Buckle up your seatbelt. This blog is not going to be light reading. There is a teaching that is gaining traction among our churches and seminaries. It throws God under the bus, all the while trying to elevate His glory. It emphasizes God’s sovereignty to the point of saying that God has sovereignly chosen to save some people and damn the rest.
I almost became one of the proponents of this teaching. I had been a Christ-follower for a year, when a significant event took place that forever altered how I handled the Bible. The pastor of the church where I was saved asked me to preach on a Sunday night while he was away. I had just finished reading a book called The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink. I told the congregation that according to Pink, John 3:16 didn’t mean God loved everyone in the world, but only those He chose to save. To my shock, one of the women jumped to her feet and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was preaching heresy. I don’t recall anything else about that night, but I’m pretty sure my sermon was over!
Acts 17:11 shows me what I should have done after reading Pink’s book. It says, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The Berean people weren’t going to be swayed by Paul’s words. They were going to check them against the Bible. I had been wrong to let this author’s intellectual argument twist my understanding of what was so clear in Scripture.
Others who believe like Pink often use Romans 9:13 as one of their key verses. It says, “Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” This is an example of “taking a text out of context.” God was not speaking about the individual boys. The two verses before, Romans 9:11–12 clarifies this, “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’” God told this to Rebecca in Genesis 25:23, when He said the boys represented NATIONS.
These proponents mistakenly conclude that 9:13 teaches that God has chosen to save some individuals and to withhold His salvation from the rest. They teach that God has made the choice and there is nothing anyone can do about it. But the passage itself tells us that it was God’s choice which nation He would use to bringthe Messiah into the world. You don’t have to read the Old Testament very long before you realize that the NATION of Israel was chosen by God for this special purpose.
The broader context of Romans is important. Chapters 1-8 tell how a sinful individual comes to God by faith and grows in that relationship by the Holy Spirit. Chapters 9-11 are interjected before the final five chapters, like a sidebar. The earlier chapters show that our salvation is only as secure as God’s faithfulness to His promises. A logical question arises, “If God made promises to Israel, and broke those promises, can we trust Him not to do the same with those who are trusting Him for salvation?” In chapters 9-11, Paul shows that God will fulfill His promises to Israel in the future, but He is using the present unbelief of the nation to bless Gentiles.
Another observation about the context of Romans 9-11. If Paul were teaching that God had previously decided who He would save and who He would not save, then he would not make the point in Romans 10:6-13, that “WHOEVER calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Paul does not want to be misunderstood. Salvation is available to ALL. God has SOVEREIGNLY made the decision that ANYONE who calls on His name in faith will be saved.
I know this blog has been technical, but the topic is crucial to our understanding of God and His salvation. God loves you and wants you to receive Christ to become one of His children, regardless of your background or heritage. Romans 5:8 affirms this, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”