Does Romans 9 Teach Predestination for Some or Salvation for all?

Many take Romans 9 to say that God has chosen some people to be saved and others to be lost without any will or choice of their own. They call this predestination. So let’s take a deeper look at this chapter and see for ourselves. We will also let the Bible explain itself. 

With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. Romans 9:1-3 NLT 

Wow! This is amazing. Paul would rather be eternally lost rather than see his community perish. This reminds me of Moses’ prayer in Exodus 32:32. It reminds me of Jesus being willing to die the second death in order to save the world. I have to ask myself if I love those I give Bible studies to this much? I can only imagine that such love must really change lives. By is Paul so concerned about his fellow Jews? 

They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.  Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.  For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” Romans 9:4-12 NLT 

Paul is concerned because not all of his fellow Jews have accepted Christ. Yet they think they are God’s special people just because they are Jews and Abraham is their father.  In John 8:31-59 Jesus told the Pharisees the real children are Abraham are the ones who believe in Him as the Messiah. There was nothing special about being a Jew or a descendant of Abraham apart from the promised Messiah.  Paul shares a similar message with the Galatians in Galatians 4:21-31. in this passage Paul tells us that Hagar represents bondage to legalism and works while the child of promise, Isaac, represents those who believe in God’s promise and accept salvation by believing in the promised Messiah. The entire book of Romans assures us that while the promised Messiah came from Abraham’s Jewish blood line that salvation is offered to the entire world. 

After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Romans 3:29-30 NLT

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18 NLT

It is important that we keep in mind that the entire book of Romans is clear that salvation is offered to everyone regardless if they are Jew or Gentile. Romans 9 is not grappling with who is chosen to be saved, but rather who was chosen to be ancestors of the promised Messiah who would bring salvation to the entire world. 

In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.” Romans 9:13 NLT

This does not mean that God rejected Esau for salvation. It only means that God rejected Esau from having the birthright and being the ancestor of the promised Messiah. Jacob was preferred to be the ancestor of the promised Messiah. In the KJV it says, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.” It is important for us to see how the KJV uses the word hate and even more important how Jesus uses the word hate. 

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 KJV 

Of course Jesus did not mean we must hate our families the way we think of hate today. Love and hate show our preferences. To love means to put one first and to hate means to put one last. The NLT helps clarify this idea. 

If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 NLT 

So the NLT also helps clarify how the KJV is using the word hate when God says He loves Jacob but hated Esau. Eternal salvation is not the issue. God simple preferred Jacob to have the blessing of being the promised Messiah’s ancestor over Esau. 

Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it. For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen. Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?” No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?”  When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. Romans 9:14-24 NLT 

Some take these words to mean that God chooses some people to be lost without any will of their own, but this clearly is not idea of this passage. First none of us deserve salvation in the first place. God is not defending His right to not save people. We all have sinned and deserve death. In this passage God is only defending His right to be merciful. You may not believe what I am saying but stay with me! In a moment the Bible is going to explain this passage itself. Meanwhile let’s understand what God is talking about when he says the potter makes one jar for decoration and another for holding garbage. Again this is not talking about eternal salvation. It simply means once again some were chosen to be a part of the promised Messiah’s bloodline while others were not. Also that God uses some of us to glorify God by being honored and He uses some of us to glorify God through our suffering. For example Elijah honored God by being taken into heaven in a chariot of fire. John the Baptist honored God by being beheaded in a lonely prison cell. Did God love Elijah more than John the Baptist? No way! Is Elijah the only one of the two who are eternally saved? Not at all! Both are saved, but one the Potter used as a jar for decoration while the other was used a garbage jar. Both have their part in the big picture of salvation. Both are dearly loved by God. Romans 9:14-24 is making the point that God honors some and dishonors others in order to save the entire world. 

Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, “Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before.” And, “Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God. And concerning Israel, Isaiah the prophet cried out, “Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth quickly and with finality.” And Isaiah said the same thing in another place: “If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of our children, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah.” Romans 9:25-29 NLT 

Instead of saying that God only wants Jews to be saved this passage is telling us God plans to save Gentiles as well as Jews. Romans 9 is not about God having the right to deny anyone salvation. It is about His right to save the entire world. Now so there will not be any confusion on this point Paul is about to sum it up. The Bible is about to explain itself as I promised. 

What does all this mean? Romans 9:30 NLT 

Okay here is our cue to pay close attention. To avoid all confusion about the meaning of Romans 9 Paul is getting ready to tell us exactly what it all means. 

What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, “I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Romans 9:30-33 NLT 

Does Paul tell us that everything we just read in Romans 9 is about predestination? No! It is about how we are all saved Jews and Gentiles alike not by our national heritage, works or legalism. We are all saved, Jews and Gentiles alike by believing in the promised Messiah who came through Abraham’s ancestry. As God told Abraham, “All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” See Genesis 12:3. The Jews were not preferred above the Gentiles for salvation. The Jews were only preferred to be the ones who would give birth to the Messiah Who was  promised to every nation. 

I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Haggai 2:7 NLT 

Let’s not make the same mistake many Jews made in the days of Jesus and the days of Paul. Let’s not trust our national or even our religious affiliations to save us. Let’s not trust our works or legalism to save us. Let’s put all our hope in our only hope- the Promised Messiah.

As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:11-13 NLT 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.

The Sabbath in Light of The Cross

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.”- Ellen White, Gospel Workers, 315 (1915).

With this passage from Gospel Workers in mind, I have created a supplemental set of Bible study guides, called In Light of The Cross Bible Study Guides. I would like to share with you here, the lesson on the Sabbath. Many people have erroneous ideas about the Sabbath and its relation to salvation. We do not keep the Sabbath because we are saved by works. People have accused me of keeping the Sabbath in order to be saved by my works. I ask them how I can be trusting my works while I am resting?

Even some Seventh-day Adventists look at the third angel’s message in the light of legalism instead of righteousness by faith. Yet God’s messenger writes:

“Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, “It is the third angel’s message, in verity.”—Ellen White, The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.

The third angel’s message warns us against trusting in our works to save us. Those who trust their own works, take the mark of the beast so they can conduct business, buy and sell, and thus provide and save themselves by their own works. Instead of trusting in works, those who take the seal of God rest on the Sabbath, showing their faith is in God and not their own works.

Please take a look with me, at the Sabbath in light of the cross.

The Sabbath 

Brief overview: The Seventh-day Saturday is God’s holy Sabbath where we are to rest from all secular work and activity. God sanctified the Sabbath day and made it Holy.  See Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:8-11, Exodus 31:13, John 14:15, Revelation 14:12

Why it is important to understand the truth about the Sabbath:

The Sabbath is the only commandment that begins with “remember” while it is also the one commandment man has forgotten. While many agnostics believe that God created us and then left us on our own, the Sabbath tells us that our Creator wants to have a relationship with us. The Sabbath also tells us who our God is. You can keep the other nine commandments and worship any god you choose. You can have no other gods before you besides television and not bow to any other god than television and so forth. The Sabbath commandment is the only commandment that tells us who the Lord is. This is why Satan wants us to forget this commandment. He wants us to forget God. He wants to be our god instead! The Sabbath is a sign that we belong to the true God, the one who died for us.

Why it is important to understand the Sabbath in light of the cross:

Satan does not want us to forget the Sabbath because he wants us to forget the law. Satan knows we are not saved by the works of the law but by grace. The Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace. We do no work on that day, demonstrating that it is not our works that sustain or save us but rather God’s work both at creation and the cross that sustain and save us. We rest on the Sabbath showing that we are resting our faith in the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ. I can imagine God walking with Adam and Eve through the garden, as He showed them all He had made for them, and the wonders of not their works but His works. Adam and Eve realized that day with God, “it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalms 100:3) Before and after the Cross the Sabbath is a sign that it is God’s work that creates and sustains us.

The Sabbath Commandment reminds us that God is our creator and we refrain from work and worldly activities on the Sabbath day as we rest our faith in God’s power to save and provide for us, instead of our own works and ability to do business and make money.

The same principle is seen in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4 we read about Abel worshiping the way God had commanded in bringing a lamb as a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice as the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus: the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, more than just worshiping as God had instructed was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him and not his own works, he was looking to the Cross. Cain’s sacrifice was refused because he did not worship the way God had instructed, and he brought his own fruit, the work of his own hands. God cannot accept our works and could not accept Cain’s works either. Only the Cross can save us.

Today, many people like Cain, try to be saved by worshiping their own way. Jesus says about them, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Our own works and manmade ways of worship will never save us.

There is a story of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. Tied to a string he set the boat out to sail in a nearby creek and then would use the string to reel it back in. One day the string broke and the little boat fell victim to the rapids and sailed away. Several days later the boy is window shopping downtown when he sees his boat in a toy store window. He goes inside and tells the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store not sure if he should believe the young lad tells the boy he will have to purchase the boat if he wants it back.

The boy does several chores around the home and neighborhood to get the few dollars the boat costs. He returns to the store and purchases his own boat. Walking home, holding his boat close to his chest he was overheard saying, “little boat you are twice mine. First I made you, and then I bought you.” That is what Jesus is telling us through the Sabbath today. As we rest from our works on the Sabbath and put our faith in Him, He tells us, “You are twice mine. First, at creation I made you, and then at the cross I bought you.”

Further study on the Sabbath:

Which day is the Sabbath?

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:10, 11

Who was the Sabbath made for?

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Mark 2:27

Whose day is the Sabbath?

Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. Mark 2:28

What does God call the Sabbath?

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words: Isaiah 58:13

When is the Sabbath to be observed?

From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath. Leviticus 23:32

What marks the beginning of a day?

And the evening and the morning were the first day. Genesis 1:5

What did Jesus do on the Sabbath?

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. Luke 4:16

What else should be done on the Sabbath?

And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Matthew 12:10-12

What are we to “remember” to do?

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20:8

What are we to refrain from on the Sabbath?

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:9-11

Why were the Jews carried into captivity?

In those days saw I in Judah [some] treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified [against them] in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. Nehemiah 13:15-18

What are we to learn from this?

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:9-11

What does God want us to be?

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. Isaiah 58:12

How only is this possible?

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Isaiah 58:13

What is God’s promise?

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. Isaiah 58:14

Click here for more Bible Studies on the law, Sabbath, and love and obedience.

Click here to study this week’s Sabbath School lesson about the Sabbath.

The Gospel versus Legalism

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You know, there are probably plenty of valid reasons why God waited till He had created everything else, before He finally created man. Obviously the environment was not inhabitable for mankind yet, but I would like to suggest another reason. I think it has to do with why I was not around at Calvary either. If man had been around while God was creating the earth, he may have come up with the crazy notion that he actually had a part in creation. It is the same with thing with Calvary. Sure, mankind was there, but everything that was good was because of God. Think of all the things that could have gone wrong. Jesus could have turned Pilate to dust. He could have called for ten thousands of angels to set Him free. Yet everything concerning my redemption went absolutely perfectly, and you know why? Because I wasn’t there to mess it all up! Paul sums up sound Biblical theology for us in four words, “Not I but Christ.” Galatians 2:20. The theory of evolution is legalism, because it involves man bettering himself on his own. This is impossible. Yet some people have a theology where Jesus forgives us, but then we get better on our own. Some people have a “me plus Christ” theology instead of a “Not I but Christ” theology. Anytime “I” become a part of my theology, my theology becomes corrupt because “I” am corrupt. Legalism struggles to make “I” part of the solution but it simply is not, so much so that the only way pure theology can work is if “I” am crucified. The Sabbath is a sign of rest, both at creation and redemption to remind us, that we are not saved by the works of the flesh, and therefore the works of the flesh, known as legalism must be put to rest. Only God Himself could first create me in His own image, only God Himself can re-create me in His own image. Let’s take a careful look at the gospel as opposed to human legalism.

 

The Gospel versus Legalism

 

 

Legalism: We make sacrifices to obtain God’s love.

The Gospel:  God provided a sacrifice to obtain OUR love.    Romans 5:10-12:  “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

Note:  In pagan religions the sacrifice enables the god to love the humans, while in Christianity the sacrifice enables the humans to love their God.

Legalism: We keep the commandments in order to be saved.

The Gospel: We keep the commandments because we love Jesus.  John 14:15:  “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

Legalism: We want to get sin out of our lives because of the investigative judgment.

The Gospel: We want to get sin out of our lives because sin crucifies Jesus.  Isaiah 53:4-6:  “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Legalism: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He is coming soon.

The Gospel: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He loves us. 1 John 4:19:  “We love him, because he first loved us.”

Legalism: Good behavior is motivated by a hope of reward or fear of punishment.

The Gospel: Good behavior is motivated by our love for Jesus regardless of consequences.  2 Corinthians 5:14:  “For the love of Christ constraineth us.”

Legalism: God’s grace is a response to our faith.

The Gospel: Our faith is a response to God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8-9:  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Legalism:   Me plus Christ.

The Gospel:  NOT I, BUT CHRIST.   Galatians 2:20:  “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, BUT CHRIST  liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Legalism: Self- centered obedience according to my own standards, in my own power, for my own glory.

The Gospel: God- centered obedience according to God’s standards, in His power for His glory.

Legalism: All about pride and rewards.

The Gospel: All about love and humility.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on Origins and Creation here.