Okay, two new posts in a row today. What can I say…it’s warm, quiet, kids are playing nice, so, time to get to it! 🙂
The Bible IS a tool for man’s use. God is not a tool for man’s use. God does not exist in service to man. God is not obligated to man, but man is wholly subject to His own will. Man cannot coerce or bait or demand of God anything, including salvation, based on any idea that is separate from God’s volitional prerogative as THE preeminent free-willed Creator.
Sounds pretty much like arbitrary election, doesn’t it. And that is Romans 9, right?
Not so fast.
You see, this is the point of Romans 9…but it is also a point which Christian teachers epidemically misunderstand and misstate. The whole point of Roman’s 9 is not a diatribe on man’s free volition and willful choice being meaningless to his salvation; it is an argument against the Jewish idea that God is OWES man his salvation, apart from His will, choice, and graces; that is, God is merely man’s tool to be used in service to justification. Because the Jews did the right things by the Law, and claimed lineage to Abraham, they falsely thought that God was obligated to “elect” them. Paul’s point is that this is an affront to God’s sovereign Will. We cannot hold God’s feet to the fire, either based on “works of the law” or by the collective we belong to (we are “the elect”, we are “the Jews”, thus, God OWES us salvation). But this does not mean that man is not ABLE to freely choose Christ; that is a total, and yet ubiquitous, misrepresentation of Paul’s argument.
In fact, I would argue that when Christians appeal to “predestined election” or “unconditional election”–their typical interpretation of Romans 9–they adopt precisely the same argument as the Jews, which Paul was denying. We cannot demand that God save us based on some claim we have, some philosophy, work, lineage, OR idea of “unconditional election” because this in fact nullifies God’s will as a sovereign consciousness. God is NEVER obligated on the basis of some external-to-himself concept or idea to save ANYONE. His free will demands that He will exercise His sovereign right to extend salvation to those who may either not know about a particular idea, or work, or heritage, or do not accept it/belong to it. God will save those HE CHOOSES (but this is NOT an argument that He saves them outside their will; for to do this is the same violation of an individual consciousness that Paul, in Romans 9, is arguing the Jews are doing by appealing to Law or Abraham…in order to force God to action against His WILL, claiming an external-from-God “authority”…i.e., the Law/heritage). And why would He choose them? Because, as we know because we are Christians, they appeal to CHRIST as their salvation, to God, Himself, not some heritage, tradition, or idea (like, for example, unconditional election).
A closer look at Roman’s 9, using reason as a guide, and Christ, meaning GOD, as His freely chosen will and burden-free avenue to justification, quickly dispels the false notion that believing in Christ, and wanting His free gift is somehow “works” salvation.