Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Potter’s House: 3/17/2013; Romans 9:6ff. The Assurance of God’s Election and the Hope of Whosoever Will, Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on March 23, 2013

Potters h. 2Last week we looked at the fact that Israel is a chosen nation by God and for His purposes. We looked at the fact that history culminates with God enforcing His Mt. Sinai covenant with Israel through the administration of angels. For the most part, that is what the book of Revelation is about. We also looked at the fact that this chapter is about God’s election.

Because Israel was elected, the covenant will stand because covenants based on election are executed by God and not man. Man participates, but ultimately, God insures the results. This is the case for national Israel regardless of the fact that Israel rebelled against God. This is because election doesn’t depend on anything we do or don’t do. Once elected always elected. Once saved always saved, and Israel will be saved. But why not all of them?

Romans 9:6-13 – 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

The subject of election is very mysterious and controversial. We must approach this subject with trust in God, and obedience to His truth. As always, we must operate as Christians by what we objectively know to be true in the Scriptures. The Bible is applicable; we apply what we understand to be definitively true and pray for wisdom in the rest as we continue to study for showing ourselves approved. The Bible is to be applied—not figured out in a way that forms doctrine by logical conclusion. Election is an application, not a philosophy. Logical conclusions drawn from election are tantamount to figuring out the Trinity. Any conclusions concerning election that circumvent the hope of whosoever will are erroneous.

Starting in verse 6, we understand that Israel’s failure has absolutely nothing to do with the trustworthiness of God’s word. Likewise, the present condition of the church has absolutely nothing to do with the trustworthiness of God’s word. My caution to spiritual abuse discernment bloggers is that their ministry does not cast a doubtful mist on God’s covenant to ultimately tabernacle with man. We must expose evil, but we must also propagate the full counsel of God. Curiously, Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is pleased to explain why it appears that God’s plan and purposes through election were derailed by Israel’s rebellion. The answer?  More election. Specific election within the election. If you will, general election and specific election:

8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring….13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

It’s interesting how Paul frames this. He states that within Israel there are children of the promise and children of the flesh. This goes back to what we have already studied in Romans—those under the law and those under grace. Paul uses an oxymoron by writing that all decedents of Israel are descendants of Abraham, but all are not his offspring. So, there are two categories: descendants of Israel and Abraham’s offspring. Both are the same, but different. Abraham has two kinds of descendants: flesh and promise. The “promise” pertains to the original covenant with Abraham which is the foundation for all the other covenants of promise. Promise and covenant go hand in hand:

Ephesians 2:12 – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Covenants of what? And how many are there? More than one, no? And at the time of Paul’s writing, how many of the covenants were the unsaved alienated from? That is why we here at the Potter’s House insist that commandments five through nine in Exodus 20 are a specific covenant between God and children. The fifth is a commandment with a promise marking it as a covenant. The following four are short pithy statements that refer back to five. Their abruptness set them apart from the rest of the commandments which have a commentary attached. Children dishonor their parents by violating those commandments. A missionary once told me that all of his counseling with teenagers focuses on their relationship with parents. We would be wise to follow his example.

So, when we speak of promise—think “covenant.” Promise and covenant go hand in hand. And as we shall also see, we are going to want to closely associate called and election  as well. And remember that the Abrahamic covenant is the foundation of all of the other covenants, and represents God’s ultimate goal to tabernacle with man. Furthermore, know that circumcision is the ritual that is specifically identified with the Abrahamic covenant. Circumcision must be interpreted and viewed through that covenant specifically:

Genesis 17:9 – And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Again, as we discussed in the Exodus interlude of this series, the harshness of God regarding the following of these covenant symbols speaks to the laxness and alteration of the truth that brings eternal life. The tabernacle represented God’s desire to tabernacle with man and the only specific way that could accrue. Hence, rearranging the tabernacle would have brought certain death. To rearrange the tabernacle is to suggest that the way of salvation is negotiable, and God is open to manmade alternatives. When it comes to truth that truly heals—God is not tolerant. We have this same idea with circumcision. Christ warns in the book of Revelation to not add to or take away from God’s word. If you do, the plagues of Revelation will be added to you. Why? Because it’s rearranging the tabernacle. To the contrary, in the beginning of Revelation, blessings are promised to those who read and believe the prophecy.

Furthermore, part and parcel with the Abrahamic covenant was the intention to bring the Gentiles into the covenant:

Genesis 17: 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations…. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised (Id v.12).

What we want to focus on is the assurance of the promise through calling and election. Since Paul brought up the Abrahamic offspring to make his point, that is exactly where we are going. We are going to start at the beginning:

Genesis 15:1 – After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Stop right there. That’s salvation right there. Believing God. This is salvation reduced to its most common denominator: faith. Believing God. There are a lot of things that God is going to add to this covenant, particularly the gospel of first importance, but salvific faith is a state of being. If you believe God, it follows that you will believe everything else that God wants you to believe. Saving faith….listen, saving faith doesn’t pick and choose what part of God’s truth will be accepted. We saw this earlier in Romans, salvific faith embraces the full counsel of God. Abraham believed God on this one point, and in the modern vernacular—“nuff said” he is the father of all of those who believe God. And perhaps most importantly, note the following:

Galatians 3:15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

Salvation is completely separate from the law. The book of the covenant given on Mt. Sinai, which was the foundation for much of the closed canon of Scripture, came 430 years after the promise. Do you understand that this drives a spear right through the heart of Calvinism? Calvin believed that the definition of righteousness was a perfect keeping of the law:

But in order that a sense of guilt may urge us [Christians] to seek for pardon, it is of importance to know how our being instructed in the Moral Law renders us more inexcusable [aside: the need for perpetual pardon]. If it is true, that a perfect righteousness is set before us in the Law, it follows, that the complete observance of it is perfect righteousness in the sight of God; that is, a righteousness by which a man may be deemed and *pronounced righteous at the divine tribunal. Wherefore Moses, after promulgating the Law, hesitates not to call heaven and earth to witness, that he had set life and death, good and evil, before the people. Nor can it be denied, that the reward of eternal salvation, as promised by the Lord, awaits the perfect obedience of the Law…(CI 2.7.3).

Therefore, if we look merely to the Law, the result must be despondency, confusion, and despair, seeing that by it we are all cursed and condemned, while we are kept far away from the blessedness which it holds forth to its observers. Is the Lord, then, you will ask, only sporting with us? Is it not the next thing to mockery, to hold out the hope of happiness, to invite and exhort us to it, to declare that it is set before us, while all the while the entrance to it is precluded and quite shut up? I answer, Although the promises, in so far as they are conditional, depend on a perfect obedience of the Law, which is nowhere to be found, they have not, however, been given in vain (CI: 2.7.4).

To declare that we are deemed righteous, solely because the obedience of Christ is imputed to us as if it where our own, is just to place our righteousness in the obedience of Christ…. And so indeed it is; for in order to appear in the presence of God *for salvation [*aside: to stand in a future judgment to determine salvation], we must send forth that fragrant odour, having our vices covered and buried by his perfection. (CI: 3.11.23).

For the meaning is—As by the sin of Adam we were alienated from God and doomed to destruction, so by the obedience of Christ we are restored to his favour as if we were righteous (CI: 2.17.3).

The very Reformed definition of righteousness is egregiously flawed. It’s works salvation. If the above is true, we are not justified APART FROM THE LAW:

Romans 3:19 – Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

Abraham was justified apart from the law—the law didn’t come until 430 years later. He was declared righteous because he believed God. Hence, GOD’S righteousness APART from the law has been manifested. If Christ had to keep the law perfectly for our righteousness—that’s NOT apart from the law, and moreover, Abraham could not have been justified. “But Paul, Christ’s righteousness was imputed to Abraham when He died on the cross.” Then what is the point that Paul is making in Galatians? Why make a point in regard to when the law came? The crux is the fact that the Reformed always make it a point to state that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. This is important to them (although the Bible always refers to it as the righteousness of God) because it imputes the perfect obedience of Christ (His life when He came as a man) to us so that the law is fulfilled for our salvation.

Galatians 3:11 – Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Galatians 2:16 – yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Look, if Christ lived a perfect life on earth to fulfill the law so that it could be imputed to us for righteousness—THAT’S NOT RIGHTOUSNESS APART FROM THE LAW. Though Christ kept it for us, it is still righteousness based on the law; right?

Hence, a proper definition of righteousness is, believing in God, not perfect obedience to the law. The law has no stake at all in righteousness that justifies. It informs our righteousness, but it does not affect it:

Romans 3:21 – But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

Galatians 4:21 – Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?

But if Christ had to keep the law for us, we are not declared righteous apart from the law, and we are still under it albeit fulfilled by Christ. We are either under law or under grace (Romans 6:14). The Bible never states that we are still under the law and covered by grace—it’s either one or the other. If we need the gospel of first importance just as much as we did when we were saved (a popular truism in our day), then we are still under the law. We will revisit Galatians in future study to aid us because Paul, in our chapter at hand, Romans nine, refers to what happened with three possible Abrahamic heirs from the book of Genesis. Where we were just at in Galatians makes the same notation:

Galatian 3:21 – Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

Slavery? Right. Those under the law are enslaved to sin. Those born of the promise are free and under grace. This doesn’t exclude the law from informing our sanctification: “….do you not listen to the law?” Let me make a quick note here. Those who want to be under the law are never ones to strive in obeying the law perfectly. The idea that someone who desires to obey God’s word perfectly can be trying to do so in order to earn their salvation is a biblical anomaly. This is never the case, the under the law crowd always replace God’s truth with traditions taught by men, and it is always antinomianism. There are many ways to diss God’s law, and the most popular one is to use the same furniture in the tabernacle while rearranging location and purpose. Jewish sects that invaded the apostolic church are a perfect example. Consider what Paul said in regard to justification by circumcision:

Galatians 5:2 – Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified[a] by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

Paul is referring to a false doctrine that misrepresented the purpose of circumcision. What was the result? Some kind of watering down of the law’s application in sanctification: “I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.” You doubt that? Look how Paul concludes his point: “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Those under the law will always distort the truth. They function as ones against the law (antinomianism). “Legalism” is probably a word that we should eradicate from our Christian vocabulary. It’s not in the Bible anywhere, and it only causes confusion. “But Paul, churches that require a certain dress code etc., that’s not legalism?” No, absolutely not! That’s replacing God’s law with a tradition, and that is the specific definition of antinomianism in the Bible. “Antinomianism” (Greek: anomia) is in the Bible all over the place—“legalism” does not exist in the Scriptures. Paul was not addressing “legalism” in Galatians, he was addressing obedience issues—probably antinomian doctrines that devalued the need for obedience.

Next week, we need to lay more foundation for our understanding of election and its purpose in justification and sanctification. This will take us deeper into Genesis and Galatians as instruction for understanding Romans chapter nine.

Potter H. 1

22 Responses

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  1. gracewriterrandy said, on March 24, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    If we are justified apart from the Law, how do you understand Galatians 2:19? “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.”

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on March 24, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      That’s not a hard question sweety. The law informs us in regard to justification that is apart from the law. Dying to the law is like a spouse who is no longer bound to her husband by the law. When we died with Christ, the law we were under no longer applies (Romans &:1-6).

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  2. Argo said, on March 24, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Hi Paul,

    The Trinity is only impossible to reconcile when we attempt to define it according to OUR existential realities. However, when we use the metaphysical yardstick of God’s perfection, we can not only explain it, but we can see how it can be the only explanation for a God of more than one attribute. Because God is perfect, He cannot be sectioned out into parts that are exclusive of one another. Unlike man, there are not “parts” of God that, when put together, form a whole. With man, we have the various parts of the flesh, the systemic and particular organs, then the consciousness, then the parameters of brain activity…electrochemical reactions, hormonal balances, thermodynamics, enzyme interactions, bacterial effects, etc., etc. All of these form the “whole” man. But God is not like that. By definition, you cannot have a “part” of God because it is impossible to have something that is partly perfect; partly omnipotent, partly ALL knowing, partly an I AM. Because God cannot be said to have physical parts as we would define them, we can draw the conclusion that He is not a function of space or time. With that being the case, the Trinity makes PERFECT logical sense because a being who is beyond space, or rather, is His OWN space within which He moves (there is no area God “goes” which is not Himself) must mean that ALL of His attributes occupy the same “place” at the same “time”. The Father must also BE the Son, BE the Spirit, because there can be no rational separation between them…they are ALL 100% God because nothing can be “part” God, and there can be no discernible existential boundary between them because they all occupy the same divine place at the exact same moment, forever. In other words, they are ALL God ALL the time because they MUST be. There is no rational way, in light of God’s perfection, that God can exist any other way except as we describe the Trinity: they are all God, perpetually. And there is no separation between Them.

    This is no mystery…some inexplicable paradox that man must simply accept. It is the product of applying reason to the metaphysical understanding of what it must logically mean to be a perfect God. The problem people have is that they continually place God at the mercy of man’s existential reality, as if there is no logic to be applied to God’s existence that man could grasp. I refuse to accept this. I will not concede contradiction to the atheists and others when I KNOW I can rationally explain God’s existence and the way we understand Him. Ideas like the Trinity are not there to add to God’s “mystery”, they are there because they must be there. For if God is perfect, then He can only exist in certain rational ways. I would apply then the same standards to man’s existence. And if we can rationally explain the Trinity we can rationally explain “election”. It is not that hard.

    I have often said that I believe that the Bible never mentions “trinity” because ALL of God’s attributes must be fully God and that there are likely more than three.

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