Summary: Does God choose His people based on things they have or have not done? Or does He choose them based on His own purposes?
God’s choices or men’s? Election
“God sees the future. He sees who will make a decision for Him, and saves those people,” or,
“Before there was a world, He chose His disciples, the ones He would call out of this evil world, and then visited those chosen ones with His salvation, causing them to love Him and serve Him all their days.”
Left to ourselves, our carnal way of thinking, I know which one of these appeals to us, because we have a sense of “fairness” that may not be God’s sense of fairness. Since we do not want to depend on our own intellect in this matter, we must rely on the revelation he gave us through prophets and apostles. Agreed? Whatever they said, along with Jesus’ own testimony, we must say.
Personally, I never liked it when we chose up sides when I was in grade school. There was no doubt I was going to be among the last chosen, if chosen at all. The games we played demanded skills I didn’t have, and was not likely to acquire during the game.
Most of us shy away from this “choosing” doctrine because we are afraid we might not be one of the elect ourselves. But the doctrine is still there, and we may as well deal with it. He does what He wants and chooses whom He wants, for His own purposes. That’s what it says.
If you are expecting me to turn to Romans 9 as some sort of proof text in this matter, you are absolutely right. Why not go to the most difficult passage of all? Why not stop explaining it away, and making excuses for Paul’s radical statements?
Let’s start with verse 10. Rebekah is pregnant. Twins, you’ll recall. In those days, no way of knowing anything personal about either child, even their gender. And as in all days, no way of knowing their character or how they would be favored by God or man. No way.
Except one way. God knew. And God told her. The older shall serve the younger. That’s foreknowledge. But it is also something else, according to Paul. It is choice. And it is choice based on the purposes of God, not whether the boys had done anything good or bad. I’ve made a decision, says God. I’m not just telling the future. The older one will serve the younger one. That’s how it will be.
We all wish Paul had not taken it a step further, but he did. “Jacob I loved. Esau I hated.” Deal with it. Why bring the prophet Malachi into this? (Malachi 1:2) The prophet begins his book with this very statement about his preference for Jacob, who became Israel, which became God’s mighty nation of the same name. Esau, on the other hand, became Edom, and was eventually extinguished. Why? The reason ultimately is known only to God. Not about human characteristics. Yes, Esau blew his chances at a blessing and a birthright. But Jacob’s character was not squeaky clean either. We’re talking about the purposes of God. Before either of them had shown their hand.
Not convinced? Paul is not finished. It gets more intense than Jacob and Esau. He could tell people were already getting nervous with his illustration, though, and he affirms that there is no injustice with God! Our minds say there is. Paul says, and we know, there is not. To prove his point, he quotes God Himself:
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It’s My business, says God. Make no conclusions about what I should or should not do.
Verse 16 sounds a lot like the verse in John 1 we quoted above: “It does not depend on the person who wills it, or the person who tries hard, but on God Who has mercy.” God saves sinners, not righteous people, remember? He saves Gentile outcasts, Jewish aristocrats and even Pharisees. He chooses the worst and confounds the best. That’s just how it is.
Pharaoh is next up. To that world ruler God gives this piece of information: “For this purpose I raised you up [chose you!], to demonstrate My power in you.”
Paul’s summation (not mine): God has mercy on whomever He desires, and likewise He hardens the ones He wants to harden. Don’t like that? Why? Well, how can He blame me for something He chose, after all?
Answer: There is no answer. Keep your mouth closed. You’re talking back to God. You’re criticizing His ways, which you obviously do not comprehend. You’re a created thing, like a cup in a potter’s hand. He can make you into a chalice for a King or a spittoon for a leper if He wants. And you must say nothing in response! (I paraphrase Paul.)