I continue with my response to Art Sippo regarding Romans 9. Sippo then cited two very lengthy passages of Scripture, Ezekiel 33:8-20, and the entirety of Romans 2. Unfortunately, he offered not a word of exegesis, and not the slightest interaction with the texts themselves, outside of a grand and sweeping conclusion,
In both of these excerpts, the Bible teaches that God will judge men according to their works and not according to some arbitrary standard of his own that merely meets his ‘good pleasure’ as prots have misrepresented it.
It is indeed hard to imagine a less accurate reading of Holy Scripture than this summary offered by Art Sippo. Unfortunately, Sippo’s conclusion is so brief, so shallow, it is next to impossible to know what he means by it. Is he saying there is some lower standard than God’s own perfect holiness? Is he denying that no unclean thing shall enter into God’s presence? Or is he saying that men can somehow get themselves cleaned up by some process sufficiently to slip into glory? I can’t think of a single Protestant who would see even the faintest glimmer of their own faith in this kind of rhetorical straw-man. It would be fascinating to see Sippo attempt an exegetical demonstration of his claims, but this is a detour from the subject at hand anyway, which is Romans 9. Of course, he makes no attempt to connect this meandering commentary to Romans 9, but just moves back to the subject directly:
Notice that in the above section of Romans 9 St. Paul does NOT say that Esau was damned but rather he emphasizes that “the older will serve the younger.” This seems to be dealing with something other than ‘salvation’ in the strict sense.
Paul does not, indeed, say Esau was damned. Indeed, that is a rather rare statement in all of Scripture at all, and if one must have such a direct statement, there will be very few who are damned to be sure. In any case, the text does tell us that Paul is addressing God’s freedom in choosing Jacob over Esau; that whatever this choice is about it has something to do with a fact Sippo utterly ignores and that is directly contradictory to his own position: “for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls….” Why would Paul refer to actions “good or bad” and make reference to “not because of works but because of Him who calls”? How is a non-salvific choice relevant to “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”? And why would any of this result in the accusation of injustice in v. 14, that is answered with reference to mercy in v. 15? Serious exegesis takes these things into consideration, while those simply seeking to vindicate a human tradition do not need to be bothered with such details.
I would therefore say that this section of Romans (chapters 9-11) is dealing with the question of why the Gentiles have started flocking towards faith in Christ while the Jews as a whole (not individually) have not. Many Jews were claiming that Jesus was not the Messiah and this is troubling because if he was the Jewish Messiah, shouldn’t the Jews recognize him? St. Paul is showing that this is not necessary. In the OT there were several examples of the elder child loosing (sic)the birth right to a younger one: Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Reuben andJoseph, Eliab and David. We see this also with the Kings of Israel where the first king (Saul) was supplanted by the second king (David). That story is doubly interesting because Jonathan was the rightful heir to Saul’s throne and both a ‘brother’ of David and a righteous man. Nevertheless, he was passed over.
In general, I agree wholeheartedly, as I noted in my first installment of this review. As Dr. Piper has illustrated, this is the over-arching theme of the entire section: not all Israelare Israel. It is the calling of God that defines the people of God at all times, and this is just as clear now as it was in the days when God chose Jacob over Esau. The basis of his selection of Jacob was His free election, not the actions of Esau and Jacob. This remains the case today in all aspects of God’s dealing with men.
The point here is therefore that the traditional human order of succession does not bind God. he may choose whomever he wills for his own purpose.
Not just the “traditional human order” but, as Paul himself indicates, human actions, good or bad, do not determine God’s freedom especially in the matter of grace and mercy.
Sippo then addresses v. 13:
As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (v.13) This phrase does not necessarily mean that God hated Esau. In Semitic idiom to “hate” can mean to love less. This statement therefore can simply mean that God favored Jacob over Esau. There is good reason for assuming this.
“Hate” can mean “love less” but it can also mean…hate, as in contrast to redemptive love. But the point that Sippo needs to hear in the text, as noted above, is the freedom of God in so choosing, for this choice was not based upon anything inherent in Jacob or Esau. This decision, likewise, had to do with mercy and grace and justice, and hence was not merely in reference to position or blessings. This drumbeat will become a crescendo in the following verses.
Sippo then again cites a lengthy passage of Scripture (Genesis 32:3-16) and concludes,
Esau was successful in the land of Edom living among the descendents of Ishmael. He is not depicted as an unrighteous reprobate, but rather as a good man whom God favored with worldlysuccess who at last had made peace with Jacob. There is no evidence that Esau was cursed by God. For this reason, it makes more sense to understand Romans 9:13 as saying that God preferred Jacob over Esau while still blessing the two.
Once again we simply point to the application made by Paul himself. To discover the Apostle’s intention you look at his own use of the text. It is common for many to run back to the stories of Jacob and Esau and pick one particular emphasis and then read it into Paul rather than simply allowing Paul to tell us which of the issues found in the story he himself is illustrating. These citations are all illustrating the same assertion: “for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls….” This is the assertion that offends, and Paul will expand this thought in the verses that follow.