Monday, February 6, 2012

Romans 9

    Now that Paul has shown that faith in Christ (not keeping the law or attempting to earn God's favor) is the only way to become righteous, he turns to the previous question in more detail. If the laws and circumcision and other aspects of the Hebrew religion are not enough to attain righteousness, what about the descendants of Abraham? Why have they failed? Because (9:32) "they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works." To follow the law to earn God's favor is quite different from following the law as an act of faith.
     There is a lot of conversation in chapters 9-11 about "God's election" and these chapters are often used to promote the doctrine of predestination. Predestination teaches that there is no free will and that God has already decided who will be saved and who will be damned. As I have studied the Bible over the last 35+ years I have reached a conclusion that predestination and free will are not contradictory. Here's what I have come to understand: Old Testament and New Testament present a picture of what God is doing. And what God is doing is forming a people for Godself. In the Old Testament becoming a part of that people was a matter of birth and family but a person could choose to whether they wanted to live inside or outside the mores of that community.. In the New Testament becoming a part of that people involves a choice -- the choice to be a follower of Jesus Christ. What has been predestined by God is that God will have a people for Godself. What has not been decided is the individual members of that people. God's people will exist -- the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church that God is forming -- but we have a free choice as to whether we will belong to that people or not.
     No matter what, we enter that life and that people by faith (and not of works lest anyone should boast) -- see Ephesians 2:8-9.

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