The Following thought for the day was written by Brother Richard Morgan and provides insight and encouragement for those seeking to serve the God of Israel.
Romans 9 is not an easy chapter to get our heads around. The problem we have with it can be summed up by verse 13 – “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Previously, Paul remarked that God made this summation of the two brothers, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad” (v11). One way of looking at this is by understanding God’s foreknowledge. He knew Jacob and Esau would turn out the way they did, so He determined beforehand that He would love one and hate the other.
However, that’s not what Paul says. He says it illustrates “God’s purpose of election” (v11). That is, God purposely chose Jacob and worked with him, and purposefully did not choose Esau and did not work with him. While foreknowledge may well come in there somewhere, that’s not the point Paul wants to illustrate. What he is talking about is the principle of God making choices.
Does that sound fair? Why didn’t God give Esau a chance? If he decided even before he was born that Esau wouldn’t be part of his eternal purpose, then why did God even allow him to be born in the first place? Paul asks that question and then immediately answers it emphatically – “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (v14). Before reading on, we might think, “here we come to the part where Paul explains the mechanics of God choosing some and not others, and it’s probably down to His foreknowledge.”
But that’s not what Paul says. Instead, he basically says, “it’s up to God, He is the potter we are the clay, and you can’t argue with God. He decides who will receive mercy and who won’t. He makes some vessels of wrath, purposefully made to display one side of His character, and also vessels of mercy to show the other side of His character.”
That might not come across to us as a very satisfactory answer. It’s almost as if Paul is saying, “God can do whatever He likes, and you’re not going to understand why so just live with it.” In a sense, that is what Paul says, because we truly are the clay, and God is the potter, and we can’t possibly approach His wisdom in how He works out His purpose.
But let’s think about it from another perspective and try to work it out a little philosophically. The first thing we need to understand is God’s purpose isn’t just to save everyone. If that were so, He would have done an excellent job of it. By my reckoning, for example, 0.0013% of the responsible members of the children of Israel who came out of Egypt died in the wilderness because of unbelief. And these were the children of Abraham, his chosen people that He went to a great effort to save. So obviously God’s purpose isn’t to save everyone; it’s about creating a family that glorifies His name.
The second thing to understand is that God is looking for people of character, and character can’t be developed in a vacuum. What if God created a perfect world full of perfect people all who had an opportunity and all who responded positively? In an ideal world with everything going perfectly and everyone behaving and responding perfectly, it is doubtful there would be many situations to develop the kind of godly character God wants in His children. Character is developed and tested in the face of evil. There is no other way. And for evil to exist, there have to be “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (v22). And for us to appreciate things like truth, goodness, and beauty, their antonyms have to exist.
Thirdly, let’s go through a thought experiment. Is it fair that God didn’t choose Esau too? OK then, perhaps God shouldn’t have created Esau in the first place. Then Esau would never have existed, and we wouldn’t feel at all sorry for him because, well, he would never have lived for us to feel sad about him! God never created an infinite number of other people. So, in a sense, Esau is more blessed than an infinite number of people because he had three score years and ten years on this earth, which is more than all those hypothetical people put together.
No person ever born has ever had a right to eternal life, and Esau is now long dead and doesn’t know any better. It might as well have been that he was one of those infinite numbers of people that God never created. It’s only if we believe in the immortality of the soul and the idea of eternal torments in hell that we have a problem, because what happens to all those people who keep on living but aren’t part of God’s eternal purpose? But we’re Bible-believing Christadelphians, and we don’t, so really Romans 9 shouldn’t pose any problems for us. Instead, we should rejoice that out of the billions of people on this planet, and the infinite number of people God could have created but didn’t, He chose you and me.
Simi Hills, CA
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