“So then what shall we say? Is there any unrighteousness with God? Not a chance! For God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I have compassion.” So then God’s mercy is not given to people because they want it, nor is it the result of running (as though hard work could accomplish God’s mercy), but God’s mercy is the result of God who is merciful. For the Scripture said to Pharaoh, “It is for this reason that I have raised you up, so that I might show through you my power and that I might declare my name to all the nations.” So then God shows mercy to whom he desires, and God hardens whom he desires.” Romans 9:14-18 (My Own Translation)
Every semester at DTS, students have two weeks off from class before the last few weeks of school. It’s called reading week. When I first heard about this, I was overjoyed and delighted by their graciousness. Then I learned the truth. Reading week is not a break, it is two weeks of hell in which all the professors conspire together to assign a perfect storm of papers, reading, charts, and any other such torture inflicted on the average seminary student.
Although it’s been a heavy week for writing (which is why its been a light week for blogging), one of the great things about being a seminary student is that I’m assigned to study the bible. The last few days, I’ve been neck deep writing an exegetical commentary on Rom 9:14-18. An exegetical commentary is a technical commentary focusing on the Greek grammar, syntax, historical setting, and textual problems of a particular passage to ascertain the true intentions of the author and the way it applies to life. In other words, it’s a party…
As much work as it is to write one of these monster papers, the devotional payoff has been astounding. It’s impossible, at least for me, to stare that intently at the mirror of Scripture and not be changed. I wanted to share with you all some of what I’ve taken away from these last few days in my paper.
Warning: Nerdy Theological Terminology to Follow
1. I don’t know how someone can read these verses and not be at least partly a Calvinist. For some of you who know me, it should come as no surprise to you that I’m a Calvinist. I’m not militant about it. However, of all the possible options regarding how God’s grace works, Calvinism seems to be most true to the Scripture and most God-glorifying in its soteriology. Further, after studying this passage, I’m more specifically a double election Calvinist, a belief not necessarily held by Calvin himself, but developed later in the Reformed tradition. Double election is the belief that God predestined some people to receive mercy, and some to be hardened. It’s not an easy stance to take, but it is however that is unmistakable especial given what Paul argues in Romans 9.
2. There is a necessary correlation between God’s grace and his election. If grace is truly received without any merit on our own, unconditional election is the only way it could be dispensed.
3. There is also an intrinsic connection between God’s nature and his mercy, which is evident in the relationship between God’s name given in Ex 3:14 and his name further explicated in Ex 33:19 (A verse used as a proof text in Rom 9:15).
4. God’s election of both receivers of mercy and receivers of hardening, spring from his merciful nature and mission to share his mercy with the nations.
5. God is God, and he does what he wants.
I would love to discuss more with any of you about the above points. I know they probably need further explanations, but hopefully they are something to chew on.