This phrase has a neat ring to it, especially to some Protestants. It certainly sounds very spiritual. It is often used as a kind of religious one-upmanship: ‘You have all your creeds and doctrines, but I am a Jesus-Only Christian’ or a ‘Bible-Only Christian’.
Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.
Saint Augustine (354-430)
It seems that here lately I have been involved in many debates on the subject of God’s love for Jacob and his hatred of Esau. As usual I have answered with scripture by giving sound arguments on God’s character, his sovereignty, and his providence. Also as usual my opponents have answered with moral or philosophical arguments, while never attempting to exegete any scripture presented to them.
So I am again going to give a response to any who would argue against God’s sovereign election. First I want to be fair that when we approach scripture or any doctrine of the Bible we all bring our presuppositions and biases with us. This is true of those who even claim that they do not follow any particular system, but instead rely on just the scriptures to glean what they understand about God. I know that there are some who also claim that they are more Biblical because of not using a system, but are just relying on the Holy Spirit for their interpretations; yet if their interpretations are contradicting my interpretations, then there are three possibilities; because the Holy Spirit never gives out contradictory interpretations.
The three possibilities of contradictory interpretations are these:
- They are right and I am wrong.
- I am right and they are wrong.
- We are both wrong.
Here I list the three possibilities of Bible interpretations. Most want to say they are right and I am wrong, but it is possible that we are both wrong. But one thing is sure, we cannot both be right. God does not contradict himself in scripture. So it is possible that we have both misunderstood the text. But I will state that if you were on a deserted island and read the Bible for yourself, then you would probably come away without a proper understanding because you have nothing but your own unaided reasonings to guide you. Therefore to use commentaries of men throughout the church age is very necessary as we interpret scripture.
So what I am trying to lay down first and foremost is that we all bring our presuppositions and biases to the text of scripture when we interpret them. This being the case, then we need to identify our primary, foundational operating presuppositions. Until we do this, all we will be doing is trading scriptures, without any progress in our debate.
This much said, I will state that my underlying, operating presuppositions are from a Reformed perspective. In other words I believe that God is sovereign and controls all things. If he doesn’t, then he is not God. Here we are not talking about Christ or Christianity, but are defining god-ness. To be God, God would have to be sovereign, because sovereignty is the definition of what it means to be God. Therefore my foundational presuppositions are that I have a theo-centric or God-centered view of scripture, this world, and the climax that this world is proceeding to.
Therefore when I interpret scripture I am not interpreting them from a moral, philosophical or what would I do point of view. But are interpreting them with a God is sovereign point of view. God’s ways are not our ways; his ways are higher than our ways. Secondly when I interpret scripture I use the hermeneutical method of the ‘analogy of faith’ or scripture interprets scripture. Therefore when I read in the Bible in one place that Christ died for many, his sheep, and the church, then I can’t contradict that by reading a scripture that states he is the propitiation for the sins of the world and then think that the word ‘world’ means every individual. Since God is a logical, rational, Being, then he doesn’t contradict himself.
Third I interpret scripture in light of the context of the chapter, the book, and the flow of thought that the Biblical writer is writing from. Most do not do this, but instead pull scripture from context and create spoof text with them. They try to prove any and all things by isolated text of scripture, thus trying to create a wax nose that they can form to please themselves.
Now since I have presented my underlying presuppositions, then I have prepared us to move forward in our interpretation of Romans 9:13. Here is the text:
Rom 9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Most of those that I have debated on this scripture constantly try to appeal to something that is nowhere stated in this scripture, nor this chapter. They state that here God is speaking of nations. Yet there is no mention of nations here, but instead two individuals are being dealt with. I will concede that from these two men God raises up two nations. But if we would keep the flow of thought of the apostle as he is writing Romans we will see that Paul is showing God’s sovereign election concerning those who are the true Israelites. He is not arguing for the sovereign election of two nations, but instead showing why not all Israel is of Israel.
The Jews had the notion that they were the chosen ones because first and foremost they were born an Israelite. Secondly they thought that certainly God’s favor is upon them because they have the covenants, the sign of the covenant, the temple sacrifices, and the word of God. But Paul does not argue from the covenants, the covenant signs, nor the temple to show sovereign election because in order for those things to be relevant for them one must first be an Israelite; either by natural birth or by conversion. Therefore just because one is an Israelite by birth does not mean that God has chosen that person to eternal salvation. There is an elect within the nation of Israel. God has the right to call out whom he pleases within that nation.
The objection from the Israelites is that the word of God to Abraham must have failed. Paul answers this objection by showing that the word of God to Abraham is not ineffective and what God promised him is coming to pass. His promise, however is not to descendants of the flesh, but to descendants of the promise. This excludes Ishmael and all those whom God did not choose to call out. This promise also passed from Abraham’s direct seed down to Isaac’s direct seed. In other words the promise continued on down to the sovereign election of Jacob over Esau.
Therefore this passage of scripture is not speaking of nations, but individuals. Notice that “the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil,” is speaking of actual persons and not the nations that descended from them. This choosing of Jacob over Esau is so “that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.” For God’s own purpose he chose Jacob over Esau.
So in my debates I must identify my opponents underlying presuppositions. Their presuppositional bias is centered on philosophical grounds and not centered in scripture. They presuppose that since Christ died for the ‘world’ that this means everyone without exception. Yet the word ‘world’ has seven different meanings in scripture. They also presuppose that God’s special love is universal by being directed towards all individual men. Yet God’s special love throughout scripture is always manifested towards those of whom God calls out.
Therefore my opponents are on very shaky ground when they argue that this scripture is speaking of nations because of a bias towards God’s electing whom he pleases for his own purposes.
I hope and pray that you have enjoyed our blog post thus far. Lord’s willing I am going to try to begin blogging even more than just two days a week. But nevertheless, I hope and pray you enjoy the quotes in between my post.
Yours in Christ,
Hershel Lee Harvell Jr.
No one else holds or has held the place in the heart of the world which Jesus holds. Other gods have been as devoutly worshipped; no other man has been so devoutly loved.
John Knox (1505-1572)
John Calvin (1509-1564)