I Object! Objections to the Doctrine of Election

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1 I Object! Objections to the Doctrine of Election Preliminary Statement on Romans 9:14 29: This passage continues the train of thought started in Rom. 9:1 13. While Paul uses the doctrine of election to defend God, he now finds himself having to defend the doctrine of election itself before potential critics of this doctrine. Note the simplicity yet the depth of his defense of this doctrine. His defense doesn t purport to answer all the critics questions about election, but it is sufficient to give the doctrine of election intellectual weight that is worthy of the critics serious consideration. 1. Read vv In this passage, Paul anticipates the first objection critics may have on his explanation of Israel s rejection of Jesus Christ based on the doctrine of election. (a) What is the first objection Paul deals with in v.14 and what is his response? (b) State in your own words the reason Paul gave on why God is not unjust in choosing some to be saved? (c) Reread Romans 3:19 20, Does any person have a right to be chosen by God or receive His mercy? Why or why not? (a) That God is unjust or unrighteous. May it never be! God is just and righteous. (b) Paraphrasing Paul, he is saying, in effect, that the issue in election is not really justice or fairness but divine prerogative. Showing mercy or compassion is a matter of God s sovereign choice. Illust: The bum under the bridge. This discussion really should remind us of Paul s discussion in Romans 9:11, which says pretty much the same thing. (c) No. To begin with, we are sinners because of what we ourselves have done.it is we who failed to keep the Law. No one coerced us into sinning, certainly not God (3:19 20). When choosing to save us, God is doing us a favor (an act of grace) to which He is not morally obligated (3:23 24). 2. Read vv In these verses, Paul supports his argument in vv based on an Old Testament character and incident. (a) Who is that character? And what was the incident connected to this character? (b) How does the incident support Paul s argument in vv.14 16? (a) Pharaoh. The Exodus of Israel. Moses telling Pharaoh to let God s people go. (b) In that particular situation, God chose not to show mercy on Pharaoh so that he would not let God s people go. In fact, God hardened Pharaoh s heart. He did it so that God would be glorified in the crossing of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh s army. See Exodus account.

2 3. Verse 18 mentions God hardening a heart. (a) What do you think that means? (b) On what basis do you think God hardens the hearts of some people? (c) Does that make God responsible for the sin of the person whose heart got hardened? Why or why not? (a) It means to cause that person not to respond according to God s will. This is also known as the Doctrine of Reprobation. (b) There are 3 distinctions we need to make when it comes to God hardening the heart of someone: (1) God actively hardens the heart of a person without cause not a biblical view. There is no biblical support for this view. The Bible relegates this task to Satan and his angels, not God. See James 1:13. (2) God actively hardens the heart of a person with justifiable cause ex. Pharaoh (for God s glory and as partly a response to his own hard heartedness). In the Exodus account, we this happened to Pharaoh. At first the Bible says that Pharaoh s heart became hard (Ex. 7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:7, 35). As the story unfolds, the Scripture says Pharaoh hardened his heart (8:15, 32: 9:34). Then finally, the Lord hardened Pharaoh s heart (9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8) Note: Pharaoh s willful choices interacted perfectly with the plan and purpose of God for him and the nation of Israel. God did not coerce Pharaoh into sinning against Him, nor was Pharaoh incapable of acting differently than he did. God s will works in so many dimensions of reality unknown to us that His will can encompass a completely free human will without compromising it. There s a mystery here in the doctrine of reprobation that we must maintain otherwise we either end up putting God in the role of Satan or we diminish His sovereignty as the Lord of the universe who is in control of everything that happens in creation. Note: another example of this kind of hardening can be found in II Thess. 2: (3) Passively with justifiable cause Rom. 1:24, 28 (God gave them over to their sinful ways and consequences.) God simply withdrew His common grace or sanctifying influence when a person willfully rejects God s patient and constant moral promptings. (c) No. Because God does not coerce man to harden their heart without any justifiable reason. Moreover, in most instances, when God hardens a willful sinner s heart, it is often as an ultimate cause / indirect cause and not the proximate cause / direct or immediate cause of the

3 hardening but hardening toward sin, that is, He Himself does not do the there is some intervening cause which He allows to happen such as Satan or a wicked person or some evil spirit, etc. 4. Read vv In v.19, Paul addresses the second objection to the doctrine of election. (a) What is that objection? (b) What is Paul s response to the objection (vv.20 21)? (c) What analogy did he use to illustrate his point? (a) That God should not find fault in us if He predestined certain people to reprobation (by not electing them). For how could we escape His will? (b) Again, he appeals to divine prerogative as the basis for election. But as we shall see in the next section, Paul adds a slight twist to his discussion of election. (c) The potter has the right to form the vessels in the way he chooses and for purposes he sees fit: vessels for honor or vessels for dishonor. 5. Read vv While Paul s response in vv sounds very similar to his earlier appeal to divine prerogative in v.15, this section introduces a very unique explanation. (a) Who are the vessels of wrath prepare for destruction? (b) According to v. 22, how does God treat them? (c) According to v. 23, who ultimately appreciates this act of kindness of God? (d) What then is one of the key purposes of the doctrine of election? (a) The vessels of wrath prepared for destruction are the non elect. (b) He endured their way of life with much patience. (c) Only those vessels of mercy, that is, the elect. (d) Fallen humanity, as is, does not appreciate the patience and longsuffering of God toward them and their sinful ways. In electing some out of this group to become vessels of mercy, God insures that His glory and patience will not go unappreciated. The doctrine of election then is intended to highlight the patience of God toward sinners. It is because sinners are unable to appreciate God s patience toward them that He had to even elect some from that group in order to preserve this glorious act of His toward the unregenerate. [In a sense, we can say that there are two dramas of redemption going on. The first drama is the drama of God continuously wooing unrepentant sinners back

4 to Him even though they are vessels of wrath. And then the second drama is the drama of God choosing some to be saved in order that they may appreciate the first drama. Is there a connection between the two dramas? Perhaps.] 6. Read vv In these verses, Paul further supports the doctrine of election from the prophetic writings of Hosea and Isaiah. What do these passages have in common? How are they different? Answers: (a) They both teach that God chooses those whom He will save and become His people. (b) They differ in that vv refer to choosing of Gentiles (Hosea) vv refer to choosing within Israel (Isaiah)

5 Personal Application Questions: 1. As we observed in Romans 9, Paul tenaciously holds on to the notion of God s sovereign prerogative to determine our salvation, even though it may not be popular among the critics. (a) Apart from salvation, are you willing to let God have sovereign prerogative? (b) If not, why not? (c) If yes, let s put it to the test. How are you willing to let God s inscrutable but benign ways dictate the outcome in the following areas of your life: your dating life (finding your partner in life), your career, your family life, the way you use your money, and the way you use your time? (d) What is your motivation for doing so? (e) How consistent are you to submit to these areas of your life to His lordship/sovereign prerogative? 2. To some people, the defense given in Romans 9 may not have answered all of their theological or philosophical questions about the doctrine of election. (Romans 9 is not intended to answer all of our questions, just some.) (a) What other theological or philosophical questions do you have about the doctrine of election? (b) How does Isaiah 55:8 9 help to assure us that God will be consistent with His holy character in the midst of exercising His divine sovereign and prerogatives? (c) Despite your questions, can you celebrate the richest of His mercy shown not just to you as a vessel of mercy but also shown toward the nonelect (vv.22 23)? Why or why not?

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