Three ways to live

Which is your way?

Romans 9-11 – summary of study

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 7:46 am on Sunday, July 27, 2008

At our bible study we’ve been looking at Romans 9-11 over the past three weeks. Instead of doing individual posts on each study, I decided to do just one summarizing the whole content.

The chapter are rather famous for many controversial lessons that can be derived from them. However, most of these lessons have nothing to do with the Paul’s actual intent. Paul is trying to address an apparent contradiction in the fact that Jews, a chosen people of God, fail to respond to God’s message. On the other hand, Gentiles, not a chosen people, appear to accept it. Does it imply a failure of God’s plan or his change of mind? Can we trust such a God then?

Here is Paul’s logic:

God’s word did not fail – God did promise eternal blessings to Israel, but indeed these were really meant only for spiritual Israel, a state within state, a remnant of God’s chosen people (Rom 9:6). And don’t think this is unjust, because:
1) Based on justice alone we are all destined to death, so only by mercy we can stand. God is free to distribute this mercy as he pleases, without being unjust (Rom 9:14-29).
2) Jews themselves are partially responsible, because they pursued righteousness by works, not by faith.
3) And the reason why Jews failed to pursue righteousness by faith is not because it was not clearly presented to them. The message descended and lived among them. It was later preached to them (Rom 10:18).

Everything that was and still happening is there for a good reason, to bring Israel and the whole world back to God.

Now, to controversies. In developing his train of thoughts, Paul (intentionally or not?) highlights several tensions. For example, from chapter 9 it appears that it is only up to God to decide to who will be saved. Yet chapter 10 blames Jews for not accepting the message. Here is another tension: Rom 11:17-22 seems to suggest that a Christian (a shoot grafted in the olive tree) can be cut off if he does not continue in God’s kindness. This stands in contrast with what we saw earlier in Rom 5:9 and Rom 8:29, which seem to imply that God is surely planning to accomplish his work in us and bring us to salvation.

So it is not surprising that this passage has become a “battleground zone” between Calvinistic and Arminian doctrines, particularly on the issue of election and perseverance of the saints. In summary, the argument goes around the following question: Who is responsible for a person’s conversion and the following sanctification? God alone (Calvinistic view) or both God and man (Arminian view)?

The truth is, both doctrines have substantial support in some parts of Romans and there are also some parts they cannot properly explain (they try, of course). So whatever view we decide to keep, we should not be too sure (and often too proud) to think that the other view is total nonsense. It is not.

Another important point is that while the Calvinistic view is quiet narrow (it is all God), the Arminian one actually allows for a spectrum of personal involvement, some of which lie really somewhere in between the two views. For example, some believe that while God needs to open our eyes to understand his message, we are free to close them, because of God’s given freedom of choice. Other may believe that God in some cases may choose to do the whole work himself, while in other cases expect some personal responsibility.

There is difference in attitude between churches that follow Calvinistic or Arminian doctrine. The members of Calvinistic churches (most Presbyterian, some Baptist) often characterize themselves in being sure that God will save them, since they have been elected. They may look down on other people who claim to be Christians but are not as sure. They stress the need to do good works, but not to earn God’s favor or to cooperate in their salvation, but as a gratitude to what God has done, or to become more sure of their election, or simply out of desire to change. They live out their lives out of continued dependence on God, understanding that all good that they have (or will have) comes from Him.

The members of Arminian churches (mostly Methodist, some Baptist) are less sure. They do hope they will be saved and do everything they can to make it more certain. No, they don’t try to earn God’s favor by doing good works, they do understand that no one can make God save them. They simply do not want to presume too much on God. They live out their lives out of continued dependence on God, afraid that they might lose him through their disobedience.

13 Comments

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Comment by Eugene

October 20, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

Now everyone is talking about the American economy and eclections, nice to read something different. Eugene

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Comment by SimpleMeditationTechniques

November 5, 2008 @ 12:09 am

I enjoyed your writing style and I’ve added this blog to my RSS reader. Keep up the good work.

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Comment by Gregg C

August 25, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

nice post although I was a little disappointed that you did not come down on one side or the other. If you would commit it would possibly make for good conversation.
Which is the more difficult to accept; that the only good you can possibly do comes from God, or continually wondering if you did enough good today to keep your salvation or did you do enough bad to lose it?

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Comment by george

December 7, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

You know what… I have stacks of notes I’ve amassed on this subject (I once considered a book on the subject of “who is Israel”). But ultimately, our standing before God will not be affected (or, effected either…) by our stance on this.
Frankly, I’ve begun to side with a Catholic priest who once remarked to me, “I wish Christians would simply read and abide by the Sermon on the Mount”. At the time, when I was a ‘thumper’ with all the answers, I thought, “Sure, of course you would. You folks chained the Bible to the pulpit for centuries.”
Now, I believe him. Splitting hairs over doctrine is a waste of time.
It’s a red herring.

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Comment by john

April 26, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

with the issue of salvation, romans chapter 9:14-onwards doesn’t have anything to do with it. if you will take a look at the word used…it’s “MERCY” not “GRACE”. there’s a big difference between mercy and grace. GRACE is a gift from GOD(eph2:8-9) with leadeth to salvation. while mercy in this chapter is having GOD’s favor and loving kindness.

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Comment by Mike

December 8, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

I wish people would stop trying to make sense of the stone-age low-tech religions like they have some sort of secret meanings meant for today’s world. The only real thing that Jesus tried to convey was “Love your neighbor”

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Comment by dnolan

February 29, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

Nice job, I appreciate your post and insight, thank you!
Dave

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Comment by Michael

May 20, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

you may wish to research the topic a little more. I myself am very Armenian however there is nothing I am more sure of then my Salvation. As an Armenian I believe that Christ’s death was sufficient enough to pay for the sins of every man woman and child who will ever live. Unlike Calvinist however, I believe that salvation through Christ is freely offered to all who will accept it and not just the elect. Also, that our salvation is not predestined but that after the age of accountability has been reached we must accept the gift of salvation must be accepted of our own free-will

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Comment by Grace

November 15, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

Thanks for your post. Many theologians have argued about the points and doctrine in these chapters for years. And they will continue to argue about them for years to come. I appreciate you being bold enough to make comments about this area of scripture and I encourage you to continue to study the scriptures ‘to shew thyself approved, and workman not to be ashamed’.
Blessings

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Comment by Gleave

December 12, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

This verse references back to jacob and esau. God said for jacob I loved and esau I hated. So this can only mean that yes everyone was predestined.nothing you do can change your destination because it is in gods hands.people don’t like to think god would send someone to hell..but he is the judge and everything he does is just

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Comment by Gleave

December 12, 2012 @ 7:50 pm

Romans 9:11 is the verse im refering too by the way

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Comment by Stephanie

April 16, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

This post was very helpful in doing my Romans assignment on chapters 9-11. Thanks for the great analysis!

-Stephanie

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Comment by C.P. Machovsky

May 1, 2013 @ 6:20 am

We ought not to overlook the obvious; most Scripture, including Romans, is directed toward Israel and the Jews, not to us.
The time of Israel’s blinding is given in Isaiah 6.
The duration is also given in Isaiah 6.
The fact that no future generation of Jews is in biblical view is given in Ezekiel 18.
Ezekiel also answers the question of whether or not everything happened the generation Christ lived in, rather than some future generation. “This generation” has been a football which preterists and futurists have been kicking around for er..um.. generations.
When Paul said that he would be in the generation, alive or dead, that Christ would rapture, he didn’t make a wrong guess.

Romans 9-10-11 is not so difficult, if we look at it the right way.

C.P.

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