Salvation in the Old Testament – A Dispensational Critique


Below is a video which highlights some of the various misunderstandings I pointed out in the last post.  In the video, Dr. Randy White attempts to answer the question that we began looking at in that post, Were Old Testament People Saved?

This is not a personal attack on either Dr. White or his ministry, it’s simply an interaction with the doctrinal views that he sets forth in the video below.  As a side note, I am thankful that in putting forth his answer, Dr. White has indicated his theological position as a dispensationalist.  That is extremely helpful in understanding what he is trying to say and the direction he is coming from.  Take a listen to his response and perhaps re-read the last post.  I hope to follow this critique up with a post addressing some of the passages he brings up, but more fully the continuity of salvation between the Old and New Testaments.

Below the video, I’ve transcribed some of his more interesting notes/comments in black, along with my interaction in red.


  1. What about the salvation of those who lived before Jesus Christ 2:10 This is the fundamental question.
  2. We look back (propitiation) Glad that Dr. White has pointed out the biblical necessity of propitiation, more on this later.
  3. 3:05 Dispensational theologian This is good. He helps us identify where he is coming from.
  4. 4:00 simplistic answer – “Saved in OT just like in NT; saved in that day just like in this day- by faith in Jesus Christ. We look back, they looked forward” His summary of this view is fair.
  5. 4:50 No doubt that Jesus was promised in the OT; The first promise of salvation Gen. 3:15 This is interesting that Dr. White has recognized the protoevangelion, or first Gospel because this is precisely what I brought up in the previous post.
  6. Were they saved by simply looking forward to the coming Messiah or is there something else to it? Good summary of the problem.
  7. 5:30 – Proof text He identifies what a proof text is; This is helpful, but it’s a setup for a straw-man.
    1. Genesis 15:6 – This is the text identified as a Proof text.  Those who use this text say everyone is saved by believing; by grace through faith
    2. Counted unto him for righteousness – Abraham believed in the Lord and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
  8. Charge to be Berean -like Acts 17
  9. Does this answer square up with the Bible? Ask a few questions: What did Abraham believe? What does credited unto righteousness believe?  These are fair questions to ask
  10. 7:20 “In the Context of Genesis 15 it wasn’t that Abraham had belief in a coming Messiah, I think he already did that.  I think he already had that belief and held to that belief.” Notice what Dr. White is saying here.  He is asserting that Abraham had faith in the coming Messiah.  How did he know about a Messiah?  Let alone have faith in him?  And as we’ll see it is THIS faith that results in righteousness being credited or imputed to him.
    He really believed that God would give him an offspring.
    From his own body. This is true, in the near context.  However, the Apostle Paul’s explanation of this passage offers much more.
  11. So “just believe and they were saved.  That’s how Abraham was saved.  But what did he believe” In his coming son.” With all due respect to Dr. White, he seems to take a condescending tone to the concept of salvation by faith alone.  I’m uncertain if this is intentional or not, but later on this will come up again.
  12. Different than believing in the propitiation of a coming Messiah. This is true, but God had not yet revealed this to Abraham, or anyone else for that matter.  Even as a dispensationalist, Dr. White should recognize and agree with the doctrine of progressive revelation and realize that God calls Abraham to believe in the promise of a coming Seed; yes, in the near context this is his own son, but more was revealed to Abraham in Genesis 12.  He is not asking him to provide a dissertation on substitutionary atonement, simply to believe.
  13. 9:05 Romans 4 “counted unto righteousness used in reference to justified.” Dr. White offers a warning of using these terms in reference to personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
    It may mean something else.  You can be justified in a number of different ways.
    – 9:42 Gen. 15 used in the NT as an illustration – In the same way God made a promise to Abraham He makes a promise to us.
    – Given to us by faith.
    – 10:15 Paul uses the illustration to say that Abraham was saved by grace through faith.  James comes to say, using the same
    verse, to say Abraham was not saved by faith alone by also by works.  When we begin to ask questions is not as cut and dry and as simple. There are several problems to be noted with this section, not the least of which is that Scripture never contradicts itself.  In a subtle way, Dr. White has left this door wide open without explaining how Paul in Romans and James do not contradict each other, but rather compliment each other.  Secondly, dispensationlists are fond of using the term “illustration” when citing the New Testament use of the Old Testament because it frees them from the responsibility of seeing continuity between the Testament’s and allows them to remain “rightly divided”.  The Apostle Paul is using the reference to Abraham as much more than an illustration, but as an example and one with application to Paul’s audience and our own day.  Namely, that just as with Abraham, so now, salvation is by faith alone.  He cites Genesis 15:6 to show that Abraham was justified, i.e. made right with God prior to his circumcision, i.e. obedience to the law. The “counted as righteousness” is actually better translated imputed righteousness, giving clear implication to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to Abraham.  More on this passage in the next post.
  14. Dr. White cites Ephesians 2:11-12 and comments You Gentiles in times past (previous dispensation) were aliens, foreigners, not in commonwealth of Israel; strangers from the promise; Because of this you had no hope, without God in the world
    – Clear and powerful words
    – Gentiles in the previous dispensation, unless they found a way to come into the commonwealth of Israel were without hope; absolutely no hope
    – What does this do to “Just believe and you are saved?”
    – Well not if you were a Gentile you didn’t; you were without hope.
    – Only in THIS dispensation (but now) are made nigh by the blood of Jesus.
    – Previously it didn’t matter if you had faith, didn’t matter if you were sincere, didn’t matter if you believed in a coming Messiah
    – YOU WERE WITHOUT HOPE  The use of this passage would fit well with  his description of a “proof text”.  If I understand him correctly, he is using the phrase “without hope” to mean that the Gentiles had no chance of salvation prior to Christ.  This is alarming to say the least.  Why then would God waste His time by sending the prophet Jonah to the gentiles in Ninevah?  Maybe it should be noted that Abraham was a gentile also.  Who exactly was a Jew?  One whose father was “Jewish”?  That would eliminate Jacob and our Lord Jesus Christ by the way.  So maybe its through matrilineal descent; then what about the entrance of Ruth into the line of David.  Not to mention the line of Christ which included the gentile women Ruth, Rahab, and Bathsheba.  Dr. White may want to rethink his supposition that gentiles, simply because of their race or heritage, could not be saved in the OT.  It is meant to be a general statement referring to those people who did not fear God and obey His commandments, summarized as “gentiles in the flesh” (which is an important reference to the uncircumcised), because they were outside of the Jewish community and the benefits and promises that God had given them.  No hope does not mean no chance, as Dr. White seems to imply.  
  15. 13:40 So then, maybe it was just the Hebrew people that could have faith. But what about the law?  What about the sacrifices? What about the Passover Lamb?  Was all that symbolic, did it just take faith to be saved?  Or did it also take the sacrificing of a lamb and the placing of the blood on the doorpost? This is the erection of a classic straw-man argument.
  16. 14:12  If you had faith but didn’t have obedience, then I wonder would you have been saved?  If you had faith but no lamb would you have been saved? If you had faith but you had some kind of physical ailment that prevented you from putting blood on the doorpost would you have been saved? Not according to Scripture.  According to Scripture – it was the physical blood on the doorpost that was the sign to cause the Angel of Death to pass by. What Dr. White has actually set forward here is that Jews, because they had the  law, were saved on the basis of that law.  In other words faith + works.  And thus we have the classic dispensational two-ways of salvation.  The entire book of Hebrews undermines this assertion.  In fact, if salvation could come under Old Covenant obedience to the law, then there was no need for Christ.  He ruined a good thing.  He was unnecessary.  Surely Dr. White would not assert this, but by necessary implication this is where his view ultimately leads.
  17. What about the law given to Moses at Sinai – were they just ceremonial? I don’t think so. If an Israelite chose not participate in the covenants of Israel, would he be saved? Even if he had faith? No I don’t believe so, it really did take some more.  Salvation has never been faith + works, but though saved by faith alone the believer now has a desire to obey and “work” so to speak.  The Pharisees were guilty of superficial obedience to the law, when God required a heart of obedience (Mark 12:29-33).
  18. The problem is we’re asking the wrong question that the OT doesn’t answer. Redemption in OT is actually a word about the redemption of creation. Salvation is about Israel and created order. OT is more about the redemption of creation than it is the salvation of an individual.  Only when we come into this dispensation do we see any word about going to heaven after you die or having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This isn’t what the OT is about; it’s about something else. There is alot in here to respond to, but let me just summarily say that these statements, while partially true, fail to recognize that the entirety of the Old Testament anticipates the coming of the Messiah, who will redeem not only creation, but a people for Himself and this begins no less with the people of the Old Testament.
  19. Going to OT to ask about personal salvation, but it is not a book about personal salvation
  20. 17:00 Many people of the OT were people of faith, no doubt about it. Sites Hebrews 11.  If the OT has many people of faith, what was their faith in?  What good was it for?  There are certainly people in the OT who walk by faith. Faith in Whom?  He has no answer for this, nor an answer for salvation in the OT, so he again resorts to Genesis 15:6 and sets up an argument for how it doesn’t mean what Paul says it does in Romans 4 by taking the phrase “counted to him as righteousness” and showing how Scripture uses it in other ways.
  21. Ps. 106:30-31 Counted to him as righteousness; same words as Abraham. Unto all generations for evermore; even stronger than Abraham. He is using Scripture against Scripture again without any explanation and this is simply indefensible.
  22. Too simplistic to just believe; dangerous just to simplify Scripture Too simplistic to just believe?  Friend, this is precisely what Scripture commands, a simplistic, child-like faith.  If we are required to DO anything in addition to our faith, then we have a works-righteousness religion and the Reformation never happened.
  23. Deut. 6:25 – Righteousness for us, if we do these commandments
  24. Lev. 18:5
  25. Ezekiel 18:9
  26. Ezekiel 20:11
  27. 21:30 Luke 10 – story of Good Samaritan. If you love the Lord your God…you shall live. “Wait a minute Jesus, why didn’t you tell them if you believe? You told them they had to do the law.” Paul quotes the same verse, those who live by the law its how they shall live.  This is simply shocking.  Using the OT to defend a belief that the Jews were saved by faith + works is one thing, but using the NT, a quotation of Jesus no less, to prove faith + law= salvation is simply wrong!  I sincerely hope this is not what he meant, but it is what he said.  He is showing here how his dispensational system cannot only rectify salvation in the OT, but law in the NT.  It is a flawed understanding of Law/Gospel that is at the heart of dispensationalism and ultimately drives the distinction between Israel and the Church.
  28. 22:00 Cannot put away obedience to the law; would marginalize the strict nature of the law in the OT.  Again, this is faith + works and it violates everything the OT says about the law and certainly everything the NT says about the law, namely Romans 3:21-31.  Obedience is required of believers, but not for their salvation.
  29. 22:10 “Ugh, just believe! Well it did take belief.  The Lord wants belief even before He wants sacrifice, but in the OT He wanted that sacrifice as well.” I don’t wanna marginalize the law. On the one hand he affirms the necessity of faith, then on the other affirms faith plus works.  The contradictory nature of his responses reveals much about the position he represents.  It is internally inconsistent and therefore unbiblical.
  30. If we come along and we see that there really is a difference before the cross of Christ and after the cross of Christ, then I think what we’re doing is exactly what Scripture tells us to do and “Rightly divide the word of truth.” This is a fundamental dispensational misapplication of this passage to “rightly divide the word” which they take to mean divide it between the testaments.  - There’s alot of sloppy division going on. Agreed, primarily within the dispensational stream (sorry couldn’t resist!).
  31. If you’ll rightly divide the word of truth and recognize there really is a difference in dispensation, that will help you to understand the whole word of God in a way that is rich and true and powerful. This video helpfully illustrates the point I was interacting with in the previous post and it serves to reveal the fundamental error of two-ways of salvation that the classic dispensationalist sets forth.  The Bible, in both testaments, has only known salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and Lord willing, I can show that more fully in a subsequent post.

The Unsurprising Descent of Rob Bell


I began writing this blog in January 2009. Initially, it was a way to communicate truths about God’s Word to others while also serving to help me grow in my walk with Christ and my own personal understanding of the Bible. Those early days were marked with semi-frequent posts on the Emerging/Emergent Church and certain trends in evangelicalism that some might’ve read in greater detail on so called discernment blogs. I suppose in part, some errors that I had been exposed to either within the church or online through these types of blogs began to spill over into the content that I wrote on my own blog. An example of this was numerous posts on Rob Bell, then pastor of Mars Hill (not the same as Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill).

At the time, I was so concerned about the influence and teaching of Rob Bell that I tried to make his name and heretical beliefs known to as many people as I could. His books, sermons, and videos had begun trickling into the youth group that I was serving in at the time and as Scripture states clearly, a little leaven, leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6). There was really no other option but to confront those who endorsed Rob Bell, give them opportunity to dissociate from him, or otherwise ask them to leave (Matthew 18:15-20). That final step is what ended up happening on several occasions. I am deeply indebted to the Lord who through His grace granted me discernment in these matters, constantly forcing me to examine what I had read or heard in light of His holy word. As much as the popular evangelical establishment dislikes discernment blogs, they were right on Rob Bell then and the fruits of his ministry are even more evident now.

More recently, Rob Bell has stepped down from his pastorate and moved to California to begin a television/entertainment career and now has his own show on Oprah’s OWN network. In the past year or so, Bell has published a new book with his wife titled The Zimzum of Love and has recently appeared with Oprah on her Super Soul Sunday program (the irony is overwhelming) to endorse and promote the book. Before we get to some interesting things in that interview, a word about the book’s title.

suessismsZimzum. Sounds catchy, almost Dr. Seussian isn’t it? Here is how Bell defines Zimzum on his website:

“Zimzum is a Hebrew term where God, in order to have a relationship with the world, contracts, creating space for the creation to exist. In marriage, zimzum is the dynamic energy field between two partners, in which each person contracts to allow the other to flourish. Mastering this field, this give and take of energy, is the secret to what makes marriage flourish.”

I’ll admit, I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. It sounds philosophical and intellectual and this creates intrigue I suppose, but I actually think this pseudo-intellectual language is gibberish. In order to have a relationship with the world, God sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ into the world, that the world through Him and Him alone, might be saved if they repent of their sins and believe the Gospel. That’s crystal clear. Additionally, God’s Word clearly defines the “secret” to what makes a marriage work:

“22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:22-33 Again, clarity abounds.

Back to the philosophical gibberish. While the indication that Zimzum is a Hebrew word is strategic to help the readers feel more comfortable with it, as though it is a biblical word or at least has biblical roots, it is actually an unbiblical anti-God concept because it finds its developments in the Kabbalah religion, made popular more recently by Madonna and several prominent members of the entertainment industry. Kabbalah itself has Hebrew origins and sounds very intellectual and philosophical much like the definition of Zimzum given by Bell above. Here’s what CARM says about Kabbalah:

“Kabbalah is difficult to categorize because it is a subjective non-falsifiable belief system. In other words, it rests in non-verifiable philosophy, not in historic fact. Nevertheless, Kaballah is a mystical and esoteric system of observing and interpreting the universe and mankind that also seeks to reveal the true relationship between God, man, and the universe. It teaches that there is a divine being, neither male nor female, that has 10 primary aspects called sephirot which are represented in the Tree of Life. Kabbalah teaches that the supreme being created the universe through a series of those 10 aspects that descended through various levels until creation was fully realized.”TreeofLife

They go on to summarize Kabbalah as follows:

“Because there is no way to verify the truth of the 10 aspects of God, that Kabbalah was given to the angels for the creation of the world, etc., the Kabbalist is left to either believe or disbelieve based upon his preferences. Instead of believing what the Bible actually says, the Kabbalist is left with following the baby and mystical interpretations of a few ancient Jews.

Unlike the Gospels, Kabbalistic literature is full of philosophical mumbo-jumbo, unverifiable and subjective ideas, and words that are strung together in such a way as to appear to be semi-coherent. The problem is that Kabbalah contradicts the Bible. Therefore, it is not true.”

In its philosophical nonsensical way, Zimzum is trying to express the presence and absence of the divine. As it relates to marriage, Bell is seemingly trying to correlate this term and apply it to knowing when to be present and knowing when to give space. In reality, what Rob Bell has done then is to co-opt a Kabbalah philosophical term, as to create nuance and intrigue and then apply it to the idea of marriage between professing Christians such that the audience broadens to include not only New Age/Kabbalah followers, but also appeal to Christians who may already be familiar with him. Simply put, this is the classic methodology of Satan whom the Apostle Paul says disguises himself as an angel of light.

If his outright embrace of Paganism wasn’t enough, nor his association with Oprah who has promoted such New Age philosophers as Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Oz and such books as The Secret, A New Earth, and A Course in Miracles, then allow the interview of Bell and Oprah to shed additional light on the further shift of Rob Bell away from Orthodox Christianity (if he was ever truly there to begin with).

 In addition to the esoteric language and conversation which says little of substance while saying a lot in quantity, here are some takeaways:

  • 23:27 Marriage is an opportunity to find God in each other
    • The theologians call it incarnation, when the divine and the human exist in the same place.
  • 29:20 “Marriage – gay and straight is a gift to the world because the world needs more not less love, fidelity, commitment, and sacrifice.”
    • Discussion on the embrace of homosexual marriage begins here
  • 30:00 Oprah: When is the church going to get this? Bell’s: We are a moment away from the church’s embrace of homosexual marriage.
    • Culture is there, church will be irrelevant if it continues to quote letters from 2000 years ago as their best defense.
  • Exactly Zero Scripture references/quotations

dont-drink-the-kool-aidChristians, this video should disturb you; from the talk of energy fields and spirituality, the debasing of the Bible, to the embrace of homosexual marriage intertwined with an appeal to the emotional desires of people to be loved. This material is presented in such a way that makes you less likely to recognize the cyanide and drink the Kool-Aid unsuspectingly.

Rob Bell is a false teacher. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing when wolf-572x368making his Nooma videos and writing such books as The Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and Love Wins, but now he is making perfectly clear the sheepskin has come off to reveal an extremely dangerous teacher who claims Christ but mixes truth with error. In an age of Christianity where believers are seen as intolerant and violence against Christians is at an all-time high, need there be more compelling evidence for the call to be even more vigilant, even more discerning, and even more willing to stand as Ezekiel and be a watchman for the Church.

objection court out of order lawyer attorney object

Objections to the Doctrine of Election


Having already laid the foundation for the doctrine of election and looked at some important distinctions in the various uses of related biblical words, we now turn our full attention to several of the more prominent objections to this doctrine. In introducing this we find several tensions and incorrect responses that must be addressed before looking clearly at some stated objections.

When addressing a doctrine such as unconditional election, it naturally stirs the emotions and immediately all manner of objections soon ensue. Thankfully, God’s Word is true and not only answers these objections, but anticipates them. One such passage where God sets forth the plan of His redemption by way of election, and anticipates the subsequent objections, is Romans chapters 9-11. Naturally, these chapters build upon and help explain Romans 8, which we have already looked at it some detail.

Using Romans 9 as our springboard into the arguments, we find the Apostle transitioning from the arguments of God’s unconditional, unbreakable love towards His elect people to the solemn, heartbreaking anguish of Paul. We must ask, given the glorious nature of the hope-filled chapter 8, which should serve as an anchor for the Christian soul, why now does Paul have such a somber tone to start chapter 9? Note how he begins:

1I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 9:1-5

Paul begins be establishing the truthfulness of his statements and heartfelt emotions, which he will unpack, on the basis of Christ, his conscience, and the Holy Spirit. This emphasis is meant to frame the seriousness of what’s to come and to express to the utmost how he is feeling. Lest there be any notion of anti-Semitism in the Christian, Paul undercuts that right away by expressing his sorrow which he tells us in verse 3 is for “his kinsmen according to the flesh,” in other words, national, ethnic Israel. Paul is not an outsider setting forth a doctrinal position that alienates the Jews, he is an insider, a Jew according to the flesh. As he has asserted in Philippians 3:5-6

5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” Therefore, if anyone is qualified to speak the truth concerning Christ to the Jews, it is Paul.

The Apostle then proceeds to tell of the advantages of the Jew in Romans 9:4-5, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” An argument could be made that this is a continuation of a thought that began in chapter 3 when Paul wrote, 1Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.”   We can see here that Paul is establishing the advantages that the Jew has historically had. Summarizing the advantages listed in chapter 9:

  1. The Oracles of God, i.e. the inscripturated Word of God
  2. Adoption; Israel was the chosen nation of God, though we must be careful here to qualify this and ask “Chosen unto what?”, as we will see later in chapter 9.
  3. The glory; likely a reference to the glory of God that traveled with them out of Egypt and resided in the temple until the Exile of 586 BC.
  4. The covenants; A Reference to the collection of covenants that God established beginning with Abraham, Moses, Aaron, and David (and others).
  5. The giving of the Law; Note here that this is seen as a positive appendage from God; a clear reference to the giving of the Law to Moses at Sinai.
  6. The worship; God had provided Israel with explicit instructions for how He was to be worshipped.
  7. The promises; Likely the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that included Land, Blessing, and Seed
  8. The Patriarchs; Again, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
  9. The Christ; Paul here brings his argument to the present with the incarnation of Christ from the Jewish race.

All of this has been written to show the favor of God toward the Jews, but why was this necessary? The Jewish people considered themselves to have exclusive rights to God. We can see this vividly portrayed in the ministry of Jonah to Nineveh, but more recently in the book of Acts. From Pentecost, to the stoning of Stephen, and the vision given to Peter concerning Cornelius, we see the tension building between Jews and Christian Jews/Christian Gentiles. Much of the strife that the Apostles faced in establishing the Church built on the cornerstone of Christ was from the Jews. They persecuted them fiercely. While we may rejoice over such passages as Acts 11:18, the majority of the Jews were not rejoicing that salvation had come to the Gentiles. In fact, the promulgation of the Gospel by the disciples led to their martyrdom at the hand of their own people, just as their Master, Jesus Christ.

Given then the inclusion of Gentiles into God’s plan of salvation combined with what Paul had just written in chapter 8, it would give the appearance that God had abandoned the Jews in favor of the Gentiles, that all He had promised them was worthless, and that He had failed to be faithful to His promises. This is why Paul goes to such great lengths in enumerating the advantages that the Jews had to show that they were not worthless, but had value in pointing toward Christ.

The argument then that Paul is anticipating to begin chapter 9 of Romans is that election was for national Israel and if it is to include the Gentiles, then God has been unfaithful to His word. This objection argues that on the basis of nationality, Israel is the chosen nation/people/race of God and that God does not elect individuals unto salvation. Tangentially, this belief is not limited to the doctrine of election, but shapes many people’s understanding of Israel today and has led to such errant beliefs as Zionism, Dispensationalism, and the assumption that the secular, atheistic state of Israel today remains God’s “chosen people.” You can see then how unconditional election is intimately related to an understanding of the New Covenant promises and people of God, which we were examining from Dr. Sam Waldron’s brief but helpful book A Reformed Baptist Manifesto. This nationalistic objection is the one that Paul anticipates at the beginning of Romans 9 and is felt in the transitional tension of chapter 8 through verse 5 of chapter 9.

To ease this tension and attempt to provide an answer to the doctrine of election that Paul unfolds here, some have assumed that Romans 9 is addressing the national election of Israel and they would use the arguments that Paul sets forth as referring to Israel verses the nation of Edom (Romans 9:13), thus stripping Romans 9 of any notion of election on an individual basis. However, a simple reading of Romans 8 will show that the context is election of individuals who collectively and corporately make up the people of God. This view is generally held by Arminians who deny that God would ever choose anyone unto salvation.

A second attempted answer to this national election dilemma is that God has elected national Israel, but the inclusion of the Gentiles is an entirely separate plan of redemption. Therefore, God has two peoples and two separate and distinct ways of salvation; Elect National Israel under the Old Covenant/Future New Covenant economy and believing Gentiles under a Parenthetical economy. They would argue that all of the advantages that Paul has listed are strictly for the Jews and all lend themselves to Jewish salvation. Upon Christ’s arrival and subsequent rejection by the Jews, God turned His plan of redemption temporarily to the Gentiles, who were a Plan B. There were then those who were saved in the Old Testament under Plan A, which has since been paused while Plan B has commenced and salvation of Gentiles under an entirely different plan, namely Christ, has begun. This explanation is the one given by Historic Dispensationalists such as Scofield and the Two-way of salvation dispensationalists.[1]

Introduction of this tension that Paul feels at the beginning of chapter 9 will go a long way towards helping us understand the objections that are answered concerning election in the remaining verses. Paul will unravel this tension in his response to the first implicit objection found in verse 6, namely that God’s Word has failed. Lord willing we’ll examine that in a subsequent post.

[1] Those these sentiments can be seen and deduced in more modern works by Charles Ryrie, largely dispensationalism today has rejected this two-way of salvation scheme.

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"