Tuesday, September 6, 2022

By Grace, Not Man’s Will (Romans 9)

"So then it is not of him who wills, not of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Rom. 9:16).

Throughout church history the debate concerning predestination raged among three views: Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, and Augustinianism. Pelagianism maintains that God’s grace assists fallen man in redemption but is not necessary to attain salvation. This view, which holds that fallen man has enough virtue within himself to earn salvation by doing good works, has always been considered heretical by the church because it undermines the Gospel and the work of Christ in salvation.

Semi-Pelagianism, also known as Arminianism, contends that man cannot be saved apart from God’s grace; however, fallen man must cooperate and assent to God’s grace before God will save him. Inherent in this view is the belief that man, prior to any work of regeneration in the soul by God, has the power to accept or reject God’s grace. Semi-Pelagianism maintains that fallen man cannot earn his salvation through good works, but it is up to him to accept God’s grace. Salvation for semi-Pelagians is man’s decision, not God’s will. In this scheme, two people can receive the same amount of grace by God. One may turn in faith, the other may not—the difference being not God’s will but man’s. The semi-Pelagians would argue that the person who comes to faith cannot do so without God’s grace, but that grace is not the determining factor in a person’s coming to faith.

Augustinianism, also known as Calvinism, says that man is totally dependent upon the grace of God even for his initial response to the Gospel. The determining factor of faith is God’s grace, not man’s decision. If God has determined that a person should come to faith, God will give that person the grace to do so. That person still has the responsibility to put his faith in Christ, but God gives him the ability to make that decision. If two people hear the Gospel and one comes to faith, it is not because that person had some innate ability to have faith in addition to God’s grace, but it is because God gave that person the faith necessary to salvation; whereas, He did not give the other person such faith. According to Augustinianism, salvation is totally dependent upon God’s will, not man’s decision (Eph. 2:8).

Read Romans 9. What example does Paul use to prove God’s election? On what does God’s promise depend (vv. 11–16)? What is Paul’s response to those who question God’s decision (vv. 19–24)? Think about how election gives God greater glory and secures your salvation.