have times set aside for prayer in which people are welcome to freely pray in tongues and commune with God, this would usually happen at a private prayer meeting which is specifically structured for freedom in the Spirit (See Acts 2:4). We also must be sensitive to the fact that in the Bible people who were filled with the Spirit for the first time would often speak in tongues, so we need to be open to this possibility when doing missions, etc. (Acts 2:4, 10:44-46, 15:7-9, 19:1-7). All in all whatever gift we use, we need to use it for the purpose of love. If my praying in tongues does nothing for the edification of another I will wait until a more appropriate situation to use it. 

The next common question related to speaking in tongues is:  How is speaking in tongues related to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? First of all, we need to define what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit means literally "to be fully immersed (baptized) in the Holy Spirit." Jesus described it to His disciples as an empowerment they would receive which would fully equip them to be witnesses on His behalf (Luke 24:49). We see the fruit of this empowerment manifesting in various signs, wonders and supernatural occurrences all throughout the book of Acts. There are two main positions in modern Christianity regarding when the Baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs for the believer. One is that every believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit as soon as they receive Jesus Christ, and the other is that believers receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit subsequent to receiving Christ conditioned upon their seeking it. Addressing these positions is beyond the scope of this article so I will focus primarily on how the gift of tongues relates to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The Pentecostal denomination of Christianity teaches that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit happens subsequent to receiving Christ conditioned upon their seeking it. They also teach that the evidence of this Baptism is that one speaks in tongues. The reason that they come to this conclusion is because in the majority of occurrences in which a person was Baptized in the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts we see the gift of tongues accompanying it (Acts 2:4, 4:31, 8:12-17, 10:44-46, 15:7-9, 19:1-7). The problem with this interpretation is that while the gift of tongues was present in MOST of these instances it was not present in ALL of these instances. We also see other gifts such as prophecy and speaking the Word of God with boldness being present in these different examples. We also see two examples in Acts 4 & 8 where the gift of tongues in not even mentioned. Therefore, we cannot build a concrete doctrine which asserts that tongues is the sole evidence of one being baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

Biblically speaking, one has been Baptized in the Holy Spirit if they have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a witness on behalf of Christ, regardless of whether or not that particular person speaks in tongues. Does this mean that speaking in tongues doesn't accompany the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? Not necessarily, there are SOME examples in scripture where this does happen, but scripture does not specify that it is the sole evidence. In other words, tongues CAN accompany the Baptism in the Holy Spirit but that doesn't mean it absolutely WILL accompany the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The last question we are going to look at in this article is: Can everyone speak in tongues? The answer is simple. Everyone whom God gives the gift of speaking in tongues can speak in tongues :) .Does this mean that God wants to give the gift to everyone? Paul gives us an answer in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:       

v. 29-30- "29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?

Here Paul explains that every one is given specific gifts, but not everyone has the same gift. So the answer to the question is no, not everyone has the gift of tongues. Paul says that God "distributes spiritual gifts to each person according to His will (1 Corinth 12:11)."  God doesn't want everyone to be a teacher, or pastor, or healer, or speaker of tongues. He wants each person to play an individual part. So God gives certain people the gift of tongues so that they can fervently pray God's will at all times and speak His Word to people who have a different language without having to learn it. But God may give other people different gifts according to the calling that He has for them. 

All of the contention and division that we have allowed to creep into the church because of a misunderstanding of the gift of tongues really needs to be put away. The Bible has clearly explained what the gift of tongues is, it's purpose, and it's power. We need to come together in unity based upon what the Word of God says on the issue and be willing to lay down our preconceived thoughts if they do not agree with scripture. Speaking in tongues clearly has a purpose, but like any gift it can be misused. I believe that the balanced, Biblical approach used in this article should be considered by all when we discuss this issue. If we do this, people will see our love for one another and know that we are true followers of Christ (John 13:35). I hope that you have been blessed!

Written by: Kyle Bailey, M.Th.

For more inspirational content SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel.

Photo credit: http://www.dodsonlumber.com/Acts242/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/pentecost1.gif

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is Calvinism Biblical?


Recently I have taken some study time to revisit the topic of scriptural interpretation. One of the major interpretation views in modern Christendom is called Calvinism which originated with a man named John Calvin in the 1500s. I am going to walk through what I think regarding each element of Calvinistic doctrine. Calvinism uses an acrostic "T-U-L-I-P" which stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. There are some elements of Calvinism that I agree with and other elements that I do not agree with, I will try my best to clearly define what the historic Calvinistic stance is regarding each point and show concisely from scripture why I agree or disagree.

Total depravity (also called total inability or total corruption) is a biblical doctrine closely linked with the doctrine of original sin as formalized by Augustine and advocated in many Protestant confessions of faith and catechisms, especially in Calvinism. The doctrine understands the Bible to teach that, as a consequence of the the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation. (Theopedia)

I will start by saying that I affirm this definition of total depravity. Where I differ from the Calvinist position is mainly pertaining to the process of man responding to the Gospel. The classic Calvinistic belief is that man is so totally depraved that he cannot even respond to God's gracious offer of redemption without God's enabling him with a special grace beforehand  "efficacious grace" (before ever hearing the Gospel). That is, Calvinism teaches that God preselects certain people who will be regenerated to believe beforehand and He does not chose others.  I do agree that enabling grace is necessary for an individual to respond but I believe that enabling grace is inherent in the Gospel itself and does not require a pre-regenerative action from God. That is, I believe that when the Gospel is preached everyone who hears receives the necessary grace to either accept or reject the Gospel (this grace comes from the Holy Spirit's drawing through the Gospel itself). This grace is known as "resistible grace."

The Bible reveals that man freely chooses to receive Christ in John 1:12 where it says, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." The Bible also teaches that God chooses us according to His foreknowledge of us receiving Him in Romans 8:29- "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." So we can choose God and He can choose us without there being any contradiction.

Another issue that arises regarding how Calvinism addresses the process of man responding to the Gospel is that the order of salvation is misconstrued. In the Calvinistic perspective we see regeneration first, Gospel second, and belief third. But in scripture we see the order as Gospel first, belief second, and regeneration third.  Let's take a look at the gospel of John: 

1.)These are written that you may 2.) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that 3.) by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) 

As you can see here John gives an order that begins with a Gospel message, which causes the opportunity for faith, and if faith is embraced it leads to regeneration for the chooser (a choice made by God's grace). Paul also indicates that the message of the Gospel is what initiates faith in the book of Romans:

"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:14-17)

So my view on total depravity really differs in the fact that Calvinism assumes that man must be efficaciously drawn in order to believe the Gospel, and the Bible doesn't really support this notion. Titus 2:11 says, "for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men."  I believe God provides resistible grace for all men to accept the Gospel or respond to God's warning to seek Him (God warns us through conscience, creation, and other supernatural means). Nobody will be able to say "but God you left me hopeless and hell-bound unable to repent" on the day of judgement. One thing that we must remember as it pertains to man's ability to respond to the Gospel is that the Bible does present instances in which judicial hardening occurs. Judicial-hardening is God’s active role in blinding an already willfully rebellious person in their rebellion so as to prevent their repentance for a time. When we see this happen in scripture it is always for a greater redemptive purpose i.e. Pharaoh and Moses or Israel's hardening in order that the Gospel be preached to the Gentiles, etc. None of those who were judicially hardened went without many opportunities to repent, think of how many times God asked Pharaoh through Moses to let the Israelites go!

"Man's will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so." -AW Tozer

Unconditional election is a doctrine within the reformed theology framework (Calvinism) that in eternity past, before God created the world, He predestined some people for salvation, the elect, and the others He left to continue in their sins and receive the just punishment, eternal damnation, for their transgressions of God's law as outlined in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. God made these choices according to his own purposes apart from any conditions or qualities related to those persons. (Wikipedia)

A popular Calvinist Pastor Mark Driscoll called the outcome of this doctrine "duck, duck, damn," and rightly so. I believe Mr. Driscoll believed in some sort of alternative to this doctrine while remaining loyal to the other Calvinistic doctrines. I would take up the same issue with this. If God selectively chose some people to be saved and selectively did not choose others then we come to a classic problem which has been deemed "double predestination." This results in God actually predetermining many people to go to hell with no hope of salvation and no ability to repent. The Calvinistic reasoning for this perspective is that if God did not choose people "unconditionally," or in other words "not in response to seeing their faith and repentance," then it would automatically mean that God's choosing is based on the merits of ones faith and repentance, which they argue would equal a works-based salvation. I disagree, primarily because belief comes from hearing the Gospel, not from our own power.

The Bible in no way states that faith is something which is meritorious, that is, it cannot earn righteousness for us by using it. However, we can use faith to receive the gift of righteousness that God offers to us in Christ. Therefore, exercising faith doesn't earn righteousness from God it simply exhibits confidence in the work of righteousness that Christ did for us through living a sinless life, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead. The Calvinistic argument is comparable to this: I give you a check for $500. All you have to do is endorse it and put it the bank to receive the benefits. So you receive it, endorse it, and put it in the bank. Then you go to all of your friends and say "I earned $500 today!" Your friends say, "how so?" And you say, "My friend Kyle gave me a check for $500 and I endorsed it and put it in the bank!" Then your friends reply, "Are you mad? Endorsing a check is not earning the money, it's simply receiving the money that someone else earned and gave to you."
So it is with God. He offers us the free gift of salvation. We are responsible for receiving it by faith to reap the benefits therein. Receiving the gift does not mean we somehow earned it, it means we simply received what Christ earned for us through His righteousness alone.

Although we do "choose" to receive the gift by faith, this does not contradict the fact that God ultimately chose us. When the prodigal son chose to return home he did not somehow "earn" entrance back into his Father's house. The Father's had the "final say" as to whether the son would be received back into the household or not. God's choosing is based upon His grace alone and received by a person through faith alone in Christ alone,  because of this nobody can claim that they somehow earned it through works. Let me put it another way, God has predetermined (chosen) before the Creation of the world to save a body of individuals who come to Him in faith and of their own choosing (God is a gentleman, He doesn't force us to love Him). So we see that although we come into God's chosen body through meeting the condition of faith and repentance (which doesn't earn us righteousness), we are only among the chosen because Christ paid the price for this collection of believers to even exist, He bought our forgiveness for us. Without God making this option (salvation through the Gospel) possible, faith and repentance could never even happen! Therefore the Calvinistic assumption that says repentance and faith somehow earns righteousness if it doesn't come through unconditional election has no standing! Even our ability to receive faith is provided by the Holy Spirit's drawing through the Gospel(see Romans 10:17), and God's general revelation that warns us all to repent (Titus 2:11, Romans 1:18-20, Proverbs 1:20-33). This concept of being chosen by God's foreknowledge of those who would be His group of believers (Traditional Election) rather than God's mysterious selection of some humans (Calvinist Election) is known as  "corporate election" which was a very common perspective among early Christians and a large majority of evangelicals today.

So God gives everybody an opportunity for faith when they hear the Gospel. He also gives the entire world "general revelation" (see Romans 1:20, Proverbs 1, & Titus 2:11) in such away that they can respond to His light, or move away from His light. The Bible demonstrates that everyone is given an opportunity for faith when they hear the Gospel in Romans chapter 10. In this chapter Paul is still discussing how much He desires the Jews to come to know their Messiah. He goes on to explain how they cannot be given an opportunity to repent unless someone goes to them and preaches the Gospel (v. 14-15). In Verse 16-18  Paul says, "But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did. Notice that Paul explains that all the Israelites heard the Gospel in such a way that they could have responded with faith. He says, "Did they not hear? Of course they did," immediately after saying "faith comes through hearing the message." So Paul makes it plain that Israel heard the Gospel in a way that they could have responded with faith, but instead they still chose to reject it. It goes the same for all who hear the Gospel today, God invites us to freely accept or reject it, no strings attached.

Now some of the contentions that are asserted by Calvinists against their opposing views such as Corporate Election are "don't you know that John 15:16 says, 'you didn't choose Me, I chose you'"or "don't you know that John 6:44 says, 'No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them' and they will possibly cite other scriptures that go along with the same general theme. OK let's take a look at these two passages.

In John 15:16 Jesus is speaking to His hand picked disciples about His appointing them to go and be messengers of the Gospel. As you may recall that early on in the gospels Jesus actually chose these disciples for the future service of apostleship. In context, this verse is not referring to individual salvation, it's actually referring to Jesus choosing certain men from Israel (according to God's promise given to Abraham that "all nations will be blessed through him") to go and proclaim the Gospel to every creature under heaven, while also providing the leadership for those who would become disciples through their message. For a deeper look at God's choosing of the 12 apostles CLICK HERE.  Furthermore, as I explained earlier Christians are chosen corporately in Christ according to their association with Him as the elect representative of the entire church (their faith in Him brings them into God's corporate election of the church). Ephesians 1:4 says, "He chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him." So we are chosen corporately IN CHRIST as individuals who are part of His body. And this is something God determined to do before the foundation of the world. This was the standard Jewish perspective on election, and we must remember that Paul was a former Pharisee. Our western culture has taken on a individualistic view of election when in reality the Jews who wrote the Bible had a corporate view of election that flowed down to individuals. For more on this CLICK HERE.  

In John 6:44 Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them." As we discussed earlier, Calvinists interpret this to mean that God regenerates certain people for belief even before they hear the Gospel. Firstly, in this passage Jesus was speaking to his chosen disciples in the midst of a situation were many other disciples were going to stop following Him. This is because Israel was becoming calloused and God was setting apart a remnant (the twelve) to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world in accordance with prophecy. The Father was drawing the 12 Jewish disciples to Jesus as His remnant to proclaim salvation to the Gentiles, while causing the Jews who had grown calloused through rebellion to walk away in droves. For a deeper look at the contextual aspect of John 6 and it's meaning CLICK HERE. The apostle Paul explains this in Romans 9:27-33. Even if this scripture is applicable to Christians in the New Covenant I would still contend that the means by which the Father enables individuals to come to Jesus is the Gospel, not a regenerative grace for select individuals given prior to hearing the Gospel. This is further illustrated by Jesus in John 12:32 where Jesus says, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." The Gospel is about Jesus being lifted up on the cross to die for the sins of the world, and this Gospel is the means by which the Father enables ALL men to make a decision to believe or reject salvation. 

We find a solid scriptural basis for God's invite for all to be saved in 2nd Peter, 1st Timothy, John 17, Revelation 22 and numerous other places, and if God invites everyone then we can trust that He provides the grace for everyone to decide if they will say yes or no:

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

"This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth." (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)


"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Let anyone who hears this say, "Come." Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life". (Revelation 22:17)

Lastly, we have the appeal by Calvinists to Romans chapter 9 where Paul explains how God had temporarily cut off Israel from Christ with the exception of His remnant who would preach to the Gentiles for a time. They often argue that this chapter is proof that God unconditionally predestines some to be saved and some not to be saved. My question to the Calvinist would be have you read God's reason for not "choosing" Israel for a time in Romans 9? It was CONDITIONAL. Let's take a look:

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 9:30-33)

So Paul wraps up this entire discussion on election by explaining that one group (Israel) was unable to enter into God's chosen body of individuals because they pursued entry by works, but the other (Gentiles) was able to because they pursued it by faith! What Paul is saying is that if Israel would have pursued by faith and not works they would not be hardened! He also explains in chapter 11 that Israel can still be “provoked to envy and possibly saved,” that they "will not stumble beyond recovery," and "could be grafted back in if they leave their unbelief in Romans 11:23." This realization prevents a conclusion that God predestines people for hell with no possibility of salvation, rather it supports the notion that God predestines people to a choice to accept or reject. Israel could have been saved had they not grown calloused. It's important to remember that in the process of one growing calloused they are given many chances to repent, look at all the miracles Jesus did in Israel yet they still did not believe! For a robust contextual overview of Romans 9 read my article HERE.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God's messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me." (Matthew 23:37)

The consistent notion we find in scripture is that God desires and invites all people to be saved through the Gospel, although He may use certain instances of rebellion temporarily for redemptive purposes, and this was the case with Israel in Romans 9. For more on the problem of Calvinistic double predestination CLICK HERE.

Limited Atonement addresses the purpose of the atoning death of Christ. It maintains that God's design and intent in sending Christ to die on the cross was to pay for the sins and secure the redemption of those whom God has predetermined to save, namely the elect. Therefore, the primary benefits of his death (especially as an atonement) were designed for and accrue only to believers.
(Theopedia)

This doctrine is rooted in the teaching of unconditional election which we have already discussed in detail. The idea is that because God has predetermined those who would be saved and those who would be damned then logically the saving benefits of the atonement were truly only for the elect. That is, when Christ died on the cross it was not for every person in the world, but rather for the "elect" of God from every people group in the world. I personally believe scripture tells another story, and it does so plainly:

John 1:29: "The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.'"

1 Timothy 2:5-6: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.

These are just two of the many verses which refer to Jesus' death being an atonement for the entire world, not to mention the classic John 3:16. The way that Calvinists often interpret verses like this are by proposing that the word "world" means "every people group" instead of "every individual." But a quick look at the Greek definition of the word "world" shows us that this is just not the case. Exegete B. F. Westcott says: "The fundamental idea of kosmos (world) in St. John is that of the sum of created being which belongs to the sphere of human life as an ordered whole, considered apart from God....the world comes to represent humanity in its fallen state, alienated from its Maker."

Therefore, my view on limited atonement is that it fails to agree with the whole of scripture. I believe that when Jesus died it was for the sins of the entire world, just as scripture tells us. Scripture also tells us that the atonement of Christ is only "applied" to those who come to Him by faith and repentance (see Romans 10:13). So although I believe Jesus did die for the sins of the entire world, people are still responsible for receiving His atonement in order to be saved, this is why God commands us to make disciples of all nations! 

Irresistible Grace (or efficacious grace) is a doctrine in Christian theology particularly associated with Calvinism which teaches that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect), whereby in God's timing, he overcomes their resistance to the call of the gospel and irresistibly brings them to a saving faith in Christ. (Theopedia)

In the same way that limited atonement is rooted in the idea of unconditional election, so is irresistible grace. This doctrine is in contrast to another popular doctrine from the Arminian theological perspective called "prevenient grace." Calvinism basically teaches that God exerts His grace to those He has chosen to be saved in such a way that that they cannot resist it, and they eventually are compelled to repent. As a result those who do not have this irresistible grace given to them by God are left in their state of inability to respond to the Gospel, they are predestined to be damned. The Arminian teaches that God instills a certain measure of grace into each person such as to give them the ability to at least accept the Gospel, so that if they reject the Gospel they are left responsible for damnation, not God.

I have to say that scripture does not merit either of these perspectives when properly interpreted. As mentioned earlier in this post I believe that the Holy Spirit's drawing through the Gospel is sufficient to enable the hearer to repent and be saved. If they reject, they bear responsibility for their decision. In this view I do not have to formulate a method by which an individual is enabled for salvation apart from hearing the Gospel. This is actually a good thing because the Bible does not explicitly teach this, it teaches that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:6)

It is true that before the Bible was completed God would sometimes use outwardly persuasive methods in order to carry out His plan of bringing forth messengers from Israel. Jonah, Paul's conversion, and Jesus showing the scars to doubting Thomas are examples. But this does not mean that this is God's primary way of going about business, and it certainly does not equate to God using internally irresistible means to convert a limited number of believers. The point of God using outwardly persuasive means with certain Israelites was to get things to the point where the Messiah would be proclaimed to the world giving everyone the chance to repent. Jesus said "blessed are those who believe without seeing (John 20:29)," as a reference to the future proclamation of the Gospel to all nations. Here we see Jesus clarifying that outward persuasion is not the primary method ordained of God to get responses from people, but rather the Holy Spirits drawing through the proclamation of the Gospel. 

Being that I have already touched on the process of man responding to the Gospel apart from a pre-regenerative work of grace I will point you back to the first section on "Total Depravity" if you need a refresher. My point is, irresistible grace is not taught in the Bible. We cannot take a few instances in which God used outwardly persuasive means to get certain Israelites to obey Him and equate that to an entire doctrine regarding how men are saved. Rather we must stand firmly on the clear revelation of scripture given us in Romans 10:17 which says, "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."

Lastly, it is important to point out the logical consequence we face if irresistible grace is true. That is, if God is going to irresistibly save all those whom He has "individually chosen" (as opposed to corporate election) from the foundation of the world, what is the point of preaching the Gospel? If you do not feel irresistibly compelled to preach then you really have no reason to, or at least you have less of a logical reason to. But in the correct perspective of God desiring all men to repent and the Gospel being the method by which He enables them to make a decision, we have all the reason to go into all the Earth and make disciples by proclaiming it!

Perseverance of the Saints is the Calvinist doctrine that those who are truly saved will persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation. It doesn't mean that a person who is truly saved will never lose faith or backslide at any time. But that they will ultimately persevere in faith (inspite of failures) such as not to lose their salvation.

The doctrine of perseverance is rooted in God's unconditional election and predestination. That is, since God is the One who chose and predestined the elect to salvation, therefore the elect will be saved. They might turn away from faith and give appearance of losing their salvation, but if they really are elect they will repent and ultimately return to faith, because God is the One ensuring their salvation.(Theopedia)

Can you lose your salvation? I want to begin by admitting that I conceptually agree with the Perseverance of the Saints. The area of disagreement that I find is not in the fact that all true believers have eternal security but rather that this reality is rooted in unconditional election. The fact of the matter is that Perseverance of the Saints is rooted in God's promise to seal us when we believe, not necessarily in the idea that God chose some to be saved and some to be damned before the world began. 

When one meets the condition of responding to the Gospel with faith and repentance they become included in Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption.  The Calvinist will assert that because God individually, unconditionally chose each person who would be saved before the Creation of the World then they cannot possibly lose their election based upon that assumption. So the Calvinists and I come to the same conclusion, yet we use different means to get there. 

Ephesians 1:13-14-"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth,the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal,the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."

So above we find Paul explaining to the Ephesians that we are included in Christ when? Individually, unconditionally before the foundation of the world? No, it says "when you heard the message of truth,the gospel of your salvation." So when we hear the Gospel of Christ and you allow it to pierce deep into our heart, it produces faith (see Romans 10:17) which redeems us and includes us among the eternal predestined holy people of God. He goes on to explain whether or not we can be "excluded" from Christ at any point saying, "when you believed, you were marked in him with a seal,the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession." So Paul clarifies that once we are included in Christ we are sealed from ever being excluded from Christ, notice we are sealed "until the redemption of those who are God’s possession." 

There is a theological perspective formally known as Conditional Security which objects to the eternal security of the believer. Among the objections are a few scriptures that if misunderstood, can seem as though they are saying one can lose their salvation. Let's take a look as some of these.

Hebrews 6:4-6, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”

At first glance this scripture seems to teach that a believer can lose their salvation. The first possible explanation is that the author is using a common argument technique called reductio ad absurdum, in which a premise is disproved by showing that it logically leads to an absurd conclusion. The author is setting up a hypothetical statement saying “IF a Christian were to fall away, here is the absurdity of what would have to happen...” In this case the absurd conclusion would mean that Jesus would have to be crucified again, but we know this is ridiculous because His sacrifice was completely sufficient the first time  (Hebrews 9:28). Jesus said "it is finished" (John 19:30). So by showing the absurdity of the conclusion the author disproves the assertion that a true believer could lose their salvation.

Another possibility is that these individuals were Hebrew converts in the process of coming to embrace Christianity but not fully converted at that point. The theology website "got-questions" explains the phrases in this passage that can be misinterpreted to mean that the author is addressing Christians, here is how it is explained:

"This passage is written not about Christians but about unbelievers who are convinced of the basic truths of the gospel but who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. They are intellectually persuaded but spiritually uncommitted.

According to this interpretation, the phrase “once enlightened” (verse 4) refers to some level of instruction in biblical truth. However, understanding the words of scripture is not the same as being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. For example, John 1:9 describes Jesus, the “true Light,” giving light “to every man”; but this cannot mean the light of salvation, because not every man is saved. Through God’s sovereign power, every man has enough light to be held responsible. This light either leads to the complete acceptance of Jesus Christ or produces condemnation in those who reject such light. The people described in Hebrews 6:4-6 are of the latter group—unbelievers who have been exposed to God’s redemptive truth and perhaps have made a profession of faith, but have not exercised genuine saving faith."

This interpretation also sees the phrase “tasted the heavenly gift” (Hebrews 6:9) as referring to a momentary experience, akin to Jesus’ “tasting” death (Hebrews 2:9). This brief experience with the heavenly gift is not seen as equivalent to salvation; rather, it is likened to the second and third soils in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13:3-23), which describes people who receive the truth of the gospel but are not truly saved.

Finally, this interpretation sees the “falling away” (Hebrews 6:6) as a reference to those who have tasted the truth but, not having come all the way to faith, fall away from even the revelation they have been given. The tasting of truth is not enough to keep them from falling away from it. They must come all the way to Christ in complete repentance and faith; otherwise, they in effect re-crucify Christ and treat Him contemptuously. Those who sin against Christ in such a way have no hope of restoration or forgiveness because they reject Him with full knowledge and conscious experience. They have concluded that Jesus should have been crucified, and they stand with His enemies. It is impossible to renew such to repentance."  (http://www.gotquestions.org/Hebrews-6.html)


I would even add to this view by pointing out that verse 7-8 says, "For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned." What the author is doing here is drawing a contrast between those who receive God's blessing/salvation (those who bear fruit), and those unbelievers who fall away (those who produce thorns and thistles). In this comparison both crops received rain and nourishment (enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, and shared in the Holy Spirit) but one bore fruit and the other bore useless vegetation. What was the difference? One accepted the Gospel, received a new nature, and bore fruit, and the other rejected the Gospel after being given every possible sign that it was true, leaving no possibility of repentance.

Lastly, the author confirms to us that he is not referring to those who are genuine Christians by saying in verse 9, "Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation." By referring to them as "beloved" and saying that they are certain of "things that belong to salvation" rather than "things that belong to damnation" the author is clarifying that there is a difference between them (the fruit bearing crop) and those who fall away (the thorn bearing crop). The ones who fall away are not included among those he titles "the beloved" but rather those whom he titles as "worthless, near being cursed, and having an end to be burned." Therefore it is clear from this passage that true believers will not fall away while many who "profess to be Christians" will fall away.

Hebrews 10:26-29- “For if we are willfully sinning after receiving the full knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice concerning sins.”

This is another classic scripture touted as evidence that a true believer can lose their salvation. What some scholars have failed to take into account is the fact that the author was speaking to Hebrew Christians that were undergoing great persecution for leaving Judaism. Among these Hebrews were those who may have been exposed to the Gospel in such a way that they were receptive, but not yet accepting it fully with their hearts. These men would fit into the category of the individuals mentioned in the parable of the sower where the seed was "sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away (Mark 4:17). It is estimated that this letter was written after the temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 AD and because of this no more temple sacrifices were being made. Therefore the author is calling these men to not fall prey to falling away from their desire to convert in the face of persecution, because there "remains no more sacrifice concerning sins.” The author was emphasizing that Judaism offers no provision for atoning for sin because the temple has been destroyed, and God allowed this to happen because Christ became the perfect sacrifice that takes away sin for all time (Hebrews 9:28). Therefore we can see how this verse perfectly fits the context of the author appealing to men who had received a "full knowledge of the truth" but were considering turning back to Judaism instead of trekking forward into a full embrace of the Gospel by faith in Jesus Christ.

In the parable of the sower we find 4 different categories of people with each of the analogies referring to the condition of their heart (See Mark 4:13-20). The first is the path (hard heart), then the rocky soil, then the thorny ground, and then the good soil. The Bible only mentions one category of people actually being considered "saved" (the good soil). In the rocky soil, and thorny ground category the Bible indicates that they "received the word" but it did not take root enough to lead to salvation. Therefore there are many instances in which people can exhibit "Christian behavior" yet the don't actually have a genuine relationship with Christ, this is often the case with passages that are used to teach a Christian can lose their salvation including Hebrews 10:26. Read the words of Jesus & the apostle John:

Matthew 7:22-23-"Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

1 John 2:19- "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."


The strengths of the Doctrine of Eternal Security are that it prevents us from devoting ourselves to God out of a sort of "slavish obedience" only following the Lord because they are afraid that He will revoke grace from us if we make a wrong move. It also gives us a basis for rejoicing and thanking God for the free gift of eternal life, which if there was a possibility of becoming "unsaved" due to a future sin we would not be able to rejoice with certainty in the hope of eternal life as the Bible exhorts us to. 

The opponents of Eternal Security argue that it's primary flaw is providing people with a license for immorality. And I would say that depends on how this doctrine is taught, and is something we need to take serious. If people come to the conclusion that Eternal Security gives them a license for immorality I would suggest that they have only been given half of the story. Inherent in becoming one of God's children and being pardoned from sin is also becoming adopted by a Father who disciplines His children. This means that after we become Christians God has promised to correct and discipline us when we commit sin (Hebrew 12:6), and His discipline is not pleasant by any means. So are there consequences for sin after becoming a Christian? Absolutely. But can a Christian sin in such a way that God revokes grace from them? No because the power of the Holy Spirit keeps them from such an end and chastens them back to the place of obedience (1 Peter 1:5, Ephesians 1:13, Hebrew 12:6). Therefore, Eternal Security does not provide a license for immorality, on the contrary it reinforces the reality that we have a New Nature in Christ and loving Father who protects us from being separated from His love and that includes protecting us from ourselves through discipline (Romans 8:39).

The last common objection from supporters of "Conditional Security" is, "since God gives us free will He will not force us to keep our salvation if we later decide we do not want it any longer." The problem with this is that our will changes after being saved. If God causes our will to work for His good purpose then we can trust that our decisions will not lead to a total and final rejecting of Christ. He has "sealed us until the day of redemption (Ephesian 1:13-14)," and Philippians 2:13 says "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." So not only do we receive the Holy Spirit who seals us when we come to know Christ, the Holy Spirit works in us to cause our will to avoid an ultimate decision to relinquish our position in Christ. This is why Jesus could confidently say "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)"

As you can see there are many Biblical disagreements to be had with Calvinism along with some minor agreements. Does this mean that Calvinists are not Christian? Absolutely not. I know many people who truly love the Lord with all of their heart yet they subscribe to the Calvinist systematic of TULIP. TULIP is one of the interpretation models that is used by many respected scholars to explain some very tough topics in scripture, and when people are given this interpretation method early on in their Christian journey it is hard for them to depart from it later on. This is why I believe that we should obey the Bible in when it says to "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:2). I hope this overview of Calvinism with Biblical responses to each point will help people as they investigate the wonders of God's Word in order to "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). God Bless!

Written by: Kyle Bailey, M.Th.

For more inspirational content SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel.

For more information on the Traditional View of Soteriology (the view I hold to) please check out these two websites:
http://connect316.net/ 
http://www.soteriology101.com/






Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Does Romans 9 teach that God predestines people to go to hell?




In my previous post I went through a systematic overview of the theological viewpoint called "Calvinism" which was started by a man named John Calvin in the 1500's (click here to read it: Is Calvinism Biblical?) . Since writing that blog I have engaged with numerous Calvinists on social media who wanted to express their disagreement with my article. I noticed a trend among Calvinists in which they appealed to Romans chapter 9 as their foundational reason for accepting Calvinism, I also noticed that they interpreted all of the "problem texts" for Calvinism in light of their misinterpretation of Romans 9. My question would be, "is it possible that this so-called proof text (Romans 9) for Calvinism is being misinterpreted by Calvinists and therefore causing them to err in their overall interpretation of God and His Word?" I think the answer to this question is yes and I intend on showing why in this post. Let's begin with the first 5 verses:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen (Romans 9:1-5).

So in this first section we find Paul expressing his great distress over the fact that Israel (according to the flesh, with the exception of a remnant) has been cut off from Christ due to their rebellion against God and rejecting the Messiah. Those who were his kinsmen were supposed to fulfill the role of being God's people but because they pursued it by works they grew calloused and rejected the Gospel in their pride. Let's continue...

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. (Romans 9:6-8)”

This section is the MOST critical element of the entire chapter. By understanding what Paul is saying in this part you will then be able to rightly interpret the rest of the passage. Notice the phrase, "Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel." Here Paul is responding to an assertion that because Israel (according to the flesh) has been cut off from God's revelation (with the exception of a remnant), that God's plan to gather unto Himself a holy people has failed. Not at all. He explains that God's plan doesn't becomes fully realized in the historic nation of Israel but in the future nation of Israel after Jesus returns and resurrects the dead. For the sake of simplicity I will call this Israel "Eternal Israel." "Eternal Israel" is the church made up of both Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:15) who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. Paul writes, “those who have faith are children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7)". This is not to say that God has permanently cut off the nation of Israel and replaced it with the church (as the false teaching of replacement theology asserts). Rather, God has always purposed to have both Jews and Gentiles among the "permanent Israel" that He will rule with at the resurrection, and He was only cutting off historic Israel for a temporary period of time because of their unbelief as explained in Romans 11. Romans 2:28-29 says:

"A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God."

This theme of God fulfilling His covenant to Abraham through an Eternal Israel that includes both Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:15) is what sets the stage for the rest of this chapter in which Paul answers objections from Jews who are under the assumption that God was never planning to do such a thing, they believed that the promises were only for "historic Israel" for all time. In reality the promises were originally for historic Israel but God told Abraham that this would not be the final outcome saying "and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed (Genesis 22:18)."

I want to take a moment and clarify further what I mean by the term "Eternal Israel." The historic nation of Israel is a group of Abrahamic descendants whom God chose to bring forth the Messiah through. Because of this He gave them "first option (birthright)" to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This Nation (except for a remnant) rejected the Gospel, which caused God to allow the Gospel to go to every other nation. Those who accept the Gospel among every other nation are adopted into the "Eternal Israel" which is the nation of people that Christ will reign with at the resurrection, this people with include both Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:15). This group fulfills God's original intent in Creation, to have a holy people for Him to love and be in relationship with forever. This transition of God allowing the Gentiles to come into the promises He gave to historic Israel by no means "replaces" the nation of Israel, rather it is meant to provoke them to envy so that they may repent of their "dead works" and come to their God through faith. As it is written, "The just shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4)." Let's continue reading....

"9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. (Romans 9:9-13).”

Here Paul begins by qualifying that Isaac was the "child of promise" by quoting the direct promise from the Old Testament in verse 9. He draws a direct connection between believers (Eternal Israel) and Isaac as the "children of promise." He then goes on to draw a direct connection between God's promise to Sarah and God's promise to Rebekah concerning Jacob and Esau. Why does he do this? Because there is a direct connection between what Paul is explaining about Jews and Gentiles and how God dealt with Rebekah's children Jacob and Esau in the Old Testament.

Notice the very particular language Paul uses here, “not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Later on in this chapter Paul explains the reason why God rejected Israel and accepted the Gentiles saying, “What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works." So who do Jacob and Esau represent in this passage of scripture? Jacob represents the Gentiles (including the remnant of Jewish believers) and Esau represents historic Israel (those who "sold their birthright" by rejecting the Messiah, see Genesis 25:29-34). So Paul is using God's choosing to bless Jacob to illustrate God's choosing to include the Gentiles into his group of holy people. But did God do this unconditionally without a known reason as Calvinists would assert? Not at all, as we just read He chose to include the Gentiles because they pursued Him by faith (which means it was conditional election), and He chose to harden Israel because the pursued Him by works (another conditional choice), thus the phrase "not because of works but because of Him who calls."

Now, Paul doesn't give a particular reason why God chose Jacob over Esau here in this passage, he simply clarifies that it was "not by works." So God did not choose Jacob because Jacob was a "good man" but rather because He was a man through whom God's purpose in election would stand. Paul's intent was not to do a deep theological teaching on Jacob and Esau but rather to use it as a way of illustrating what God has done in the current situation between Jews and Gentiles. One can only speculate why God did not choose Esau in the Old Testament. One scripture that gives a possible indicator is Hebrews 12:16 which deems Esau as "godless" because he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. What was this godlessness? Esau did not value the gracious gift of carrying on God's elective purpose through his birthright. Therefore, even though Jacob swindled it out of him, God allowed Jacob to keep it. In context to this passage though, Paul graciously reveals why God "disapproved" of the nation of Israel (excluding the remnant), because they didn't come to Him by faith. They had a "birthright" to the Messiah, but they did not value the gift God desired them to have. But the Gentiles did, and expressed their value of the Messiah by believing His message. Adrian Rogers expounds upon this reality that Paul was not dealing with personal salvation but rather with nations in this part of Romans 9 by saying:

“Let’s see Isaac and Jacob and Esau. Let’s begin in verse 10: “And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father, Isaac, for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, ‘the elder shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’” Now someone will say, “There it is, folks.” Election…right there in the womb. Neither one has done a thing. God says He’s going to save Jacob and He’s going to damn Esau. I didn’t read that there. It didn’t say anything at all about salvation. It says that the elder shall serve the younger. How do you spell salvation? S-E-R-V-E? It doesn’t mention 2 salvation there at all. If you will read this passage of Scripture, God is talking about his dealing with the nation of Israel. This is national, not personal. He’s not talking about personal salvation here and I defy you to show me where it mentions personal salvation, heaven or hell…it does not! It mentions exactly as it happened that the birthright came to the younger. Esau, the mountains of Edom and so forth became subservient to Israel. Well, you say, “What about that part where it says ‘as it is written, Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated?’” When did He say that? He didn’t say that before the twins were born. He said that 1300 years later. That’s a quote from the Book of Malachi. That shows where God laid waste the mountains of Edom because of the sin of these people and when the Bible says that God hated, even there it doesn’t mean that God hates as we use the word hates…when we say, “I hate you.” Jesus said, “If any man come after Me and hate not father and mother and houses and lands and all that he has, he cannot be My disciple.” It means to prefer one against the other. And God deals with the nations of the world! The Jews are God’s chosen people!” Cit. Adrian Rogers, Essay on Reformed Theology

So if we are going to remain faithful to the text in this part of Romans 9, we cannot accept the Calvinist assumption that somehow this all relates to personal salvation and election. The election of Jacob over Esau resulted in Esau's descendants being Israel's servants, it was not an election to damnation as Calvinists teach. Let’s continue…

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 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 depends not on human will or exertion,(the Jews pursued by works) but on God, who has mercy (the Gentiles pursued by faith). 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills (the Gentiles), and he hardens whomever he wills (the Jews). (Romans 9:14-18- my comments added in parenthesis)

Now that we have clarified that the context is that of Israel being cut off and the Gentiles being grafted into God's family we can easily see that the objector in verse 14 is a Jew objecting to God offering the promise of redemption to every nation, and hardening the nation of Israel (except for a remnant) because of their rejection. The Jew is basically saying "God is unjust because He has cut us off and drawn near to the pagans!" The Jews of that day felt a sense of entitlement to God's promises, even though they disqualified themselves by pursuing them by works and not by faith. And Paul responds by saying who are you to question God's wisdom in the matter? He quotes, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

Many Calvinists use this to assert that this means unconditional election is true, (for info on this click here: Divine Election for Dummies) but in context Paul is simply saying "God can have mercy on the Gentiles if He wants to, He doesn't have to save you just because you are the physical offspring of Abraham, you wouldn't come to Him by faith!" He goes on to use the hardening of Pharaoh as a parallel to Israel's hardening. Notice how both were hardened: God gave the Pharaoh numerous chances to repent but in his pride he was hardened by God's invitation (for more on Pharaoh's hardening CLICK HERE). In the same way God gave Israel numerous chances to repent by sending Christ to do continuous miracles & ministry for 3 years, but in their pride they were hardened by God's invitation! In both cases God invited them to repent but they rejected, yet He still used their hardening for redemptive purposes! This passage has nothing to do with the Calvinists doctrine of double, it has everything to do with people accepting or rejecting God who invites all to repent. OK back to the text now...

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” (the Jew saying, why have you allowed me to harden?) 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”<<referring to the Gentiles inclusion (Romans 9:19-26- my comments in parenthesis)

Here we find Paul building upon this idea of God using the willful rejection and subsequent hardening of a person/people for His ultimate redemptive purposes. We must keep in mind that Paul never leaves the context of this dilemma between historic and eternal Israel. The clay represents historic Israel in the situation at hand in which the they had rejected the Gospel and God choosing to allow the Gentiles to be grafted into the promises He gave to them. This situation is unique in that His people Israel had rejected the very Messiah they had been waiting for many years and thus incurred upon themselves a spiritual hardening to the things of God. The molding of the molder is God working out the situation into redemptive purposes. Instead of destroying Israel for their willful rejection of Him, God decides to "endure with much patience the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction." Israel had come to the point in which God could show them all of the signs and wonders in the world (as He did through Jesus) and yet they still would not repent, therefore as a consequence they were handed over to God's wrath. The word "prepared" found in the phrase "prepared for destruction" is the Greek word "kat─ôrtismena" which means to be "fitted or adjusted." This term has no implications that point to God predestining them to hell, but rather that through their own willful rebellion they had postured themselves to be deserving of punishment.

But why did God endure patience with them, why didn't He destroy them since they has postured themselves to be deserving of punishment? Firstly it would accomplish the crucifixion of Christ, secondly it would cause the Gospel to go to the whole world creating one new man (the body of Christ) containing both Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:15)! God did not want to destroy Israel because he knew that through saving the Gentiles it would provoke them to envy that they may be saved (Romans 11:11). Thus Paul says, "endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (obstinate Israel), 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy (the Gentiles & Eternal Israel), which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles.” What are the riches of His mercy that God wants to make known? The Gospel! Who are the vessels of mercy? Those who would accept the Gospel among Jews AND Gentiles! Therefore this section of chapter 9 has nothing to do with God predestining some for hell with no opportunity for salvation and some for heaven by irresistible grace as Calvinists often assert. Rather it is addressing the willful rejection of the Messiah by Israel, and God's redeeming of the situation (the clay) through showing them patience anyways (not destroying Israel for their rebellion) in order that the Gospel be preached in the whole world (the vessels of mercy)!

One might also say, "In verse 23 it says that God 'prepared beforehand' the vessels of mercy for glory, this means He preselected some before Creation to be saved and preselected others to be damned with no ability to choose otherwise." But this is not what the context of the passage indicates nor does the whole of scripture. What Paul is referring to is the same thing we find in other passages that address predestination. That is, before Creation God prepared a plan in which a people who would come to Him by faith would be made holy and conformed into the image of His Son. So the Greek translates literally "He before prepared for glory" meaning that God predetermined for those whom He knew would freely choose Him to be destined for "glory." Romans 8:29-30 says, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." So the order is clear: God foreknows those who would be included among the church through freely receiving the Gospel, and He "prepares them beforehand for glory (predestines them to be conformed to the image of His Son)." God doesn't predestine the unbeliever to be saved (He invites them all to be saved by freely accepting the Gospel), He predestines the saved to be conformed. Salvation comes by a free response to believe the Gospel by grace through faith. And although God foreknows who will be "in Christ," the decision to choose or reject is left for the person to decide. This ability to choose or reject comes from God's grace, nobody can claim that they became saved in their own strength! OK let's continue with the last few verses....

“27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,

we would have been like Sodom

and become like Gomorrah.”

30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. (Romans 9:27-33)”


In the first part of this final section Paul quotes Isaiah regarding the remnant of Israel that will respond to the Messiah despite the general culture of stubbornness. Then he quotes a verse that is quite peculiar if you don't take time to put the pieces together, he says, "If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” Who are the "offspring" mentioned in this passage? If you go back to verse 7 you will find that the offspring are the "children of the promise, or Eternal Israel" So basically Isaiah is saying that had this instance of Gentile inclusion not happened (forming Eternal Israel) Israel would've been destroyed, as I mentioned earlier. But because God continued His work though the church (in order to provoke the Jews to envy, that they may be saved), God's promise to save Israel will by no means be thwarted (we see in Romans chapter 11 that historic Israel can/will STILL be saved).

The final part reveals the biggest problem for Calvinistic theology because Paul admits that God responded to a condition in His choosing of including the Gentiles (Jacob). That is, Paul sums up all of the talk about Jacob and Esau, Pharaoh and Moses, vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy with an explanation of why God chose the Gentiles (Jacob) over Israel (Esau) for a time. And guess what? It wasn't because He predestined Israel to go to hell with no hope of salvation; it was "because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works." Its the same story with Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4:6- " Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" So God explicitly tells Cain if he would've done it the right way (by faith) He would have accepted his sacrifice:
Hebrews 11:4-"By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did." God wanted Cain to do what was right, and Cain could have, but he chose not to out of his own free will. The reality that God truly wanted Israel to repent is firmly depicted in Matthew 23:37 where Jesus says,

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God's messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me."

Notice why Jesus didn't save Israel, because "they wouldn't let Him (they did not pursue Him by faith)" not because He predestined for them to go to hell. God wants a people who freely chooses to love Him, therefore He will not save people who stubbornly refuse Him.

So there you have it. A proper exegete of Romans chapter 9 which has clearly shown some major misinterpretations made by Calvinists. I hope and pray that this article will help those who are seeking God's truth to see the beauty of what Paul was truly writing in Romans 9. God bless!

Written by: Kyle Bailey, M.Th.

For more inspirational content SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel.

For more information on the Traditional View of Soteriology (the view I hold to) please check out these two websites:
http://connect316.net/ 
http://www.soteriology101.com/

photo credit: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/does-god-predestine-people-to-hell-a-bible-study/