Romans 9 begins with the Apostle Paul's lament over the Israelites. God’s original chosen people refused to accept Christ and for this reason, Paul was in a state of grief. His anguish is mentioned in verses 1-5 only, but it is enough to illustrate that Paul's heart ached at the Israelites' failure to be adopted into Christ.
Only love for the well-being of others could make someone saddened over their failure to follow Christ. Paul exhibited genuine concern for his people—a type of concern that we should all have for the salvation of others. It is quite easy, and almost natural, to only think of the well-being of ourselves and those closest to us. However, throughout scripture and in this short intro into Romans 9, we see that it is godly to show interest in the deliverance of others.
Let us bear this in mind: We need to pray for others. May we petition God for the deliverance and salvation of not only ourselves and our loved ones, but for those who have yet to accept Christ as both their Lord and Savior. And if for some reason we do not have a concerned heart for others, let us also pray that God will give us a heart that looks more like Christ’s heart. Let us pray that we will adhere to the second greatest command, which is to love others as ourselves. God is an answerer of prayers, and I am sure he will be glad to answer such a beautiful request.
The chapter continues with Paul stating that not everyone who descended from Israel are Israelites. He explains that biological descent is not how God’s children are selected. Not all of Abraham’s physical descendants are children of God. Only the children of promise, those who believe in God through Jesus Christ his Son, are considered Abraham’s offspring. Because of this we know that it is irrelevant if anyone is or is not a biological descendant of the original Israelites. If Christ is not accepted, they are not a child of God.
In the next verses, Paul states some things that have led many to believe in the concept of predestination. Jacob and Esau are mentioned and how their destinies were determined before their births. Before either one of them entered the world, it was stated that the older, Esau, would serve the younger, Jacob. They did not have a choice in this matter. It was simply the will of God.
Pharaoh, the Egyptian ruler, is mentioned next. It is written that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It is also written that Pharaoh was used by God as a display of his power. We know that if Pharaoh’s heart was not hardened, then God would not have had the opportunity to show his might through the ten signs and wonders that fell upon Egypt.
By these examples, we see that it appears that God selects people for particular roles before their creation. Even Judas was selected as the betrayer of Jesus beforehand in order to fulfill prophecy (Acts 1:16). So, if we are predestined and our purposes are selected by God beforehand, do we really have freewill? And is God just to judge someone whose destiny he selected before their existence?
Well, Paul answers this way: “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?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:20-21 NKJV)
What does dirt have to say against divinity? We aren’t wise enough to discern why God does what he does or why he chooses whom he chooses. That’s like a cartoon character questioning its creator. Can you imagine Mickey Mouse telling Walt Disney that he doesn’t want to be Mickey Mouse? That he doesn’t want to entertain people? Walt Disney created Mickey to do what he purposed him to do, and that’s all there is to it. What choice does little Mickey have?
In the same way, we do not have a choice in what we are created to do. However, being predestined for a particular purpose does not mean that freewill does not exist. Predestination and freewill can coexist. Let’s take Judas as an example.
Judas needed to betray Jesus. It had to happen so that Jesus could be persecuted and killed for the salvation of the world. However, after Judas betrayed Jesus, he had freewill to choose what to do next. Judas could have chosen to ask for forgiveness. Instead, he chose to hang himself. In this case, both predestination and freewill existed.
Now, as for Pharaoh, admittedly it appears that his disobedience to God was predestined up until the point of death. It is written that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to run after the Israelites after he parted the Red Sea. God then drowned Pharaoh after he hardened his heart to run into the divided waters.
So, then, it appears that Pharaoh never had a choice to come into repentance. And yet, when we read 2 Peter 3:9, we see that God does not wish for anyone to perish. It states that God wishes that all will come into repentance. Wouldn’t this include Pharaoh? What are we to make of this?
Well, you are free to choose what you will about this topic … which is, ironically, evidence that you indeed have freewill. However, I believe that God is good and that he is just. Therefore, although we are predestined and selected for particular purposes, we are also given a choice to come into repentance or not.
And as for Pharaoh, when we examine Exodus 3:19, God says this: “But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.” It seems as if Pharaoh would have never chosen to let the Israelites go and that he was wicked from the beginning. So, God only used his wickedness to display his glory.
Dear reader, I will not profess to know all there is to know about scripture. I am learning just as you are. But I do know God does many things to showcase the riches of His glory (Romans 9:23). In the case of Jacob and Esau, God showed us that tradition does not matter, and that he has the power to make the weaker (younger) vessel stronger than the stronger vessel. In the case of Pharaoh, God showed us that no matter who’s in charge, he has the final say over who’s in bondage or who gets to walk in freedom.
And in the case of you and I, God has shown, and I believe he will continue to show us, who he is and who has the final say. If you are reading this message, then you have a choice to believe and follow God or not. And God has the authority to use whomever he will for whatever purpose he chooses. Therefore, you have freewill, all while God gets to preselect his creations for vessels of honor or dishonor. I can only hope and pray that you will choose Christ, and that He will use you for honor.
I pray this message has blessed you. Have a fantastic day and week!
Quin Arrington is a wife, mother, and author. Books are available on Amazon at www.amazon.com/author/quinarrington
Thanks for your time. God Bless!