Getting To Know Our God and Jesus: Part 2
There are over eight billion people on Earth today. Does everyone get the same opportunity to join God’s family?
God’s Election of His Family (Rom 9)
We grew up thinking, like the Jews did in the Bible, that we were the only people God could save because we were the good soil, and the rest of the world was not. This is an area that, over time, we have had to modify and correct our understanding.
As parents, we thought that if we raised our children by doing the Bible readings at home and taking them to CYC, Sunday School, and memorial meeting, we were guaranteed they would love the Truth, get baptized, and be accepted into the family of God. This thought was also a misconception!
This article is not about who will be accepted at the judgment seat of Christ but who can join God’s family and may be responsible at the Judgment Seat.
There are over eight billion people on Earth today. Does everyone get the same opportunity to join God’s family? There are only around 60,000 Christadelphians alive today. Most of the humans who have lived on earth since the time of Adam never knew about the gospel of God. Were all those people who never knew the gospel bad soil who could never understand the gospel? We don’t think so anymore.
Before reading Romans 9, we should read Romans 1, where Paul develops the Gentiles’ failure to attain God’s righteousness. In Romans 2, he points out that Jews were even worse because of all the privileges God gave them, and they still did not attain God’s righteousness.
Then, in Romans 3, Paul concludes everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, so God intervened and justified His family by His grace, through faith, just as He had always planned. In Romans 4, Paul reminds us that “Abraham believed [had faith in] God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” And finally, in Romans 5, he lays out how God loves His children and always intends to save them by giving them His free gift of grace.
It becomes clear that we would have no hope if God had not intervened in our lives. No one would be saved. Years ago, we used to tell our interested friends that if they would only read the Bible for themselves, with an open mind, they would find the Truth. But it turns out that is not true. Many of them did read their Bibles and knew them very well, maybe better than some of us! But they still did not see God’s truth.
When Paul wrote Romans 9, he understood God’s election of His family, which was developed from personal experience and inspiration. Paul had spent years studying the Bible, researching, and yet still persecuting the true believers of Jesus Christ until Jesus opened his eyes! Paul understood from personal experience that it is not about how much effort we put in to find God ourselves or help others to be saved, but rather, it is all about the mercy and grace God chooses to give freely. No wonder Paul reminded the Ephesians that it was all about what God chooses to do in their lives:
it is up to God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. (Eph 1:17-18).1
That’s not to say that we don’t have to read and pray, but it is a reality check that no matter how much we read and pray, it is up to God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts. Without God’s intervention and revelation in His merciful kindness to let us understand, all our efforts are in vain. When Jesus returns, he will convert billions of humans alive today, the same people we couldn’t convert no matter how much we preached to them.
We might think they are not good soil today, but Jesus will finally allow them to understand the gospel when he opens their eyes, like he did for Paul. The parable of the Sower is all about how people receive the gospel. Many people today will not receive the gospel, but when Jesus returns and opens their eyes, they will finally embrace the gospel of God.
This idea changes the way we preach today. We don’t need to hammer the Truth into people. God wants us to present the gospel to them using our Bibles and demonstrating our way of life, patterned after the life of Christ. At the same time, we pray God will open their eyes to understand because it is up to Him to enlighten those He invites into His family—not us! Remember when the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke in parables? His reply was:
To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given…This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (Matt 13:11, 13).
He clearly told his disciples:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. But there are some of you who do not believe…” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6:44, 64-65).
We don’t need to hammer the Truth into people.
No wonder it says of Lydia that “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14-15 NASB).
The best Bible exposition on God’s election of His family is in Romans 9. Paul sets out to explain to Jews that God chose to work almost exclusively with Abraham and his children for about 2,000 years. But since the death of Jesus, the gospel has been spreading among the Gentiles. He develops the theme that this is God’s family, and God can choose whoever He wants to invite and enlighten for His family. It’s not up to us. God designed it so no flesh will glory in His presence.
In verses 1-5, Paul had great sorrow and continual grief in his heart for his Jewish countrymen. They had been given so many privileges, but they would not believe and crucified God’s Son.
In verses 6-8, Paul points out God’s plan had not failed because God never intended to save every Israelite. God only invited and enlightened Isaac, not Ishmael. Abraham and Sarah devised a plan according to the flesh to have a child, Ishmael, but God did not invite Ishmael because he was a child of the flesh, not according to the promise of God.
Abraham had pleaded with God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” (Gen 17:18) because Abraham loved Ishmael and raised him for about fourteen years and taught him about Yahweh, his God. But God wanted to make it clear to all Abraham’s descendants that God’s family was based on God’s choice and God’s mercy, not how hard humans work or what they want.
So Abraham accepted God’s decision, sent Hagar away, and disowned Ishmael. A few years later, God told Abraham to take his only son Isaac, whom he loved, when testing his faith.
Paul revealed that God knew that many Jews would think He rejected Ishmael because he was the child of a slave woman, so in the next generation, God made it absolutely clear. Here’s Paul’s explanation:
Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Rom 9:10-13 NIV).
You can’t miss the point! Rebekah had been barren for over twenty years, and then God caused her to conceive. Then, from two twins of the same dad and mom, God chose one and not the other before they were born or had any opportunity to do good or evil. God wanted the issue perfectly clear to all Abraham’s descendants that their privileged position was because of what God did for them, not any works they would do. It’s all about God’s family, who God calls or elects, and His merciful kindness to train people to live by faith so they will reveal God’s eternal life and His eternal way of life.
You may be thinking God made this choice because, in His foreknowledge, He knew what kind of people Jacob and Esau would become. But you missed Paul’s point. Paul mentions nothing about God’s foreknowledge but instead bases his exposition on God’s choice before the children were born and had done anything!
In Romans 1-2, Paul made it clear that no one would be saved without God’s intervention. Jacob was not a better person than Esau by birth. God records in the Bible that Jacob was a schemer, trying to accomplish his will through deceit. But God intervened in Jacob’s life and trained him to become a very different person—one of God’s children. Genesis records the painful experiences God brought into Jacob’s life, as angels disciplined him and changed him into a new man, predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. God did not do this for Esau.
This situation shows the difference God’s election makes in our lives. As Paul puts it in Romans 9:21, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?” Notice it is out of the same lump of clay. Not one out of good clay and the other out of bad clay!
It’s interesting to note that the brethren who amended clause 24 of the BASF worded the addition as “the responsible (namely, those who know the revealed will of God, and have been called upon to submit to it)” because they realized responsibility is not just about knowing, but also must include God’s calling.
We can teach children and adults today about the revealed will of God, but if God does not call them, they are not responsible at the Judgment Seat of Christ. That may be hard to swallow and accept for many parents, but it is solid Bible teaching from God’s perspective, not ours.
This notion brings peace to many parents who have tried and tried to enlighten some of their children, like Abraham did with Ishmael and Isaac with Esau, only to find their children walk away. It’s God’s family, so He chooses and calls who He wants to include, not us.
God does the calling and enlightens the minds.
So we learn to pray and pray that God will choose to call our spouse, parents, children, grandchildren, or friends and not depend so much on our efforts to convert them. We do our part, but God does the calling and enlightens the minds. As Psalm 127 reminds us, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” Notice how the rest of the Psalm reminds us that we don’t have to do it all ourselves and then leads on to children being “a heritage of the LORD.”
In Romans 9:14-18, Paul anticipates the Jew’s thinking that God is not fair to choose some and not others. This thinking is humanistic! From God’s perspective, no one deserves to be saved, and it is only in His mercy and grace that anyone will be granted to enter His family forever. Paul reminds them that God said to Moses,
“‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.”
In Romans 8:30, Paul had already explained how God deals with mankind today. Of all the people alive today, some of them could be good soil. Of those, God predestined some to be called and enlightened. Some of those called respond by their own free will, and God justifies them. And some of those justified remain faithful to the end, and God will glorify them. That’s how Paul explained God’s calling and election.
The implications of this topic for our families and friends are that we must continuously pray that God, in His kindness and mercy, will call them into His family. We must do everything we can to teach them God’s ways, but we also need to realize that it’s God’s choice to call them or not. We don’t have to beat the Truth into them and can’t choose who God will call.
Then, if they do decide to follow God’s ways, we have to thank God for his mercy and appreciate that He has done what we could never do—enlighten the eyes of their understanding. And if they don’t respond right now, don’t ever give up and don’t live in the guilt that it’s your fault! God may wait until a later time to enlighten them. Hopefully, this will bring some peace and trust to you as you raise children and grandchildren and share the gospel with your friends and neighbors.
God has graciously allowed you to understand the gospel of God. Don’t waste your opportunity! Billions of people today have not been given this privilege, but you have. Embrace it, appreciate it, and thank God every day for allowing you to understand.
Then pray God will include your families, ecclesias, and friends in His election. Always remember that it’s God’s family, not ours. So, try to understand and cooperate with God’s choices today to invite people and train them to join His immortal family of angels. “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:15).
Sue and Jim Styles,
Simi Hills Ecclesia, CA
- All Scriptural citations are taken from the English Standard Version, unless specifically noted.
Find Part 1 here: https://tidings.org/articles/getting-to-know-our-god-and-jesus/