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Three Responses to the Doctrine of Election

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 9:24–33

God’s sovereign choice works hand-in-hand with our faith in Christ. He chooses us, and He works to bring us to Christ. And in the end all glory is His, for it is all His work. Paul takes us deep into these truths as he concludes Romans chapter 9.


For some time, we have been swimming in the deep water of God’s sovereign election. And we will never touch the bottom of this doctrine because it reveals an ocean of truth about the work of God in eternity past.

Because of our lack of understanding, this doctrine has sparked a lot of arguments over the years. One Sunday after I had preached on this subject, an individual came up and told me of a pastor who had preached on the doctrine of election and the church split right down the middle. I didn’t know if this person was trying to warn me or encourage me.

Well, this debate can—and often does—generate a lot of heat but very little light. But remember, election and predestination are not words some preacher came up with; they are found in God’s Word.

And what has the Word of God taught us thus far?

  • First, the doctrine of election is taught in Scripture. You can underline election and related words in your copy of the Bible. But be encouraged that everything you underline is not something you are necessarily going to understand.
  • Second, we have also learned that election begins with the sovereign choice of God. God chooses those who then must choose Him.

Jesus put it this way in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Earlier in verse 37, He said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”

  • We have also learned that election exalts the sovereignty of God and humbles the pride of humanity.

Beloved, you can do one of three things with this doctrine of election.

First, you can simply reject it. You can adopt the view that God does not choose anybody; He merely looks down the corridor of time and sees who will believe in Him, and He calls them His elect. Well, that makes God the responder and man the sovereign. The Bible says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). But you can reject this doctrine outright. 

Second, you can overemphasize the doctrine of election. Some say that God does not do anything but respond; but on the other extreme, some say that God does everything and mankind does not even have a choice in the matter.

This was the hyper-Calvinism of William Carey’s day, when he stood up in that church service and said he wanted to go to India to reach people for Christ. An older man told him to sit down and be quiet. William Carey would become the father of modern missions. But this older man said to him, “If God wants the heathen to be saved, they will be saved.”

The apostle Paul is going to clear that up in Romans 10.  Romans 9 deals with God’s election; chapter 10 deals with mankind’s decision. Paul will write that people cannot believe in Christ if they have never heard of him.

Beloved, a balanced biblical view demands action. Our gospel invites people to make a decision. Our mission is not to find the elect but to invite the world to believe. God alone knows who will indeed believe.

The third option is to accept these doctrines as plainly taught in Scripture. The Bible teaches both the electing work of God and the responsibility of mankind to believe in Christ alone.

Now as Paul wraps up his discussion on election here in Romans 9, he quotes several passages from the Old Testament to reveal God’s sovereignty in choosing from among both Jews and Gentiles.

Let me organize Paul’s conclusion into three statements. Here is the first one: God’s inheritance is initiated according to His will.

The first two prophecies Paul summarizes in verses 25 and 26 come from the prophet Hosea. They come out of the context of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, a prostitute who would be unfaithful to him time and time again. Her moral unfaithfulness to Hosea would provide an analogy to Israel’s spiritual unfaithfulness to God.

God tells Hosea to give names to their children. Their names symbolize God’s attitude toward the nation of Israel. The first child was named Jezreel, which means “God sows.” The Hebrew word has to do with scattering seed. The second child was named Lo-Ruhamah, which means “no mercy” (Hosea 1:4-7).

True to the prophetic symbolism of their names, the Jewish people to this day are scattered around the world, like seed thrown to the wind. And over the centuries, they have received from our world no mercy.

But in the meantime, look who God is giving His inheritance to here in verse 25: “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people.’” Those are Gentiles! And in verse 26 we read, “They will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” God’s work of redeeming both Gentiles and Jews for an inheritance is initiated according to His own will.

Here is the second statement, which summarizes what Paul says next: God’s punishment is performed according to His own timing.

He writes in verse 27, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved.” Paul is quoting from Isaiah, who reminds his readers that the entire nation of Israel will not be saved (Isaiah 10:22-23). Only a remnant of Jewish people will believe in Christ at the end of the tribulation period and enter the kingdom.

We are told in the book of Revelation that every tribe will be represented in this coming kingdom, and that is great news of God’s fulfilled promises to Israel. But the tragedy will be that not all Jews will believe in Christ as their Messiah.

Next, Paul refers to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This event revealed the judgment of God according to His timing, which proved the sovereignty of God as well as His patience. God was patient with the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah over many years, but eventually He wiped out these cities. Still, He saved one family—the family of Lot. Here is Paul’s point: the grace of God will see to it that a remnant of Israel will believe and follow Christ.

So, God’s inheritance is initiated by God according to His will, and God’s punishment of sin is performed according to His timing. Now, third, God’s deliverance is defined according to His own determination.

Paul writes in verse 31 that the Jewish nation sought to gain heaven by virtue of their works. But God’s salvation comes through faith in the crucified Savior. Paul explains why Israel failed:

Because they did not pursue it [salvation] by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (verses 32-33)

The Jews were expecting a lion; God sent them a Lamb instead. They wanted a throne in Jerusalem; God put a cross there instead.

It was offensive that the Savior would be crucified—they stumbled over that. But believers say, “How wonderful is our crucified Savior; He died for our sins!” We do not stumble over this stone—this Rock. We have taken our stand on this Rock. We are building our lives on this Rock, our Redeemer.

Paul concludes in verse 33 by giving us a promise: “Whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” This verb is in the future tense; it is a reference to that future day when we stand before the Lord. We will not be disappointed in Him, and we will not be ashamed in the presence of our Savior!

Beloved, while the world stumbles over Him, you stand upon Him, you stand in Him. And today, wherever God has placed you, make sure you stand for Him.

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