ROMANS 9:1-33 God’s Sovereign Use of People

 

The apostle Paul was once a Pharisee and staunch opponent of Christianity (Acts 9:1-2; 22:3-5; 23:6; 26:9-11; Philippians 3:5,6; 1 Timothy 1:13). When Paul was converted, many Jews saw him as a traitor to Judaism and that his teaching could therefore be dismissed out of hand as prejudiced against the Jews. In Romans 9 Paul testifies to his love of his brethren the Jews and his deep desire for them to be saved. Jews hearing of the gospel being offered to Gentiles might want to taint its truth by saying that Paul is merely seeking to destroy Judaism, but Paul’s response is that it is God’s sovereign will to offer salvation to all impartially.

 

The sovereignty of God comes into play because in Paul’s response to those who accuse him of being prejudiced against or bitter toward Jews is that God is sovereign and is in a position to utilize people the way He sees fit to accomplish His gracious redemptive plan.

 

What is the Sovereignty of God?

 

What is the sovereignty of God? One commentator defined the sovereignty of God as:

 

“Sovereignty means God is the supreme Ruler over all. While we are free moral agents, we are, nevertheless, subject to His sovereign will and purposes. Everything is subject to His judgment. He is ultimately in control, although He often works indirectly through others.” [1]

 

In the Old Testament the Sovereignty of God is well expressed in the words of Jonathan to his armor bearer when he is considering attacking a superior force of Philistines. Jonathan says:

 

  • 1 Samuel 14:6 – “Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.” [2]

The idea of the Sovereignty of God is that God is omnipotent and able to assert His will and carry out His divine plan in the world no matter the obstacle. Our study of Romans 9-11 is a consideration of how God’s sovereignty plays out practically in life.

A Solemn Approach to God’s Sovereignty

 

In Romans 8 Paul touched on the sovereignty of God by saying:

 

  • Romans 8:29-30 – “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”  [3]

In this section (9:1 – 11:36) we will be discussing the sovereignty of God. Anytime finite created human beings seek to understand God and His sovereign ways we need to understand that we set out with great limitations. Humans simply do not have the capacity to completely grasp all of God’s ways. This doesn’t mean we should wallow in confusion, it does mean that we should bow in awe of God. When you seek to understand the sovereignty of God, you need to approach His throne of grace in reverent holy solemness. This is what Paul does at the close of this section in Romans. We would do well to approach this material with the inspired words of Paul echoing in our mind and heart as he said:

  • Romans 11:33-36 – “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”  [4]

May God bless and lead us as we study this portion of His word.

Why This Passage Perplexes Us

This passage of scripture has been confusing to many and a source of division for others. Some have approached this passage and based on their doctrinal tradition have questioned the righteousness of God in His choosing people even before they are born. We will discuss this and try to bring clarity to this passage. But the reason for this confusion can be traced to our preconceived doctrinal inclinations. I believe this passage has been greatly misinterpreted by many.

Walter Kaiser makes the following comment on why this passage is often misinterpreted:

We bring another assumption to this text which skews our hearing of it in a particular direction. Because of certain inherited theological traditions, we tend to hear this text in terms of predestination and eternal destiny. This theological tradition holds that our eternal destiny has been predetermined. The inevitable question to such a view is the one which Paul’s hypothetical reader asks: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” (Rom 9:19).

This question has validity only if Paul is in fact concerned here with the matter of individuals’ eternal destiny. On close reading of the passage, however, it becomes clear that he is not speaking about salvation and eternal destiny, but about God’s calling of individuals and peoples to service, and God’s use of events and persons in the accomplishment of his redemptive purposes, namely the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles. [5] (Emphasis added.)

 

Kaiser is speaking of course about those who approach this passage from a Calvinistic perspective. It is never good to approach the scripture with an already formulated set of beliefs and then try to bend the scriptures to fit those beliefs (i.e. deductive). Rather, the student of the word should be objective or inductive; the student should come to God’s word with an open mind prayerfully seeking to have the Spirit reveal God’s truth to them. That is the perspective we will approach this passage from.

God Sovereignly Chooses to Use Certain People

Romans 9:1-4 – “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;” [6]

Paul appeals to Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and his conscience as witnesses to his sincere “sorrow and continual grief in my heart,” over the rejection of Jesus by his countrymen Israel. So sincere are his feelings for Israel that he says, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, . .” We need to stop and consider the depth and incredibility of this statement.

 

Paul earlier spoke of the revelation of God’s wrath; now he is willing to enter into that wrathful separation from God if it would mean the salvation of his countrymen. It is incredible to think that Paul who has been inspired to write this great doctrinal treatise and who knows better than anyone else the significance of these words, that he would risk all for the sake of Israel’s salvation. That is a stark contrast to Israel who has received the benefit and blessing of “adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises,” and yet still reject God and seek to keep others (i.e. Gentiles) separated from God out of prejudice. You would be hard pressed to find a greater contrast than the one between Paul and his countrymen who rejected Jesus. 

 

The People God Uses

 

Paul is an example of the people God uses in His sovereign predestined plans. Paul had a burden for the lost. His burden was so great that he was willing to consider giving up his own salvation for the sake of the lost. Of course this is exactly what Jesus did, He gave His life to save the lost.

 

The people God sovereignly chooses to use have a burden for the lost just like the Father. As the Scripture states:

 

  • Jeremiah 3:12 - “Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say: ‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever.”  [7] (See Isaiah 55:6-7)
  • Ezekiel 33:11 - “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’”  [8]
  • 1 Timothy 2:3-4 – “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  [9]

We can also look at the parable of the Prodigal Son (which depicts a Father waiting with great anticipation to welcome home the wayward son – Luke 15:20-32) to see the heartfelt desire of the Father for people to be saved.

 

The people God sovereignly chooses to use have a burden for the lost just like Jesus. Jesus said:

 

  • Matthew 9:12-13 – “When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.13 “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  [10]
  • Matthew 18:11 - “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”  [11]
  • Matthew 20:28 - “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  [12]
  • 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  [13]

The people God sovereignly chooses to use have a burden for the lost just like the Holy Spirit as the scriptures state:

  • John 16:8 -  “And when He [i.e. the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:”  [14]
  • Revelation 22:17 – “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”  [15]

We need to have a burden for the lost like the Father, like Jesus, and like the Holy Spirit, if we are to be used by Him. As Paul later says:

  • 1 Timothy 1:12-17 – “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”  [16] (See also 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-14)

We have been studying the book of Romans emphasizing it’s purpose to make us Ready and Unashamed of the gospel, willing and equipped to share it boldly in the Spirit. To be ready and unashamed according to God’s sovereign holy plan involves having a burden for the lost. Do you have such a burden? Have you adopted the same purpose as the Savior Jesus, “to seek and to save that which was lost”? Paul had such a burden, and we should too!

The People God Doesn’t Use

God truly uses every person to accomplish His will as we will see later on. But there are some who God does not use so to speak. Who doesn’t God use? God gives tremendous opportunity to all people to be a part of His sovereign redemptive plan; God gives tremendous tools to equip us for the task; BUT GOD WILL NOT USE THOSE UNWILLING TO BE USED. Such was the case with many of the Israelites.

Israel was given the position of sonship (”Adoption”) before God (Exodus 4:22-23; Deuteronomy 14:1-2; Hosea 11:1; Malachi 1:6), God manifested His glory on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:16-17) and in the Tabernacle and Temple (Exodus 40:34-38; 1 Kings 8), they were given the covenants and promise (Genesis 17:7; 35:9-12; 2 Samuel 7:12-16), they were given the law, the word of God, and they were given the privilege of serving God (Hebrews9:1-6), and from their line the Messiah descended (Galatians 3:16). All of these advantages and opportunities God gave to Israel by sovereign election but they were unwilling to be used by God. Instead they turned to idols and pagan gods, they lived for the things of this world rather than for the things of God and so they missed a great opportunity to be used by God in His sovereign plan (2 Chronicles 36).

 

Christ Over All

 

Romans 9:5 – “of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”  [17]

 

From Israel the “fathers,” or holy men of the past, came and more importantly, Jesus the Christ was descended from Israel. Why, with all of this revelation, did Israel and does Israel reject Jesus as the Christ? That is something we will find an answer to further on in this section.

 

More importantly, this verse has one of the strongest statements on the deity of Jesus in the Bible. Very clearly, Jesus is referred to as, “over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” If Jesus is “over all,” it means there is none over Him. If Jesus is “the eternally blessed God,” it means He has no beginning or end; it means Jesus is God! And Jesus is the One Whom God the Father is seeking to exalt in His sovereign plans.

 

God’s Sovereign Strength Will Overcome

 

Romans 9:6-9 – “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”[18]

Paul states that just because Israel has rejected Jesus doesn’t mean that “the word of God has taken no effect.” It was no surprise to God that Israel would reject Him and His Son. God even predicted this rejection (Isaiah 53). God’s plans and purposes are not thwarted by disobedience. God knows what will happen ahead of time, even who will obey and who will disobey. Jews mistakenly viewed themselves as children of God on the basis of national identity. Paul explains, “they are not all Israel who are Israel, nor are they all children because they are the [physical] seed of Abraham” (9:6-7a). Jews were very patriotic and believed their national heritage made them children of God. But being born a Jew does not guarantee that you are a child of God. Just because you are born into a Jewish household doesn’t guarantee that you are fitting properly in to God’s plans. The context here would seem to indicate that the emphasis is being a child of God used by God to fulfill His word. Even though Israel rebelled and rejected God, God’s plan carried on in strength.

No one is indispensable to God’s sovereign plans. God desires to include us in His plans, but we never become so big that God can’t accomplish His plans without us. The only One who is indispensable to God’s plans is God Himself. That is a humbling truth evidenced in the lives of such Biblical characters as Saul, the list of disobedient kings of Israel and Judah, Jonah, Judas and a host of others. God’s sovereign strength will overcome all obstacles.

God Sovereignly Gives Israel An Opportunity To Serve Him

God gave Israel great opportunity to serve Him in His plan. Through Abraham all the nations of the earth were to be blessed as it states in Genesis:

  • Genesis 12:1-3 – “Now the Lord had said to Abram: 1 “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” [19]

Later in Exodus the LORD tells Moses of His plans for Israel:

  • Exodus 19:6a – “‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’”   [20]

When we take Genesis 12:3 and Exodus 19:6 together we see that God intended to bless the world through Israel, He was giving them an opportunity to be holy intermediaries between God and man. Exodus 19:6 is a kind of Great Commission of the Old Testament.

In the book of Isaiah the prophet is inspired to speak of God’s call and purpose for Israel when he writes:

  • Isaiah 43:10-12 - “You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me.11 I, even I, am the Lord, And besides Me there is no savior.12 I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, And there was no foreign god among you; Therefore you are My witnesses,” Says the Lord, “that I am God.”  [21]
  • Isaiah 44:8,21 – “Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’ ” . . . 21 “Remember these, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me!”  [22]

These verses from Isaiah show us that God’s elected purpose for Israel was to serve God as His witnesses to the world. The context in which these verse are written shows that Israel was to be a witness to the pagan people’s around them by living in a holy loyal relationship with the Holy One of Israel (mentioned some 25 times in Isaiah).

But unfortunately Israel came to see their privileged position of service as a privileged position of prejudice. They had been warned about this by Moses (Deuteronomy 7). But unfortunately Israel became proud and unusable to God, though God’s ultimate plan of redemption through His Messiah Son Jesus was carried out to perfection in spite of Israel. (Of course, as we will see in Romans 11, God isn’t finished with Israel and will again work through her – see also Revelation 7 and 11).

National Flesh or Spirit Filled Promise

Paul states in the second part of verse 7 by quoting Genesis 21:12, “but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’” What is the significance of referring to Isaac? Paul is citing a contrast between those born of flesh, or natural means and those born in terms of spiritual promise. If being born of the flesh were enough to secure a viable place in God’s plan, then Ishmael who is also born of the seed of Abraham could lay claim to God’s promised place of service. But Paul explains that “children of the flesh . . . are not the children of God” (9:8a). The children of the flesh are those who depend on their physical birth, their own strength to justify themselves before God. Children of the flesh rely on their own fleshly service to try and impress God or try to get on His good side. Paul corrects such thinking by pointing to who are the children of God, they are “the children of promise are counted as seed,” the children of the promise of God are the true children of God (9:8b).

What does this promise entail? Why is it effective in determining the children of God? Paul refers to God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah that they would have an offspring (9:9). We only have to recollect what Paul taught in Romans 4 to know that God’s Promise to Abraham involved trusting by faith in God’s word despite apparent contradictory evidence. The children of God are those who follow (i.e. “the seed”) in the path of Abraham who was declared righteous by God on the basis of his trust in God’s word despite his own limitations (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:13-25). THE SOVEREIGN PLAN OF GOD IS TO USE THOSE  “CHILDREN OF GOD” WHO EXERCISE FAITH IN HIM AND DO NOT DEPEND ON THEIR FLESH BUT ON THE SPIRIT (Romans 8).

A true Jew, as Paul stated earlier, is one who is spiritually circumcised in the heart:

  • Romans 2:28-29 – “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”  [23]

Just as Isaac (Spirit) was persecuted by Ishmael (Flesh) so this conflict carries on today according to Paul who states:

  • Galatians 4:29 – “But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.”  [24]

This ongoing conflict is probably why Paul makes mention of this contrast in identities. God uses those who are in the Spirit.  (See Galatians 4 for a further discussion.)

Sovereign Election to Service Is Based On God’s Foreknowledge

Romans 9:10-11 – “And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”  [25]

How was it that God could choose Jacob over Esau in His plans even before the two were born? (9:10-13). In 9:12 Paul quotes Genesis 25:23, “The older shall serve the younger.” The normal line of authority was that the younger serves the older, but God overruled this natural process for His sovereign purposes. Notice God’s the context of verses 6-13 is God’s sovereign predestined choice or election of who will serve Him, not who will be saved by Him. There is no evidence in this passage that election to salvation is being referred to here.

“The purpose of God according to election”

What is the purpose of God’s election? The word “election”  is translated from the Greek term EKLOGE (Strong’s # 1589 - εκλογή [ekloge /ek·log·ay/]) and occurs 7 times in the New Testament. Six times it is translated “election,” (Romans 9:11; 11:5,7,28; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Peter 1:10), once it is translated “chosen” (Acts 9:15). The meaning of EKLOGE is, “the act of picking out, choosing.” [26] This word is a derivative of EKLEGO (Strong’s #1586) which means, “to pick out, select” (Mark 13:20; Luke 6:13; 9:35; 10:42; 14:7; John 6:70; 13:18; 15:16, 19; Acts 1:2, 24; 6:5; 13:17; 15:22, 25; in 15:7 it is rendered “made choice”; 1 Corinthians 1:27-28; Eph. 1:4; Jas. 2:5.) [27]

 

When we look at the New Testament and the references to election we see that the predominant use of election seems to be that God elects certain persons for blessings and purposes, (not salvation). For instance Jesus chose twelve disciples from a larger group of disciples to be His leaders (Luke 6:13; John 6:70; Acts 1:2). Mary chose the “good part” of sitting at the feet of Jesus to learn (Luke 10:42). After Judas had betrayed Jesus and the disciples a replacement they used EKLEGO or “chosen” to pray to God to choose Judas’ replacement to serve as an apostle (Acts 1:24). When a disturbance arose that required more leaders to minister to the needs of those in the church, the people  “chose” Stephen and others to serve (Acts 6:5). Those sent on missionary trips were “chosen” by the church (Acts 15:22,25). God chooses to use things or people that the world would classify as “foolish” to accomplish His plans (1 Corinthians 27-28). James writes that God chooses the poor to be rich in faith (James 2:5). All of these references have something to do with blessings or appointment to a mission or tasks.

This author does not believe that the Bible teaches that God circumvents the free will decision or human responsibility in saving souls by predestining some to heaven and some to hell apart from human choice based solely on Divine decree. Such a view cuts against the nature of God as loving and holy since a God who could save all, but chooses not to save all, could hardly be said to be loving towards those He dooms to hell (which is what Calvinism teaches).

When we look further at the Bible we see that Jesus the Messiah is referred to as “My Elect One” (Isaiah 42:1). Did the Father elect Jesus to be saved? That hardly seems appropriate. Rather, Jesus was elected to fulfill the primary and predominant part in God’s redemptive plan. Israel is referred to by God as, “My elect.” Are all those who are Israelites elected to salvation? Even a casual read of the Bible shows that could hardly be true since the Bible is filled with God’s wrathful declarations against His sinful people (Isaiah 45:4; Matthew 24:22,31). Angels are referred to as elect (1 Timothy 5:21), are they saved?

It seems clear that when we look at the Bible God’s election refers to His sovereign choice to appoint certain people to fulfill certain tasks or to receive certain blessings from Him. Paul is referred to as a “chosen vessel” or elect of God to fulfill God’s ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). John refers to one of the local churches as elect (2 John 1,13). The church is elected by God to equip and edify believers (Acts 2:42; Ephesians 4:11-12). In all these cases the evidence is that God sovereignly elects people to be used by Him to fulfill parts of His sovereign predestined plan.

As an example, the context of the first four verses of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians reveals that election is associated with the Thessalonians “work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”:

  • 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4 – “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, 1 To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers,3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,4 knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.”  [28]

Paul’s mention of the Thessalonians work, labor and patience is not to confuse works righteousness with their salvation, but to show that their “knowing” their “election by God,” means they are invested in the ministry or service of God.

The Right Perspective on Election

When there are verses that refer to individuals as elected they should be viewed in light of Ephesians 1:4 which states:

  • Ephesians 1:4 – “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,”  [29]

God’s sovereign predestined plan is that He gathers an elect group for eternal life based on their faith response to His Son Jesus Christ. That person who makes the decision to put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is born again of the Spirit, they are then regenerated by the Holy Spirit who comes to reside within them (John 3; Romans 5:5; Titus 3:5). This begins a personal saving intimate spiritual relationship between Jesus and the believer which Paul refers to with the phrase “in Him,” or “in Christ.” Therefore God’s elect are those who are “in Christ.” God is able to choose or elect people from the foundations of the world or before they are ever even born because in his foreknowledge He already knows who will and will not accept Jesus as Savior and enter into the “in Christ” saving relationship. This is emphasized in the following verses.

Paul again writes to the Thessalonians and in his second epistle to this church their being “chose . . .for salvation,” is directly connected the sanctifying work of the Spirit which naturally entails ministering to those around them.

  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 – “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  [30]

The Thessalonians were chosen for salvation based on the work of the Spirit in them and their belief in the “truth” of the gospel which is faith in Jesus Christ as the basis of their election.

Peter connects the election of God to being based on the foreknowledge of God when he writes:

  • 1 Peter 1:1-2 – “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, 1 To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.”  [31]

Notice how Peter connects election with God’s foreknowledge and substantiates the election on the basis of their being sprinkled with the blood of Jesus which refers to the remission of their sins in salvation and the “sanctification of the Spirit” which points to the ongoing work of the Spirit in their lives.

In Peter’s second epistle he is inspired to state:

  • 2 Peter 1:2-4 – “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”  [32]

Notice here that God’s calling and election (implied) is related to “precious promises,” to aid believers in God’s predestined plan to partake of the “divine nature,” or as Paul refers to it, “the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).

In Romans 9 we have a perfect example of God choosing to work through people based on His foreknowledge. When Paul goes on in Romans 9:13 to quote Malachi 1:2,3, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated,” He is using “love” and “hate” as comparative terms much the same as Jesus did (Matthew 10:37-38; Luke 14:26). Jacob and Esau are “two nations”  in the womb of Rebekah (Genesis 25:23). If salvation is what is being referred to here (as Calvinists state) then we are talking about one nation being saved (“loved”) and one nation being damned (“hated”) which is hardly logical or in line with the love of God.

What Paul seems to have in mind here is that God sovereignly chooses or elects people to serve (not to be saved or damned). God reserves the right to use whom He wills the way He wills to accomplish His predestined purposes. And God’s election to service is based on His foreknowledge. God knew Esau’s nature and that he was not a spiritually oriented person, therefore based on God’s foreknowledge Jacob was chosen to work God’s plan.

Jacob and Esau Elected to Serve on the Basis of God’s Foreknowledge

We have already stated that God’s election and call are to service not salvation in this passage. We see this in Paul’s quote of  Genesis 25:31 which states, “The older shall serve the younger.” (Romans 9:12).[33] What was the basis for such election to serve? Simply this God elected Jacob over Esau because in His foreknowledge He saw that Jacob would be a man of faith whereas Esau would be a man of the flesh. This is verified in the following verses:

  • Hebrews 11:21 – “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.”  [34] (See also Genesis 32).
  • Hebrews 12:16-17 – “lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.”  [35] (See also Genesis 25:29-34; 27).

God foreknew the nature of Jacob and Esau and elected them to service accordingly.

But is this fair? Was this fair to Esau? Does God’s predestination and election to service bypass the will of Esau and if so how could he, or anyone else for that matter, ever be guilty before God if God predetermines what happens?

God is Righteous in His Sovereign Predestined Elective Purposes

Romans 9:14-16 – “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”  [36]

Some might respond to Paul’s words by saying God isn’t being fair by choosing people before they have a chance to either sin or not sin, choose or not choose to follow Him. People assault the righteousness and fairness of God because of His sovereign predestination. But we have already seen that God is fair and impartial (2:11) and that He is seeking to love us extremely (8:30-39). In light of this we can understand Paul’s answer to any accusation that God is unjust, “Certainly not!” he exclaims, God is not unjust (9:14).

Paul says that God stands in sovereign judgment over all humanity and determines who He will have compassion on and whom He will be merciful to. God has not delegated the choice of what is the basis and determination of His mercy and compassion to mere humans. Notice it does not say, “I will have mercy on who I will have mercy and DAMN THE REST. No, God is merely conveying His inclination and preference to merciful to those who sin. That is GRACE. Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t just right you off when you sin? God has great compassion and shows mercy to us.

Paul here quotes Exodus 33:19 and the context of that verse is when Moses returns from Mount Sinai where he was receiving the Ten Commandments and upon his return he finds the children of Israel, led by Aaron, praising a golden calf! Already the stiff-necked nature of this people was evident. God could have totally wiped out the people and started fresh, but He didn’t do that. The people were disciplined and those who chose not to side with God were executed (Exodus 32:22-29), but God was merciful and gracious in light of this horrid sinfulness. God’s desire is to be merciful and gracious with us. Remember, justice is getting what we deserve and if God were only just with us, we’d all be toast! God prefers mercy and mercy is not getting what you deserve. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross that paid the penalty for our sin, when we put our faith in Him, God is able to justly forgive us (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).  But God doesn’t stop at mercy, God, as we have seen, is gracious and grace is always much more than we expect, grace is getting what we don’t deserve. God’s grace gives, it gives all the blessings and spiritual tools to carry out God’s call on our lives. God is so good! Praise Him for His mercy and grace!

God does not base His sovereign decisions on the way man “runs” or according to humanity’s works (Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16). One look at the life of Jacob reveals this. Jacob was a schemer, a “heel-catcher.” Esau even appears to be more of an understanding man than Jacob when he acts forgiving toward Jacob who connived and cheated Esau out of the family blessing (Genesis 27; 33). But God foresaw Jacob’s conversion and change of heart (Genesis 32).

God reserves the right to choose through whom He will minister compassion and mercy just as much as He reserves the right to choose on whom He will be compassionate and merciful. We may look at someone and all their imperfections and wonder, “How can God use that person?” But we make that assessment from a very limited perspective. We only see the outward appearance of people; God sees the heart as well as the end from the beginning. God is better suited to choose people for His work, He is God. God doesn’t make mistakes in His choices or election. You can trust God to elect the right people for the right jobs.

A Comment on Calvinism

We need to comment here a bit on the Calvinistic perspective. Calvinism is based on five points of doctrine remembered by the acronym T.U.L.I.P. (Total Depravity; Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement; Irresistible Grace; and Perseverance of the Saints). Calvinism is an extreme view of God’s sovereignty to the point where human free will is eliminated on the basis of it being seen as a challenge to God’s sovereignty. The result is viewing humanity as totally depraved to the extent that they cannot decide to even receive Jesus by faith unless they are regenerated first (before faith). Calvinism teaches that regeneration precedes faith in the Lord even though the Bible teaches, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The Bible teaches faith precedes regeneration (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 John 5:1). A person has the capacity to receive Jesus as their Savoir otherwise why would the Bible make this offer (John 1:12-13). Jesus made this statement (which contradicts the Calvinist view) when He said:

  • John 5:24-25 -  “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.25 “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.”  [37]

Jesus words that a time “now is” when “the dead will hear” and respond to His voice shows that humanity is enabled by God to receive Jesus as Savior by faith first, and then regeneration occurs. Based on this verse, humanity is not totally depraved in the sense that God must regenerate them before they can receive Jesus by faith. Based on these words of Jesus, God’s grace has apparently enabled the “dead” to have the capacity to hear the gospel of Jesus and either receive or reject Him.

The Bible states “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13) and this presupposes not only the ability of people to call on the name of the Lord, but that God makes this opportunity available to “whoever,” all people, everyone. God’s grace enables sinful humanity to be convicted of their sin and receive the forgiveness for their sins. Nicodemas came to Jesus to inquire and Jesus gave him the gospel and offered salvation to him to choose to receive (John 3; see also John 1:12). Jesus spoke of being born again not before one believed but as a result of believing in Him. Belief precedes regeneration not visa versa as Calvinists teach.

Furthermore, in regards to total depravity, the capacity to put faith in Christ for salvation is not a work that would in any way detract from God’s grace. It is God who enables a person to respond to His Son in faith. The Father gives people to Jesus based on the Father’s foreknowledge, and anyone who comes to Jesus will be welcomed and not “cast out” (John 6:37). Those whom the Father gives on the basis of His foreknowledge are secure in their saving relationship with Him because God has seen them in His foreknowledge; He has seen the beginning and end of their saving faith (John 6:39). Those who respond to the gracious offer of salvation by God and put faith in Jesus as their Savior, those will be raised up to everlasting life by Jesus (John 6:40). No one comes to the Father unless He draws him (John 6:44). Anyone who comes to Jesus to be saved is drawn by the Father through the work of the Spirit; but not everyone who is drawn or offered salvation, comes to Jesus and believes on Him. Salvation is by grace through faith and that not of yourselves (Ephesians 2:1-9). God’s grace brings the sinner to the point where they can decide to receive Him, or decide not to receive Him. God’s predestined plan incorporates the free will decision of humankind. There is no escaping that.

Calvinism teaches that God unconditionally elects some people to eternal life and some to eternal damnation apart from any human responsibility. That God might elect some to salvation and some to damnation apart from human choice logically leads to dehumanizing people and making them no more than puppets on a string. Such a fatalistic doctrine undermines any burden we might have for the lost since what does it matter if we preach the gospel, share our faith, or even pray for someone if a person’s destiny is already set in stone. And I say stone because this is a cold doctrine that also strikes at the very nature of God’s love. How loving is a God who could save all, but chooses to save only a few, how loving is He toward the one’s He chooses for damnation? No, God offers the gospel to the “world” to “whosoever will” receive Jesus by His gracious offer through the Spirit by faith. The Bible states God’s desire is the “all men” come to a knowledge of the truth about salvation, it does not say “all elect men” (1 Timothy 2:4). God desires none to perish (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 33:11). Jesus calls “all” to come to Him who labor and are heavy laden (Matthew 11:27-30). And God loved the “world” that He gave Jesus to come and save it (John 3:16). God offers salvation to the world, to everyone; He does not exclude anyone from the opportunity to be saved. That is just a Biblical fact.

Calvinism teaches that Christ’s atonement is limited and effective only for those who God predestines as His elect for salvation. Nowhere does the Bible teach a limited atonement. Words’ like “world” and “whosoever” shows how God offers the opportunity to be saved to all humankind. Calvinism, in order to support their doctrinal view, twists such words as “world” and whosoever” to apply only to the elect when there is no grammatical or logical basis for such an interpretation. The Bible says salvation is offered to “all men” (1 Timothy 2:1-2,5), to “everyone” (Hebrews 2:10), to the “whole world” (1 John 2:2), and the “world” (John 3:16; 1 John 4:14). Jesus is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29) and He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Very clearly the Bible states that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of “the whole world” (1 John 2:2). There is nothing limited about Christ’s atonement!

Calvinism teaches that God’s grace is irresistible, that those who God chooses by grace to save, cannot resist God’s decision. In other words, if God wants to save a person, whether or not they exert free will to receive Him has nothing to do with it, it is God who imposes His will on people to be saved. This, along with unconditional election, eliminates the impetus for evangelism since why should anyone worry about persuading or reasoning with someone about their need of salvation when if God wants to save them they can’t resist. God’s irresistible grace makes God a kind of bully who force-feeds His will on helpless people. This is not grace, but a growling gift giver who forces presents on people. The Bible teaches that human beings can resist God and do have to receive God’s offer of salvation in Jesus Christ (Matthew 23:37; John 4:10, 13-14; 39-42; Hebrews 4:6). God draws the sinner to Himself by grace (John 6:44; 12:32 5:38-40;), and the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin (John 16:8-11). But the sinner must receive God’s offer by faith (John 1:12). The Bible is filled with God’s call for people to “seek” Him (1 Chronicles 16:11; 2 Chronicles 15:2; Psalm 9:10; 22:26; 34:10; 40:16; 42:1; 69:6; Proverbs 28:5; Isaiah 55:6-7; Jeremiah 29:13; Hosea 10:12; Zephaniah 2:3;Acts 17:24-27; 20:21; Hebrews 11:6). Would God call for people to seek Him if His grace was irresistible and they had no other choice? If such were the case a call by God to seek Him would seem redundant.

Lastly, Calvinism teaches the perseverance of the saints which means that a person who is elected to salvation by God through the first of the four points of Calvinism, will continue or persevere in their status. If a person shrinks back from it proves they were never saved in the first place. For the Calvinist therefore, perseverance is the proof of being elect and if perseverance to the end is the only way one can know for sure if they are one of the saved elect, then one can never be assured of their salvation, but is always teetering on the precipice of lostness. It is one thing to believe that the elect will abide in Christ and not shrink back or turn away from Him; and quite another to say you won’t really know if you were one of the elect until you get to the end of your life. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit gives us an assurance of our salvation and that one who is saved can know with certainty that they are saved (1 John 3:24; 5:13). What a tenuous shame it is to go through life uncertain of ones salvation. The sad thing is that Calvinists in an attempt to eliminate works from salvation, in the end, end up emphasizing the works they set out to eliminate due to the doctrine of perseverance of the saints. This is a tendency of a religious perspective, not a saving relational one.

Therefore, in light of the above,  we can see how a Calvinistic view of salvation undermines the impetus to reach out to the lost, to have a burden for the lost like Paul did in the opening words of Romans 9. If God has predetermined both the saved and the lost (“double predestination”), then it doesn’t matter what humankind does, everything is set in stone. Why preach the gospel, why share ones faith in Christ if the stamp of decree has already been fatalistically laid down. The consequence of such a view ends up acting like a cancer more than a call to the lost. The Calvinistic view eats away at any motive to serve as God’s elect or reach out to the lost. Calvinism’s greatest flaw and detriment is it’s minimizing of the love of God and His love in us by the Spirit that compels us to serve Him out of loving appreciation. Calvinism removes the personal aspect from salvation by making human beings objects, divinely automated robots lacking the image of God. Have you hugged your car lately? Have you received an embrace from your computer? Calvinism lowers humanity to the level of inanimate objects like cars and computers. Calvinism degenerates salvation to a religious practice of persevering to prove you really are one of the elect. Calvinism fosters an attitude that says,” I’m glad I got my salvation and I’m elect, to bad for the poor slob who wasn’t chosen.” Calvinism brings the focus on “me,” and that means the flesh and those in the flesh struggle against God and can’t please Him (Romans 8). Calvinism is not the way of God. Those who hold to the five points or various degrees of Calvinism should go back to the word of God and rethink prayerfully their perspective on God and His predestined plan of salvation. In a time in history when Christians like never before, need to be ready and unashamed of the gospel of Christ, Calvinism seems to pull the rug out from under any compelling love or motive to be ready and unashamed to be used by God. This is the humble opinion of this author based on a study of the Scriptures.

This author does not want to sound offensive to those who have bought into the Calvinist perspective, only to urge them on to a more contextual study of God’s word. Verses taken out of context are a pretext. Good Bible study is inductive (i.e. objective) not deductive (i.e. subjective). We need to rightly divide God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15). A rightly divided word of God does not support a Calvinistic view of salvation. That is something worth standing for and worth risking offense.

God’s Sovereign Predestined Plan Can Even Use the Unsaved

Romans 9:17-18 – “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.”  [38]

Paul points to the historical example of pharaoh to show that God’s plans are fulfilled in spite of people’s cooperation. God’s sovereign plans even overcome the opposition of the unsaved.  Notice, God raised Pharaoh up. God is the One who in sovereign action put pharaoh on the throne (9:17a). God raised up pharaoh “that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth” (9:17b). God’s objective was and is always to, ‘be declared in all the earth” as is seen in the following verses:

  • Exodus 7:5 - “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.”[39]
  • Isaiah 37:20 -  “Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone.”  [40] (See Joshua 2:10; 9:9; and 1 Samuel 4:7-9 for examples.)

God wants His name proclaimed throughout the earth because salvation is in His name alone and He desires all to be given opportunity to be saved.

What About Pharaoh’s Hardened Heart?

A lot has been made about the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart by God. Some say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart simply by His eternal decree and good pleasure of His will. Did God harden Pharaoh’s heart on a whim capriciously? No, we always need to look at the context of Scripture and it is supremely important to understand what is happening here.

The context of Exodus indicates that God foreknew that Pharaoh would harden his own heart to God’s request that His people be freed from slavery. In Exodus God states to Moses:

  • Exodus 3:19 - “But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.”  [41]

The context here shows clearly that God foreknew what Pharaoh’s response would be. Other verses indicate God was right:

  • Exodus 9:34 – “And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants.”  [42] (See also Exodus 13:15).

But did God harden Pharaoh’s heart and if so what does that mean? Yes God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. What does this mean? The word “hardened” here is translated from the Hebrew term CHAZAQ (Strong’s #2388 2388.            qz¾j;  chaÆzaq, khaw-zak’) which means, “to fasten upon;  to seize, be strong , courage, strengthen, cure, help, repair, fortify, to bind, restrain.”.[43] Therefore what is meant when the Bible states God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21; 7:13,22; 8:15; 9:12,35; 10:20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17) is that God confirmed and strengthened the decision that Pharaoh had already made in his heart (Exodus 5:2; 7:13). God acts on the basis of His foreknowledge as is seen in many other cases (Genesis 28:7,20-21; 32:9-11, 24-32; 49:28-33). God does not make people unrepentant; He simply strengthens and confirms their own decisions.

 

God’s Sovereign Principle of Hardening

Paul then says, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens” (9:18). God’s hardening of pharaoh’s heart comes after pharaoh decides to reject God’s command. Therefore, God’s hardening appears to be a judicial determination in response to pharaoh’s rejection. God determines in His sovereignty the rule, law, standard, or basis of right and wrong and then solidifies and cements by principle a person’s decision. Paul refers to this when he is inspired to write:

  • 1 Timothy 4:1-2 – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,”  [44]

The illustration Paul uses here of a conscience “seared with a hot iron,” conveys the deadening effect of nerve damage done by a scarring injury. The sovereign principle of God is that sin desensitizes a person to spiritual things. The more a person sins, the less they will care about sinning.  In Proverbs it speaks of the deadened conscience of the adulterous woman by saying:

  • Proverbs 30:20 – “ This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, And says, “I have done no wickedness.”  [45]

God in His foreknowledge knows the decision a person will make regarding to His sovereign mandate and proceeds accordingly. God knows who will have a repentant heart and who will not and applies His principle of hardening.

Sin is a serious and dangerous thing. Sin is dangerous and serious not only because of the pain it causes people, but also because each time we sin, it has a deadening and spiritually desensitizing effect on the heart of the sinner. The more one sins, the more one is able to sin, the more one is inclined to sin, and that is dangerous. Sin is like leprosy in that it deadens the nerves that warn of harm to the body. A leper loses the sensitivity of their nerves and so can lean on something hot, cut themselves or hurt themselves in some other way and the natural warning signs the body should produce, are not produced and so the injury goes unnoticed and unattended resulting in loss of limb or extremities.  When a person sins, they begin to lose the sense of danger or warning against the effects of sin and become spiritually deadened leading to spiritual loss. Sin deadens our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. When you’re out of touch with the Spirit, you’re out of touch with God. And when you’re out of touch with God, you’re headed for some serious pain and suffering in life.

Reacting to God’s Sovereign Decisions - “Why Does God Still Find Fault?”

Romans 9:19- “You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”[46]

Some interpret God’s sovereign dealings with humanity as bypassing the will of people. Calvinists see every act as ordained by God including all sin and evil which leads logically to the idea that God is the author of even evil. God sovereignly elects people to serve Him in certain ways. He may even sovereignly elect people to either heaven or hell, but His election is based on His foreknowledge of what people will do, what is in their hearts. God’s sovereign election and predestined works do not eliminate the will of humanity otherwise humanity would degenerate into to nothing more than puppets on a string. God created humanity with free will. Nothing people do is going to catch God off guard or challenge His sovereignty. God is in control and King of all, nothing will ever change that.

Paul anticipates the objections of those who view God’s sovereign works as bypassing the will of man. If God raised up people to fulfill His will, if He created them to fulfill roles like pharaoh, then how can He find fault or blame or judge such people? How can God judge those who cannot resist His will in the first place? These are the accusatory questions against God that Paul turns to now (9:19).

Those who claim, “God made me this way,” in order to justify their sinfulness are out of luck and foolishly mistaken. God created mankind in His image; it was humanity that chose shameful sinfulness (Genesis 1:26-28; 3; Romans 1:18-32). The person living in sin only compounds their sinfulness by trying to blame God for their sinful state.

God’s Sovereign Supremacy versus Lumps of Clay

Romans 9:20-21 – “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” [47]

Paul responds with a question of his own, “who are you to reply against God?” (9:20). God is not answerable to man; God acts in a way that is consistent with His character and nature of holy love. Paul puts those who would question God’s sovereignty in their place by pointing out that it was God who created them and they are as valuable as a clump of clay. A clump of clay is worthless until molded by the Potter and the Potter has the right to mold the clay in any way He sees fit. The clay is in no position to question the Potter who brings it to life (9:21). If God wanted to make some clay into vessels to reveal His power and wrath upon, that is God’s prerogative (9:22). If God made other vessels to show His mercy and bring to glory, whether Jews or Gentiles, that too is His prerogative (9:23-24). If God wanted to make some pots Gentile and some Jew, that is God’s prerogative.

Of these verses one commentator states:

“Here Paul argues that man displays the justice and grace of God, both through the persistent unbeliever (whom he calls a vessel fitted for wrath), and through the believer, (a vessel of mercy). We must remember Paul does not say that God created one vessel to wrath and another to mercy. He endured the vessels of wrath which were fitted to destruction and made known the riches to His glory on the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory. As the potter does not take one lump of clay and make it a good lump, and another lump and make it bad, so too God does not make one person evil and another one good. We must notice that the expression fitted to destruction is in the Greek middle voice, and should be interpreted that man fits himself for destruction. God never does that. On the other hand, are those who were prepared by the grace of God through faith in His Son and are fitted by God for eternal life. With a thankful heart Paul notes that God has sovereignly called to glory both those of the Jews and also those of the Gentiles. As believers, whether Jew or Gentile, we have been the recipients of God’s mercy and have been prepared for the glory of His presence. For this we should be intensely thankful.”  [48]

Paul has been building to the point where he can share about the salvation of the Gentiles. This was a very controversial issue amongst the Jews. Paul bathes in God’s grace the issue of the gospel going to the Gentiles. It was even a controversy in the early church (Acts 15; Galatians 2).

God’s Sovereign Will To Reveal Himself

Romans 9:22-23 – “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,”  [49]

Whether it is a hardhearted Pharaoh or a disobedient child of God, nothing will thwart God’s will. God’s will, will be done. Notice what is not said here. It is not said here that God created certain people only to be objects of His wrath and others only to be objects of His mercy. The context here is that of being elected by God to serve His purposes in His sovereign plans. Sometimes those He elects to use oppose Him, (like pharaoh).

And notice how God does make Himself known here. God makes His power known by enduring with much longsuffering those who choose to rebel and reject Him and are therefore destined to be prepared for destruction under God’s law. He makes the riches of His glory known on those who respond in faith by His grace to His mercy. God reveals His riches of glory in His dealings with the saved and reveals His wrath and power through His dealings with the lost. No matter if a person opposes or submits to God’s will, God will accomplish His plan.

God’s Sovereign Plan Can Work In Unexpected Ways

Romans 9:24-26 – “even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?25 As He says also in Hosea: 1 “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”  [50]

Israel thought they were the only one’s through whom God could work out His plan. They were wrong. God can work through whomever He chooses to work through as is indicated in these verses.

God in His sovereignty chooses who His servants will be and has the right to do so just as much as human beings have the right to choose their spouses. Paul quotes Hosea 2:23 in Romans 9:25 and Hosea 1:10 in Romans 9:26 and it is important to note that the book of Hosea involves the living metaphor of Hosea marrying an unfaithful woman just as God in His sovereign will chose to love Israel. Even in cultures where children are matched by families to be married, there is usually an allowance for acceptance on the part of the children when they get older (9:25).

I wonder if Abraham thought God would create a nation and bless the world through him when he was a family man in Ur of the Chaldeas  (Genesis 12-25)? 

I wonder if Isaac thought God had big plans for him when his father held a knife over him while he was tied down on an altar (Genesis 22)?

I wonder what Jacob thought God was going to do with him when his father in law was pursuing him from behind and his estranged brother Esau lay ahead of him (Genesis 32)?

I wonder if Joseph thought God would still use him for any good when he was attacked by his own brothers, sold into slavery, wrongly accused of adultery, imprisoned, forgotten by those he helped to get out of prison and separated from his home and family (Genesis 37-50)?

I wonder if Moses thought God still intended to use him in any way let alone using him to lead His people out from under the oppression of Egypt when he was outcast in the wilderness after having murdered an Egyptian and being rejected by his own people who he was trying to defend (Exodus 1-4)?

I wonder if Joshua believed God would use him to lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land when he was so scared of taking over for Moses that God had to repeatedly encourage him not to be fearful (Joshua 1)?

I wonder if Gideon thought God would use him to defeat the huge Midianite army when he was secretly threshing wheat in a winepress out of fear that the Midianites wouldn’t see him (Judges 6-7)?

I wonder if Ruth, the Moabitess, thought her offspring would ever be in the royal line of king David and eventually the Messiah (Ruth 4:17-22)?

I wonder if David, a shepherd with a brave heart, thought God would someday make him king of His people even though he was an object of jealousy and anger of king Saul and a fugitive as a result  (1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 2)?

I wonder if Amos the herdsman or Nehemiah the cupbearer for a pagan king, or Daniel an exile, or any of the people God used in the Old Testament knew that God had a plan for their lives that would play a part in changing the world?

I wonder if the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James and John, the tax collector Matthew, and the other core disciples thought that God intended to use them to establish His church and impact the world for His Son Jesus Christ?

I wonder if Luke, a doctor, ever thought God would use him to write a gospel of His Son and an account of the Spirit’s birth of the church (Luke and Acts)?

I wonder if Saul, a religious Pharisee, ever thought he would become Paul, a minister to the Gentiles who taught the gospel of God’s grace in Christ and who God would use to write 13 of the 27 New Testament letters?  

I wonder if the Roman emperors who sought to wipe out Christianity in the first three centuries after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, thought their persecutions would actually result in the spread of Christianity?

I wonder if the Albigenses, Waldenses, John Wycliffe, John Hus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Luther Zwingli would be used by God to purify and reestablish God’s church according to the Bible?

I wonder if John Wesley, one of a family of nearly 20 children, who struggled with his faith, ever thought God would use him to spark one of the greatest revivals in history that many believe led to the saving of England?

I wonder if Chuck Smith who pastured small churches of 25 to 50 people for over 17 years, ever thought God would use him to start the Calvary Chapel movement that has resulted in nearly a thousand churches worldwide, churches that teach God’s word in the Spirit, filled with thousands upon thousands of people, radio and satellite networks to spread the word of God and a host of other related ministries?

I wonder if Greg Laurie, who had five stepfathers while growing up, ever thought God would use him to pastor a church of thousands and touch multiplied thousands through Harvest Crusades?

I wonder if Steve Mays, a motorcycle gang member, or Raul Ries, a fifth degree black belt marshal artist with an angry streak, or Jeff Johnson a drug dealer, or Mike McIntosh a drug addict with a diagnosed hopeless mental illness, I wonder if any of these men ever thought God would make them pastors of churches that would be attended by thousands.

How do you think God wants to use you? I wonder if God isn’t just looking for some faithful people to answer His call and election to service so that He can continue His great work on earth? What about you? Are you willing to be used by God? Oscar Hammerstein II once wrote:

Give me some men who are stouthearted men
Who will fight for the right they adore.
Start me with 10 who are stouthearted men
And I'll soon give you 10,000 more. [51]

There is a verse in the Old Testament which expresses just what God intends to do with people. It states:

  • 2 Chronicles 16:9a - “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. . . .”   [52]

What do you think God will do through you, if only you rely on the Spirit and step out in faith? God wants to show Himself strong on your behalf; God wants to Show His power and make His name known through you! (Romans 9:17).

God’s Sovereign Work Through His Remnant

Romans 9:27-29 – “Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”  [53]

Herein is a very important perspective on the group of people God sovereignly works through. Paul here mentions a mass of people, (“the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea”) and contrasts them with “the remnant.” Who are the remnant?

Those who make up God’s remnant are not leftovers, but the spiritual crème of the crop, those who are faithful and true to the Lord no matter what, in good times and bad, in trials and hardship, though everyone else compromise and turn away from the Lord, they remain true. Who are the remnant? Let’s see what the Bible says.

First, the remnant are not the wisest according to the world’s standards; they may even be weak, foolish, and base, nothing as far as the world is concerned; they may be those the world has thrown away; but they have experienced the power and wisdom of God in the gospel. Now you may be thinking that, “God does work in unexpected ways, but He does that through others, that could never happen in or through me.” But if we learn anything from the Bible it is that God works through those who we wouldn’t normally expect Him to work. Look at what Paul says to the Corinthians:

  • 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.19 For it is written: 1 “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” [54]

Corinth was a metropolis with a plethora of wealth, worldly wise men, pagan idols and a host of worldly distractions. The secular Corinthians may have thought they had it all, that they were at the top of the entire world had to offer. This attitude may have crept into the Corinthian church so Paul wanted to make sure the church had a right understanding of how God works. God works to confound the wisdom of this world. God enjoys bringing a perplexed and astonished look to those in the world who see His work accomplished victoriously through those the world would prefer to cast off (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). God goes out of His way to choose or elect “the foolish things of the world” that is, those things the world sees as foolish, worthless, powerless, and valueless (1 Corinthians 1:26-28). God does this purposely so that no one besides Him can receive the glory for what is done (1 Corinthians 1:29-31).

Second, the remnant are those who have experienced and rely upon God’s grace. Again Paul is inspired by God to speak of God’s grace and power and how it works through us. Paul was gong through a personal trial that he prayed for God to relieve on a number of occasions. God didn’t relieve his problem but instead used it to show him a profound truth about how God works. Paul shared what God had taught him with the following inspired words: 

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  [55]

History is filled with accounts of how God used the little people to accomplish His big predestined plans. God works in unexpected ways through unexpected people. There are times when most of His people are forsaking Him and floundering in their faith. There are times when those who should have repented and come to Him by His grace through faith in Christ, did not. But God in history has always had a faithful remnant.  In Romans 9:27-29 Paul refers to such a remnant.

Who Are The Faithful Remnant, What Are They Like?

What makes this remnant special? We have said they may be castoffs from the world, but to God they are the crème de la crème, the cream of the crop. In Romans 9 Paul quotes Isaiah 10:22-23 in Romans 9:27-28 and Isaiah 1:9 in Romans 9:29, and in these quotations Paul shows that though Israel grew to be “as the sand of the sea,” unless God had mercifully saved the “remnant,” they would have all become like Sodom and Gomorrah and gone the way of judgment. God always reserves an elect remnant of faithful ones through whom He works to accomplish His sovereign plans.

Even when Judah was defeated by the Babylonians the southern kingdom fell and all seemed lost, God reserved a faithful remnant of faithful ones to do His work as Isaiah was inspired to write:

  • Isaiah 37:31-32 – “And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah Shall again take root downward, And bear fruit upward.32 For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, And those who escape from Mount Zion. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”  [56]

The prophet Zephaniah also spoke of the faithful remnant saying:

  • Zephaniah 3:12-13 – “I will leave in your midst A meek and humble people, And they shall trust in the name of the Lord.13 The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness And speak no lies, Nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; For they shall feed their flocks and lie down, And no one shall make them afraid.”  [57]

We need a faithful remnant of the church today for certainly not all those who name the name of Jesus are His. No all who say, “Lord, Lord” belong to the Lord (Matthew 7:21-24). Look at the church today; the church is focused on health, wealth and prosperity in many cases; the church is filled with leadership that exploits its weakest members rather than seeks to edify them in the word of God by the Spirit. The church today is fleshly and focused on building up self-esteem rather than God esteem. We need a faithful remnant today! What does that faithful remnant look like, what characterizes them?

If we look at the two passages above that speak about the faithful remnant of God (Isaiah 37:31-32 and Zephaniah 3:12-13) we see the following characteristics of the faithful remnant. The following are these characteristics and exactly what we need for the times in which we live.

First, the remnant escapes those things which overtakes and defeats others (Isaiah 37:31a – “And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah”). When most give in to the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2:15-17), the remnant overcomes the world by faith in Jesus (1 John 5:5).

Second, the remnant takes root and grows in the Lord (Isaiah 37:31b – “Shall again take root downward”). Paul was inspired to speak of the spiritual growth of believers when he was inspired to say:

 

  • Colossians 2:6-7 – “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”  [58]

Third, the remnant is fruitful (Isaiah 37:31c – “And bear fruit upward”). Jesus said those who abide in Him or live in a saving intimate personal relationship with Him would bear lasting fruit (John 15:1-17). Jesus said the difference between true and false believers is their fruitfulness (Mathew 7:15-20; 13:1-23). Paul was inspired to speak about the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in the believer (Galatians 5:22-25).

Fourth, the remnant or meek and humble (Zephaniah 3:12a – I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people”). God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble and we need all the grace of God we can get. Be humble! Jesus taught us that we should be humble (Luke 14:11; 18:14). James tells us to humble ourselves before God (James 4:10). Peter says that those who humble themselves before God will be exalted and we ought to cast all our cares upon God (1 Peter 5:5-7). That is what the remnant does.

Fifth, the remnant trusts in the LORD (Zephaniah 3:12b – “And they shall trust in the name of the LORD”). The Bible tells us that the name of the LORD is a strong tower, a place of defense (Proverbs 18:10). We need to trust in God’s name, to trust that what He says He will do. A good name is a name that is associated with integrity, truth, and trustworthiness. God’s name is the best, because when He says He will do something or makes a promise to do something, He does it.

Sixth, the remnant has a pure heart that shows itself I pure words (Zephaniah 3:13a – “The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth”). Jesus said that what we speak reveals what is in our hearts (Matthew 15:18-19). Paul was inspired to teach that the use of coarse or inappropriate words actually grieves the Holy Spirit when he said:

  • Ephesians 4:29-32 – “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”  [59]

Seventh, the remnant feeds on the word of God and feeds others the word of God and shares it boldly (Zephaniah 3:13b – “For they shall feed their flocks and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid”). The first century church spoke the word of God with boldness as they prayerfully relied on the Spirit of God:

 

  • Acts 4:31 – “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”  [60]

Those who are of the remnant are students of God’s word and God’s word sustains them through whatever circumstance they find themselves in (Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17).

The qualities and characteristics of the remnant mentioned above, is exactly what we need to be ready and unashamed to be used by God as we have been teaching in the book of Romans. This is especially the case with all of the apostasy, immorality, false religiosity, pagan religions and evil in our world today. We need a remnant to rise up. Are you willing to be a part of that remnant?

Are You Scared and Sidetracked by Small things?

Do you think that because you belong to a small church God can’t use you? Are you suffering from small church inferiority? Do you think God can’t use you? Are you scared away and sidetracked by small things? There was a time in the history of Israel when they were returning from 70 years of captivity. When they came to Jerusalem they were devastated with the scene before them. The prophet Zechariah described the once great City of Jerusalem as now being a mountain of rubble. To make things worse, the previous great City had been built under the reign of the greatest Israelite king, Solomon, who had an endless supply of resources and manpower to build it. Now those who returned were only about 50,000 and that included men, women, and children. The people were totally depressed by what they saw and the prospects of never being able to match the past glory of the City and Temple. What did God tell the people and their leader Zerubbabel through the prophet Zechariah? Read what God said to them through the prophet:

  • Zechariah 4:6-10 – “So he answered and said to me: 1 “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.7 ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” ’ ”8 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying:9 “The hands of Zerubbabel Have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know That the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.10 For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”  [61]

The message God gave them was, God’s work is not done by human power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through human beings (Zechariah 4:6). It doesn’t matter how mountainous or big a task seems, God will lay it low (Zechariah 4:7). What God starts, He finishes so don’t give up (Zechariah 4:8-9a). God has a plan to make His name known so DON’T DESPISE THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS (Zechariah 4:9b-10a). God is scanning with His eye throughout the entire earth and is aware of your situation, and He is in control, trust Him (Zechariah 4:10b). That is the message the remnant needs to take to heart. Don’t be discouraged by the apparent success of evil in the world, God has a plan, and He wants to use you to accomplish it.

Without the LORD, the plan won’t work. God preserves a remnant and works in and through them. God’s plan was to raise up a “Seed” Jesus the Messiah who redeemed the world on the cross. Without that work, we would all be lost. This is something God alone could accomplish and we are only called to proclaim it as the prophets of old did.

God’s Sovereign Stumbling Stone – Righteousness Through Faith in Christ

Romans 9:30-33 – “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”  [62]

The bottom line is that those who the Jews thought were created by God to fuel the fires of hell, the Gentiles, have found righteousness with God, while the Jews who thought themselves righteous simply because of their national identity, didn’t find righteousness. What was the determining factor in this put in place by the sovereign God? God’s sovereign will is that righteousness comes through faith in Christ, not works of the law. Salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, not works, is the sovereign stumbling stone God has put in place. God’s plan is carried out through faith in Christ. God works thorough those who come to Him His way according to His predestined sovereign plan of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

The remnant are those who don’t stumble at the gospel of Christ, but receive Him as Lord and Savior and step into a saving relationship with God. Many stumble at faith in Jesus. Some try to seek God by their own works. All that their works will ever get them is a response from Jesus that says, “Depart from Me I never knew you” (Mathew 7:21). God’s will is that we come to “know” or have a real living relational experience with Him through His Son in the Spirit (John 17:3). God’s desire for us is that like Paul, when we get to the end of our lives we will have a testimony that proclaims, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

“And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

The sovereignty of God is a difficult attribute of God for finite people to fully grasp. In order to avoid heresy we need to keep God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in balance because the Bible teaches both. God has predestined a plan of salvation by grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. That plan and only that plan is acceptable for salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 1:4). God sovereignly places people amongst His elect group based on His foreknowledge of how they will respond to His call to salvation in Christ. God’s sovereign election to salvation excludes no one apart from his or her free will decision. God does not indiscriminately elect some to heaven and some to hell (e.g. double predestination). God sovereignly elects people to serve Him in His plan of redemption by using them as His ministers (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). The sovereign rule of God is not something we should fear since God is for us and loves us so much that nothing can separate us from that love (Romans 8:31-39). Such revelation makes us more than conquerors because we can be sure that “whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Therefore when we come to realize this it is a major step in reaching our stated goal of our study in Romans, that is, to be ready and unashamed.

Conclusion

In the Old Testament God’s people were often drifting away into spiritual adultery and on such occasions God was always faithful to send prophets or leaders to call them to repent. Such was the case under the reign of king Ahab of the northern kingdom of Israel. Ahab had taken a pagan wife by the name of Jezebel and things couldn’t have gotten much worse under his terrible rule. God raised up a prophet by the name of Elijah to call the people back to God (1 Kings 17-18). The climax of the situation occurs when Elijah confronts 450 of the prophets of Baal. Elijah challenges them to cut up a bull and lay the carcass on an altar and then call to their god to rain down fire and consume the sacrifice while Elijah will do the same (1 Kings 18).

 

As the account goes the prophets of Baal danced around the altar where they had put the sacrifice and after being mocked by Elijah even began to cut and flagellate themselves in beseeching their pagan god. But there was no answer. Finally it was Elijah’s turn. He repaired the altar of God that had fallen into disrepair and had the sacrifice doused with water three times until it was drenched wet. Then Elijah prayed a simple single prayer and God rained down fire and consumed the sacrifice. In the victorious action Elijah had the prophets of Baal executed. To top off the manifestation of God he prayed that the drought on Israel be ended and it was.

 

But queen Jezebel didn’t take kindly to the death of her prophets and sought to kill Elijah who in turn fled the scene (1 Kings 19). As Elijah exhausted his strength and came to flop down exhausted the Lord provided for him. Elijah found a cave to rest in and entered it and it is here where the Lord asks him what he is doing. Elijah’s response is that he feared because, “I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:14). Elijah thought he was all alone. Sometimes we can look at the work of evil in the world that is passed on to us through a negative and darkness glorifying media and think we are the only ones faithful to God left. But what did God tell Elijah? God said:

 

  • 1 Kings 19:18 - “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”  [63]

You see Elijah had lost perspective and thought he alone was left to do God’s work. The truth of the mater was that there was a faithful remnant of 7,000 “whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every month that has not kissed him.” It may seem today that the enemy is winning, that false religion, cults, evil and immorality is winning; but all God needs to turn it all around is a faithful remnant, perhaps even just one man or woman to surrender to Him and take a stand, to put it all on the line for Him. Then God will do great things. Are you ready and unashamed to be God faithful remnant?

God has a sovereign plan that He will carry out through those He chooses. He chooses those with a burden for the lost like Paul, like Elijah. Do you have a burden for the lost? He equips those he chooses to serve with all kinds of spiritual tools and weaponry. Are you using the tools God has given you? Are you using them for His glory or your own? Are you seeking to serve Him in the flesh or in the Spirit? Have you bowed the knee and kissed the world? If you have you can return to the Lord and be counted amongst the faithful remnant. Are you willing to take a stand with God even if at first it means you stand alone with Him? One way or another God’s sovereign plan and will are going to be carried out and accomplished. Will you be a part of that or an obstacle to that? The choice is yours.

 



[1]King James Version study Bible. 1997, c1988 (electronic ed.) (Eph 1:9). Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]Kaiser, W. C. 1997, c1996. Hard sayings of the Bible (Pages 559-560). InterVarsity: Downers Grove, Il

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[27]Vine, W. 1997, c1996. Vine's complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (electronic ed.) (Vol. 2, Page 100). Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[49]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51] The New Moon © 1927

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[57]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[58]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[59]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[62]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[63]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.