Just the mention of Romans chapter 9 conjures up images of Calvinists and Arminians arguing like Roman gladiators, as though the Apostle Paul was actually talking about Calvinism or Arminianism in Romans chapter 9.
Romans chapter 9 is a part of the book of Romans, and the book of Romans is a part of the whole of God’s Word.
In accordance with the Biblical narrative, I think we are totally missing the life-enlarging, God-glorifying, missional context of Romans chapter 9 if we reduce it to a Calvinist vs. Arminian debate.
A Story About God’s Glory
God has an eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:1-12), and it’s the glorious Church comprised of a multi-ethnic community of redeemed people bringing a taste of heaven to earth, just as Jesus prayed in the Sermon on the Mount (Rev. 5:9; Matthew 6:9).
God’s eternal purpose started on earth with Adam and Eve. As God’s image-bearers, they were on mission to populate and colonize earth, thus turning it into a little taste of heaven on earth. But Adam and Eve rejected this glorious plan, and humanity and creation have been in need of redemption ever since (Genesis 3).
God then calls Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 12:1-3 to continue His story for His glory. God has always been about a corporate community of people who embody and reflect His glory and mission on earth.
Through Abraham, Israel is birthed and chosen by God. Israel existed to fulfill Adam and Eve’s call to display God’s glory and mission throughout the earth. Israel was chosen corporately, which means they were the vehicle through which the Gentiles would come to worship the one true God (Deuteronomy 7:6; exodus 19:5-6). They were a missionary community.
Just as Abraham exercised faith and believed in God (Romans 15:6), every Israelite had to do the same. Just because Israel corporately was chosen for this mission, it did not mean every Israelite was “saved.” In this sense, election was corporate and it meant that the nation of Israel had a task or mission. This is very similar to Jesus choosing His disciples for a task, yet He knew Judas was a “devil” (John 15:16). So was Judas regenerated (saved) and then degenerated (unsaved)? Of course not. Per Jewish understanding, Jesus called His disciples to a corporate task and later, throughout the Gospels, we see the disciples exercise faith and believe in Jesus. Also note, just as Israel had twelve tribes, Jesus choose twelve disciples to usher in a new people of God.
Israel failed, just as Adam and Eve failed, so God the Father then elected or chose His eternal Son Jesus (Luke 9:35), the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), to fulfill and complete what Adam and Eve and what Israel could not: to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, the God-King and Savior of the world.
And through Jesus’ sinless life, His death on the cross for the sins of the world, His death-defeating resurrection, and His ascension, a new people of God were chosen or elected in Him (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:5-9). Through faith, enabled by God the Holy Spirit, whoever believes in Jesus shares in His election and mission.
The Church, which is God’s Eternal Purpose, exists on earth to display God’s glory and be on mission to colonize it, and because the people of God are indwelt by Jesus and filled by the Holy Spirit, they bring a little taste of heaven to earth.
This is a story about God’s glory.
Romans 9:10-13 (Jacob & Esau)
As we approach Romans 9:10-13, we have the biblical story about God’s glory as the backdrop in view. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 9:10-13, “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 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— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
How can God be all-loving, yet hate Esau?
First, Esau the individual never served his younger brother Jacob. It was actually Jacob who bowed to Esau and addressed him as “Lord” (Genesis 33:3; 8; 13). Jacob begged Esau to accept his gift and said Esau’s face seemed like the face of God to him (Genesis 33:10). Esau the individual never served Jacob. However, the nation of Edom, which is made up of the descendants of Esau, did in fact serve Israel, the descendants of Jacob.
Second, the Apostle Paul is not speaking about an individual (Esau), but Edom, the country that descended from him. Paul is quoting Malachi 1:2-3. The nation of Edom had done great evil against Israel, God’s people.
Third, Paul is not speaking of the salvation of individuals within the nation of Edom or any other nation. He is speaking of God’s corporate election of a nation to be a vehicle of salvation to the whole world (Genesis 12:1-3; Deuteronomy 7:6).
Fourth, the word “hate” in the Hebraic mindset doesn’t mean what it means to our modern ears. Remember in Genesis 29:30-31, when Leah was “loved less” by Jacob and it was described as “hated”? Jesus Himself used the term “hate” the same way when He said we should “hate” our parents (Luke 14:26). He was saying that our love for God in response to His grace should be so great that it makes our love for our parents seem like “hate” by comparison.
The more we love God, the more we will be able to love others.
In future blogs, we will work through Romans 9:14-22.
Marinate on that,