Election and God’s Sovereignty


Romans 9:10-16
And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad–in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls–she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

This is not an easy passage for many of us to read. For those who believe in conditional election, that God’s elects those based on foreknowledge of their free will, this passage seems to eliminate any idea of that. The recipient of the blessing was according to God’s sovereign will, not on Jacob’s virtue. God doesn’t explain Himself beyond this other than he has an ultimate plan that will be carried out because of his own will, not on the inclinations of sinful human beings.

What about grace? Thomas Schreiner makes a thoughtful point. “…the stunning thing for Paul was not that God rejected Ishmael and Esau but that he chose Isaac and Jacob, for they did not deserve to be included in his merciful and gracious purposes. Human beings are apt to criticize God for excluding anyone, but this betrays a theology that views salvation as something God ‘ought’ to bestow on all equally.”

Again he says, “God’s election of some for salvation does not exclude the notion that he genuinely invites all to be saved.” (2 Peter 3:9) “The resolution of the tension between divine sovereignty and human freedom lies beyond our present rational capacities.”

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