Calvinist Strongholds Are Built on Sinking Sand (Romans 9 Study)

Romans chapter nine is a Biblical text which believers in Calvinism/Reformed theology utterly need to depend upon in order to attempt to validate their doctrine and theology.  Yet when examined in the context of the book it is written in, and analyzed in line with the rest of the Bible, it is actually teaching the very opposite of what the Calvinists/Reformed Theologians teach.  It proves that man coming into line with God and being eligible for His grace is man’s responsibility, condemning man for not exercising his God-given capability to do so.

In writing his epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul knows that there is a very important issue that can’t be put off any longer and must be addressed.  He has never seen them and he wants to inform them of everything they absolutely need to know- especially things which they might not already understand.  And that issue which must be addressed is: What about the natural Jews who do not bow to Jesus Christ?  And that is the context of Romans chapter 9.  We’ll now look at it verse by verse.

Romans 9:1-5: “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: 4 Who 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; 5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.  Amen.”

If the Apostle Paul is really going to go on in this chapter to say things which warrant Calvinistic conclusions, then he should obviously not be contending with God by expressing great heaviness and continual sorrow about his natural Jewish brethrens’ lost spiritual condition (to the point where he’d be willing to be lost himself if that could bring them to Christ and save them).  

It is a strange and pathetically ironic thing that Calvinists who teach that God unconditionally chose to save some people and not others, and who say that man should accept this, or he is contending with God, are actually saying the very opposite of the man whose writings they claim to receive their doctrine from.  The Apostle Paul opened the very passage which the Calvinists chiefly use to push Calvinism by expressing a mindset that is one hundred percent opposed to the Calvinist mindset.

Romans 9:6-9: “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect.  For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 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. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Paul is expressing here that there were always natural descendants of Abraham who were not in God’s grace.  The true, spiritual Israel in God’s eyes was never based upon ethnicity nor natural heritage.  The natural Jews had great privileges, but that only meant greater spiritual potential and greater accountability.  It was no guarantee of their salvation at all.  And Paul had already alluded to this truth frequently in the first three chapters of Romans.  The children of promise are those who obey God’s covenant and meet its conditions.  There were always natural descendants of Abraham who did not do this, so it is no strange thing that so many natural Jews have rejected Christ, denying the need for His blood atonement and saying “we will not have this man to reign over us!” (See Luke 19:14)

As we continue in the chapter and get into the most controversial verses, take a look ahead in your Bible to the closing verses of Romans chapter nine and the topic’s continuance in Romans chapters ten and eleven.  Note that the topic never changes from the topic which has been introduced in these opening verses of Romans chapter nine.  Nothing said then in these chapters can properly be understood without understanding the topic and Paul’s clear intent in relation to the topic.  He is obviously explaining the proper Christian viewpoint concerning the natural Jews and why God is not unrighteous nor unfaithful because such a great mass of natural Jews will go to hell for their rejection of Christ.  

Romans 9:10-13: “And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (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;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

It is important to understand that Paul is dealing with Jacob and Esau as nations here, since verse 13 is a reference from the Book of Malachi to nations, not to individuals.  This is one obvious example why we ought to look up Old Testament references in the New Testament and cross reference Scripture in general.  Calvinists use the above verses to try to justify their doctrine of unconditional election of individuals to salvation.  Yet God saying the elder (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob) is a reference to the nations which Esau and Jacob would become.  God chose the nation which Jacob’s descendants became (i.e. Israel) to work through to establish His worship among, commit His Scriptures to, and bring forth His Christ through.  Look at the passage Paul referenced in verse 13 to know this for certain.

Malachi 1:1-3: “The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.  I have loved you, saith the Lord.  Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?  Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.”

Regarding Esau and Jacob as individuals, Esau never personally served Jacob for a day in his life.  Esau’s descendants actually became a kingdom well before Jacob’s descendants did (see Genesis 36:31).  This choice then is not even related to Jacob nor Esau’s personal salvation.  God chose to work His program of redemption through Jacob’s descendants, not Esau’s.  This is a rebuke to the Jews, right from their own Scriptures, which proves that it is no strange thing that God would cease to work His economy of redemption through the Jewish nation after its rejection of Christ, seeing that He had already chosen not to work through many of Abraham’s natural descendants.  Jacob did nothing to make him entitled to this choosing, though it seems reasonable to say that God foresaw Esau’s choice to despise his birthright which would make it especially fitting to not choose to work His economy of redemption through Esau’ descendants.  This is also a rebuke to Jews who falsely thought they could earn God’s favor through their wrong and unlawful use of God’s law as an attempted means to earn God’s justification and an illustration of how fitting it had become for God to cease working His economy of redemption among the Jews due to their despising Christ as a nation and dealing deceitfully with Him.

We’ll see yet more as this chapter unfolds that Paul is rebuking the Jews (and remember too that Paul himself is as Jewish as one can be), as well as others, who would be offended and murmur that God would not accept Jews who reject Christ or murmur that He would not accept any group of people who do not obey Jesus Christ’s Word and bring forth the fruit of righteousness through Him (and see Matthew 22:33-44 here, a corresponding Scripture passage along these lines).

Romans 9:14: “What shall we say then?  Is there unrighteousness with God?  God forbid.”

Paul is clearing up misconceptions by these words which one may have after reading previous verses.  God does not arbitrarily accept or reject individuals.  God is just.  God is bound by His own law.  God does not respect persons.  If God did that, He would be unrighteous.  Some Calvinists will cite Isaiah 45:7 to try to say that God isn’t bound by His own Law and is rather the creator of evil.  But this is a wicked lie.  Isaiah 45:7 says:“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”  Note that evil here is put in contrast to peace.  This is a reference to God’s just judgment and the calamity which that brings (like when He judged and overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah in a fully righteous and just manner).  Jesus makes it clear in John 8:44 that Satan is a liar and the originator of lies.  Evil originates from Satan, not God.

Romans 9:15: “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.”

Calvinists read words like “arbitrary” and “unconditional” into this verse.  Yet God makes it clear throughout His Word that His mercy towards individuals is anything but arbitrary and unconditional.  Paul is expecting his readers to understand what the Scriptures already say on the topics he writes about.

So let’s look then at some clear examples from what God had already established in Scripture regarding who receives God’s mercy and compassion.

Psalm 103:13-18: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.  For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.  As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.  For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.  But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.”

Psalm 51:16-17: “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

Obviously, God had commanded the Jews to offer sacrifices.  Yet sacrificial offerings are worthless when there is not a broken and a contrite heart over sin before God.

Isaiah 55:6-7: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

Notice that the burden here is placed upon the sinner to be reconciled to God.  God has made the provision for that reconciliation.  It is up to the sinner to seek the Lord on His terms to actually obtain God’s mercy.

We must break before God over transgressing against Him, submit to Jesus Christ (who is a Righteous Ruler and a Deliverer), and we must endure in abiding in Him until the end.  God’s mercy is not arbitrary.  Those that meet the conditions find mercy.  God is not going to make exceptions for those who do not meet these conditions, whether they be natural Jews or anyone else since God is no respecter of persons.  This is the entire point of Romans chapter nine; and it is the very opposite of what the Calvinists teach through their doctrine of unconditional election.

Romans 9:16: “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”

Other passages in Scripture demonstrate the necessity of willing and running in order to obtain God’s mercy.  Yet it must be a willing and a running in line with God’s way of redemption in Jesus Christ (which is testified of and foreshadowed in the Jews’ very own Scriptures).  Jesus Christ is called a stumbling stone to the unbelieving Jews later in this very chapter because they tried to run another way.  Running and willing do no good when you don’t heed the instructions of, and follow the course laid down by, the Lawgiver and Judge.  You surely will not win though if you don’t run the course which He has laid down in line with His instructions.

Luke 3:7-9: “Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”

Fleeing from the wrath to come as God commanded obviously involves running.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?  So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”  

Hebrews 11:6: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (See also Hebrews chapter 12 here).

Romans 9:17-18: “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. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”

Paul is obviously comparing the Jews who reject Christ to the Pharaoh who reigned over Egypt when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt.  This is a man whom the Jews in general despised and would have readily confessed that God was righteous to judge severely.  Continuing with the flow from the previous verses then, men must obtain God’s mercy on God’s terms or be condemned.  We’ll see quickly that men render themselves hardened against God’s truth by their choices not to break before God and walk in the light of His truth.  People are basically hardened to the degree that the light of God’s truth has been brought before them and they’ve refused to walk therein.  God can be said to harden someone by bringing the light of the knowledge of Himself to people and letting the bad effects of their opposition to Him take their course in their hearts if and when they choose to not break before God and choose rather to oppose His light- unto the sealing of their own condemnation.  Paul expected his readers to know this based upon what had already been said in the Old Testament and what he had said already in the epistle to the Romans.  

Romans 2:4-9 (note that man is blamed for hardening himself against God and refusing to repent before Him): “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?  But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.”

Psalm 95:7-9 (again, notice that man is warned not to harden his heart to God’s Word): “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.”

A few examples of Jesus rebuking the Jews for hardening themselves to the Great Light of God which is Himself.  God allowed them to pursue the evil course which they chose, blinding their hearts to further light since they had already hardened themselves and refused light.  

John 9:39: “And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.”

Luke 19:41-44: “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!  but now they are hid from thine eyes.  For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”

These things are exactly what “whom he will he hardeneth ” in Romans chapter nine is dealing with.

In the passage above from Luke 19 Jesus was referring to the great judgment which eventually came on the Jewish nation in AD 70 for the nation’s rejection of Him.  Paul spoke of God’s wrath having already come on the Jewish people in 1 Thessalonians chapter 2.  He was aware that the Jews were under judgment as he wrote 1 Thessalonians and as he wrote Romans (both epistles were written pre-Ad 70).  And we can be sure that Paul knew, or at least suspected, that the great judgment upon Jerusalem which Jesus spoke of in the Gospel accounts was coming shortly (and it did a little more than a decade after Romans was written, which was probably in the late AD 50s).  And like Pharaoh, the Jews of the first century who rejected Christ hardened themselves against an especially great amount of light of the knowledge of God which was brought before their eyes. The comparison of the unbelieving Jews then to Pharaoh is thus fitting not only in terms of the hardening of their hearts to extremely great light, but also in that their judgment was a great demonstration of God’s power whereby His name was known (i.e. magnified) throughout all the earth.  Pharaoh fought God at every step by his own free will and therefore especially deserved severe judgment.  The Calvinists say Pharaoh could not have chosen any different than he did.  The opposite is true.  Pharaoh, by his own free will, was disobedient despite God offering him so many great chances to repent.  Of course God would allow him then to pursue the evil, harmful course he had already chosen until his destruction was final.  God did not encourage Pharaoh to do evil, but He did not stop him either.  Whether God brought the plagues or stopped them, Pharaoh used either to further rebel against God and become further hardened.  

Exodus 9:13-17 (this is the specific passage from Exodus which Paul alluded to in Romans 9): “And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.  For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.  For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth.  And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.  As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go (this implies Pharaoh has free will in his response- consider the ridiculous implications of God’s words here if otherwise)?”  

And then later in the chapter, after God had removed the plague, we read in Exodus 9:34-35: “And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.  And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the Lord had spoken by Moses.”

Pharaoh was being disobedient to God in spite of all the overwhelming evidence, just as the Jews with Jesus Christ.  Jesus blames the Jews themselves for their own disobedience to Him.  They are the same people to whom Jesus said in Luke 13:34-35: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”  

We see in Acts 24:25-27 how Felix the Governor received an especially powerful and clear opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ and respond appropriately when Paul was brought before him as a prisoner.  Felix hardened himself though, despite trembling at Paul’s testimony.  It is clear that his spiritual senses became duller as he frequently conversed with the Apostle Paul in hopes of obtaining a bribe to release Paul from prison.  God obviously hardened Felix by leaving him to the workings of his own disobedient heart.  Felix chose to value mammon above God’s grace in Christ, so he became duller yet to his need of God’s grace and more deeply entrenched in his covetous ways.

No one who refuses to bow to Jesus Christ and follow Him as their rightful King and Lord in this life will be able to blame God on Judgment Day for hardening their heart and preventing them from obeying Christ’s Gospel.  Jesus would have to be the biggest hypocrite and liar if the Calvinists are right.  He wanted the Jews who rejected Him to come under His saving reign and obtain His grace, but they would notSince that is the case, the Calvinists are lying and twisting Scripture to keep their own tradition, just as Jesus righteously rebuked the wicked Jews for doing on several occasions.

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 honor, and another unto dishonor?”

Let’s assume for a moment that Calvinism was true: If the one charged with replying against God here were charged with not believing in Calvinistic doctrine, then it would be God Himself who prevented them from believing in Calvinist doctrine!  The Calvinists are illogical in thinking they can change people’s minds to believe in Calvinism while they also teach that God Himself has decreed that a certain portion of mankind is eternally barred from ever believing Christ’s Gospel unto life; and they teach that man can do nothing good unless God irresistibly overpowers them so that they have no choice but to cooperate (this is the Calvinistic concept of Monergism).  The Calvinist who debates or disputes to promote Calvinism can’t logically charge anyone who contends against Calvinism without betraying his own ideology and doctrinal concepts.  If Calvinism were true, how could my eyes be opened, and my heart softened to embrace Calvinism, unless God decreed that and caused that to happen.  Otherwise, how could I do anything else besides resist Calvinism?  And any answer the Calvinist were to give at that point to say I had capability to embrace Calvinism that I wasn’t exercising would betray his own doctrine.  Calvinists should be called out on this, yet in accordance to what these verse from Romans 9 actually do mean, God will allow those who hold onto Calvinism (or any false doctrine) against solid Scriptural evidence to become spiritually dull so that it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible at some point, to ever recover themselves out of the snare which they have chosen to remain in.  I’m not saying to go debating with every Calvinist who wants a debate, but it is logical for someone who opposes Calvinism to rebuke a Calvinist for not knowing and doing better, whereas a Calvinist can’t logically do this to opponents of Calvinism without betraying the very tenets of Calvinism.

Back then to verses 19 to 21 then of Romans chapter nine: The actual thing which Paul is rebuking some over here in regard to replying against God is that some might say at this point that if God is glorified by pouring out His judgment Pharaoh and the Christ rejecting Jews, then how can God find fault with them when His power is yet shown and His name is yet magnified through them?  And the answer which Paul gives such contenders through the illustration of the potter is a reference to Jeremiah chapter 18.  This chapter shows so clearly that people become vessels of honor and glory, or become vessels of dishonor and wrath, based upon their response to God’s truth.  This passage emphasizes man’s capability and responsibility to respond to God obediently and it justifies God for pouring out His wrath upon the disobedient.  Men do resist God’s will in that they rebel against His authority and commandments.  Men cannot resist God’s will in that every man will eventually receive exactly what God judges to be a fitting recompense for their choices before God.  This recompense will vindicate God’s authority and perfect character no matter what, yet that recompense will be utterly different for the wicked compared to the righteous because of their free will response to God’s authority in whether or not they took heed and obeyed the conditions of obtaining His mercy.  God can and does glorify His name through people who harden themselves against Him- by destroying them!  If you harden yourself against Him by refusing His authority and continuing in sin, He still has a useful purpose for you- one that is totally righteous on His part, yet not good for you.

Jeremiah chapter 18:1-20: “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.  Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.  Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter?  saith the Lord.  Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.  At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.  And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.  Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.  And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.  Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing.  Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field?  or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?  Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up; To make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head.  I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.  Then said they, Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet.  Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.  Give heed to me, O Lord, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me.  Shall evil be recompensed for good?  for they have digged a pit for my soul.  Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.”

Individuals and nations are vessels of wrath because they choose not to repent.  All of us were vessels of wrath at some point (at least- many are still vessels of wrath now).  There is no such thing as a true Christian who has not truly submitted to God’s authority and cast their sins away in repentance in order to flee from the wrath of God which is to come.  

Paul had said earlier in Romans 1:16-18: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”  

Did you ever hold the truth in unrighteousness?  If so, you were a vessel of wrath at some point (see also Colossians 3:5-11 here).  And if you are still holding the truth in unrighteousness, then you are still a vessel of wrath who needs to forsake your sin and flee to Jesus Christ, submitting to His righteous Government to walk by faith in the light of His Word in order to authentically wash your dirty robe white in His precious blood (see 1 John 1:7 and Revelation 7:14).  

Jeremiah 18:20 is a death stroke to Calvinism and an especially key verse in rightly dividing Romans chapter nine.  Jeremiah 18:20 (Jeremiah is praying in light of the preceding things in the chapter): “Shall evil be recompensed for good?  for they have digged a pit for my soul.  Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.”

Romans 9:22: “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:”

Enduring with long suffering when there is no possibility of repentance is mockery.

Romans 9:23-26: “And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?  As he saith also in Osee (i.e. the Book of Hosea), I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26 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.”

We see in these verses that the vessels of mercy have not always been among God’s redeemed, set apart people.  Calvinism teaches on the other hand that God’s children were elected as such unconditionally before the foundation of the world and were (or might as well have been) God’s children as much before the world began as they were when they came to Christ.  The phrase “afore prepared unto glory” is another phrase which the Calvinists especially latch onto.  Yet note that this is in connection with God making known “the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy.”  The riches of God’s grace in Christ are obviously only bestowed upon those who genuinely repent and come to Christ.  The riches of His grace fit these for glory, as God obtaining a people who share in His glory is ultimately the goal of Christ’s redemption (and that concept is essentially what Biblical predestination is by the way; and predestination is one of the Biblical words which the Calvinists most badly abuse along with election and foreknowledge- the elect though are simply those who come to Christ on His terms; and foreknowledge is how God planned the way of redemption in Christ before the world was created- there is nothing in these terms in their Biblical context which teach that God unconditionally elected some individuals to salvation and some to damnation before the foundation of the world).  And there is nothing said in Romans chapter 9 about a Christian being unable to turn his back on Christ in forsaking His narrow way that leads to eternal life and glory so that they would fall from His grace and thus fail to inherit eternal life and glory.  And indeed, God’s true people are exhorted throughout the Bible to cooperate with Christ’s grace and warned throughout the Bible (and even in the Book of Romans itself) that turning back from Christ unto damnation is possible.  There is no such thing as a set group of unconditionally elected people to salvation like Calvinism teaches. 

Romans 8:12-13: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

Romans 11:19-23 (this is yet in the same train of thought as Romans 9- remember that there are no chapter breaks in the original text- these verses describe the proper Christian attitude towards Jewish unbelievers in general; and that involves taking to heart that Christians themselves will be cut off Christ if they turn away from obediently following Him): “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 high minded, 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.  And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.”

(See also Colossians 1:21-29 along these lines.  Note the phrase “the riches of his glory” in verse 27; and note the conditional nature of the Christian partaking in these riches throughout this passage).  

Acts 13:43: “Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”

Matthew 24:9-13: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.  And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.  And because iniquity (i.e. lawlessness) shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.  But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

Romans 9:27-29: “Esaias (i.e. Isaiah) also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. 29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrha. 

The topic has never changed throughout the chapter.  And Paul emphasizes here that it should not be considered a strange thing that there are Israelites cut off from God’s covenant because of their unbelief and stubbornness against Christ since there were Israelites throughout the Hebrew Bible (i.e. Old Testament) whom God rejected and judged for their disobedience.  

(The chapter concludes with) Romans 9:30-33: “What shall we say then?  That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Wherefore?  Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.  For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”

Every time “righteousness” is spoken of in these verses it is a reference to a state of being justified before God and in His favor.  

We see here how the Jews stumbled at Christ and missed their own Messiah by their unlawful use of their very own Law which they did not submit to (they believed they could make self-atonement through the Mosaic ceremonies; the Mosaic Law was rather intended as a guide to exercising faith in God and as a schoolmaster to Jesus Christ).  On the other hand, many gentiles who were not necessarily even highly concerned with being justified before God before Christ’s Gospel came to them heeded the warning to flee from the wrath to come and turn to Jesus Christ.  The genuine Christians, whether from Jewish or gentile backgrounds, had attained justification before God in Jesus Christ while the majority of natural Jews rejected Christ and thus failed to attain justification before God.  Those who really believed the Law of Moses recognized and turned to Jesus Christ on God’s terms.  Those who did not heed the Law of Moses stumbled.  The wicked are wicked because they are workers of lawlessness. 

Corresponding to Romans 9:30-33, we read in Luke 13:23-29: “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved?  And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.   When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.  But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity (i.e. lawlessness).  There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you (speaking directly to natural Jews) yourselves thrust out.  And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.”

Many Jews were zealous for the Law of Moses in an outwardly scrupulous way yet did not heed their own Law from the heart.  Look at what Jesus told religiously scrupulous Jews who would have said they lived entirely by God’s Law.

John 5:45-47: “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.  For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”

In Isaiah chapters 58 and 59 we see the condition of the Jews at the time (which was typical throughout the history of the Jews- and continues to this very day really).  They were zealous to know the ceremonial ordinances, they were fasting, and they were doing other religiously scrupulous things to try to please God.  Yet they were also covetous, oppressing the poor, not helping the needy like they ought to have, they were lying, and committing many other sins.  They had a view of the Law which was very shallow (not substantially different from the shallow, counterfeit Christianity in the false church on the street corner today).  Reading Matthew chapters five to seven demonstrates the contrast between the true intent of God’s commandments (which Jesus preached and upheld) opposed to the shallow view of them taught by Israel’s leaders.  

Mark 7:5-7: “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?  He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Along the same lines, remember John the Baptist’s rebuke to the Jewish people in Luke chapter 3 which was quoted earlier.

Luke 3:7-9: “Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”

That sums up Romans chapter nine well.  

And if there is any doubt that it was abuse of the law and love of sin which kept (and keeps) Jews from truly believing in Christ and obtaining God’s mercy through Him, look at Jesus and Paul’s own evangelistic examples which extend this principle to all people, Jew and gentile.

John 3:17-20: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”

Acts 26:19-23: “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.  For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.  Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”

Paul had said earlier in Romans 3:30-31: “Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.  Do we then make void the law through faith?  God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

It is no wonder that the Jewish people missed their Messiah and still do so to this day.  And it is no wonder that most in churches today do not properly recognize Christ’s mission of saving people from their sins and do not respond according to this mission.  They do not tremble at the Word of God and wholeheartedly seek to do what it says.  They do not believe that there is an eternal hell where those who are not redeemed to God through Christ’s blood, having come under the righteous authority of His kingdom, will suffer forever with weeping and gnashing of teeth like the Bible repeatedly warns about.  

And these truths only further prove how absurd and illogical Calvinism is.  It is man who must come into line with God.  Jesus said in John 15:4: “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.”  Calvinism twists this truth to essentially tell a lie, saying that man can’t choose to abide in Jesus like He instructed us to do!  God has graciously made provision in Jesus Christ to rescue us from our unthinkably deep fall into sin and the condemnation of eternal hell which we justly deserve.  God’s Spirit is striving with all men to bring them to the light in Christ and walk therein that they might be saved.  The burden is upon man then to come into line with God and cooperate with the rescue which He has provided in Jesus Christ.  Running, willing, and striving in any other direction won’t cut it.  Calvinists preach that men cannot even cooperate with God’s plan of redemption in Christ without God irresistibly compelling them to do so.  That is not rightly dividing God’s Word, it is false piety, and it essentially justifies man for not executing his own responsibility which God has commanded him to exercise!  

Calvinism justifies sinful, rebellious men by its total depravity doctrine which teaches that man cannot repent and come to the light unless God spiritually regenerates him first.  Total depravity is the doctrine which all of Calvinism hinges upon.  And it is proven false simply because God commands all men to repent and follow Jesus Christ obediently by faith.  It is also proven false by how the Bible is clear that repentance must precede spiritual regeneration.  Don’t believe nor spread the lies of Calvinism which essentially justify man for not doing what God has told him to do.  We cannot save ourselves on our own, but we must heed God and follow His directions to have an interest in Christ and partake of His grace (and in that way we do indeed need to save ourselves- see Acts 2:40).  Believing in Calvinism is in itself a choice which man makes- a bad choice; a choice to cleave to darkness and refuse the light of God’s truth.

Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father and there is no salvation apart from Him.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who is utterly holy, loving righteousness and hating lawlessness (Hebrews 1:8-9).  Man cannot bribe God to avoid Him, man cannot work to get around Him, man cannot please God while at enmity with Him, and all who are not under His righteous reign are not eligible to partake of His blood atonement.  And partaking of Christ’s atonement is man’s only hope of obtaining God’s mercy and avoiding God’s just condemnation.  Man is obligated and expected to forsake sin, submit to God’s authority in Christ, and come to (as well as continuously believe in) the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for His grace to be saved from the guilt and power of sin.  Don’t let the influence of Calvinism or any other influence tell you that you cannot do this or that you do not need to do this.  Not doing this is choosing spiritual death and inviting the wrath of God.

Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity (i.e. all lawlessness), and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Aaron can be reached at: [email protected]