How God chooses men for salvation

Romans 9 is the beginning of an extended section in Romans about the sovereignty of God in salvation — how does God bring about salvation in those who were hated by Him and who hated Him?

That God is not only the author of salvation in that He accomplishes it, but He is also the author of salvation in that He plans, chooses, elects, calls, and draws men to salvation, is quickly clear in the text.  Paul uses three unequivocal words in 9:11 to speak to God’s elective purposes in salvation:  purpose, choice, and call.  Those words relate to God’s plan for particular people to come to salvation, His exact choice (the word is actually “election”) of who would come to faith, and His sovereign calling (drawing and compelling) those whom He has chosen to the fulfillment of their salvation.

These words and this truth of God’s sovereignty over every aspect of salvation is essential for our salvation, for if He had not chosen us, we who were His enemies and hated Him would never have chosen Him.  Romans 3 makes that abundantly clear.

As examples of God’s sovereignty in salvation, Paul points to the lives of Isaac and Jacob and His choice of them to fulfill His covenantal promise to Abraham make Israel His eternal people (Gen. 12:1-3).  (He will also demonstrate God’s sovereignty over salvation in His not choosing Pharaoh for salvation, Rom. 9:14-18.)

The aspects of God’s choice of Jacob, as well as Isaac, are typical for how God also chooses individuals for salvation.

  • God’s choice has nothing to do with spiritual heritage or moral action (vv. 10-11a). Jacob did not chose himself because the choice of him to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant was made before he was born.  Further, he was not chosen because he had done anything particularly commendable (nor was Esau rejected because he did anything morally objectionable). It was not through any work done by either Jacob or Esau that commended or condemned them.  It was all by the calling of God and His grace.  This is always true of every believer’s choice by God.  The one who has been elected to salvation is never elected because of anything commendable in him.  God chooses solely for His own divine purposes, which is the next aspect of election.
  • God’s choice is God’s choice (v. 11b). He alone determines who will be His.  Jacob didn’t choose himself.  The text in v. 11 is clear — God had a purpose, that work itself out in God’s election and God’s call to salvation.  The process of salvation is all about God and His purposes and His grace and His gifting.
  • God’s choice is a secure choice (vv. 11-12). When He chooses, it is unchangeable and unalterable.  God’s purpose, choice, and calling will stand.  His elective plan of salvation will remain and stay.  It cannot be changed. It was that way for Jacob and Esau, and it will be that way for us as well.
  • God’s choice is in spite of God’s right to righteously damn those who are worthy recipients of His hatred and wrath (v. 13). God’s hatred of Esau (representing the nation of Edom, Mal. 1:2-3) was not only not unholy, it was fully righteous.  His hatred of sin and sinners is just and He would be right to condemn all sinners to Hell after the sinner’s first sin.  We could be condemned.  We should be condemned.  We should be condemned because we all have sinned and we all were born under the curse of sin (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1-3).  That mankind is not condemned immediately is a result of His patience and if we are chosen for election, it is a demonstration of His loving choice of us.
  • God’s choice should produce worship and gratitude for those who are chosen. Paul is demonstrating how 8:37-39 are true for us.  And he is building to another benediction of praise (11:33-36).  If you are in Christ, it means that God alone has designed and planned for your salvation.  Let us praise the One who has chosen and saved us His grace.

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