9th of Tamuz, 5784 | ט׳ בְּתַמּוּז תשפ״ד

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Home » The Doctrine of Election Part 2 by Rabbi Baruch

The Doctrine of Election Part 2 by Rabbi Baruch

In the second part of this article we will continue in our examination of Romans chapter 9. In verses 24-26, the Greek verb “καλέω” appears three times. Although this word appears in different grammatical conditions in each of these verses, the general idea relates to G-d calling. As it has already been pointed out, this verb can have a meaning of calling in the sense of inviting, or calling in the sense of naming. In other words, in the first usage there is an intrinsic aspect of a desired response from the one who is called or invited; however, in the second usage there is a proclamation which is not dependent upon a response from the one who is named.

In verse 24 the subject is established in the previous verse. There, the context is those to whom HaShem will make known the riches of His Glory. As the verse states, these are the vessels of mercy. There is a very important grammatical difference between verse 22 and verse 23. In verse 22 the word “καταρτίζω” appears as a perfect passive participle. As we learned, the perfect aspect relates to something that was established in the past and continues into the present and beyond; whereas the passive voice relates to an exterior action causing this condition. The intent of this construction is to show that the vessels of wrath were demonstrated over time to be appropriate for HaShem’s wrath as He endured their disobedience and by their disobedience were made objects of His wrath.  Hence, it was their disobedience which caused them to be objects of wrath.

If one interprets the verse to mean that G-d Himself made them to be objects of wrath (the position of Reformed theology), then the idea of HaShem enduring their disobedience loses much of its meaning. HaShem would become a type of sadomasochist Who created certain individuals and then withheld His mercy from them, thereby causing Him to endure much suffering from the very behavior that they were unable to cease doing without His mercy.  If HaShem withheld His mercy so that in the end He could judge them, thereby manifesting His glory by means of His wrath, would this then not mean that to a certain degree HaShem is a partner in sin, G-d forbid?  Rather than understanding that the proper intent of verse 21 is as the verse states, HaShem utilized some from humanity for honor and others from humanity for dishonor. In other words, it is an incorrect understanding of this verse to assert that HaShem withheld mercy from some, instead of simply realizing that those who did not receive mercy, naturally became the objects of His judgment and the righteous administration of G-d’s judgment reveals His righteousness.

Verse 24 states,

Which also He called us not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles.”  Romans 9:24

How one handles this verse is critical in arriving at a proper understanding of the Doctrine of Election. Reformed theology, in order to maintain its major tenets, must understand this verse to imply that HaShem has called both a portion of Jews and Gentiles to salvation in a manner in which they are unable to reject this call. Although numerous Scriptures could be offered to challenge this interpretation, let us consider such an interpretation in light of Paul’s quote of the Prophet Hosea in the next two verses.

Please note how Paul introduces the quotation from Hosea.  He writes, “As also in Hosea it says….” This phrase leaves no doubt that in order to understand the intent of Paul’s statement in this section one must first understand what HaShem said in the prophecy of Hosea.  First of all, Paul is quoting from the LXX and not the Masoretic text.  He writes,

“…I will call not My people, My people and the one who was not beloved, beloved;”  Roman 9:25

It is very important for the reader to realize that Hosea is dealing with the divided monarchy. During his days it was the Northern kingdom, called Israel, which had played the spiritual harlot and had embraced idolatry. As a result of this, Hosea was commanded to take a wife of harlotry and even though he loved her faithfully, she returned to her harlotry. It is without question that HaShem was depicting His relationship with Israel through the marriage between Hosea and the harlot, Gomer. Before Gomer returned to harlotry she had three children. The children’s names symbolized what was going to take place between HaShem and Israel. In spite of HaShem’s judgment of Israel, and that He would not have mercy for them and He disowned them saying they were not His people, Hosea reveals that in the future He will indeed have mercy for them and He will call the very ones whom He said, you are not my people, “My people are you and he (Israel) will say my G-d (Hosea 2:25). Hosea makes it most clear that although Israel will go through a time of separation from HaShem, there will be a future time when Israel will return to HaShem. The same idea that concludes chapter two also began this chapter,

And the number of the Children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered and not counted; and it shall be that in the place which it was said to them, not My people are you, it shall be said to them, children of the living G-d.” Hosea 2:1

What will cause Israel to return to HaShem? The answer to this is found in the next verse.

The Children of Judah and the Children Israel shall be gathered together and there shall be set upon them One Head and they shall go up from the earth for great is the day of Jezreel.” Hosea 2:2

Please note that I capitalized the phrase “One Head“because most commentators understand this to be a reference to the Messiah. Hence it will be during the last days that Israel, both the Northern kingdom (Israel) and the Southern kingdom (Judah) will be united as one people and return to HaShem, the living G-d. Hosea uses the phrase Jezreel to refer to the valley where Messiah will come and deliver His people in the last days. The Jezreel valley is also known by the hill that overlooks it, Har Megiddo or Armageddon. According to not only Hosea, but all the prophets who write on this subject, the Jewish people will return to the Land of Israel in the period known as the last days and this period will end with Messiah’s return and He will deliver His Old Testament people. Zechariah describes this event in the twelfth chapter of his prophecy and clearly teaches that at this time, Israel will finally recognize Yeshua as her Messiah. It is vital that HaShem’s acknowledgement once again of Israel as His people is dependent upon Israel accepting Yeshua.

Paul’s purpose for using Hosea’s prophecy is to present a Biblical basis for the Gentiles, who were not HaShem’s people, to be brought into G-d’s family. In other words, if the Gentiles respond to HaShem’s call, i.e. the Gospel, they too can receive the same salvation as Israel, who by her disobedience was called not the people of G-d for a season.

It is important to remember the primary theme of Romans chapters 9-11, Paul’s explanation concerning the spiritual condition of the Jewish people. It is in regard to this primary theme that Paul continues and quotes from Isaiah,

But Isaiah cried out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the Children of Israel are as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.’” Romans 9:27

It is very significant that in this text the definite article appears before the word remnant “τὸ ὑπόλειμμα”. Paul wanted to emphasize that not a remnant will be saved, but the remnant will be saved. The use of the definite article informs the reader that it was not some haphazard random occurrence that resulted in a portion of Jewish people being saved, but rather a specific and well defined act that resulted in a specific and well defined portion of the Jewish people being saved. This concept is further defined in the next verse. Concerning the next verse there are two primary manuscripts. The first is from Nestle-Aland which has,

For a word He completes and cuts short, the L-rd executes upon the earth.” Romans 9:28

Obviously this translation is so literal it is difficult to understand. The idea here is that the L-rd makes His word complete and decisive upon the earth. The Greek verb which was first translated “to cut short” contains the idea of doing something in a very decisive manner.

The second is from the Textus Receptus.

For a word He completes and cuts short in righteousness, because he has made short a word, the L-rd executes upon the earth.” Romans 9:28

In examining these two texts and comparing them with the Hebrew, the best rendering of the verse is,

The L-rd makes His word complete and (it is) determined in righteousness, for the word has been decreed upon the earth.” Romans 9:28

Paul uses this verse to support his position that HaShem, according to His word, is faithful to finish or complete what He has determined based on His righteousness. What is this word which is decreed upon the earth? The latter verses of chapter nine and most of chapter ten focus upon the Gospel; therefore, the vast majority of scholars understand the reference in verse 28 to the “word” “λόγον” as referring to the Gospel. It is by means of the Gospel that disobedient Israel can be saved and how the Gentiles, who were once far off, can likewise find salvation.

Next Paul points out that Israel, based upon her deeds, deserves the same punishment as Sodom and Gomorrah; yet because HaShem provided a “Seed” (Messiah), Israel, i.e. the remnant, will experience a very different eternity. Paul once again quotes Isaiah and states,

“…Unless the L-rd of Hosts left us a seed, as Sodom we would have been and as Gomorrah we would have been like.” Romans 9:29

There is no doubt that Paul understands the word “seed” as a reference to the Messiah in a like manner to what he taught the Galatians,

“…And to your Seed which is Messiah.” Galatians 3:16

Such an understanding fits perfectly with how Paul concludes this chapter. Remembering once again that the primary theme of this section is the spiritual condition of the Jewish people, Paul explains how the Gentiles have obtained righteousness while the vast majority of Jewish individuals have not. The reason for this is because the Gentiles (an ever increasing number of them) had responded to the word, i.e. the Gospel, by means of faith, while Israel to a great degree, has stumbled over the Gospel. Why was this? Paul explains because of Israel’s wrong understanding of the Torah.

Israel incorrectly believed that the Torah, i.e. works of the Law, brings about righteousness; rather than understanding that although the Torah defines what is righteous and what is unrighteous, it is not the instrument that can be utilized for making one righteous. In other words, the Jewish people, to a large degree, missed out on the prophetic truth that HaShem would send the Messiah to do the work of redemption and suffer for sin. The idea of a suffering Messiah was offensive to most of Judaism 2,000 years ago, as it is for much of Judaism today. Yet it is this offence that Israel has stumbled over that is the reason for Israel’s spiritual condition. As Paul states in concluding this chapter,

Just as it has been written, ‘Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone a rock of offence but the one who believes in Him will not be ashamed‘”. Romans 9:33

This verse makes it most clear that there is an inherent relationship between the call of election and the Gospel. To this point there is no disagreement; the conflict is whether G-d determines the grace of the Gospel to be irresistible only for a certain group of people and He equally determines that His grace must be resisted by the rest.  Or, do all people maintain a free will which in theory can submit to the Gospel?

This issue is not only foundational for understanding election, but is paramount in understanding the primary tenets of Reformed theology. Although in another article the issue of Irresistible Grace will be addressed in greater detail, let us now touch on this issue as it relates to this section of Romans.

In moving into chapter ten Paul emphasizes once again the heaviness of his heart for the spiritual condition of the Jewish people and his great desire for Israel’s salvation. If Israel is the Church as Replacement theology wrongly asserts, then this statement is meaningless. Paul clearly understands the use of Israel by the Textus Receptus as referring to those Jewish individuals who have not believed in the Gospel of Messiah Yeshua. Paul writes that not only has Israel failed in a proper understanding of righteousness and thereby has established her own terms of righteousness; she has also missed out on the purpose of the Torah / Law. Paul asserts,

For a goal of Torah is Messiah, for righteousness to all who believe.”  Romans 10:4

Many translations incorrectly render the Greek word “τέλος” which should rightly being understood as “goal” as in the primary objective. There is no definite article which would mean that one would have to render the verse as “For an end of Torah is Messiah….” The problem is what is “an end”? The confusion is alleviated when the word “the” is inserted. The forced translation is based upon the predominant Christian doctrine that the Torah is outdated for a believer in the Gospel. Rather, the proper understanding of the Torah, leads one to understand his need for a redeeming and suffering Messiah. Paul discusses the righteousness of the Torah in verse five. He states that the Torah teaches how a righteous one lives, but not that by doing these things one is made righteous or justified. This same point was made in Romans 8:4 as well where he states that it is believers who walk according to the spirit and not according to the flesh that fulfills the righteousness of the Law. Paul reveals that it is faith which leads to righteousness! This is why Paul states it is the word of faith that he and the other apostles preach (See Romans 10:8).

In verses 9-17 of this tenth chapter of Romans, Paul unites three foundational concepts to a proper understanding of Biblical Election— “faith”, “Gospel”, and “call”. In this section, when Paul speaks about man exercising faith, i.e. believing the Gospel, he places the verbs in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood, as we have already learned, is the mood of possibility or contingency.  The subjunctive mood is used to reveal to the reader that it is uncertain what each individual will do with the Gospel. This uncertainty is of course not from G-d’s perspective, for HaShem knows all things from eternity past. Rather, the subjunctive mood is utilized to emphasize to the reader that each person has a real decision to make.

The Reformed theological doctrine of Irresistible Grace says that although people may and do resist G-d’s grace, it is only until the time that HaShem decides to end this resisting. John Piper, an Evangelical Neo-Calvinist, puts it this way,

Whenever G-d pleases He overcomes your resistance… Whenever He decides no longer, He triumphs.” (From the sermon “The Free Will of the Wind” preached by John Piper on April 26, 2009.)

This statement supports the position of Reformed theology that G-d alone chooses, i.e. mandates, those who will believe and when they will believe. Hence, the world can be divided into two groups, the elect and the reprobate. Each group therefore, is determined by HaShem solely, apart from nothing but G-d’s sovereign will. If Reformed theology is right, then what can be done with Peter’s statement?

The L-rd does not delay a promise as some regard delaying, but suffers long for you not wanting some to perish, but all to repentance to move.” 2 Peter 3:9 

This is one of the most common verses used to undermine the understanding of Reformed theology concerning the Doctrine of Election. In the spirit of fairness and honesty one must understand how Reformed theology interprets this verse and only thereafter is it appropriate for me to present my view concerning it.

Please notice that I used a text which uses the phrase “εἰς ὑμᾶς” which is properly understood as “for you” while other manuscripts have the phrase “eiV hmaς” which is properly understood as “for us”. The issue here is to whom does the pronoun refer? Undoubtedly Peter is addressing believers, and he is teaching them why the Return of Messiah has not yet happened, namely for more people to be saved. John Samson, a Reformed pastor, understands this passage in the following manner,

The reason Jesus did not return to earth yesterday is because there were more of His elect to come in to the fold today. He is not slack concerning His promise though – He will return, but in the meantime, He is not willing that any of His elect perish but that all of them come to repentance. Far from being an unnecessary statement, it is a source of great comfort to know that God has not forgotten His promise, and that He will accomplish all He desires in the saving of His elect people.”

(November 23, 2010 blog entry on the blog Effectual Grace.com by John Samson)

In other words, Mr. Samson is stating that Messiah’s return has not yet happened, only for the sake of the elect. More individuals who G-d has chosen for salvation need to be born or need more time to respond to HaShem’s “irresistible grace”; then G-d the Father will give the command for G-d the Son to return. There is a major problem with such an interpretation. Why does not the Sovereign G-d move in such a way to have all the elect born in a few generations and place His “irresistible grace” upon them at an early age and hasten the Kingdom and minimize sin and suffering?  The percentage of believers in a given generation is relatively small. Why did not HaShem make the percentage of believers to be the vast majority of the population? According to Reformed theology’s view of the sovereignty of G-d, He is solely responsible for creating the large number of the reprobate, the very ones who carry out the wicked deeds that HaShem must endure (suffers long) prior to Yeshua’s return. Hence, it was G-d Who is responsible for prolonging the time and thereby increasing the amount of sinful acts that take place. Why? Because this is part of His sovereign will. Therefore, Reformed theology implies that G-d is a kind of “partner” in sin and suffering. This sounds at first like an unfair statement to make until one considers the words of some Reformed theologians.

John Piper,  in dealing with his understanding of 2 Peter 3:9, states that at times G-d wills sin to come to pass. Mr. Piper offers what he calls the most compelling example of this is G-d willing the death of His perfect, divine Son. Allow me to quote Mr. Piper,

The most compelling example of God’s willing sin to come to pass while at the same time disapproving the sin is his willing the death of his perfect, divine Son. The betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a morally evil act inspired immediately by Satan (Luke 22:3). Yet in Acts 2:23 Luke says, ‘This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan (boule) and foreknowledge of God.’ The betrayal was sin, and it involved the instrumentality of Satan; but it was part of God’s ordained plan. That is, there is a sense in which God willed the delivering up of his Son, even though the act was sin.”

This quotation and those which follow from John Piper are from his article entitled “Are There Two Wills in God? –Divine Election and God’s Desire for All to Be Saved” January 1, 1995 available on www.desiringgod.org

Mr. Piper’s language is simply insulting towards HaShem. He fails to make a distinction from what G-d knows will happen and Him using it within His will and what G-d mandates or ordains to happen. It is most significant that in the Acts passage from which Mr. Piper cites, the phrase “and foreknowledge of G-d” is mentioned. Let us examine this verse a bit closer. Luke states,

This One according to the ordained will and foreknowledge of G-d was delivered by means of a hand of lawless (deeds) was affixed and you lifted up.”

Please note that Mr. Piper did not provide all the words contained in the verse, nor make reference to this fact. Why was this? I cannot answer for him, but his failure to do so or understand this verse in light of the context is most telling. From his citation the reader of his article would be led to conclude that it was the outcome of G-d’s will to preordain Judas to commit this sinful act of delivering Yeshua. However, when one examines the context of Acts 2:23, the reader finds that Peter is addressing a large crowd of Jewish individuals who had gone up to Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks (Pentecost). This is most clear from verse 22 when he states, “Men of Israel”. The point is that Peter is informing his fellow Jews that Yeshua’s death was not a surprise to G-d the Father, for He knew beforehand that His Only Begotten Son Whom He sent into this world to redeem the lost would be rejected by the world. This fact did not cause the Father to withhold His Son from this world, but rather He used the sin, according to His perfect foreknowledge, and commanded Yeshua to submit to the sinful acts of Herod, Pilate, the chief priests and all others involved in the crucifixion. It is important that one realizes that G-d did not ordain sin, but used the sinful behavior to accomplish His will.

Many have seen the similarities between the account of the binding of Isaac and the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua. Avraham submitted to HaShem’s will to sacrifice his son, having brought him to the place that HaShem commanded, and bound him to the wood and finally raised the knife to slay him; when at the very last moment the angel stopped him. It is clear from the text that Avraham intended to carry out this service and HaShem acknowledged Avraham’s willingness as full obedience. Hence, what if Israel received Yeshua and recognized Him as the Messiah. Could not the very ones who conspired to crucify Him, instead have offered Yeshua up as a sacrifice in obedience to G-d, as Avraham was willing to do? The point is that yes, Messiah had to die for sin, in order to do the work of redemption; and the fact that He would die upon the cross HaShem foreknew, but did not necessarily cause.  In other words, G-d’s will commanded His Son to enter into this world to die for sin.  The crucifixion was used to accomplish this, but is not what HaShem desired or mandated.  HaShem simply foreknew this would be the outcome of sinful man’s response to His sending of His sinless Son into the world as an atonement sacrifice.

It is most interesting that the word which I translated as “ordained” and in Mr. Piper’s citation is rendered “definite” is the Greek word “ὡρισμένῃ” which is from the Greek root “ὁρίζω”. This word is related to the Greek word “ὁράω”, which means “to see”. Therefore it is vital that the Bible student understand the Scriptural concept of “to ordain” in light of the Scriptural meaning and not as the English word implies.

Luke 22:22 speaks to the same issue and the same word appears. In this verse one reads,

And the Son of man, according to that which has been determined goes; great woe to that man through which He was delivered.”

A proper understanding of the participle “ὡρισμένον” is necessary to arrive at the Scriptural perspective for the concept of G-d ordaining. Once again the root is derived from the Greek word meaning “to see”. Hence one could properly render the verse as follows:

And the Son of man, according to that which has been seen goes; great woe to that man through which He was delivered.”

The implication of the verse is that Yeshua will obey His Father’s will and submit to death, even death on the cross; in light of the fact that G-d, having seen from His eternal perspective, the sin of Judas. The meaning of G-d ordaining something is rooted in the fact that HaShem transcends time and sees all things and knows all things at all times, even from before He laid the foundations of the earth.  In other words, there was never a time that the Living G-d did not see all and know all.

There is a very important question that must be asked.  This question is, “Is the sovereign G-d able to use His omniscience and foreknowledge when establishing His will?” Certainly one must answer in the affirmative. Hence, HaShem willed for His Son to die and the events of the cross accomplished His will, yet He did not cause these sinful events; rather He only utilized them for His glory. The Holy and Righteous L-rd is free to turn the sins of man into good, but He is neither the cause of sin nor does He will one or influence one to commit a sin!

Mr. Piper, in contrast to this, does not see G-d’s foreknowledge at work in the issue of G-d ordaining. Piper offers an example from Revelation chapter 17 to support his point. In this passage there are ten kings mentioned who desire to serve the beast and make war with the Lamb. Piper writes,

Waging war against the Lamb is sin and sin is contrary to the will of God.”

Well said Mr. Piper.  I agree fully. It is sin for the ten kings to wage war against the Lamb. So if verse 17 of this chapter says, as Piper states, “God gave into their [the ten kings’] hearts to do his will, and to perform one will, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled (v.17)” it would indeed support Mr. Piper’s argument. The problem for Piper is that verse 17 is not in reference to these ten kings waging war against the Lamb, but rather what they did in verse 16. This verse states that these ten kings will hate the harlot and make her desolate and naked and she eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. Hence, the verse that Mr. Piper states as relating to the kings waging war against the Lamb is not the subject for verse 17 at all.

This is a prime example of one simply choosing a verse and ripping it out of its context in order to support one’s doctrine. It is odd that Mr. Piper quotes verses 16 and 17, but instead of applying verse 17 to what is said in the previous verse, he violates careful exegesis and rips it out of its immediate context and applies it to what is said in verse 14. How could a trained theologian make such an elementary mistake? May I offer that Mr. Piper, in rushing to find a text that supports his views, failed to do the necessary work in examining the entire passage sufficiently. It was this error that allow him to proclaim,

Therefore God willed (in one sense) to influence the hearts of the ten kings so that they would do what is against his will (in another sense).

In other words, for Piper, the sovereignty of G-d allows a Holy and Righteous G-d to influence peoples’ hearts to sin. This is a blasphemous statement. Equally as blasphemous is his statement,

It implies that (at least in John’s view) God’s prophecies are not mere predictions which God knows will happen, but rather are divine intentions which he makes sure will happen.”

For Piper, when G-d prophesies that a sinful act will take place, it is not rooted in the fact that HaShem knows it will take place, but rather G-d makes sure it will happen even if He must influence an individual to carry out sin.

Again Piper states,

This means that God intends to bring about events that involve things he forbids.”

In speaking about the sinful acts of the antichrist and the beast and those who follow them, Piper writes that John the author of the book of Revelation has the following intention,

John is exulting not in the marvelous foreknowledge of God to predict a bad event. Rather he is exulting in the marvelous sovereignty of God to make sure that the bad event comes about.”

Did you hear that? G-d’s sovereignty allows G-d to make sure that bad events, i.e. sinful acts happen! Be it known this is heresy! The proper understanding is that HaShem is so sovereign that even the bad events do not hinder His Holy will; in fact, He can use even sin to accomplish His Holy will. Why do Mr. Piper and some other Reformed theologians believe such things about the character of G-d? I will answer this in the next installment of this article.

By Dr Baruch Kornab