Monday, July 27, 2015

Third Response to Mr. Grahame Smith

Let me first say how much I appreciate Mr. Grahame for his kind and thoughtful way in which he has chosen to enter this debate. I have been admonished and encouraged by his tact and Christ likeness in his writing, something I hope to emulate more as I write.

Original post here:
Here is my response in blue italics:

Message to Ross Riggins-Intro to comments for Rom 9

While studying Bible passages about Reformed position, God's sovereignty, and man's free will, Romans 9 is often a favourite proof-text it seems. The chapter contains multiple passages, which appear to support Reformed theology. However the entire chapter must be placed in context with other parts of God's word..

Context is king for sure! While Romans 9 and John 6:44 are seemingly favorite proof texts, they are NOT the only ones. They are some of the most commonly referenced and most straightforward so that is why I initially threw them out there, not at all clinging to them as my only basis for my adherence to reformed theology. It is all over the Bible, and in my opinion, the burden of proof falls on those who do not adhere to reformed theology because the language so plainly reads in such a way as to give rise to reformed belief.

Just my opinion, I know.

After careful examining the context of Romans 9, it reveals to me that Paul was really explaining God's right to predetermine and use the nation of Israel to produce the Messiah. From what I can see the Jews profited greatly from this process, however, such a relationship did not guarantee God's mercy unto salvation. 

There is no doubt that there is a context here about the nation of Israel. I do not think the purpose is to primarily explain God's right to predetermine and use the nation of Israel to produce the Messiah. I think Paul/Holy Spirit is wanting to show what God's plan for Israel actually is.

God maintained and exercised His right to use nations to accomplish His promise to Abraham, and furthermore, He demonstrated His prerogative to save individuals as He deemed best.

He demonstrated His prerogative to save individuals as He deemed best?? That sounds very Calvinistic to me.

 As long as Israel would seek to establish their own righteousness by the law of Moses, over-emphasizing their national part in God's plan, they would fail to be saved. God's promise for mercy was ultimately extended to whomever would live by faith, not necessarily those who required the law of Moses, nor necessarily those who descended from Abraham.


The spiritual salvation of individuals, especially a predestined, unconditional election, is not the subject of Romans 9 in my view. Vindication of God's judgment regarding the nation of Israel is the primary point. However, detailed analysis of the immediate context, plus the context of the Old Testament passages, which Paul quoted, clearly teaches that God's mercy has always been conditioned upon man's repentance.

Vindication of God's judgment of Israel is a good way so summarize parts of Romans 9 and 10, even 11. I would say that God's mercy has always been conditioned upon faith in the promise of God. Now, that faith will always have action with it, whether it be repentance or simple obedience. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.

Paul's book to the Romans was written to a church containing both Jewish and Gentile Christians. Their opposing backgrounds presented difficult problems for the congregation. Paul developed common solutions for a common need, in spite of their cultural differences. He elaborates on God's nature and justification, and he reminds them of their responsibilities to God as well as to each other. Paul anticipates the questions and reactions of each side and replied accordingly. In my view his letter is extremely logical, moving from one issue to the next along a consistent theme of justification by faith in the gospel for the Jew and Gentile alike. The main points I gleam from this chapter are:
1. Introduction of theme, and Gentiles' condemnation for descent into depraved idolatry.
2. Jews' condemnation for disobedience to the law of Moses.
3. All stand guilty before a just God. Therefore, justification by His mercy and our faith.
4. Justification by faith apart from perfect keeping of Jewish law.
5. Hope and comfort by faith through God's love and Christ's sacrifice, contrasted with death, guilt, and condemnation introduced through Adam's sin, perpetuated by all.
6. Dead to sin through baptism into Jesus' death, and resurrected for new life in God' service.
7. Jews freed from bondage of law of Moses, through Christ's death, and all freed from bondage to sin through Jesus' deliverance.
8. Free from carnal mind to walk after the law of the Spirit. Security in God's love in the face of tribulation.
9. God's right to reject national Israel for salvation after using them to produce the Messiah.
10. Israel's rejection of a universal call to both Jew and Gentile to believe on the Lord.
11. Israel's fall through unbelief, Gentiles salvation by faith, and salvation of a Jewish remnant through grace.
12. Moral Applications: Therefore, be transformed and live sacrificially, devoted unto God.
13. Submit to the government and neighbours - put on Jesus Christ.
14. Do not condemn or cause brother to stumble, based on scruples as a Jew or Gentile.
15. Serving others and glorifying God with one mind - Paul's personal plans.
16. Paul's salutations and warning to avoid divisive amongst the brethren.
Romans 9 is immediately preceded by the profound encouragement, promise, and hope of security in the Lord. (Please read Romans 8:31-39 for background.) 

I have to give credit to my parents for having us kids memorize Romans chapters 6 - 8 when I was 15, and credit to my church which had me later memorize chapter 5 and 6-8 again. So thanks to them I am aware of the context.

After Paul's, both Jew and Gentile readers might have questioned him based on the case of then current Israel. At that time, Jewish persecution was increasing. Their rejection of the Lord was becoming more complete, while the Gentiles were turning to the Lord in droves. Yet, it was clear at that time, that as a nation, the Jews were rejecting God and being rejected by Him. Both Jew and Gentile might ask, "Had God not elected and predestined Israel?" Paul seems to have anticipated such a question, because he moved from a proclamation of God's love and the elect's victory in Christ to the situation regarding God's elect nation, Israel, in chapter 9.

I agree with all of this last paragraph. Where we differ is in what Paul accomplishes in Romans 9. Yes, he very effectively gives a defense of God's rejection of the people of Israel, but how does he do that? By getting very specific, to the person specific, in how he chooses to show mercy or hardening. If he sovereignly chooses even at the individual level, He most certainly does so at the national level. We know it is the individual level because He mentions specific, individual persons. We know it is not just roles He is referring to because the language He uses is very soteriological: the promise (faith in the promise which yields righteousness), love, hate, mercy, compassion, hardening, and especially vessels of wrath for destruction and vessels of mercy which receive the riches of His glory (sounds like more than just earthly reward for role service) and then finally Paul identifies himself in the group of these vessels of mercy whom God called out of the Jews and gentiles. There is too much soteriology and individualism to assume a fly-over summary conclusion that this is only nation talk.

Ross the theological basis for this summary I will email to you as it will be much too long for the blog to handle. Blessings..

Looking forward to the email. I cannot promise a speedy response as just these short blurbs are taking enough of my time as it is. Again, I appreciate the spirit of these exchanges and wish us both a greater understanding of God's Word.


  1. Sorry Ross ur blog word limit is defeating me. Can I email the entire document to you please.