An essay written by Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/faith-and-repentance/ was sent to me by my good friend and ardent Calvinist, Colleen, to support her contention that God not only chooses certain individuals for salvation, but that He also gives them the grace to accept salvation and the faith to believe.
For the sake of easier reading and allowing responses to more specific points, I’ve opted to write three or four posts in response. This is the first.
Mr. Storm’s begins his essay with the “hypothetical case of the twin brothers, Jerry and Ed.” Mr. Storms explains how Jerry eventually comes to faith but Ed remained obstinate and indignant in his unbelief and asks the question: “What made Jerry and Ed to differ [as to Jerry obtaining eternal life and Ed damned to Hell]?” Mr. Storms states that because of the total moral depravity of both Jerry and Ed, neither brother could or would believe. In addition, the only difference between Jerry and Ed was God’s unconditional and sovereign grace extended by Jerry but not to Ed. Therefore, God is the ultimate cause of Jerry’s salvation (and correspondingly, Ed’s damnation). Mr. Storms then references Rom 9:11 to state, “[Jerry was elected] in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls.”
Chapter nine of Romans appears to be foundational to Calvinist thought regarding election. After all, the word ‘elect’ is in there, right? Perhaps if Romans chapter nine ended at verse twenty-nine; it might be easier to understand individual election. However, Paul seems to provide his own summary of what he’s just been writing about starting with Romans 9:30, “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles [a group of people – emphasis mine] who did not pursue righteousness have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, [again, a group of people – emphasis mine] who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.”
I find these words at the end of this chapter intriguing to say the least. Gentiles have obtained righteousness through faith and the Israelites continued to strive for righteousness through the law – and continued to fail. It appears that Paul is talking about masses of people and not simply of individuals i.e. individual election. From the beginning, there was corporate election wherein the nation of Israel was God’s chosen people – caretakers of the law. As was evident, however, no one could keep the law and so God, though His sovereign choice, allowed not only Jews, but also Gentiles (gosh, isn’t that in essence everyone else!), to enter into His presence and kingdom through faith.
Looking a little farther on, (Rom 11:22), Paul says that Israel was “broken off” because of unbelief. Perhaps that’s something akin to “hardening of heart”? Does God show mercy on people in response to their belief (faith) or unbelief (the law)? The answer is yes! Look at Rom 11:23 where Paul writes that if Israel would only have faith, they would be “grafted in”. Notice, too, that there’s no indication of God choosing some over others.
Re-reading verse 11, perhaps we ought to take into account who (or what) is represented by Jacob and who (or what) is represented by Esau. Did God make sovereign choices and were individuals affected by those choices? Absolutely. However, it doesn’t appear, to me anyway, that Rom 9:11 is a verse Calvinists can use to support the notion of individual election.