This is a book study on John Lennox’s book ‘Determined to Believe: The Sovereignty of God, Freedom, Faith, and Human Responsibility’. Lennox openly acknowledges that he has not provided definite solutions to these deep questions of the faith and that there is mystery involved. He clearly acknowledges that God is sovereign, but that we need to think carefully about what the word ‘sovereign’ means Biblically. This book, per my understanding, is an invitation for Christians to spend time thinking deeply about what the Bible means when it describes God as sovereign.
Greetings fellow bookies (@Interested_in_book_studies) - we are now on Chapter 13! I look forward to hearing your favorite quotes and your reflections on this subject matter.
My main takeaways were:
- God chose Israel for a special role in history, but salvation always requires the faith of the individual
- The fact that the prediction that Esau would serve Jacob did not take place until the time of David shows us that these promises were about nations; not individuals
Questions for Discussion
- What evidence is in the text that Romans 9 is about nations rather than individuals?
- Had you ever considered that Esau never served Jacob during their lifetime?
- How can understanding that God’s choice of Israel’s role was not equivalent to God’s condemning those outside Israel help you make sense of how God will judge those who never heard? In what way did some of the Jews of Jesus’ day misunderstand God’s choice of them as a nation and how did that impact the way they treated outsiders?
- What is the importance of remembering that God chose Israel to be a light to the nations and not simply for their own sake?
God had chosen Israel for a special role in history, but that role did not amount to salvation.
We should also note that God’s choice of Israel as his people does not mean that everyone else was written off for condemnation. Indeed, one of the major reasons for choosing them was to be a “light to the Gentiles” – Joseph, Daniel, and Jonah, for example.
We should notice that this text has nothing to do with the personal salvation of Isaac, as many theistic determinists hold. The statement that Isaac was a child of promise is not made in connection with his personal, spiritual birth through faith in God, but his physical birth through the faith of Abraham and Sarah.
Contrary to the view of some theistic determinists again, however, far from abandoning Ishmael and condemning him, God promises to bless him.
The text has nothing to do with salvation or reprobation but with God’s sovereign choice for different roles in history; and not even the roles of the individuals involved but of the nations to which they gave rise. As an individual, Esau never did serve Jacob,
Later in the history of Israel, when David had become king, the Edomites (descended from Esau) came and paid homage to him and served him.
These verses do not discuss individual election to salvation but corporate election to service and role. God chose (elected) the different roles these nations were to play.
This principle outlined in these verses of Romans 9 is of fundamental importance, and it applies elsewhere in a way that can help us to understand it better. Every believer is a member of the body of Christ, but not every believer has the same role. Our different roles are assigned by a sovereign God:
Augustine introduced a deterministic interpretation of Romans 9: Only Augustine, and then only in his later writings, was prepared to accept the full implications of divine predestination.