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Theology in Romans

I.  Introduction:

 As we saw this morning, Romans 9 deals with the doctrine of election.  The chapter contains some of the clearest teaching on this particular doctrine in all of the Bible.  Yet, it is not all that the Bible has to say concerning the subject.  Tonight, as we have continually done through this series, I want to focus on the larger context of the Bible to see what it teaches about the controversial doctrine of election.  Beginning first with biblical theology and what the whole story of the Bible teaches about election, we will then move to some specific passages dealing with the subject (systematic theology).

II.  Biblical Theology:

 Does Godís story of redemption found in the Bible have anything to teach us about election?  I believe it does.  First, it teaches us that God is a sovereign God.  God, as Creator and Sustainer of history, is in control of all things.  From the Garden to the New Jerusalem God is sovereign over all things.  The Bible is His story.  The redemption of His people is a part of His story, which leads to my second point.  Second, God has repeatedly chosen His people.  God chose Abraham (Gen. 12:1ff).  God chose His descendents (Dt. 4:37-39).  He chose Moses (Exodus 3) and David (1 Samuel 16, see esp. v. 1, 3, 8, 10).  Of course, the difficulty is not whether or not God chooses, but the basis of His choice, the basis of His election.  The reasons for Godís election are not always as clear.  He seemingly chose David to be the next King of Israel not because of his strength or appearance but because of his heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  In Genesis 12 we are not really told why God chose Abraham, although other passages can possibly help.  His descendents were chosen because of love (Dt. 4:37).  We see this idea clearly stated in Deuteronomy 7:6-8.  Look at that passage with me.  Thus, God chose Israel from among the other nations because He loved them.  Not because they were strong or mighty or anything else, but simply because of His love for them.  Of course, His love demands that they respond with love and obedience (see v. 9ff) and we will look at that more in a couple of weeks.  In the New Testament, we see that God is sovereign over sending Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection (see Acts 2:23).  Thus, it should not surprise us that He is sovereign over the election of His people.  Again, the controversy surrounds the basis of His election, which we will consider more below.

III.  Systematic Theology:

 There are a number of passages in the New Testament that affirm Godís sovereignty.  A number of them speak of His election, or choosing, of a people.  These include: Matthew 22:14, Romans 11:5, Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4, 1 Peter 2:9.  In all of these passages the ESV translates the term as Ďchosen,í which is what most translations do.  Yet, the term is translated as Ďelectedí in other places.  I point this out since some argue that election is only taught in a couple of places in the Bible, which is not true when you consider the above examples.  In the rest of our time together, I want to focus on two passages: John 6 and Ephesians 1.  The first is a selection from Jesusí teaching, while the second deals with the controversial question of the basis of Godís election unto salvation.  Letís consider these.

 A.  John 6:35-51, 60-65 At the beginning of John 6 we are told of the feeding of the five thousand.  On the next day, some of the crowd come to Jesus and begin a conversation with them.  He turns the conversation to a discussion about Him being the bread of life (since they apparently had come for more food).  He tells them about the true bread from heaven and they ask Him for this bread.  His reply to this request is what we read in verses 35-51.  Jesus is teaching that He is the bread and that we feast on the living bread by believing in Him.  He makes it clear that all that the Father has given to Him will come (see v. 37).  And all that come, all that believe, will be saved and raised up on the last Day (see v. 37-40).  The Jews then begin to grumble about Jesus claiming to have come down from heaven.  Jesus responds to them in verses 43ff.  What He states in verse 44 helps us understand their unbelief.  They do not believe because the Father has not drawn them.  Only those that the Father draws will come to Christ.  Likewise, all that the Father draws will come (see v. 37) and will be raised on the last Day (v. 44, v. 37-40).  Thus, Jesus is teaching us about the Fatherís sovereignty over those who will come to Christ, those who will believe in Christ.  Not everyone will come (like the Jews who are grumbling against Jesus at this point).  Not everyone will believe.  Only those that the Father draws will believe.  Some want to claim that the Father draws all, but that will only lead to universalism in this passage since Jesus says that all that the Father draws will come and will be raised on the last Day.  Thus, the Ďdrawingí in this passages refers to Godís election of His people. 

 Of course, we must note the responsibility of man to believe in this passage.  Only those who believe will receive eternal life (v. 47).  We must believe.  And if we do believe, we know that it is only because the Father has drawn us to the Son.  He gets glory even for our belief.   Jesus further comments on these verses in verses 60-65.  Jesus makes the statement in verse 64 that some of the disciples do not believe.  What is His explanation for their unbelief?  We see it in verse 65: This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.  We can only come to Christ and believe in Him if it is granted by the Father.  The Father is sovereign over salvation.  He is sovereign over election.  We must believe.  We must preach the gospel and call others to believe (see Romans 10).  And we do this knowing that when we believe and when others believe, they do so because God has granted us to come to Christ.

 B.  Ephesians 1:3-14 Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians by listing some of the blessings we have received from the Father through Jesus.  One of the blessings is that He chose us in him before the foundation of the world and predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ.  Paul is celebrating the doctrine of election with the Ephesian believers.  Paul is blessing and praising God for His sovereign choice.  He is calling for us as believers in Christ to rejoice and marvel at Godís grace in predestining us to be His adopted children.  

 Some think that Paul is only describing Godís election of the means of salvation.  In other words, God chose to save through Christ.  He predestined that people would be saved through Jesus.  Thus, Paul is not speaking of God electing individuals unto salvation.  He is merely speaking of how God chose to save.  I do not agree with this interpretation for two main reasons.  First, it does not fit with the context of the passage.  Paul is celebrating what God has done in the lives of the believers in Ephesus.  He is listing these spiritual blessings that come through Christ.  He is describing their redemption, their forgiveness, their knowledge, their inheritance.  Thus, in this context I think he is describing their election and their predestination.  For sure, it only comes through Christ and what He has done, but the emphasis in this passage is on the blessings that He has secured and given to believers.  Second, the actual language of the verses point to God electing the individual believers and not just a plan for their salvation: he chose us and he predestined us.  These two phrases are best taken as references to the election of individuals.

 The question that we keep bringing up, namely what is the basis for Godís election unto salvation, is, I believe, answered in this passage.  What is the basis for God choosing us before the foundation of the world and predestining us for adoption?  Paul answers that God predestined us according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  God elects according to His will.  He predestines according to His purposes.  Paul makes this plain in verse 11.  Look at that with me.  God is working all things according to the counsel of his will.  This should not surprise us.  It is His story.  All of creation belongs to Him because He created it.  Likewise, our predestination is according to the purpose of him.  If you ask the Bible the question what is the basis for Godís election, I think this is the best answer.  Some think that this answer is too arbitrary.  But we do well to remember that there is absolutely nothing arbitrary about the will of God.  His purposes are never arbitrary.  If I believe that God is good and sovereign, then I can trust Him in His choices.  I will not understand all of it, but I can rest in His sovereign goodness.  I can rejoice that He works all things according to the counsel of his will.

IV.  Conclusion:

 What is the purpose of our election, our adoption, our redemption?  Why has God chosen to save a people at all?  Paul answers in verse 6: to the praise of his glorious grace.  And in verse 12: to the praise of his glory.  And again in verse 14: to the praise of his glory.  What an unbelievable connection.  Our salvation, our redemption, our election, our greatest good, brings God great praise and great glory.  Brothers and sisters, I hope you can rejoice in that.  I understand the controversy.  I understand the emotional turmoil involved with the doctrine of election.  But my hope and prayer is that we can say with Paul: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly placesÖto the praise of his glory.  Amen.  

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 25 October 2010 )

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