Making Calvinists of All Nations – Part 2 of 3
In Part One, Peter and I presented a working paper on Calvinism, inviting the reader to explore with us the way Calvinist doctrine defines Biblical words like "predestination", "chosen", "called", "regenerated", and "ordained". We compared the Calvinist definitions with the way these terms were defined and used in the Bible. We were grateful to receive some constructive criticism about that document, and are revising it accordingly. Nonetheless, after carefully considering other criticisms and re-examining our initial conclusions, our position remains the same. That is, that the way Calvinist doctrine defines the terms “predestined”, “chosen”, “called”, “regenerated” and “ordained” is incompatible with the way they are defined in the Bible.
Upon further study, Peter and I also discovered problems with the way Romans 9 has been interpreted, in particular with the usage of the term “elect” and how it relates to the Jewish “doctrine of election”. Because Calvinist doctrine relies heavily on Romans 9, this part of “Making Calvinists of All Nations” will deal directly with it.
According to Calvinist theory, the "Doctrine of Election" means that God chose some people to be saved and others to be damned before time regardless of what they might choose for themselves in time. However, an informed understanding of what Romans 9 actually teaches will lead to a different conclusion. That is, that regardless of what the nation of Israel did or did not do, God chose them to be His people. In a simple sense, that is what “the purpose of God according to election” means Biblically (Rom. 9:11, 11:7). The word "elect" in Greek simply means "chosen", so in Romans 9, we are being taught that the Jews are the chosen children of the promise – they are God’s people, called by His Name. Paul goes on to explain in Romans 9 that according to the doctrine of grace, a remnant of this nation is being preserved during this time of the Gentiles, until these times are fulfilled. Then, God will restore the Jews, as a nation, to Himself. This is what Paul is explaining to the people of Rome. As you will see, in Romans 9, neither the word “elect” nor the word "chosen" mean “saved” because Romans 9 is not about individual salvation.
The nation of Israel is established as the subject of Romans 9 from the outset when Paul laments for them, saying that he has great “heaviness and continual sorrow in [his] heart” over his “kinsmen according to the flesh” (vs. 2-3). This phrase immediately distinguishes Romans 9 from Romans 8, which speaks figuratively of spirituality in terms of the flesh and the carnal mind (Rom. 8:1-15). In Romans 9 then, when Paul says, “kinsmen according to the flesh”, he speaks literally, making it clear that he is no longer talking about spiritual things for the time being, but physical. Clarifying further in verse 4, Paul continues to say that his kinsmen according to the flesh “are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen” (Rom. 9:4-5). Again, the phrase “concerning the flesh” is used to clarify what Paul means – he is examining the seed, the genealogy, or the line of Abraham, from whom Christ came. Christ was “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt. 1:1).
In verses 6 and 7, Paul examines this genealogy closer, saying, “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called”. At first glance, this appears to be referring to “seed” figuratively, as done in Romans 4, wherein the righteous are counted for the seed through faith (4:13). However, the phrase, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” speaks again to the subject under discussion, which is the literal lineage – “seed” – of Abraham. Paul writes, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). There are children of Abraham – the sons of Ishmael and Esau – who, although they can trace their bloodline back to Abraham, they are not “children of the promise”. Only Israelites are identified as “the children of the promise”, and only through them did Christ come. There are also those who were not Israelites by birth, but married in, strangers whose children were subsequently called Israelites, and who did receive the promises, and whose bloodline was counted for the seed (Ruth 4:17, Mt. 1:5).
Paul explains in verse 8, “That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” (vs. 8). Paul draws the same distinction in Galatians 4 between the children of Hagar and the children of Sarah, “For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise” (vs. 22-23). This “word of promise” is referenced in Genesis 17:19, “And God said to Abraam, Yea, behold, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I will establish my covenant with him, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to him and to his seed after him” (Gen. 17:19). What is this covenant, or “word of promise”? Paul answers, “For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son” (Rom. 9:9).
God made it clear to Abraham and Paul is making it clear to us that it was not the seed of Abraham’s other son, Ishmael, but Isaac through whom the covenant would continue. God told Abraham, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Gen. 21:12). What were they called? The Israelites were called ‘God’s people’: “then if my people, on whom my name is called, should repent, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, I also will hear from heaven, and I will be merciful to their sins, and I will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
Paul continues, “And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger” (Rom. 9:10-12).
The “purpose of God according to election” stands according to the promise God made to Abraham, as told to the Israelites by Moses:
“For thou art a holy people to the Lord thy God; and the Lord thy God chose thee to be to him a peculiar people beyond all nations that are upon the face of the earth. It is not because ye are more numerous than all other nations that the Lord preferred you, and the Lord made choice of you: for ye are fewer in number than all other nations. But because the Lord loved you, and as keeping the oath which he sware to your fathers, the Lord brought you out with a strong hand, and the Lord redeemed thee from the house of bondage, out of the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Thou shalt know therefore, that the Lord thy God, he is God, a faithful God, who keeps covenant and mercy for them that love him, and for those that keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:6-8). Paul told the Gentiles, “As concerning the gospel, [the Jews] are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Rom. 11:28). These verses clearly show that the doctrine of election specifically refers to the fulfillment of the promises made by God to Abraham concerning His seed - the Israelites.
Psalm 135:4 says, “For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.” Were the Jews chosen by God because they performed good works, because they sought election with tears, or because they strove really hard to be chosen by God? No. They were chosen because God loved Abraham for his righteousness, because Abraham was called the friend of God because he chose, by faith, to believe in Him whom he had not seen, and because Abraham’s faith was imputed unto him for righteousness (Jas. 2:23, Rom. 4:3, 18, Deut. 7:8). Therefore, God’s promise was to Abraham and was extended to Abraham’s seed after him. Did the descendants of Isaac and Jacob – the Jews of today – please God through righteousness or good works? No. The doctrine of grace preserves this nation as God’s chosen people despite their apostasy: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Rom. 11:6).
Rebecca was told, “the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:12-13). God spoke directly to Rebecca as quoted in Genesis, saying, “There are two nations in thy womb, and two peoples shall be separated from thy belly, and one people shall excel the other, and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23). In Malachi 1:2-3, the Lord said to Israel, “I have loved you, saith the Lord. And ye said, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob and hated Esau and laid waste his borders, and made his heritage as dwellings of the wilderness?” God is not talking about the individuals here, but the nations. He has chosen to separate the seed of Isaac from the seed of Ishmael in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham.
As God refers to the “nations” in Rebecca’s womb, in reference to two individuals, so the Bible elsewhere uses individual names to refer to nations. The name of Jacob was changed to Israel (Gen. 32:28) to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham that he would be “the father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5). Jacob’s sons became “tribes” or “nations” and given lands to inherit that were named after them. In Judges 1:17, “Judas went with Symeon his brother, and smote the Chananite that inhabited Sepheth, and they utterly destroyed them...” Since Judah and Simeon were not alive during the time of the judges, we know that this verse is talking about their descendants – the tribes or nations of Judah and Simeon. Similarly, Romans 9 is not talking about the individuals Jacob and Esau, but about the descendants of Jacob and Esau – namely, the Israelites and the Edomites, the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul’s point is clear: Although Jacob and Esau were both the children of Abraham, only through Isaac and Jacob’s line would the blessings for the whole world come.
If the nation of Israel did not earn their status as God’s chosen people, but were given it to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham, then Romans 11:7 confirms the point, saying, “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded” (emphasis mine). If this election pertained to all members of the New Testament church, then who is blinded, and for what purpose? This reference, then, must be to the nation of Israel as being elect (chosen to be God’s people), many of whom are currently “blinded”, in keeping with the Biblical teaching about “the times of the Gentiles” and the Jewish restoration, which we’ll talk about later. What did the election obtain? The promises of God, which would bring blessings to the whole world.
Here’s where Romans 9 gets interesting. The reader, just like the Romans at the time, perceiving the extent of the blessings God had bestowed upon the Israelites, might ask, Why didn’t the Gentiles receive “the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises”? Doesn’t that seem unfair? Perhaps to the Roman Gentiles, it did. Perhaps it does to you. Wouldn’t you like to have been the descendants of God’s chosen people? Wouldn’t you like to understand Scripture from the point of view of a Messianic Jew, and have special insight into the mind of God because of your knowledge of the Torah, the Pentateuch, the oral and cultural traditions, the significance of the sacrifices and feasts, and the other ‘sacred texts’? Paul writes, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid” (vs. 14).
At this point, Paul defends God’s right to choose. Even though God chose the Jews and not the Gentiles to be His chosen people, He is righteous, and will remain so – especially in light of His overarching plan of salvation that is for all people, which Paul reveals in Chapter 11.
In Romans 9:15-17, Paul writes, “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” This is cross referenced in Exodus 33, where Moses asks God to go before the people of Israel: “And how shall it be surely known, that both I and this people have found favour with thee, except only if thou go with us? So both I and thy people shall be glorified beyond all the nations, as many as are upon the earth” (Ex. 33:16). The word “glory” in Exodus 33:16 means the same as it does in Romans 9:4, which is “honour, praise, fame, renown” (Webster’s 1828). The Israelites received this kind of glory because God was personally present with their nation. God tells Moses, “I will pass by before thee with my glory, and I will call by my name, the Lord, before thee; and I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and will have pity on whom I will have pity” (Ex. 33:19). The point of these verses is that no matter how badly the Edomites, the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, or any other non-Jewish nation wanted to be the “peculiar” nation on whom God's Name was called, they were not, because they were not the “children of the promise”.
God meant to glorify (give special honour to) the nation of Israel by calling the Israelites His people and going before them. He is claiming His right to show remarkable mercy and pity to the Israelites compared to that which He might show to the Edomites, or to any other nation. This lack is described to the Gentile saints by Paul in Ephesians 2: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:11-12). The Gentiles, as aliens and strangers, “were by nature the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3b). “By nature” simply refers to their birth; Paul is speaking directly to their “flesh”, their birthright. Because they were not born Israelities, they were uncircumcised “in the flesh made by hands”; they were without God, without hope, and strangers from the covenant of promise. This is what seems unfair to the Gentiles to whom Paul speaks and this is why Paul asks, “Is there unrighteousness with God?”
Verses 17- 24
“For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (Rom. 9:17-18). Does this passage infer that Pharaoh was “raised up” or “hardened” just so that God could condemn him to hell? No – the revealed character of God proves that He commits no tyranny, injustice, or unrighteousness. This is a cross reference to Exodus 9:16, when God tells Pharaoh through Moses, “And for this purpose hast thou been preserved, that I might display in thee my strength, and that my name might be published in all the earth.” God raised up a king in order to reveal His nature to all the earth. His nature is not to condemn unjustly, arbitrarily, or whimsically. His nature is good, righteous, glorious, strong, and just. How many times did God raise up nations for the purpose of revealing His character?
When the nation of Israel forgot the Lord and worshiped other gods, God delivered them into the hands of godless nations to chastise them (see Judges 2 and 3). God did so for their “profit” (Heb. 12:7-10), dealing with them as with sons because they were called by His Name, because God went before them, and because the adoption “pertaineth” to them. He also did it for another reason, as told by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:11: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come”. What happened to the Israelites? Both blessings and curses, depending on their obedience to God, their Father. 1 Corinthians 10:1-10 says that they “were under the cloud”, they “passed through the sea”, they were “baptized unto Moses”, they did “eat the same spiritual meat” and did “drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ”. They were “overthrown in the wilderness”; they were “idolaters”; they committed “fornication”, tempted God, “and were destroyed of serpents”. They “murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer”. Do any of these blessings or curses deal directly with salvation or damnation? No. Again, this is not about salvation. We are talking about the special God-given heritage received by the Jews only. Gentiles might feel the absence of this glory and honour, but we cannot and must not deny God’s right to proffer special blessings upon the sons of Abraham, to whom they were promised. Conversely, if we thought He was offering salvation only to the Israelites, we might call him unrighteous, and we would be right. Please remember that nowhere in Romans 9, and nowhere in the entire Bible does it say that God will ‘save those whom he will save and damn those whom he will damn’. His choices are not arbitrary – they are just (See Rom. 4:15, 5:13, 20).
As the Father of His people, God instructed His children, the Israelites, how to be successful and blessed. He said through Moses, “And it shall come to pass, if thou wilt indeed hear the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and do all these commands, which I charge thee this day, that the Lord thy God shall set thee on high above all the nations of the earth” (Deut. 28:1). We see this in Israelite history – when they obey, they are blessed; and when they disobey, they are chastised. “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe all his commandments, as many as I charge thee this day, then all these curses shall come on thee, and overtake thee” (Deut. 28:15). What we are talking about here is chastisement, not damnation.
In light of this, consider the words of Paul in Romans 9:19-21: “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Rom. 9:19-21). Are vessels unto honour saved, and vessels unto dishonour damned? The answer lies in the cross reference, coupled with what we have learned about the context of Romans 9 thus far. Read the cross reference carefully, and then decide whether they are talking about an individual or a nation, about damnation or chastisement:
“The word that came from the Lord to Jeremias, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there thou shalt hear my words. So I went down to the potter's house, and behold, he was making a vessel on the stones. And the vessel which he was making with his hands fell: so he made it again another vessel, as it seemed good to him to make it. And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Shall I not be able, O house of Israel, to do to you as this potter? behold, as the clay of the potter are ye in my hands. If I shall pronounce a decree upon a nation, or upon a kingdom, to cut them off, and to destroy them; and that nation turn from all their sins, then will I repent of the evils which I purposed to do to them. And if I shall pronounce a decree upon a nation and kingdom, to rebuild and to plant it; and they do evil before me, so as not to hearken to my voice, then will I repent of the good which I spoke of, to do it to them” (Jer. 18:1-10).
If God was referring to salvation or individuals in these words to Jeremiah, the people as “a nation” or “kingdom” would be unable to “hearken” to God’s voice, God would not “repent of the evils” He purposed to do to them, and the repentance of entire nations would be futile. In these verses, we see that a decree made by God upon a nation can be reversed. Therefore, being “cut off” or “destroyed” is not a decree of damnation - it is punishment for sin.
In Romans 11, Paul writes, “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (vs. 1), and, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (vs. 22). If we view these verses in context, acknowledging their direct relevance to Romans 9:19-21, it is clear that God is revealing His righteous character to us – He will bless an obedient nation and He will curse a disobedient one in time as we know it (see Deut. 29:24-28, 30:1-3, Jon. 3:8-10, 4:1-2).
God chastises His children because He loves them. If we were sea-faring vessels, headed off-course towards a rocky outcrop, wouldn’t a loving Father warn us of our impending doom? Wouldn’t He tell us that our current course will end in disaster? And if we heed His warning, and turn back to the right way, won’t the outcome change?
Therefore, the following verses in Romans 9:22-24 are also made clear: “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
When the Gentile nations saw the glory of Israel, they saw the invincibility of her God. If they had not been strangers to Israel, they would not have seen their own comparative poverty, and they would not have given the God of Israel such esteem and glory. The Gentile nations, at this time, were the ones moved to jealousy, no doubt wishing that their gods were as mighty and powerful as Israel’s One, True God. This is the wonderful news that Paul brings to the Gentiles – that they are also now able to be the recipients of God’s glory. King Solomon foresaw this and spoke of it in His prayer to God at the dedication of the temple: “And for the stranger who is not of thy people, when they shall come and pray toward this place, then shalt thou hear them from heaven, out of thine established dwelling-place, and thou shalt do according to all that the stranger shall call upon thee for, that all the nations may know thy name, and fear thee, as do thy people Israel, and may know that thy name has been called on this house which I have builded” (1 Kings 8:41-43). “Therefore”, Paul writes, “to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16).
The Gentiles learn that God is prepared to receive unto Himself anyone who turns to Him, even “the vessels of wrath, fitted to destruction” (Rom. 9:22b). He is longsuffering toward the Gentiles in order “to make his power known” (Rom. 9:22) and to “make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy” (Rom. 9:23a). Whereas the “vessels of mercy” used to be the Jews, and the Gentiles were the “vessels of wrath”, now both Jews and Gentiles can be vessels of mercy and honour because of their faith (Gal. 3:14). God is revealing to us His ultimate purpose. He is showing His willingness to repent of the “evil” He had intended to bring upon the once-wicked nations (Jer. 18:8) just as He is willing to repent of the “good” He intended to bring upon the once-obedient nations (Jer. 18:10). The extension of these promises to the Gentiles are “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11). Remember, His eternal purpose is recorded for us all to see as His “foreknowledge”, which is written in His Word, “which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Pt. 1:12b).
It is commonly assumed that by “vessels of wrath”, Paul is talking about those who are condemned to hell and by “vessels of mercy”, Paul is talking about those who are appointed to salvation. However, such an assumption is incongruent with the context of either Romans 9 or Jeremiah 18. Other Bible passages confirm. For example, Ephesians 2 identifies the Gentiles as “by nature the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), distinguishing them from the Jews. The remainder of Ephesians 2 clarifies, rendering the logic of these passages consistent. If the Israelites were given special honour and glory, then the Gentiles were the dishonoured recipients of God’s wrath. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 say, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work” (emphasis mine). How can a man “purge himself” from “iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19) if God damned these “vessels of wrath” to hell before they were born? Paul himself was described by the Lord to Ananias as “a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). People, as vessels, are blessed or cursed according to their own choices – they will be blessed for obedience and cursed for disobedience. Acts 14:16 confirms that God, "in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways". Obedience brings honour and disobedience brings dishonour. It is God, as the potter, whose right it is to measure and deliver the reward or punishment.
Further, Paul writes to the Ephesians, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off were made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). Who were “far off” from God’s promises, but the Gentiles? The Jews were “nigh”, and the Gentiles were “afar off” (Eph. 2:17). “But the promise is unto you [the Jews], and unto your children, and to all that are afar off [the Gentiles], even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). The “call” is the gospel – it is the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who “is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours [the Jews] only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). Because they are God’s chosen people, this call went out to the Jews first: “Unto you first, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26).
The good news to the Gentiles of today – this glorious truth – is that “therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:19-20a). None of these verses say that “fitted to destruction” means eternally damned. God is saying that He is both able and willing to ‘refit’ or ‘remould’ us, changing us from vessels of wrath into vessels of honour because of our faith, obedience, and love. If our faith is accounted unto us for righteousness the same way that Abraham’s was, then God will repent of the evil He purposed to do to us as vessels of wrath, and prepare us instead to be partakers of His glory. This is a beautiful promise based wholly upon God’s love, justice, and mercy.
“As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth” (Rom. 9:25-28). These references are to the restoration of the nation of Israel. The point is that although the Gentiles are now able to be grafted into the tree, the Jews are neither “cast away” nor “forsaken” (Rom. 11:2). God, in accordance with His promise, has saved a remnant, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). It is this remnant of Jews that is referred to in Acts 2:47, when “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47b). Therefore, Paul says, “And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha [Is. 1:9]” (Rom. 9:29).
Israelite history is rife with examples of their rebellion, apostasy, and eventual "widowhood" (Is. 54:4, Lam. 1:1). The “widowhood” of Israel is God’s punishment for their disobedience, and it means that God turned His face away from them, or cast them away, making them enemies of the gospel (Is. 54:8, Rom. 11:1, 7-11, 15, 28). From their carrying away into Babylonian captivity, the hearts of the Israelites were hardened and their ears closed to the truth “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk. 21:24b, Rom. 11:11, 28-32). This means that currently, the “church” as we know it is comprised mostly of Gentiles. “Christianity” is not a word commonly associated with Jews. Therefore, the term “God’s people” is commonly and currently used not for the Jews, but for the Gentiles. The Israelites, as a nation, will continue to be alienated from God until they are restored, at which time, God “will call them my people, which were not my people” (Rom. 9:25). Remember that the book of Hosea is written to the Jews, and verses 9 and 10 refer to the Jews of Judah versus those of Israel; Hosea is prophesying that those who have been separated will become united. When will this happen? Jesus said to the Jews, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 23:38-39, see also Zech. 13:9, Ps. 118:26). The Jewish nation will be restored when they, as a nation, believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
It is interesting to note here a few verses in Revelation 2 and 3, which are a dire warning against Gentiles who insist that they have replaced the Jews as God’s “elect”, chosen people: “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” (Rev. 3:9, see also 2:9). Who does God love, but the Jews, His chosen people – His elect. Let us be careful as Gentiles that we never forget to whom we owe our salvation – the Jew, Yeshua.
In Romans 9:25-26, Paul is quoting Hosea 1:9-10, which includes the partial quote from Isaiah, “And he said, Call his name, Not my people: for ye are not my people, and I am not your God. Yet the number of the children of Israel was as the sand of the sea [Is. 10:22], which shall not be measured nor numbered: and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said to them, Ye are not my people, even they shall be called the sons of the living God” (Hos. 1:9-10). This is significant because, again, Paul is talking about the nation of Israel, as confirmed by Peter, whose letters were written to the Jews.
1 Peter 1 says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God” 1 Pt. 1:1-2a). The Greek word for “strangers” is diaspora, which is the word that is consistently used in Greek for every New Testament passage that refers to the elect, scattered Jews. Diaspora means specifically, the “dispersed Jews”. In its literal sense, the word means the “scattered seed” of Abraham. (Acts 13:45-46). This is corroborated in Acts 11:19, which refers specifically to the Jews, saying, “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled... preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only” (see also Acts 8:1, 4).
The nations of Pontus, Cappadocia, and Asia – mentioned by Peter – are all named as those places where the Jews were scattered (Acts 2:5-11). Acts 2:5 says, “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven”. These men were present in Jerusalem for Pentecost, but came from diverse lands. Peter addresses his letters to them. According to his “manner”, or habit, Paul “went in unto” the Jews first in the cities he travelled to (Acts 17:2, for example). The term “devout men” refers to Jews, because in Acts 17, when Paul and Timothy travel to Thessalonica, for “three sabbath days”, they “reasoned with [the Jews] out of the scriptures”. These men were “devout Greeks”, Jews that lived in Greece (Acts 17:4, see also verses 1-5). We clarify this point because the term “elect” is rightly limited to the Jews. In the book of Ephesians, for example, Paul does not use the word “elect” in verse 4. This is because he is speaking to the Gentiles. The translators of the Textus Receptus were aware of this distinction and translated it accordingly. This is one of the reasons why using an accurate Bible version is so important.
Peter continues in his epistle to the Jews, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people [Ex. 19:5-6]; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light [Is. 42:16]; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God [Hos. 1:9-10]: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy [Hos. 2:23] ” (1 Pet. 2:9-10). While many Gentiles assume these verses refer to them, they do not. They are addressed to the Jews, and refer to the saved remnant, as prophesied by Isaiah and Hosea. These are the Jews referred to in Acts 2, who “gladly received [Peter’s] word” and were “added to the church daily” (vs. 41, 47).
We must always remember that the Bible is a Jewish document, written by Jews, about Jews, through the saving power and grace of the ultimate Jew – Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29). Paul writes to the Gentiles, “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (Rom. 11:17-22).
“What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Rom. 9:30-33). Why have the Israelites “stumbled”? In Paul’s words, again, “Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:11). Amen.
The Jews are God’s elect, chosen people. They were set apart and blessed with remarkable mercy and glory, above that of any other nation. This is the lesson we must take away from Romans 9. That is, that the Jewish nation remains God’s chosen people (His elect), a remnant has been preserved, and one day, the nation will be restored (Is. 54:8, Hos. 1:9-10, Zech. 10:6, Mic. 2:11, Ps. 44:23). In the meantime, their temporary fall from grace ushers in remarkable status for the Gentiles, who are God’s people through faith (Gal. 3:14). Should any generation, nation, or person repent of their sins, God is prepared to forgive them, remold them, and make them “a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17), “a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use” (2 Tim. 2:19).
“Chosen”, “called”, “elected”, or not; Greek, Jew, Gentile, or not; “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus” and “believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead” (Rom. 10:9), and you will be saved.
Thanks for reading,
Peter and Paige