When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 9

I’m not going to lie, I have been waiting for this chapter to come up. This chapter of scripture has been used to push an agenda, and I for one have been confused by this, so I’m going to address it. Now just to be clear, I am going to put my view point across, and it may come across as anti-Calvinism, or pro Arminianism. That is not necessarily the case. People often try to get me to take sides, but I won’t. I agree with aspects from both sides, but I don’t agree fully with either. I don’t believe that either extreme is the truth, but I do believe that there is an element of the truth in both camps. The problem that I have with both camps, is that they both seem hell bent on pushing their agenda and putting the other down. I know people who seem more concerned with winning me for Calvinism or Arminianism, then they do winning a non-believer for Jesus. This really concerns me. Peter and Paul did an amazing job with the gospel, long before Arminianism and Calvinism were even thought of. I am a follower of Jesus, I take on the name of someone else’s theory.

Now, I know that has nothing to do with Romans 9, but I wanted to make it clear that I am not taking sides in what seems to be a never ending source of conflict between believers who are actually called to love each other. Romans 9 is often taught to ‘confirm’ Calvinists predestination theory. This is not the case. Allow me to explain.

Romans 9 starts with Paul talking about the Jewish people. He even says that he wishes that they would all be children of God, but they are not. He then goes on to talk about Jacob and Esau as well as Pharaoh. He then talks about the potter making some pots for good and others for bad. Now Jacob, Esau and Pharaoh were all under the Old Testament law. If you have an issue with some people used for good and others used for evil in the Old Testament, you obviously haven’t read it. The Jews were God’s chosen people, the Gentiles were not. Simple as that. But now Paul is telling them that things have changed. Even verse 19 that talks about responding, that is not talking about responding to the gospel it is talking about Old Testament people responding to God. Paul has not talked about grace yet, but it is coming. Paul then goes on to say that there will be Jewish people who won’t be called children of God, and Gentiles who will. This would have confused the people, so Paul goes on to explain. The problem is that most Calvinists stop here, they fail to read or explain the verses from verse 30-32. 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.

This is talking about faith based salvation rather than a works based salvation. What Paul is actually saying throughout this chapter is that God can use people for His purposes. He has done that throughout the Old Testament and now He has chosen to open up salvation to whomever believes, rather than those who follow the law. This was shocking to people then. Now do we choose God or does God choose us? I believe that there is an element of both. I don’t reject reformed theology, I just don’t think that this passage supports an extreme Calvinist view. Don’t read verse by verse, trying to explain each one away, read the chapter as a whole. Then you will see what point Paul is trying to make. In fact, if you read the next chapter (which I will hopefully go through next week), you’ll see that it becomes even more clear.

I hope that this has given you a fresh view of this passage. Please don’t use that as anti-Calvinist material or, if you are a Calvinist, please don’t get angry. In fact, I would like to suggest that we lose the title of Calvinists or Arminians. I would prefer if we could all have the title of Jesus-followers, and we could all be out there making disciples of Jesus, rather that disciples of someone’s theology of the Bible. Romans 9 is a gospel message, it is there to show us the importance on evangelism, it is not there to divide us into theological camps.

We know the truth, let’s spread the Word of God!

Richard

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2 thoughts on “When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 9

  1. Good thoughts Richard. I am glad I am not the only one that tends to be mash up theologically. I also like how you encourage us to read the whole chapter. I remind our church all the time not to cherry pick scripture. –

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    1. Thanks Jon. I think that we often like to find someone that agrees with us, and then if we find out that we (as a group) have a label, we embrace it. The problem with that is that we often limit our understanding of the Bible to the label that we have adopted. If our label’s theology has boundaries, then we take on those boundaries. This makes us read scripture with their beliefs in mind, which limits our growth to what the label allows. This is often shown as a good thing, stating that we can’t be lead astray, which has some truth in it. What happens though when there is something that God wants us to learn, but the label doesn’t allow it? We either reject it, or we change labels and start all over again. A label can be any theological camp, denomination, or fraction of Christianity. Now, I’m not saying that belonging to a denomination is bad, I’m just saying that we shouldn’t limit our growth to a denomination, but rather to what the Bible says. As for reading the whole chapter.. People even complain before reading my whole blog post. People see what they want to. Believing what you read in the Bible is harder than reading what you believe.

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