Election, free will, predestination, sovereignty, Calvinism, Arminianism, perseverance, falling from grace, limited atonement, TULIP, God decides, man decides…the debate goes on and on. I am not going to address that issue today, but I want to take two factors out of the equation and shed light on them.
The first is Romans 9:13. “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (KJV)” Most versions use the word hate in this verse as it relates to Esau.
Let’s get something straight right now. God does not hate people. He hates sin, yes! But Jesus definitively told us in John 3:16 that God loves people; and Jesus Himself gave His life for us that we may live forever in heaven with Him. Since that is the case, why does Romans 9:13 tell us that God hated Esau?
The New Living Translation gives us a hint. It says, “In the words of the Scriptures, I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.”
That is it! God did not hate Esau, for in Genesis it tells of the blessings Esau received. What we have in Romans 9:13 is this: God chose Jacob to be a patriarch with Abraham and Isaac of what we refer to as “the Chosen People.” And since the promised Messiah had to be born to someone, somehow, somewhere, He would come through one of Jacob’s families – and that was through the tribe of Judah – one of Jacob’s sons.
Because God is omniscient (He knows everything), He knew that Esau would rebel against his parents, against righteousness, and against God. Therefore, God rejected Esau from being a patriarch in the Messiah’s lineage. This concept has nothing to do with salvation or eternal destiny. God’s sovereignty? Yes. But salvation? No.
The second factor is found in John 15:16. Jesus said, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name” (NLT).
The Old Testament mentions many prophets. Normally, God chose one primary prophet at a time, but there were schools of prophets “in training.” Second Kings 2:3 refers to this. “The group of prophets from Bethel came to Elisha and asked him, Did you know that the Lord is going to take your master away from you today?”
The custom was for those in training to ask the head prophet for personal tutoring. The primary prophet would accept about twelve trainees; and if the students stayed close to him, the rabbi/prophet would teach them for several years. In this setting, the trainees “chose” the teacher.
But Jesus did it differently.
As Jesus was beginning his final three years on earth, He was both rabbi and prophet. Rather than waiting for trainees to come to Him, Jesus searched out and chose twelve men to be His disciples. But again, this had nothing to do with salvation. Notice the wording in John 15:16 – “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.”
Do you see it? Jesus did not choose these men for salvation; He chose these men for a specific ministry.
Also note: others came to Jesus to be tutored, but Jesus turned them away. He didn’t consign them to eternal damnation; He merely let them know that they were not called to ministry – at that time, anyway.
God, through the Holy Spirit, still selects men and women for ministry today. We think of it as, “God calling us.” God calls (chooses) people, gives them certain spiritual gifts to enable them to fulfill that ministry, and sends them out to produce fruit.
We humans muddy the water when we try to turn everything into a theological issue. Let’s not do that, and don’t fuss with those with whom we disagree. As the German Lutheran theologian, Rupertus Meldenius (not Augustine or Francis), said around 1627 during the bloody Thirty Years War, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”.
God is in charge, His sovereignty is unquestioned, and God requires our response. But remember: God chooses people for various ministry and vocations, and Romans 9:13 and John 15:16 have no part in the predestination discussion. Predestination is another story for another time.