The jealousy of the Jews and the fullness of the Gentiles

Something jumped out at me several days ago when I was reading Acts 13: it reminded me of Romans 11. And well it should. After all, Acts was written by a fellow who accompanied Paul on numerous missionary journeys and should have been quite in sync with his doctrine and theology.

Interestingly enough, at about the same time I noticed the obvious parallel, my brother-in-law Josh was having an epiphany of his own that was soon manifested in two posts on his site, “Predestination: A Misunderstanding of Jew vs. Gentile In the New Covenant?” and “Predestination Misunderstanding Part II: Vessels of Honor and Destruction“. The subject is clear from his post titles, and they intersect with what I was reading in Acts. Let’s get down to it, shall we?

I have argued elsewhere (as Josh did in the above posts) that God’s purpose in election was not to arbitrarily divide all of humanity into two groups, the saved and the damned, but to further His redemptive purpose in a particular, sharply defined context. One of the great prooftexts of Calvinistic unconditional election/condemnation in Romans 9 concerns the vessels of destruction and honor but is based on a misunderstanding of what was really a temporary first-century, intercovenantal situation. Interestingly enough, Acts 13 hosts the other clincher for so many to adopt a Calvinistic understanding of predestination, verse 48, “…as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers.”

Wow, what a verse. Case closed! How can non-predestinarians get around that? Well, let’s look at the rest of Acts 13, perhaps the most pivotal passage of the whole book.

Romans 9.22-27: What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people [the Gentiles] I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they shall be called children of the living God.”

And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved;

The close of chapter 9 defines the predestination language that precedes it: it’s all a continuous argument. Who are those “objects of wrath”? Half, more or less, of humanity throughout time? We definitely can’t make that claim based on Romans 9, because Paul defines his focus in verses 32 and 33 by asking why Israel after the flesh did not retain their part and parcel status as God’s covenant people.

Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him​f​ will not be put to shame.”

It is the majority of Israel, God’s own people, that He hardened, and for His own purposes. But not all of Israel: after restating the universality of the gospel in chapter 10, Paul continues in 11.1-7:

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened

The Calvinist view takes predestination and election as individual in scope and more or less arbitrary in method, while many others have argued that what we have is corporate election (the body of Israel). I think we have something of a hybrid: a more or less corporate condemnation, with individual exemptions. But notice the next section, which is absolutely vital for understanding what’s going on here.

Romans 11.11-16: So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling​​ salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel​​ jealous. Now if their stumbling​​ means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people​ jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

Did you catch that? Two important things we see here:

1) Predestination to destruction has a purpose. Far from arbitrary, it was a means of grace intended to:

a. Allow non-Jews to partake in reconciliation with God
b. Make Israel jealous

2) Predestination to destruction is temporary. It has a time constraint: Paul speaks of a future possibility for the Jews to accept the gospel.

Regarding that future possibility, Paul goes on to say in v 23, “And even those of Israel,​​ if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.” This is incredibly significant: once God has stopped hardening the corporate body of Israel, the status quo situation of “believe” rather than “be elect” will be restored.

So we see that this hardening of Israel was to be temporary, whereafter ethnic Jews would be able to believe and be saved. But does Paul give a time frame for the end of that hardening period? He certainly does, in 11.25: “So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters,​ I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”

Let me summarize a few key points from Romans 9-11 (in logical order).

  • The gospel originated with the Jews.
  • The preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles coincided with the hardening of Israel as a whole.
  • The reconciliation of believing Gentiles to God would be a stumbling block, a point of jealousy for the Jews.
  • The hardening of Israel was temporary, awaiting the conversion of a certain divinely ordained “full number” of Gentiles

Bear that in mind as we turn to Acts 13.

Now, remember that one of the main themes of Acts is the gospel being proclaimed to and received by the Gentiles, and the offense that the gospel was to the Jews. Acts 13 begins with yet more Gentiles being converted, including the proconsul at Salamis (vv 4-12). Later, Paul delivers an impassioned sermon to the Jews at Pisidian Antioch, full of references to the Old Testament: he gave a brief history of the nation of Israel from the Exodus to the Davidic kingdom, and proclaimed that although Jesus fulfilled the hope of Israel, the Jews killed their Messiah. What kind of response did this provoke?

Well, there were many Jews who believed (v 43), and they urged Paul and Barnabas to come back the next week to preach at the synagogue again. When they did, things got interesting.

The next sabbath almost the whole city [the majority of which was Gentile] gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers.

Now compare what I underlined in the above passage to my summary of the Romans passages (in narrative order):

  • The reconciliation of believing Gentiles to God would be a stumbling block, a point of jealousy for the Jews.
  • The gospel originated with the Jews.
  • The preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles coincided with the hardening of Israel as a whole.
  • The hardening of Israel was temporary, awaiting the conversion of a certain divinely ordained “full number” of Gentiles

The “full number” of Gentiles was already starting to be filled up. The generation Jesus spoke to that was not to pass away until He returned was nearing its end. The elimination of the Jew/Gentile distinction by fulfilling once and for all the promises of God to Israel and vindicating those awaiting the fullness of a new, better covenant (Jer 31; Heb 8) was completed by the end of the Jewish cultus at the destruction of the Temple in 70. In Revelation’s benediction in chapter 22, we see the situation as it stands following the descent of the Jerusalem from above and the marriage supper:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”

And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”

And let everyone who is thirsty come.

Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

God’s purpose in election has been fulfilled. All are free to believe and receive the water of life. Praise God for fully accomplishing His redemptive plan for humanity!

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  • Great post. You’ve obviously put a ton of thought into this and all your others!

    This definitely made my brain have to dig back to my college days and all my theology/Christology classes!

  • Great post. You’ve obviously put a ton of thought into this and all your others!

    This definitely made my brain have to dig back to my college days and all my theology/Christology classes!

  • Glad to jog your memory 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  • Glad to jog your memory 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  • I’ve been thinking about the salvation of Israel myself (albeit in a non-preterist form), so it’s interesting to here your viewpoint.

    What I’m stuck on comes down to (I believe) a lack of understanding regarding what ‘preterist’ means to you. Basically, I understood that it means that you believe that the entirety of Revelation has come to pass. Am I right?

    If so, do you believe that all have already come into salvation, or that all people have the opportunity to come into salvation?

  • I’ve been thinking about the salvation of Israel myself (albeit in a non-preterist form), so it’s interesting to here your viewpoint.

    What I’m stuck on comes down to (I believe) a lack of understanding regarding what ‘preterist’ means to you. Basically, I understood that it means that you believe that the entirety of Revelation has come to pass. Am I right?

    If so, do you believe that all have already come into salvation, or that all people have the opportunity to come into salvation?

  • Welcome back, Damian!

    What I’m stuck on comes down to (I believe) a lack of understanding regarding what ‘preterist’ means to you. Basically, I understood that it means that you believe that the entirety of Revelation has come to pass. Am I right?

    Not just Revelation, but all NT prophecy, including Matthew 24-25. See my “Preterism” category on the left sidebar for more info. Start with my short introductory post. Then proceed at your pleasure to any of the other ones under that category.

    If so, do you believe that all have already come into salvation, or that all people have the opportunity to come into salvation?

    Definitely the latter. One of the best proofs for this is that the hardening discussed in this post ended with the consummation of all things in AD 70, but Paul says that after the hardening (i.e. ever since AD 70), only those who “do not persist in unbelief” will be saved. He was talking about Jews specifically, but it would be hard indeed to interpret that as saying only Jews have the possibility of not coming into salvation! Rather, he was saying that after the hardening was over with, Jews are on equal footing with Gentiles: both must believe to be saved.

  • Welcome back, Damian!

    What I’m stuck on comes down to (I believe) a lack of understanding regarding what ‘preterist’ means to you. Basically, I understood that it means that you believe that the entirety of Revelation has come to pass. Am I right?

    Not just Revelation, but all NT prophecy, including Matthew 24-25. See my “Preterism” category on the left sidebar for more info. Start with my short introductory post. Then proceed at your pleasure to any of the other ones under that category.

    If so, do you believe that all have already come into salvation, or that all people have the opportunity to come into salvation?

    Definitely the latter. One of the best proofs for this is that the hardening discussed in this post ended with the consummation of all things in AD 70, but Paul says that after the hardening (i.e. ever since AD 70), only those who “do not persist in unbelief” will be saved. He was talking about Jews specifically, but it would be hard indeed to interpret that as saying only Jews have the possibility of not coming into salvation! Rather, he was saying that after the hardening was over with, Jews are on equal footing with Gentiles: both must believe to be saved.

  • Steve,

    From reading the post you linked to, I can see you’ve obviously thought carefully about this (not a surprise!); I’ll continue reading as I have the time. I think I’ll refrain from changing my opinion at this stage though, as I’d rather complete my own eschatological understanding myself.

    One thing that stood out for me is the concept of resurrection. If you believe all prophesy has been fulfilled, this implies that you believe in a spiritual (not a bodily) resurrection, am I right? This is in contrast to Christ’s Easter resurrection.

    If so, I may have argument with that – but I have to explore the thought further before I actually have the conversation with you.

  • Steve,

    From reading the post you linked to, I can see you’ve obviously thought carefully about this (not a surprise!); I’ll continue reading as I have the time. I think I’ll refrain from changing my opinion at this stage though, as I’d rather complete my own eschatological understanding myself.

    One thing that stood out for me is the concept of resurrection. If you believe all prophesy has been fulfilled, this implies that you believe in a spiritual (not a bodily) resurrection, am I right? This is in contrast to Christ’s Easter resurrection.

    If so, I may have argument with that – but I have to explore the thought further before I actually have the conversation with you.

  • Steve, why not just take a natural reading of the text, so you would not have to go on and on, looking for artificial explanations. 😀

    Consider that Paul was in Corinth with little success and was getting ready to leave town when Christ appeared to him in a vision, saying I have “many people in this city.” Paul remained for 18 months and established a church there (Acts 18:9-11).

    Later he would right and let them know that it was because they were chosen for salvation (1 Cor 1:26ff).

  • Steve, why not just take a natural reading of the text, so you would not have to go on and on, looking for artificial explanations. 😀

    Consider that Paul was in Corinth with little success and was getting ready to leave town when Christ appeared to him in a vision, saying I have “many people in this city.” Paul remained for 18 months and established a church there (Acts 18:9-11).

    Later he would right and let them know that it was because they were chosen for salvation (1 Cor 1:26ff).

  • TC,
    Welcome!

    Consider that Paul was in Corinth with little success and was getting ready to leave town when Christ appeared to him in a vision, saying I have “many people in this city.” Paul remained for 18 months and established a church there (Acts 18:9-11).

    Later he would right and let them know that it was because they were chosen for salvation (1 Cor 1:26ff).

    I have no problem with what you posted there. What’s your beef? Where am I being “artificial”? BTW, the contrast is not between a “natural reading” and an “artificial reading”, but between a natural reading and an informed, non-superficial reading. :mrgreen:

  • TC,
    Welcome!

    Consider that Paul was in Corinth with little success and was getting ready to leave town when Christ appeared to him in a vision, saying I have “many people in this city.” Paul remained for 18 months and established a church there (Acts 18:9-11).

    Later he would right and let them know that it was because they were chosen for salvation (1 Cor 1:26ff).

    I have no problem with what you posted there. What’s your beef? Where am I being “artificial”? BTW, the contrast is not between a “natural reading” and an “artificial reading”, but between a natural reading and an informed, non-superficial reading. :mrgreen:

  • Steve, where is my reply?

  • Steve, where is my reply?

  • TC,

    I deleted it because you refuted full preterism.

    😆 Just joking! Unfortunately, I have not received anything from you other than the two listed above. I’m about fed up with this host. 👿

  • TC,

    I deleted it because you refuted full preterism.

    😆 Just joking! Unfortunately, I have not received anything from you other than the two listed above. I’m about fed up with this host. 👿

  • Thanks for letting me know what happened. I posted a lengthy reply. I’ll have to try again.

    Sorry about your woes. 🙁

  • Thanks for letting me know what happened. I posted a lengthy reply. I’ll have to try again.

    Sorry about your woes. 🙁

  • joseff

    Steve, I read the above article as you recommended, and I am amazed! I have to say I agree with most of what you said here. and I think you would be surprised that the interpretation of Romans 9 you gave is actually an interpretation most knowledgeable Calvinists would agree with! Bet you didn’t expect that! lol

    Yes, Romans 9 is talking about God’s extension of grace to the Gentiles, because He gives mercy to whomever He will.

    However, this doesn’t do anything to disprove individual election, because it’s not solely Romans 9 that the doctrine of unconditional, individual election is founded on. (Rom 8, Eph 1, 2 Thess 2:13, 1 and 2 Peter, John 6, 10, 17 etc, come to mind)

    Not only that, but if Romans 9 proves that Israel as a nation was elected alone out of all the nations of the earth for the purpose of redemptive history, that does not refute the case for individual election, it only strengthens it!

    Why? Because the nation of Israel is made of individuals, and the rest of the entire world in the Old Testament, also made up of individuals, with individual, eternal souls, was completely passed over and left in the darkness, left to their own devices and pagan idolatry, to experience God’s justice and wrath.

    Furthermore, to say that Israels national election “refutes” individual election for salvation is folly, because God certainly knew and ordained which individuals would actually be Israelites. God did not elect a faceless, unknown group of people who were born Israelites by chance or coincidence. Ultimately, we know that God placed specific souls into Israel. It is by God’s ultimate doing that every man who was an Israelite, was so. It is not by accident or out of God’s control that Jacob was born an Israelite instead of an Egyptian, for example.

    Jacob was an Israelite, and according to Israel’s national election, was a recipient of those particular blessings, but it was God’s purpose and plan all along that Jacob would be an Israelite. Again, it’s still at the individual level.

    When you get down to the nitty gritty, individuals are at stake here, and you know as well as I do that God was ultimately sovereign in determining *who* those individuals would be.

    That being said, when we come to Romans 9 and Paul is explaining why Jacob was chosen over Esau for certain things, Paul explicitly says that God’s choice of these men was not in light of their works (for both men were knuckleheads).

    Thus, the only basis of God’s choice (that Jacob, an individual, would receive things that Esau, also an individual, would not,) was found in God Himself and His secret will, whereby he works all things according to the counsel thereof, and not based on Jacob and Esau themselves, or their actions.

    Furthermore, since God’s choice of Jacob over Esau for national privileges was not founded upon the men themselves, or their works (Rom 9), that means God, from eternity past, by necessity, had to have some sort of unconditional special favor or love towards Jacob that differed from the way He felt about Esau. (hatred? Rom 9)

    All of this supports individual election unto salvation, because Esau (and Pharaoh, Rom 9) are understood as the theological centerpieces for how God justly feels towards all fallen men. Psa 5:5 states that God hates all workers of iniquity. If you ask yourself “who does that include”, you’ll realize that it includes everyone. John 3 states that God’s wrath abides on unbelievers, and if you ask yourself “who does that include?”, you’ll soon realize that 100% of the human race is counted as unbelievers until God graciously works to bring that person to faith.

    Our sins, as a human race, deserve, and have earned, God’s just hatred of us. It is only by sheer undeserved mercy and grace that God sets His love upon any at all, and this, Calvinists believe, is precisely what Paul means when he writes Rom 8:28, or Eph 1:4-11, for example. Free, unconditional, unmerited love is the very definition of grace! Literally! Go to dictionary.com and look up “grace”.

    Ultimately, since all are sinful, separated from God, and “hostile towards God”, unable to please Him (Rom 8:7-8), God’s grace to work on men’s hearts, change them, and effectually bring them to faith and repentance, must be unconditional, because none can earn this or in any way persuade God to do this, as all men, by nature, are “in the flesh”, and while in the flesh, “cannot do anything to please God” (Rom 8:7-8)

    And if God loves a man in time enough to graciously work in this way, it necessitates the fact that God loved that man from eternity past, (See Jer 31:3 and Mal 3:6). This necessitates that God at some point had to make a choice regarding who He would and would not do this to, whereby He extends or withholds grace and mercy as He pleases, which is always just.

    This choice by necessity had to have been at the individual level, because God works all things according to the council of His own will. Note that God works. God is active in working all things out according to His own will. God also boasts that He will “declare the end from the beginning”. In the end, every single person that is saved and redeemed and forgiven is saved, redeemed, and forgiven on purpose.

    If you disagree, ask yourself this. If you’re saved, who saved you, God, or yourself? You’d answer “God did”. Then ask yourself, “Did He save you on purpose, or was it an accident?” You’d have no answer but “He saved me on purpose”, and that, Steve, is the doctrine of election 🙂

    As for Acts 13:48, your interpretation would be sound, but the phrase “as many as” is a huge stumbling block for you.

    The phrase “as many as” dictates that not one less, and not one more, did a particular thing.

    “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed”

    The idea that this is just casually implying that “Since all Gentiles are now ordained to eternal life, some of them believed” is nonsense and the text does not allow it.

    “As many as”, not one more, and not one less, that were ordained to eternal life, believed. This is in accordance with John 6:37 where Christ says “All that the father gives me, will come to me” (or believe in me)

    Please let me provide you a statement from AW Pink and Charles Spurgeon on this very subject, emphasis mine:

    “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48). Every artifice of human ingenuity has been employed to blunt the sharp edge of this Scripture and to explain away the obvious meaning of these words, but it has been employed in vain, though nothing will ever be able to reconcile this and similar passages to the mind of the natural man. “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” Here we learn four things: First, that believing is the consequence and not the cause of God’s decree. Second, that a limited number only are “ordained to eternal life,” for if all men without exception were thus ordained by God, then the words “as many as” are a meaningless qualification. Third, that this “ordination” of God is not to mere external privileges but to “eternal life,” not to service but to salvation itself. Fourth, that all-“as many as,” not one less-who are thus ordained by God to eternal life will most certainly believe.

    The comments of the beloved Spurgeon on the above passage are well worthy of our notice. Said he, “Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read: ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,’ and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man. Is it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not He-in every case-dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for Him to purpose it before today-and, since He changes not-from eternity.”

  • joseff

    Steve, I read the above article as you recommended, and I am amazed! I have to say I agree with most of what you said here. and I think you would be surprised that the interpretation of Romans 9 you gave is actually an interpretation most knowledgeable Calvinists would agree with! Bet you didn’t expect that! lol

    Yes, Romans 9 is talking about God’s extension of grace to the Gentiles, because He gives mercy to whomever He will.

    However, this doesn’t do anything to disprove individual election, because it’s not solely Romans 9 that the doctrine of unconditional, individual election is founded on. (Rom 8, Eph 1, 2 Thess 2:13, 1 and 2 Peter, John 6, 10, 17 etc, come to mind)

    Not only that, but if Romans 9 proves that Israel as a nation was elected alone out of all the nations of the earth for the purpose of redemptive history, that does not refute the case for individual election, it only strengthens it!

    Why? Because the nation of Israel is made of individuals, and the rest of the entire world in the Old Testament, also made up of individuals, with individual, eternal souls, was completely passed over and left in the darkness, left to their own devices and pagan idolatry, to experience God’s justice and wrath.

    Furthermore, to say that Israels national election “refutes” individual election for salvation is folly, because God certainly knew and ordained which individuals would actually be Israelites. God did not elect a faceless, unknown group of people who were born Israelites by chance or coincidence. Ultimately, we know that God placed specific souls into Israel. It is by God’s ultimate doing that every man who was an Israelite, was so. It is not by accident or out of God’s control that Jacob was born an Israelite instead of an Egyptian, for example.

    Jacob was an Israelite, and according to Israel’s national election, was a recipient of those particular blessings, but it was God’s purpose and plan all along that Jacob would be an Israelite. Again, it’s still at the individual level.

    When you get down to the nitty gritty, individuals are at stake here, and you know as well as I do that God was ultimately sovereign in determining *who* those individuals would be.

    That being said, when we come to Romans 9 and Paul is explaining why Jacob was chosen over Esau for certain things, Paul explicitly says that God’s choice of these men was not in light of their works (for both men were knuckleheads).

    Thus, the only basis of God’s choice (that Jacob, an individual, would receive things that Esau, also an individual, would not,) was found in God Himself and His secret will, whereby he works all things according to the counsel thereof, and not based on Jacob and Esau themselves, or their actions.

    Furthermore, since God’s choice of Jacob over Esau for national privileges was not founded upon the men themselves, or their works (Rom 9), that means God, from eternity past, by necessity, had to have some sort of unconditional special favor or love towards Jacob that differed from the way He felt about Esau. (hatred? Rom 9)

    All of this supports individual election unto salvation, because Esau (and Pharaoh, Rom 9) are understood as the theological centerpieces for how God justly feels towards all fallen men. Psa 5:5 states that God hates all workers of iniquity. If you ask yourself “who does that include”, you’ll realize that it includes everyone. John 3 states that God’s wrath abides on unbelievers, and if you ask yourself “who does that include?”, you’ll soon realize that 100% of the human race is counted as unbelievers until God graciously works to bring that person to faith.

    Our sins, as a human race, deserve, and have earned, God’s just hatred of us. It is only by sheer undeserved mercy and grace that God sets His love upon any at all, and this, Calvinists believe, is precisely what Paul means when he writes Rom 8:28, or Eph 1:4-11, for example. Free, unconditional, unmerited love is the very definition of grace! Literally! Go to dictionary.com and look up “grace”.

    Ultimately, since all are sinful, separated from God, and “hostile towards God”, unable to please Him (Rom 8:7-8), God’s grace to work on men’s hearts, change them, and effectually bring them to faith and repentance, must be unconditional, because none can earn this or in any way persuade God to do this, as all men, by nature, are “in the flesh”, and while in the flesh, “cannot do anything to please God” (Rom 8:7-8)

    And if God loves a man in time enough to graciously work in this way, it necessitates the fact that God loved that man from eternity past, (See Jer 31:3 and Mal 3:6). This necessitates that God at some point had to make a choice regarding who He would and would not do this to, whereby He extends or withholds grace and mercy as He pleases, which is always just.

    This choice by necessity had to have been at the individual level, because God works all things according to the council of His own will. Note that God works. God is active in working all things out according to His own will. God also boasts that He will “declare the end from the beginning”. In the end, every single person that is saved and redeemed and forgiven is saved, redeemed, and forgiven on purpose.

    If you disagree, ask yourself this. If you’re saved, who saved you, God, or yourself? You’d answer “God did”. Then ask yourself, “Did He save you on purpose, or was it an accident?” You’d have no answer but “He saved me on purpose”, and that, Steve, is the doctrine of election 🙂

    As for Acts 13:48, your interpretation would be sound, but the phrase “as many as” is a huge stumbling block for you.

    The phrase “as many as” dictates that not one less, and not one more, did a particular thing.

    “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed”

    The idea that this is just casually implying that “Since all Gentiles are now ordained to eternal life, some of them believed” is nonsense and the text does not allow it.

    “As many as”, not one more, and not one less, that were ordained to eternal life, believed. This is in accordance with John 6:37 where Christ says “All that the father gives me, will come to me” (or believe in me)

    Please let me provide you a statement from AW Pink and Charles Spurgeon on this very subject, emphasis mine:

    “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:48). Every artifice of human ingenuity has been employed to blunt the sharp edge of this Scripture and to explain away the obvious meaning of these words, but it has been employed in vain, though nothing will ever be able to reconcile this and similar passages to the mind of the natural man. “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” Here we learn four things: First, that believing is the consequence and not the cause of God’s decree. Second, that a limited number only are “ordained to eternal life,” for if all men without exception were thus ordained by God, then the words “as many as” are a meaningless qualification. Third, that this “ordination” of God is not to mere external privileges but to “eternal life,” not to service but to salvation itself. Fourth, that all-“as many as,” not one less-who are thus ordained by God to eternal life will most certainly believe.

    The comments of the beloved Spurgeon on the above passage are well worthy of our notice. Said he, “Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read: ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,’ and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man. Is it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not He-in every case-dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for Him to purpose it before today-and, since He changes not-from eternity.”

  • Doug

    joseff,
    I understand your rationale and your arguments for divine election. Yet, you have made an assertion that you have not proven. Namely, that God has some kind of eternal bank of “souls” who are put into bodies into particular people-groups at certain times in history. Those souls, you assert, are then “chosen” for God’s grace. The implication is that this is the mechanism God employs when He predestines people. You are further implying that these souls must, by necessity, be immortal, so that God can then bestow His grace upon them. Otherwise, how can He foreknow who they are and what their particular natures are going to be? If you don’t think they are immortal, then you believe their natures are created at the moment of their conception, and if you believe this, then you also believe that other natures who will not receive God’s grace were created solely for destruction.

    So I ask; Why does God create souls “fitted for destruction”, upon whom God’s wrath comes? If there is no possibility for their redemption, then is God not doing things “in vain”, seeing as their birth and death serves no purpose, other than (according to you) to be created and then to die (or live forever, depending on your concept of the immortality of the soul) in hell?

    By your definition, the family of God has a limit, and that limit is predetermined by God, and it cannot grow beyond that limit. I understand that there are evil people, and that truly, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and not one deserves grace. I also understand that God bestows grace upon whom He wills. Yet, to assert that the evil that deserves eternal punishment is the same as the evil that is common to all men because we are ALL sinners means that God is doing things in vain. Namely, that God creates grass just so that it will grow up and then be fit for nothing better than to be burned. In addition, you are also stating that this grass was pre-ordained to be burned, and that there is no hope at all for them. It leads to the inevitable conclusion that a)man has no truly free choice and b)there is no point in evangelization.

    Such a bleak view of the purpose of life makes those who are “chosen” feel really good, but those who are not really, really bad. In addition, it makes the message of the gospel repellent to those who may be initially attracted to it. It also can make those who ARE called and chosen stay in doubt of their own salvation, because one cannot know for sure if they are saved until that final moment when God welcomes them in. That surely isn’t grace, that is a works-based religion and isn’t too far removed from Judaism or Islam. Judaism says that our good works have to outweigh our bad. Islam is even worse, because it contends that one can NEVER know if God will save us – it all depends on the whim (sovereignty) of God. How is your definition of sovereignty different than that of the Muslim version – they both maintain that God is unknowable and that it is really all based on the whim of an inscrutable God. That doesn’t make God greater, it makes God lesser because grace based on no particular choice of the recipient will trump love every time. I maintain that love trump grace because the grace is secondary. The love of God comes first, and then the grace follows.

    Your system says that grace is just a cold, sterile calculation based on some preordained numbers that only God undertands. You say love is something that comes later, but grace has to be the reason we are even loved at all.

  • Doug

    joseff,
    I understand your rationale and your arguments for divine election. Yet, you have made an assertion that you have not proven. Namely, that God has some kind of eternal bank of “souls” who are put into bodies into particular people-groups at certain times in history. Those souls, you assert, are then “chosen” for God’s grace. The implication is that this is the mechanism God employs when He predestines people. You are further implying that these souls must, by necessity, be immortal, so that God can then bestow His grace upon them. Otherwise, how can He foreknow who they are and what their particular natures are going to be? If you don’t think they are immortal, then you believe their natures are created at the moment of their conception, and if you believe this, then you also believe that other natures who will not receive God’s grace were created solely for destruction.

    So I ask; Why does God create souls “fitted for destruction”, upon whom God’s wrath comes? If there is no possibility for their redemption, then is God not doing things “in vain”, seeing as their birth and death serves no purpose, other than (according to you) to be created and then to die (or live forever, depending on your concept of the immortality of the soul) in hell?

    By your definition, the family of God has a limit, and that limit is predetermined by God, and it cannot grow beyond that limit. I understand that there are evil people, and that truly, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and not one deserves grace. I also understand that God bestows grace upon whom He wills. Yet, to assert that the evil that deserves eternal punishment is the same as the evil that is common to all men because we are ALL sinners means that God is doing things in vain. Namely, that God creates grass just so that it will grow up and then be fit for nothing better than to be burned. In addition, you are also stating that this grass was pre-ordained to be burned, and that there is no hope at all for them. It leads to the inevitable conclusion that a)man has no truly free choice and b)there is no point in evangelization.

    Such a bleak view of the purpose of life makes those who are “chosen” feel really good, but those who are not really, really bad. In addition, it makes the message of the gospel repellent to those who may be initially attracted to it. It also can make those who ARE called and chosen stay in doubt of their own salvation, because one cannot know for sure if they are saved until that final moment when God welcomes them in. That surely isn’t grace, that is a works-based religion and isn’t too far removed from Judaism or Islam. Judaism says that our good works have to outweigh our bad. Islam is even worse, because it contends that one can NEVER know if God will save us – it all depends on the whim (sovereignty) of God. How is your definition of sovereignty different than that of the Muslim version – they both maintain that God is unknowable and that it is really all based on the whim of an inscrutable God. That doesn’t make God greater, it makes God lesser because grace based on no particular choice of the recipient will trump love every time. I maintain that love trump grace because the grace is secondary. The love of God comes first, and then the grace follows.

    Your system says that grace is just a cold, sterile calculation based on some preordained numbers that only God undertands. You say love is something that comes later, but grace has to be the reason we are even loved at all.

  • Steve, I read the above article as you recommended, and I am amazed! I have to say I agree with most of what you said here. and I think you would be surprised that the interpretation of Romans 9 you gave is actually an interpretation most knowledgeable Calvinists would agree with! Bet you didn’t expect that! lol

    Actually, I’m not at all surprised. My contention is not that Calvinism is completely inane, but that it is missing a crucial part of the picture. What I wrote affirmed the part of the picture that the Reformed typically get. 🙂

    Not only that, but if Romans 9 proves that Israel as a nation was elected alone out of all the nations of the earth for the purpose of redemptive history, that does not refute the case for individual election, it only strengthens it! Why? Because the nation of Israel is made of individuals, and the rest of the entire world in the Old Testament, also made up of individuals, with individual, eternal souls, was completely passed over and left in the darkness, left to their own devices and pagan idolatry, to experience God’s justice and wrath.

    As I have said, individuals participate in the election of a group.

    When you get down to the nitty gritty, individuals are at stake here, and you know as well as I do that God was ultimately sovereign in determining *who* those individuals would be.

    No. The gift of God has been opened up to all. Election has been fulfilled.

    That being said, when we come to Romans 9 and Paul is explaining why Jacob was chosen over Esau for certain things, Paul explicitly says that God’s choice of these men was not in light of their works (for both men were knuckleheads).

    I’m not arguing that God couldn’t or even wouldn’t elect the saved and damn others individually but, as argued in the above post, that He had a particular, finite goal in doing so.

    Our sins, as a human race, deserve, and have earned, God’s just hatred of us.

    It is this talk that makes me recoil from Reformed circles the most. God’s “hatred” can only be justified if we are responsible, not He, for our transgressions. The fact that we are born naturally estranged from Him is not our fault, as He knows. If all mankind was that “hateful” such that He loathed us all, there could never have been a reason for Him to love any of us enough to reconcile us to Him. Does He hate the wicked? That’s what the Bible says. But what does “wicked” mean? I submit that it is someone who willfully does what is wrong, not those who try their best and fail. The latter are not necessarily justified, but neither are they “hated”.

    Ultimately, since all are sinful, separated from God, and “hostile towards God”, unable to please Him (Rom 8:7-8), God’s grace to work on men’s hearts, change them, and effectually bring them to faith and repentance, must be unconditional, because none can earn this or in any way persuade God to do this, as all men, by nature, are “in the flesh”, and while in the flesh, “cannot do anything to please God” (Rom 8:7-8)

    Two words here: “prevenient grace.” 🙂

    If you disagree, ask yourself this. If you’re saved, who saved you, God, or yourself? You’d answer “God did”. Then ask yourself, “Did He save you on purpose, or was it an accident?” You’d have no answer but “He saved me on purpose”, and that, Steve, is the doctrine of election 😀

    Au contraire, Joe! Salvation isn’t membership to a privileged country club; it’s a life preserver thrown into the churning water we are born in. We are all privileged enough to receive the grace of God, and those of us who respond are not “better”, but merely more desperate than others — hardly a badge of honor.

    The phrase “as many as” dictates that not one less, and not one more, did a particular thing.

    No argument.

    The idea that this is just casually implying that “Since all Gentiles are now ordained to eternal life, some of them believed” is nonsense and the text does not allow it.

    It will require more than handwaving to dismiss my argument. How in the world does the text not allow it? It’s as clear a parallel with Romans 11 as we might have expected.

    “As many as”, not one more, and not one less, that were ordained to eternal life, believed. This is in accordance with John 6:37 where Christ says “All that the father gives me, will come to me” (or believe in me)

    Here again, I am at a loss to understand how my view contradicts this. You have to be able to make the case that God still cherry picks the elect, despite the fact that the elect were already “gathered from the four winds” (Mat 24.31) after the completion of redemption that followed the return of Christ in AD 70 (Lk 21.28; Heb 9.28; cf. the state of affairs following the establishment of the New Jerusalem in Rev 22.17).Now, a couple things I wanted to comment on from your previous comment:

    Yet God explicitly says, several times: “I will have mercy on whomever I will, and I will have compassion on whomever I will” (or have love). Let it be known that “mercy” and “love” used in this way are verbs. (See Rom 9:15 concordance) It is not merely that God has a passive, romantic “feeling” of compassion or mercy towards people, but literally, God “mercies” and “compassions” whomever He will.

    Have you read Jeremiah and the Potter?

    There is no reason to need to explain away clear verses such as “God chose you from the beginning for salvation” 2 Th 2:13 or “In love he predestined us..according to the good pleasure of His will” Eph 1, or “Whom He foreknew, He predestined…” Rom 8, or “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” Acts 13:48

    Gosh, I can’t imagine how you can characterize my position as “explain[ing] away” those verses. It’s well within the exegete’s responsibility to determine who the “we, us, you”, etc. are when we’re reading Scripture. The principle of audience relevance, recall? Buy it or don’t, but there’s no reason to make my position out to be other than exegetically determined.

    There is nothing in those verses, or in the entire NT, that even hints that God’s choosing is grounded on the foreseen faith of people . . . Yes, men are commanded to believe, but it is by unaided logic that it is assumed by non-Calvinists that the belief must be the first cause of God’s choice and the salvific mercy extended by it.

    Even (for sake of argument) conceding this, this does not alone call into question my view that election was a time-bound state of affairs.

    Again, both faith and repentance are the results, and not the cause, of regeneration (being born again), for until then, we are “hostile towards God” who are “unable to obey him (Rom 8:7-8) and we “cannot see” and we “find the gospel foolishness”. Would you ever expect a man who finds something foolishness and literally hates it to embrace it with his entire might? Surely not!

    God reveals Himself to humanity. I don’t see why we should believe He doesn’t do so for every individual, especially if He’s going to judge them as if He had. It’s when the Holy Spirit moves on someone that they have the opportunity to see their need and God’s willingness to provide. This encounter was recorded in the case of Saul of Tarsus, whereas if his conversion depended on nothing but the Lord’s election, why should the Lord have gone through all the fireworks?And in the interests of pruning this unwieldy subject, which has been discussed but never truly settled in the innumerable volumes written since the Reformation, I will not even begin to broach the topic of the “faith/faithfulness” question. 🙂

    Regarding the idea that election is conditioned on faith (hence, Arminianism’s conditional election), the Synod of Dordt, where Arminianism was branded heresy, says this:

    Heresy, huh? Yeah. Conversation stopper, Joe!

    Thanks again for your time. I hope you found me respectful. I hope you understand that I’m passionate about this subject hehe, and that is the reason for my assertiveness.

    I understand assertiveness; truly I do. But when people start throwing the “h” word around among professing believers, I start looking for cover…

  • Steve, I read the above article as you recommended, and I am amazed! I have to say I agree with most of what you said here. and I think you would be surprised that the interpretation of Romans 9 you gave is actually an interpretation most knowledgeable Calvinists would agree with! Bet you didn’t expect that! lol

    Actually, I’m not at all surprised. My contention is not that Calvinism is completely inane, but that it is missing a crucial part of the picture. What I wrote affirmed the part of the picture that the Reformed typically get. 🙂

    Not only that, but if Romans 9 proves that Israel as a nation was elected alone out of all the nations of the earth for the purpose of redemptive history, that does not refute the case for individual election, it only strengthens it! Why? Because the nation of Israel is made of individuals, and the rest of the entire world in the Old Testament, also made up of individuals, with individual, eternal souls, was completely passed over and left in the darkness, left to their own devices and pagan idolatry, to experience God’s justice and wrath.

    As I have said, individuals participate in the election of a group.

    When you get down to the nitty gritty, individuals are at stake here, and you know as well as I do that God was ultimately sovereign in determining *who* those individuals would be.

    No. The gift of God has been opened up to all. Election has been fulfilled.

    That being said, when we come to Romans 9 and Paul is explaining why Jacob was chosen over Esau for certain things, Paul explicitly says that God’s choice of these men was not in light of their works (for both men were knuckleheads).

    I’m not arguing that God couldn’t or even wouldn’t elect the saved and damn others individually but, as argued in the above post, that He had a particular, finite goal in doing so.

    Our sins, as a human race, deserve, and have earned, God’s just hatred of us.

    It is this talk that makes me recoil from Reformed circles the most. God’s “hatred” can only be justified if we are responsible, not He, for our transgressions. The fact that we are born naturally estranged from Him is not our fault, as He knows. If all mankind was that “hateful” such that He loathed us all, there could never have been a reason for Him to love any of us enough to reconcile us to Him. Does He hate the wicked? That’s what the Bible says. But what does “wicked” mean? I submit that it is someone who willfully does what is wrong, not those who try their best and fail. The latter are not necessarily justified, but neither are they “hated”.

    Ultimately, since all are sinful, separated from God, and “hostile towards God”, unable to please Him (Rom 8:7-8), God’s grace to work on men’s hearts, change them, and effectually bring them to faith and repentance, must be unconditional, because none can earn this or in any way persuade God to do this, as all men, by nature, are “in the flesh”, and while in the flesh, “cannot do anything to please God” (Rom 8:7-8)

    Two words here: “prevenient grace.” 🙂

    If you disagree, ask yourself this. If you’re saved, who saved you, God, or yourself? You’d answer “God did”. Then ask yourself, “Did He save you on purpose, or was it an accident?” You’d have no answer but “He saved me on purpose”, and that, Steve, is the doctrine of election 😀

    Au contraire, Joe! Salvation isn’t membership to a privileged country club; it’s a life preserver thrown into the churning water we are born in. We are all privileged enough to receive the grace of God, and those of us who respond are not “better”, but merely more desperate than others — hardly a badge of honor.

    The phrase “as many as” dictates that not one less, and not one more, did a particular thing.

    No argument.

    The idea that this is just casually implying that “Since all Gentiles are now ordained to eternal life, some of them believed” is nonsense and the text does not allow it.

    It will require more than handwaving to dismiss my argument. How in the world does the text not allow it? It’s as clear a parallel with Romans 11 as we might have expected.

    “As many as”, not one more, and not one less, that were ordained to eternal life, believed. This is in accordance with John 6:37 where Christ says “All that the father gives me, will come to me” (or believe in me)

    Here again, I am at a loss to understand how my view contradicts this. You have to be able to make the case that God still cherry picks the elect, despite the fact that the elect were already “gathered from the four winds” (Mat 24.31) after the completion of redemption that followed the return of Christ in AD 70 (Lk 21.28; Heb 9.28; cf. the state of affairs following the establishment of the New Jerusalem in Rev 22.17).

    Now, a couple things I wanted to comment on from your previous comment:

    Yet God explicitly says, several times: “I will have mercy on whomever I will, and I will have compassion on whomever I will” (or have love). Let it be known that “mercy” and “love” used in this way are verbs. (See Rom 9:15 concordance) It is not merely that God has a passive, romantic “feeling” of compassion or mercy towards people, but literally, God “mercies” and “compassions” whomever He will.

    Have you read Jeremiah and the Potter?

    There is no reason to need to explain away clear verses such as “God chose you from the beginning for salvation” 2 Th 2:13 or “In love he predestined us..according to the good pleasure of His will” Eph 1, or “Whom He foreknew, He predestined…” Rom 8, or “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” Acts 13:48

    Gosh, I can’t imagine how you can characterize my position as “explain[ing] away” those verses. It’s well within the exegete’s responsibility to determine who the “we, us, you”, etc. are when we’re reading Scripture. The principle of audience relevance, recall? Buy it or don’t, but there’s no reason to make my position out to be other than exegetically determined.

    There is nothing in those verses, or in the entire NT, that even hints that God’s choosing is grounded on the foreseen faith of people . . . Yes, men are commanded to believe, but it is by unaided logic that it is assumed by non-Calvinists that the belief must be the first cause of God’s choice and the salvific mercy extended by it.

    Even (for sake of argument) conceding this, this does not alone call into question my view that election was a time-bound state of affairs.

    Again, both faith and repentance are the results, and not the cause, of regeneration (being born again), for until then, we are “hostile towards God” who are “unable to obey him (Rom 8:7-8) and we “cannot see” and we “find the gospel foolishness”. Would you ever expect a man who finds something foolishness and literally hates it to embrace it with his entire might? Surely not!

    God reveals Himself to humanity. I don’t see why we should believe He doesn’t do so for every individual, especially if He’s going to judge them as if He had. It’s when the Holy Spirit moves on someone that they have the opportunity to see their need and God’s willingness to provide. This encounter was recorded in the case of Saul of Tarsus, whereas if his conversion depended on nothing but the Lord’s election, why should the Lord have gone through all the fireworks?

    And in the interests of pruning this unwieldy subject, which has been discussed but never truly settled in the innumerable volumes written since the Reformation, I will not even begin to broach the topic of the “faith/faithfulness” question. 🙂

    Regarding the idea that election is conditioned on faith (hence, Arminianism’s conditional election), the Synod of Dordt, where Arminianism was branded heresy, says this:

    Heresy, huh? Yeah. Conversation stopper, Joe!

    Thanks again for your time. I hope you found me respectful. I hope you understand that I’m passionate about this subject hehe, and that is the reason for my assertiveness.< .blockquote>
    I understand assertiveness; truly I do. But when people start throwing the “h” word around among professing believers, I start looking for cover…

  • Shalom from Jerusalem!

    The ‘fullness of the Jews’ is a topic near to my heart. The mystery of Israel’s redemption is that, though there is but one remnant, it is saved in two stages, two time periods. And this is pictured by the two houses of Jacob, Judah and Israel.
    Messiah came and established the foundation of the Church by ‘calling-out’ His chosen in Judah. He made His disciples ‘fishers of men’ (Jer16). But after thant the Gentiles began to come into the Body, Jews faded. And for some 1900 years they have been all but ‘lost’, with God doing no great work among them.
    But now, in these end of days, God is again visiting the Jews to ‘call-out’ the ‘rest’ of ‘all Israel’. So today He makes His ‘cyrus church’ to be ‘hunters of men’ (Jer16), to gather His elect in Israel into His House. So the command is ‘search for the lost sheep of the house of Israel; gather the scattered seed of Jacob.’
    This, as spoken of in Joel chapter 2, is the time of Israel’s fullness, the time of blessing when the Lord restores blessing to His elect, His remnant in Israel. And we, His Witness, are given as a ‘teacher of rightuousnes’ (joel2), and as a light to those who sit in darkness.

    God keep you,
    Michael

  • Shalom from Jerusalem!

    The ‘fullness of the Jews’ is a topic near to my heart. The mystery of Israel’s redemption is that, though there is but one remnant, it is saved in two stages, two time periods. And this is pictured by the two houses of Jacob, Judah and Israel.
    Messiah came and established the foundation of the Church by ‘calling-out’ His chosen in Judah. He made His disciples ‘fishers of men’ (Jer16). But after thant the Gentiles began to come into the Body, Jews faded. And for some 1900 years they have been all but ‘lost’, with God doing no great work among them.
    But now, in these end of days, God is again visiting the Jews to ‘call-out’ the ‘rest’ of ‘all Israel’. So today He makes His ‘cyrus church’ to be ‘hunters of men’ (Jer16), to gather His elect in Israel into His House. So the command is ‘search for the lost sheep of the house of Israel; gather the scattered seed of Jacob.’
    This, as spoken of in Joel chapter 2, is the time of Israel’s fullness, the time of blessing when the Lord restores blessing to His elect, His remnant in Israel. And we, His Witness, are given as a ‘teacher of rightuousnes’ (joel2), and as a light to those who sit in darkness.

    God keep you,
    Michael