Our Bible study group at church is reading through Romans and it has been awesome. A few weeks ago we hit one of the doozy chapters in Romans 9 and had some great discussion. How does predestination fit into simple religion? How can I find God and see God in this complicated passage.
If you are new here to Loving Simple Living (Welcome, so glad you are here!) there are several different topics that I write about that fit under Simple Living and Minimalism. I want to live intentionally, simply, and on purpose in all areas of my life. I am a Christian and want that to be an intentional part of who I am instead of just a group I am part of.
So, here is the text:
14 (AC)What shall we say then? (AD)There is no injustice with God, is there? (AE)May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “(AF)I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who (AG)runs, but on (AH)God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “(AI)FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED [k]THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He (AJ)hardens whom He desires. Romans 9:14-18 Source
This is tough stuff. Does God just save whoever he wants? Do we not have a choice? I would love to say that I could know I would be chosen for the right side, but what comes to my mind is – what if I am not chosen to receive mercy? This makes it sound like God is a just a chess player sitting up in the sky moving people around and doing with them whatever He wants. Now, I believe that God is big enough and able to do whatever He wants and that he has the right (he made us), but I also believe in free choice and this text seems to go against it. If there are only some chosen than how do I know if I am? If I don’t know, does it mean I am not chosen and should just ‘throw in the towel’ on the whole thing?
Because I believe God is bigger than me and, then, the Bible also is bigger than me, I believe that what looks like contradiction is a place for deeper truths. If I could understand it all at the age of 31 without a religion degree then God wouldn’t be worth following.
But, lets look at this and figure out what we can.
First, Paul has spent a bunch of time talking about how everyone Jews and Greeks are sinful (Rom 1 and 2). Leading up to the quoted text of Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” nobody is worthy. Then continuing on Romans 3:24 “and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”.
Everybody sucks, no one is worthy. The only chance anyone has is the grace of God. These are universal statements. Just like John 3:16 “God so loved the world… that whoever believes…” and 1 Timothy 2:4 “who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”
So salvation isn’t earned by anybody, but is open to everybody.
So with the text, God is just like it says. He does chose to show mercy and compassion and, as stated clearly through the Bible, He shows it to everyone.
Second, God wants all men to be saved, but not everyone is saved. There will be the saved and the un-saved (Matthew 25 all three parables). If God chooses everyone and not everyone will be saved, than there is also a choice on our side.
So what about the hardening of Pharaohs heart? Who did that?
It is interesting when you search for Pharaoh’s heart in the concordance (this is the online one I am using) that there is several different ways it is stated. Pharaoh’s heart was definitely hard, it says that all the time. However, sometimes it says God hardened, sometimes it just says it was hard as God had said, and sometimes it says that Pharaoh hardened his heart.
The pastor had a really good metaphor that seemed to make all of this make more sense. If the sun shines on a piece of wax or a piece of clay what happens? The wax melts and the clay hardens. Same sun. With no sun would that have happened. Nope. So does the sun harden or soften? Clearly the sun does both right? The sun is to blame.
In Romans 2:4 it says “… that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” So God is showing love, kindness, mercy, and grace to everyone/the whole world but it is how we receive it that makes the difference. For Pharaoh, looking at it this way, it could be said that God hardened, he hardened, or the heart was hard. All are true.
It is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that God is all-knowing but still has patience to offer choices. He knows who will choose Him in the end. He knew from the beginning that Judas was going to betray Him. Why did he pick Judas? Why does he pick anyone if He knows their final decision won’t be for Him. Doesn’t make sense in my mind at all. .. but I am not all-knowing and I am not all-loving.
In the big picture of the Bible there is God creating people, people screwing up, God making a plan to save people, and a promise of God coming back to make everything right in the end. These are the big picture in the Bible and the big pictures in Romans. I believe Paul was using the term chosen a lot in his book because he was writing to a mix of Jews and Gentiles and the Jews strongly believed they were chosen. Chosen was a big deal to them. They were chosen, it is the story of most of the Old Testament. They were chosen to demonstrate Gods love and show it to the world. The story of the Jewish nation as a messed up child leaving God and coming back over and over and over again is a great demonstration of the love of God. Chosen for a role to play in salvation isn’t the same as being chosen for salvation.
So there is still great news in this verse!
God is all powerful and all knowing and still chooses us. Opening our heart up to God makes all the difference no matter who we are or what we have done. We have the choice to soften to Him and allow Him to work or run and harden to His voice.
Thanks for reading. I am not a theologian, pastor, or teacher. Just a student of the word trying to learn and grow.