Origins: What comes from God vs. what comes from man

, posted by Richard Coords

Regarding origins…in other of whether something comes from God or from man, note what John Calvin said about the *origin* of Paul’s expression of emotion towards his fellow Jews at Romans 9:1-3:

John Calvin comments: “It is no objection that he knew that his salvation was founded on the election of God, which cannot by any means fail. The more passionate emotions plunge impetuously on, without heed or regard for anything but the object on which they are fixed. Paul, therefore, did not add the election of God to his prayer, but put it out of mind, and gave all his attention on the salvation of the Jews.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.192)

“Put it out of mind”? Is John Calvin actually suggesting that Paul’s prayer was not because of Calvinism, but in spite of Calvinism? What an admission! This is especially problematic, because if Paul was speaking from the flesh, and not speaking on behalf of the Holy Spirit, then we cannot trust this text, and if we cannot trust this particular text, then what other texts can we not trust either, and the result is that all of Paul’s writings fall into peril, and with it, the entirety of the New Testament Word of God.

On a side note: Calvinists love to make flowery, glowing and reverential statements about the book of Romans, even as being the greatest book ever penned, and I cannot help but notice that they say these things about Romans, because in it, they believe that Calvinism is clearly being taught. So what they are really doing is heaping praise upon their love for Calvinism, in supposing that Romans is teaching Calvinism. Instead, I think that Calvinists have completely misunderstood the book of Romans. The book of Romans has a definite Jewish-focus, which is explicitly evident at Romans 2:17. The nature of the book of Romans is a persuasive argument to the unbelieving Jew in order to forsake their hang-ups regarding the Christian Messiah, Jesus. For instance, one is not saved simply because they are a child of Abraham. Look at Ishmael. Look at Esau. They certainly were not “His people.” So that means that they couldn’t rely on simply having the Law, or simply by being a physical Jew. In actuality, and contrary to their prevailing opinion, they all needed to be saved (i.e. the Law saves no one, and “by the works of the Law, no flesh will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16) The Jews didn’t think that they needed to be saved from anything, and hence, why Jesus?, or at least, why is He saying that we need to “believe in Him” for something? We’re already saved. Aren’t we? We’re already good with God. Aren’t we? Yet, Jesus showed the opposite, and Paul devoted a lot of time in the book of Romans pointing out what Jesus said, in terms of a need for salvation, and spent a good amount of time in breaking down Jewish strongholds, which was keeping them from seeing their need for Christ.

Romans chapter 9 must be read from the perspective of this overall Jewish dialogue. Romans 9:1-3 sets the tone. Paul wants the Jews to understand that he has their best interests at heart, so that they would properly know where he is coming from, in terms of what he is about to deliver to them. Being a child of Abraham doesn’t automatically save, no more than it did so for Ishmael and Esau, and all of our efforts in keeping the Law do not merit God’s mercy. These are the hang-ups that keeps the Jews for seeing their need for Christ. Paul invokes Pharaoh because no Jew would ever complain that God unjustly hardened Pharaoh. After all, the pharaohs of Egypt had held Israel in bitter slavery for 400 years. Pharaoh had it coming! But the reality is that God had more cause for hardening the Jews than He did in hardening Pharaoh. Paul references the Potter principles from Jeremiah 18:1-13, which was a forewarning of God’s future hardening of the unrepentant Jews, cross referenced at Isaiah 6:9-10. Paul anticipates the reaction of the unbelieving Jews, but they cannot rightly answer back to God, no more than Job could, because there is a bigger picture, for which they are unaware, and should they try to challenge God, God will win His case in court, and He will be vindicated, and the challenger will be put to shame. God had long endured unrepentant Israel, all the while that He had held out His arms of grace, and He was rejected. So according to Romans 11, God pulled out Israel and grafted in the Gentiles, but this was a partial hardening of the Jews until the times of the Gentiles are completed, as per Romans 11:25, and partly so that the grace shown to the Gentiles would drive the unbelieving Jews to jealousy, so that they would refocus their values, and return to God, and see that Jesus is the perfect image of God, and that He has loved them all along. Paul adds that there will be a time when all Israel will be saved, and which upon being grafted back in, will be to the benefit of the Gentiles.

Ultimately, Paul’s presentation to the unbelieving Jews to forsake their hang-ups, and to see the value of a Messiah who conquers sin and establishes a lasting reconciliation with God, delivers a portrait of the Gospel that is worthy of the Calvinists admiration, even if they currently admire it for all the wrong reasons.