29 March 2022
There's no need to post an extract here; you can read Romans 9 for yourself. Don't pick over the specific wording of the verses. God does not sponsor debates over semantics. Only rarely do the Apostles approach that kind of thing in the New Testament, and typically they do so to use their opponents' weapons against them. It is not a part of the ancient Hebrew traditions, and those traditions were the core of Jesus' teaching.
One of the most obvious conclusions you come to from Romans 9 is that you cannot hold God to a human standard of reason and morals. God hardens whom He hardens, and loves whom He loves. You aren't supposed to understand it; such things are beyond our grasp. What is in our grasp? Obedience after we realize that God has included us among His Elect. The variables are restricted to the field of operations within the Covenant.
The majority of references to "salvation" in the New Testament don't refer to spiritual birth, because that is eternal. The question of "being saved" in the New Testament sense is whether you seize the birthright of the Elect. I am not the first writer to say that the Blood on the Cross was to open the Covenant to others. The question of who would go to Heaven after they die had been settled before the creation of this world, so it was before the Cross. God had chosen who would be His Children before any of them were born. So the issue settled on the Cross is whether His Children will live in this world by the Covenant or would be lost in moral wilderness.
Jesus discussed spiritual birth with Nicodemus. That discussion was based on the Covenant of Moses, not something that originated with the lifetime of Jesus. The only way you could understand the way Jesus performed miracles under the Covenant of Moses was to activate the awareness of your spiritual birth. Don't you imagine that Abraham, Moses and David were born again? How about Elijah riding the chariot alive up to Heaven? How could they have exercised the faith that only God can give if they were not already Elect? Paul says in Romans 9 that the question of spiritual birth applied to Jacob and Esau, and even the Egyptian Pharaoh.
So there are two barriers you must cross to "be saved". First is that you must be a part of God's Elect. What you do never mattered, even under Noah and Moses. Is it not obvious that no one has the power to exercise obedience without His divine Presence in the soul? Second is that you must seize upon that mighty miracle of grace and apply it to your actions. You can't make yourself Elect, but you can choose to embrace the promises of Election.
Whatever it is that motivates God is beyond us. The issue is not making sense of His choices, but making sense of yours. We might speculate about some elements of God's intentions, but we cannot actually know. Why is the majority of the human race going to the Lake of Fire? About the only thing I can suggest is that it has something to do with the background against which the drama of the Elect's choices are played out.
So why does the New Testament encourage us to act like all those non-Elect are prospects for the gospel? That's the wrong question; you won't get an answer from God on that. The issue is that we are supposed to treat everyone as gospel targets primarily because we can't know. This call to evangelism is the mission, and God isn't going to make it efficient, because on this issue, He is extravagant. He makes the offer to the spiritual living and the dead, but He makes that offer through us. Whatever it is God intends here, it's part of our training and obedience to go into all the world. But then, we let Him choose who responds.
This is why the standard evangelical teachings about "soul winning" are so very wrong. The fundamental design of such teaching is rooted in converting the fleshly mind, and has no concept of the heart beyond the common western mythology that the heart is the repository of sentiment and conditioning. The structure and design of "soul winning" teaching is aimed at manipulating the flesh because it assumes that spiritual birth is a human decision. It ignores the rather obvious statement in Romans 9 that at least some have been locked out of rebirth.
Don't confuse the method God gave us with the purpose God does not reveal to us. Proper evangelism leaves the response in the hands of God. There are distinct boundaries to how we go about presenting the gospel message. It is almost totally a matter of demonstrating Covenant shalom with an option to discuss it if someone asks. The talking is just a single thread within the whole fabric of how you live within the Covenant boundaries.
So the whole issue of religion is all about how you live in this world. We can't know if the rest of our covenant community is Elect. We simply assume they probably are. The issue is whether someone actually belongs in our covenant community, not whether they are going to Heaven. The only claim we have to being a Child of God is how we live the Covenant.
It's all about the Covenant and its boundaries on human behavior.
Addenda: Either your heart rejoices at the wisdom of the Bible, or your flesh gets in the way. Notice that this is about what the Bible says, not systematic theology or denominational distinctives. I don't care a whit about Calvin and TULIP, nor his opponents. All of that was a matter of trying to nail things down according to western logic. I refer to that logic only in order to tear it down, along with the man-made intellectual structures of church history. In case it's not obvious to you, a significant portion of church leadership over the past two millennia, including major figures whose names were plastered on institutions, were not spiritually born, but like the Pharisees, refused to embrace the mystical truth of God.
Being born to the human race does not entitle you to a shot at God's grace. The word "human" means fallen and mortal. Being born into His Eternal Sheikdom is the only way, and that's His choice alone. Humanity is doomed. God seeds the fallen human race with His people; they are fundamentally two different kinds of creature. You need to drop your mythical loyalty to the human race and embrace the non-human Eternal household. It doesn't make you superior to other humans; your fleshly nature is still cursed. Still, you have divine privileges in this life in the form of Covenant boundaries.
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