Keys to Understanding Romans 9 : 19-21 – Who is Arguing with the Potter?

In this series, we are not going through Romans chapter 9 in depth. My goal is merely to give us some key cross-reference passages to help us come to a clear understanding of what Paul is communicating in Romans 9.

Let’s take a look at verses 19-21:

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Romans 9:19-21

Here we have God represented as the Potter Who has sovereign authority over the clay. But those represented by the clay take issue with how God has dealt with them. Who are these people? In what way do they feel they have been misused by God? These questions are not difficult when we follow Paul’s argument from 9:1 up to 18.

Paul started off by telling his readers that Israel had been prepared for the promises of the New Covenant. But in their rebellion they rejected the Messiah and chose to boast in their ancestry and their devotion to the Law of Moses, instead of embracing the promises of God that are “Yes and Amen” in Jesus Christ. Their pride caused them to stumble over the stumbling block, and God in turn judged them by hardening them in their unbelief. They had sinned, and God justly judged them for their sin. But not only did He judge them, but He used their sin to further His purposes and bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. In this way, their sin did not hurt God’s glory in the slightest but actually magnified His grace to the nations. This is exactly what He had done with Pharaoh, which is why Paul used Pharaoh to represent the unbelieving nation of Israel in verse 17: “For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’

Continue reading “Keys to Understanding Romans 9 : 19-21 – Who is Arguing with the Potter?”

Keys to Understanding Romans 9 : 14-16 – Hardened Pharaoh = Hardened Israel

In this series, we are not going through Romans chapter 9 in depth. My goal is merely to give us some key cross-reference passages to help us come to a clear understanding of what Paul is communicating in Romans 9.

Let’s pick up in verse 14:

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Rom 9:14-16

In verse 14 Paul refers back to his argument so far in Romans 9:6-13. His argument has been that God has the right to choose His people based on whatever conditions He so chooses. The unbelieving Jews of Paul’s day imagined that they were God’s chosen people Israel because they were naturally descended from Abraham. But Paul points out that it was not all of Abraham’s descendants that received the promise. He argues that God limited the heirs by rejecting Ishmael and Esau.

Continue reading “Keys to Understanding Romans 9 : 14-16 – Hardened Pharaoh = Hardened Israel”

Keys to Understanding Romans 9 : 6-13 – God’s Sovereign Prerogative

In this series, we are not going through Romans chapter 9 in depth. My goal is merely to give us some key cross-reference passages to help us come to a clear understanding of what Paul is communicating in Romans 9.

Up to this point (Romans 9:1-13), Paul has been trying to illustrate that God does not reckon His people according to lineage or according to obedience to the Law of Moses. He has done this by appealing to the history of the Hebrew patriarchs in verses 6-13. We have noted that Paul is having a hypothetical debate with his unbelieving countrymen. He has been defending God’s sovereign right to limit citizenship in Israel on whatever condition He so chooses. So let’s follow his argument all the way through verses 7 to 13.

He points out that though Abraham had two sons, the promise he received from God was only inherited by Isaac. What is interesting about this is that Isaac was not the firstborn son, and so, according to custom, it should have been Ishmael that received the promise. Paul’s countrymen would have quickly acknowledged that this decision was God’s prerogative.

Paul goes on in verses 10-13 and reminds his hypothetical debate partners that God did the same things with Isaac’s sons. Esau was Isaac’s firstborn, but God sovereignly chose to give the promise to the second-born son, Jacob. He made this decision before the twins were even born. Again, the Jews of Paul’s day would have had no objection to this arrangement but would have acknowledged that God was just in His choice. This would be acceptable to them, not only because God is sovereign, but also because Jacob was their ancestor, and so God’s choice happened to benefit them.

Continue reading “Keys to Understanding Romans 9 : 6-13 – God’s Sovereign Prerogative”

Dancing on the Edge of Calvinism

Enticed by Calvinism

There have been times in my life where I desired to accept the Calvinist theological system. Primarily because of the great blessings I have received from sitting at the feet of the puritans, reading their writings. I deeply appreciate their devotional depth and their focus on the glory of God in all things. Calvinism, at least in its classical form, also emphasizes the need for holiness, a need that I have recognized from the first day Christ saved me. This is a basic aspect of the Christian faith that is obviously lacking in our day in which worldliness is rampant among those who confess Christ. Besides these reasons for desiring Calvinism, there is the simple fact that embracing a tradition that already claims to have an airtight logical grid through which to view every verse of Scripture was very tempting to my lazy heart. But I was never able to embrace it, though I honestly tried to accept as much of the system as I could without throwing God’s word under the bus. 

Continue reading “Dancing on the Edge of Calvinism”

Acts 13:48 – A Calvinist Verse? (Part 2)

(This is the second post in a series of posts on Acts 13:48. To read the first post please click here.)

The Greek word “tasso” translated “appointed” or “ordained” in most Bible translations is the cause of many non-Calvinist headaches, though it needn’t be. Many, in an attempt to relieve their aching head, have tried very hard to find various ways to translate this word into something more appealing. But I believe there is plenty of scriptural evidence to show that “appointed/ordained” are valid English translations for Luke’s use of the word. Given that I am almost totally unschooled in biblical Greek many might be tempted to ignore my opinion on this point, I can accept that. And if what I present is at odds with the majority of Greek scholars, I would suggest that would be wise. But thankfully, there is a biblical way to determine what Luke had in mind without knowing the ins and outs of biblical Greek.

Luke uses the same Greek word (tasso) in four places besides Acts 13:48. By looking at how Luke uses the word elsewhere we can get a fairly accurate idea of how he intends to use it in the verse we are considering. Luke uses this particular word more than any other New Testament writer. Paul uses it twice in Romans 13:1 and 1 Corinthians 16:15. Matthew uses it once in Matthew 28:16. But Luke uses it a total of five times (Luke 7:8, Acts 13:48, 15:2, 22:10, and 28:23). So before jumping into the context of Acts 13:48, let’s take a look at these other passages and see how Luke uses the word.
Continue reading “Acts 13:48 – A Calvinist Verse? (Part 2)”

A Much Abused Passage – Ephesians 2:1-10 (Part 2)

The Gift of God

In the last post we looked at Ephesians 2:1-7 and asked whether Calvinism’s claim of regeneration before faith is taught in that passage; by comparing it with a similar passage in Colossians 2:12-13 we saw that Paul taught people are “raised up with Christ” through faith during baptism in water. In this post we want to look at a couple more verses in Ephesians chapter 2 that have been used as Calvinistic proof texts.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast.

The Calvinist logic on these two verses is simple. Faith is a gift from God. But even more, it is a gift that we cannot reject. Simply put, no one can believe in Christ except those who are given the gift of faith, and those who are given the gift of faith by God’s unilateral grace cannot resist it.
Continue reading “A Much Abused Passage – Ephesians 2:1-10 (Part 2)”

Calvinism’s Missing Contexts – Part 3

Philippians 1:6

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 1:4

“He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”

Calvinist Challenge:

From these 2 verses it is clear as day that every individual who has been saved was predestined for eternal life from all eternity and will never fall away from the Christian faith. God will complete the work he started in each and every Christian. And he chose each individual that would be saved before the world began.
Continue reading “Calvinism’s Missing Contexts – Part 3”

Calvinism’s Missing Contexts – Part 2

As we search the scriptures honestly and diligently to find answers to our questions about various issues about living in God’s kingdom we will sometimes find ourselves in deep waters. Sometimes we will stumble upon verses that seem to point us back to the conclusions of our Calvinist brethren. Verses that are clearly about predestination and divine election will seem to jump off the page. The reason for this is that divine election, predestination, the radical corruption of mankind, and other similar topics are taught again and again in God’s word. These doctrines are wonderful and reveal the loving plan of God for the human race in general and his followers in particular. It is not these teachings that are dangerous, but the false understanding of them which is promoted by Calvinism. Understanding them is very important if we are going to come to a well-balanced understanding of our faith.
Continue reading “Calvinism’s Missing Contexts – Part 2”

Ground Rules of Biblical Interpretation – Part 2

(This is the second post in a 2 part series,click here to read part 1.)

Scripture Interprets Scripture (in context)

The second principle we want to look at is that “scripture interprets scripture.” This principle is just what it sounds like. When we face a passage or verse that is hard to understand, we can look elsewhere in God’s word to gain clarity. Since the entire Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit, its teachings do not contradict one another but complement one another. Something in the Gospels might be clarified by a passage from the letters of Paul, and vice versa. Whenever Calvinism is discussed this principle is often abused. Not just by Calvinists but also by those on the other side of the issue.

That scripture interprets scripture is a very basic rule of how to find out what the Bible is trying to say. Some passages have a clearer context than others. The more complete the context, the more confident we can be that our understanding of a particular verse or passage is correct. But it is often abused by those seeking to defend Calvinism from scripture. We must make it very clear that scripture interprets scripture, but scripture does not overrule scripture. Often the verses that speak of God’s sovereign rights are used to explain away the genuine responsibility (i.e. “ability to respond”) and choices of men.
Continue reading “Ground Rules of Biblical Interpretation – Part 2”

Five Questions About Predestination – #3 How?

Question: How does one become a member of Christ’s predestined people?

Answer: By believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ

When we talk about individuals being part of God’s Old Testament chosen people, Israel, because of their relationship with Abraham, it is not hard for us to understand the nature of that relationship. They were related to him because they had his blood running through their veins. But when we discuss the nature of the relationship between Christ and his Church we are not talking about physical ancestry. God’s New Testament chosen people are not determined by their race, but by their faith.
Continue reading “Five Questions About Predestination – #3 How?”