Paul has now claimed that the people of God are chosen from the womb, before they can do anything good or bad so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls. Salvation is the choice of God, not people. Paul immediately answers the issue most people have with the problem of predestination. He asks, “There is no injustice with God, is there?”
Many people, even otherwise mature Christians, reject the doctrine of predestination, unconditional election, because it seems unjust from a worldly perspective. Though Paul sees predestination as a basic soteriological doctrine, he understands the angst of others when they hear that God chooses people before they have the ability to choose for themselves. All those He chooses are destined to be conformed to the image of Christ (cf. 8:29).
He first answers such angst by quoting the Old Testament. God Himself states that He will have mercy and compassion on whom He wills. He explicitly states that salvation does not depend on the man who wills or runs, but only on God who has mercy. Paul is clearly teaching monergism. Paul writes of God’s explicit purpose for raising up Pharaoh—for God’s own glory. God has mercy on whom He desires and hardens whom He desires. The minutia of God’s work of election may be up for some debate, but the basic doctrine of election is clear.
If God destines each one before he is able to do anything good or bad, how can He possibly still find fault? No one can avoid the destiny that has been set by God. It seems incoherent for God to set someone’s destiny without first waiting until he does right or wrong or even willfully accepts or rejects God. Paul answers this concern by appealing to God’s position as the creator.
He questions the human right to ask God why each one was made the way he was. Our natural disposition is to assume that we own our own lives and bodies, but we did not create ourselves. God did. The one who creates has complete authority over His own creation. It is only because of our selfishness or false sense of entitlement that we ever assume to have the right over ourselves to choose for ourselves. All people, though, are the property of God. This is why the Christian response to the calling of God is called surrender. Just as we don’t have the rights over our own bodies, we don’t have the rights over our own souls or minds. The potter has the right over the clay—legal language that gentiles in Rome can easily understand.
Though it is easy to understand Paul’s argument, it is difficult to accept the doctrine because we are a prideful and entitled people. We want to claim ownership of our own bodies. We want to claim ownership of our own souls. We want our lives to be a result of our choices and our works—so much so that many even try to change the form they were destined for in the chromosomes they inherited. But we have not had this authority from the beginning.
Paul is writing to gentiles. The doctrine of predestination makes it possible for not all Israel to be Israel. Paul is about to show that it is the doctrine of predestination that makes it possible for gentiles to be included in the kingdom of God—to be justified as the people of God.
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