4 thoughts on “Romans 9: A (Brief) Non-Calvinist Reading

  1. I am looking for a non-Calvinist fellowship. What is the best way to look for one. As I have attempted to use the non-Calvinist as a search on the internet. All I seem to get is discussion about the differences,but no list.

  2. For the Calvinist, the objector is an obstinate unbeliever who objects to their view of sovereignty as defined as meticulous determinism or compatibilism. We see the objector as a hardened Jew who is questioning God’s choice to bless the Gentiles with salvation through faith since it was the Jew who historically kept the oracles of God, and through whom the Messiah came.

    Thank you for this wonderful article! I think you have hit the nail on the head. Who is the objector? A garden-variety non-believer or a particular type of non-believer? Not coincidentally, this particular type was causing – by far (see below) – the most problems for the new believers in almost all places where Paul (and sometimes Peter or others) preached and established churches. For a play-by-play summary see the 20 incidents comprised across Acts 4:1-2, 5:17, 6:9-14, 9:1-3, 9:22-30, 11:2, 13:44-51, 14:2, 14:19, 15:1-5, 16:3, 17:5, 17:13, 18:4-6, 18:12-13, 18:28, 19:8-9, 20:3, 21:10 – 26:32, 28:17-28.

    Although Paul faced some persecution from the Gentiles (Acts 12:1-5, 16:19-24, 19:23-41), he faced far more from the Jews. By my count, there are about 20 incidents in Acts involving the Jews versus only 3 from the Gentiles. So of course Paul’s objector is not a garden-variety unbeliever. It is the self-assured Jew that is resting on “Abraham is our father” (see Matt 3:9) and circumcision and keeping the Law.

  3. If there is any question about whether God was talking about the individuals Jacob and Esau versus the nations Jacob (Israel) and Esau (Edom), then look back at the very passages Paul references in Rom 9.

    NOTE: I read from the NASB and it renders in all caps any passages that are quoted from the Old Testament.

    Consider Rom 9:12-13 where it says…
    it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

    The first passage (THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER) is from Gen 25:23 where it says (my emphasis in bold):
    The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.”

    This is NOT about who is being saved. It is about who is being CHOSEN to carry the lineage of the Messiah – who would become the chosen nation of Israel and who would be a lesser nation (Edom). God reserves the right to CHOOSE FOR SERVICE anyone he wishes. Jacob to father the chosen nation, Esau to be another face in the crowd.

    The second passage (JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED) appears in Malachi chapter 1. Here are the first 5 verses of chapter 1 (my emphasis in bold):

    The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. “I have loved you [the nation of Israel] ,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the LORD of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever.” Your eyes will see this and you will say, “The LORD be magnified beyond the border of Israel!”

    This prophecy was given through Malachi to the NATION of Israel concerning the NATION of Esau (Edom). It was also given more than 1000 years after the man Jacob and the man Esau lived. It was not about the men; it was about the nations that came from them. The man Esau never served the man Jacob. There is no Biblical record of that at all. But the nation of Edom was clearly subservient to Israel and became Israel’s enemy.

    The point Paul is making in Romans 9 to our imaginary “Objector” who protests that Israel is “special” is this: The Jew has nothing to be smug about. God can select people for a particular service (NOT salvation) by whatever criteria He wants and there was absolutely nothing meritorious in Jacob to merit his selection to father the nation of Israel. In Abraham, yes. In Jacob, no. Either son could have been father to the chosen nation and still fulfilled the promise to Abraham and Isaac. But God chose Isaac’s younger twin (Jacob). To illustrate this point even more dramatically, Paul says God made the selection before they were born or had done anything good or bad (9:11). For those who want to make much ado about the potter in verses 19-23, go read Jer 18 and understand the context and the biblical precedent that Paul is drawing from. It involves nations – not people. Chapter 9 has nothing to do with individual election to salvation. it is Paul’s smack-down of the argumentative Jew that insists his genealogy makes him special and was in some way meritorious. Paul annihilates this argument in chapter 9.

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