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Romans 9 & Ephesians 1
Copyright © Tim Warner - 10/2003

Romans nine and Ephesians one have been routinely used as proof texts for Calvinism. However, it is our contention that both passages are misunderstood because of wrong dispensational presuppositions, and a failure to understand the underlying theme. That theme is Israel's partial hardening so the crucifixion could occur, and the Gentiles could be saved. Paul writes in both passages as a Messianic Jew, not merely a generic "Christian." 

The first thing we must understand before trying to address either Romans nine or Ephesians one, is the distinction between Jew and Gentile in the early church. While it is true that Paul sought to show that there was no DIVISION or INEQUALITY between Jew and Gentile within the Church, there is an underlying DISTINCTION between these groups all throughout the New Testament. Unless we understand and can identify this distinction, we will misunderstand much of the teaching of the New Testament. Missing the significance of this point is the main reason for the Calvinistic, dispensational, and Hebrew Roots errors in modern Christianity. 

When Jesus came, a fundamental change occurred within the nation of Israel. This was the fulfillment of a prophecy given through Moses. When the Law was given, Moses also prophesied that another 'prophet' like him (Moses) would come bringing a new Law (Torah). Moses was God's prophet, delivering God's words to Israel. But, another prophet, like Moses, would come, bringing a new Law. Israel would forever be divided between those who would listen to "that prophet" and those who would not. Those who would not listen to "that prophet" would be cut off. 

Deut 18:15-19
15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
16 According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.
17 And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.
18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

The Jews of Jesus' day were keenly aware of this prophecy, since they revered Moses. When John the Baptist came preaching, the Jews thought that maybe he was "that prophet" of whom Moses spoke. 

John 1:19-21
19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

John 6:14
14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

In Peter's second sermon, He identified Jesus as "that prophet," and reminded the residents of Jerusalem that those who refused to listen to "that prophet" would suffer the wrath of God. 

Acts 3:20-24
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.

The judgment predicted on those of Israel who would not hear "that prophet" was twofold. It included their being broken off from the people of God, as Paul plainly describes in the parable of the Olive Tree in Rom. 11, and it also included the destruction of Jerusalem predicted by Daniel and Jesus (cf. Dan. 9:26 & Luke 19:41-44). John the Baptist came to prepare the way for "that prophet." Notice his prediction of the judgment on the unbelieving part of Israel, because of their rejection of "that prophet." 

Matt 3:7-12
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Beginning with John's preaching, Israel had to choose between hearing "that prophet" who brought the new Torah, or insisting on following Moses only and rejecting "that prophet." As you know, MOST of Israel rejected Jesus. But, Jesus' disciples and a number of others heeded "that prophet." Israel was forever split into two camps. The believing camp who followed Jesus received the New Covenant, promised to Israel in Jer. 31:31-34. The unbelieving camp was "cut off" as Peter said in his sermon above, and as Paul illustrated in the "Olive Tree" parable in Rom. 11. (See also Gal. 4:21-31). 

Paul wrote that the Gospel was "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16, Rom. 2:9,10). This is borne out historically in the Gospel accounts. When approached by a Gentile woman, Jesus said to her, "I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matt. 15:22-28). Jesus sent His disciples out preaching, telling them NOT to preach to the Gentiles, but ONLY to Israel (Matt. 10). This was because the New Covenant was specifically for Israel (Jer. 31:31-34). Israel had to be offered the covenant, and given the opportunity to receive it first. Israel was divided, part rejecting the new covenant, and part accepting it. 

That the New Covenant concerned Israel, and that Israel must choose first, was not unique to Paul's teaching. Peter, too, taught the same thing in his second sermon. Right after preaching that Jesus was "that prophet" in his sermon above, Peter said the following in his invitation: 

Acts 3:24-26
24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.
25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

After Israel's initial opportunity to receive the New Covenant and their partial hardening so the crucifixion could occur, the Gospel went to the nations. Paul explained Israel's "blindness in part" in Romans 11, in the parable of the Olive Tree. Notice that Israel was only PARTIALLY blinded, not totally blinded. That is because God hardened the hearts of the majority of Jews in order for His plan to go forward. Jesus HAD to be rejected by the leadership in order to be crucified. And the leadership was paralized without the support of the majority of the people (Mark. 11:32, 12:12). Their rejection of Jesus was part of God's plan for redemption of Israel as well as the Gospel going to the Gentiles. This hardening was actively going on all during Jesus' ministry. In fact, Jesus' speaking to the crowds ONLY by parables was designed to keep the majority of Jews in the dark. 

Mark 4:9-12
9 And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.

Mark 4:33-34
33 And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.
34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

The parables were used by Jesus as a double-edged sword. They were illustrations for the disciples, that Jesus used to convey His points, and then explained them to them in plain language. But, they were also used to CONFUSE the crowds, particularly the leadership of Israel. Jesus spoke to them in "riddles," just as Isaiah prophesied. Why? "That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them." 

As you can see, this division of Israel, and hardening the leadership, was a part of God's plan to bring about the crucifixion. 

Paul was a Jew. He was of the remnant of Israel that believed and received the new Torah of "that prophet." Yet, he lamented the fact that most of his nation was blinded, and did not receive the New Covenant. This is the theme of Romans 9, where Paul spoke of "election" of a remnant of Israel, and the rest of the nation being blinded. Calvinists take some of Paul's statement without regard for this historical setting.

Rom 9:1-18
1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.
10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

In the bold part above, Paul was making the point that only a portion of Israel received the promises. Contrary to what many think, he was not referring to Gentiles becoming "Israel." When he said, "they are not all Israel who are of Israel," he was saying that not all of those who descended from Jacob (whom God renamed "Israel") are the true "Israel." Only a remnant of those descended from Jacob were the true "Israel." In other words, Paul was limiting "Israel" to ONLY those Jews who listened to "that prophet," and received the New Covenant. Then he said, "but in Isaac shall thy seed be called." This is a reference to God's promise to Abraham. Remember, Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. But, both of Abraham's physical descendants did NOT inherit the promise. The promise proceeded through Isaac only, not Ishmael, even though both were the physical seed of Abraham. Paul used this as an example of the current situation. Israel was divided into two camps, the believers and the unbelievers. Paul was likening the unbelievers of Israel to "Ishmael" and the believing remnant to "Isaac." Next, he used Jacob and Esau as another example of the same point. Both were physical sons of Isaac, but only Jacob received the promises. 

Paul then went on in the rest of the chapter to speak of God's election of this believing remnant of Israel, and his blinding the larger part of the physical seed of Jacob. Paul argued for God's justice in doing so. 

Calvinists misunderstand this passage because they think Paul was speaking of people in general, as individuals. They ignore the context, where he was speaking of a particular situation where God partially blinded Israel in the first century so the crucifixion could occur, and the gospel could go to the Gentiles. 

Notice that when Paul spoke to the Gentile believers, he did so, not from the perspective of being a generic "Christian," but from the perspective of being part of this special remnant of Israel. He recognized that being a Messianic believer had an advantage. 

Rom 3:1-3
1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

Paul's point here was that being a Jewish believer is advantageous in a certain way. That SOME of the Jews did not receive the New Covenant DOES NOT make the promise void. It merely excludes from the true "Israel" those who rejected it. He was implying that, just as the promise to Abraham went through Isaac, bypassing Ishmael, and then from Isaac through Jacob, bypassing Esau, the promise continues in the believing REMNANT of Israel - the Messianic believers of the first century - and bypasses the unbelieving majority of Jews. Paul made the same point in Rom. 11. 

Rom 11:1-5
1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Note Paul's usage of the terms "election" and "foreknowledge" strictly in reference to the Jewish remnant in this passage. Paul usually had this division of Israel in mind when he spoke of "election." Of course, the Gospel also went to the Gentiles afterward. But, no such "hardening" or "blinding" of the Gentiles occurred. These are concepts that relate to Israel ONLY, because it was a part of God's plan to bring about the crucifixion, and salvation of the Gentiles. 

Did you notice in some of the above passages that Paul thought of himself not merely as a generic "Christian," but as a Messianic Jew? When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he did so from this same perspective. Yet, much of Ephesians was designed to show Gentile believers that they have become EQUAL in Christ to the Messianic believers. This does not mean there are no DISTINCTIONS, only no DIVISIONS or DISPARITY between the Jewish branch of the Church and the Gentile branch. 

Now, let's consider Ephesians one with this background in view. 

Eph 1:1-13
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 

This is Paul's standard opening greeting, similar to his other Epistles. In the verses that follow, notice the personal pronouns in bold print. 

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed US with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen US in him before the foundation of the world, that WE should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated US unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made US accepted in the beloved.
7 In whom WE have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8 Wherein he hath abounded toward US in all wisdom and prudence;
9 Having made known unto US the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11 In whom also WE have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12 That WE should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that YE heard the word of truth, the gospel of YOUR salvation: in whom also after that YE believed, YE were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Notice the shift in verses 12 & 13 between "we" who are identified as those who "first trusted in Christ," and the "you also" who later believed and who were later sealed. There is a clear distinction here between the Jewish remnant (the remnant of Israel drawn by Jesus {as per John 6}, and who believed the Gospel) and the Gentiles of the Ephesian church, who were included in Christ after most of Israel had been blinded, and had rejected Him. All of the first person plural personal pronouns in verses 3-12 are referring to this Jewish remnant with whom Paul repeatedly identified himself. Notice that all the statements about election used by Calvinists are strictly concerning this remnant of Israel in the context, and are in the past tense. Paul was writing from the perspective of one of the "elect" remnant of Israel. The personal pronouns "we" in verses 3-12 all refer to the Jewish remnant, of whom Paul was a member. Paul was rejoicing in the fact that SOME of his fellow Jewish brethren were chosen of God to believe, when the rest of the nation was blinded to the Gospel. This is the kind of "election" that Paul spoke of, not the Calvinist kind of election, where God picks a certain number of people to be saved for all eternity, and damns the rest to hell.

Of course, one might argue that at least God seems to be a Calvinist when it comes to the Jews who were blinded. Well, not exactly! God blinded them, but then after the crucifixion He opened up the Gospel to ALL the Jews, INCLUDING those who were formerly blinded during Jesus' ministry. 

Acts 2:22-24,36-39
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. ...
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you (Israeli Jews), and to your children, and to all that are afar off (Jews of the Diaspora), even as many (Jews) as the Lord our God shall call.

Here, Peter was addressing Jews of both Israel and also those of the Diaspora, who had traveled from foreign lands for the feast of Pentecost. These Jews had been there in Jerusalem only 7 weeks earlier for the Passover, and had been part of the mob that cried "away with him, crucify him." They had been blinded by the "determinate council and foreknowledge of God." Yet, after Pentecost, the Holy Spirit convicted them through Peter's preaching, and 3000 were saved in one day! You didn't think this was just because of Peter's great preaching, did you? Peter preached again a little later, and 5000 more were saved. In fact, when you get to Acts 21, the Jerusalem church consists of many thousands of believing Jews! Not bad for a "blinded" nation! 

How do we reconcile then the fact that Paul speaks of Israel being blinded "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in?" Simply because God instigated the INITIAL blindness in order to carry out His plan. However, once the leadership of Israel committed themselves by crucifying Jesus, and persecuting the Church, they had begun down a road that was hard to turn around. Pride took over. Paul says that the Gospel going to the Gentiles provoked Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11), and the Jewish nation could not turn back to Christ. Instead, unbelieving Israel began to persecute the remnant of Faith. That is what Gal. 4:21ff teaches. 

Calvinism is one giant misunderstanding! It comes from trying to interpret passages like John 6, Rom. 9, and Eph. 1 WITHOUT first having a proper foundational understanding of what God was doing with Israel in the first century. John Calvin did NOT have a good grasp of this, and consequently he developed a faulty theology. Neither did Augustine, on whom Calvin relied heavily. It is no coincidence that Augustine is both the father of a-millennialism, replacement theology, and also the philosophy on which Calvinsim is based. A proper understanding of the key passages on which Calvinism is based is NOT possible within the Reformed tradition, because of the rejection of the "Chiliasm" (historic pre-millennialism) of the early Church prior to Augustine. Today Chiliasm is being revived under the name of "Progressive Dispensationalism." Please see our articles in the "Progressive Dispensationalism" section for further information.

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