Saturday, September 09, 2006

Thinking Like Paul

When you talk with someone about the doctrine of salvation (soteriology), do they accuse you of making God seem unjust? Or unrighteous? Or not fair? If they don't, then there may be a problem.

In Romans 9, Paul is laying out his understanding of how God works salvation in people's lives and knows it is a hard teaching. He even does us the great favor of anticipating his readers' objections. After verse thirteen's proclamation that ""JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED," Paul knew people would be puzzled and supposed the following imaginary objection: "What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!"

He follows this up with an explanation of how he could possibly say something so shocking about God's stance towards Isaac's two sons: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

Then, in verse sixteen, Paul writes "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." Again, the person that makes this biblical statement today will be castigated and will be charged with denying the absolute free will of man in salvation. It will be argued that if salvation is all of God, then how can God possibly punish those who never accept Christ?

Again, Paul anticipates this and provides yet another imaginary argument, writing, "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'"

Now, here is the question I ask of you: when you explain your understanding of God's role in the salvation of humans, do you ever have anyone complain that your view makes God seem UNJUST or UNFAIR? If not, perhaps it is because your understanding of salvation is at odds with Paul's!

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