Life for the unlikely, riches for the impoverished, welcome to those who wander: Seven words on God's Purpose of Election
I love Paul's teaching on 'God's purpose of election' in Romans 9-10. Among my favourite chapters of the Bible. It's hard teaching for many reasons but when you get past some of the preconceptions it's a heart-felt meditation from someone overwhelmed by God's grace to them while wrestling with the reality of friends who've also heard of Christ but not responded to him.
Seven words to consider.
Paul has unceasing anguish and sorrow for his friends who don't know Jesus. This is the emotional spectrum for talking about election. This is not one for little boys to argue about, it's for the big hearted who are ok with crying.
Paul sets up two categories of people:
(A) Flesh, works, hardened, vessels of wrath, not loved, not God's people...
(B) Promise, calling, compassion-receivers, vessels of mercy, loved, God's people.
And the point is that people move from category A to category B. I'm not persuaded these are intended to be static categories. As Paul writes, similarly in Ephesians, it is children of wrath who get made alive in Christ.
The issue is always what do you do with Christ. He's the rock in the road. Stumble over him or believe in him. People ask, around election, am I going to hell? The answer isn't so much an answer as a question: what do you make of Jesus?
Paul's teaching on election is paired with him saying he prays for his friends. However you understand election it has to get you on your knees rather than making that seem pointless.
The issue is what you do with Christ, so you need to be near him. He comes near in his gospel word. People don't call on Christ without hearing. Hearing doesn't guarentee receiving because some disobey the message of mercy... but nonethless: speak.
The God who elects has his arms wide open all day long to disobedient and contrary people. On such people he will bestow his riches - the Father offers his Christ to the worst, the rebels...
Those who have Christ aren't aloof - they know that only God's promise, call and mercy have bought them to God. But for Him they'd have been lost. I'm prone to wander but he finds me.
Are you against Christ?
Are you away from him?
Are you not knowing his love?
Are you not part of his people?
Are you rating yourself by where you're from or what you've done?
Are you not looking for God?
Anything you think could qualify you does you no good. Christ subverts our expectations. And those who seem least qualified are ideally placed to hear of Christ. But, don't hear and stumble - hear his invitation and receive his mercy.
Image - Creative Commons - Alexander Mueller