“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
“What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:”
I’ve read Romans 9:13 (above) countless times, and never once have I thought that it meant that God capriciously decided that he was going to love Jacob from the womb and despise his brother Esau. The reason for my certainty was that, I am and always will be convinced that the Calvinist view of this scripture as a reflection of God’s sovereignty over the souls of men, and as a pillar of support for their doctrine of unconditional election, is false, based on the enduring character of God exhibited from Genesis to Revelation. The God of the Bible is a God of mercy, love, and long-suffering, and the Old Testament in particular, is a tour de force in His faithfulness despite man’s relentless disobedience and idolatry. God has always longed, yearned even, for the hearts of men, without distinction. There are numerous examples in the Old Testament where His beloved Jews rejected Him, but pagan Gentiles received Him with a surrendered heart (Nineveh, Rahab, Namaan, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Ruth, Ittai, etc). His love is infinitely deeper and wider then we could possibly comprehend.
While I never understood what exactly God meant with this statement about Esau and Jacob, I knew that God loved them both and that some day it would all make sense. While studying the minor prophets a few weeks ago, it finally became clear. Paul exhorted us to study the whole counsel of God for a reason. We need every single word that proceeds from the mouth of God in order for us to grasp the big-picture of God’s labor for the souls of men.
It’s important to note that God’s statement about hating Esau was never made during Esau’s lifetime. In fact, God’s anger with “Esau” doesn’t appear in scripture until the book of Obadiah, well over one thousand years after his death. In Genesis, Scripture actually records the tender moment when a cowardly Jacob, afraid that Esau might kill him (despite his covenant with God), divides his family into three groups as he prepares to be greeted by the brother he so wickedly deceived (Esau). Shockingly, Esau welcomes Jacob home with heartfelt-tears, and a warm, sincere embrace. (Genesis 33:1-16) That…is an example of the character of God. Esau had removed his anger and bitterness far from him and received his deceiver with mercy, kindness and joy.
While God was obviously disappointed with Esau’s carnal decision to trade his birthright for a single meal decades earlier, it’s unlikely that his emotional reunion with Jacob would have been recorded with the details Moses provided if God truly despised him as a person. It’s also likely, based on how Issac’s death and blessings went down, that Esau did not even take his bargain with Jacob seriously, since it was such a ridiculously unfair trade. Evidence to this effect is that when Isaac was dying, Esau clearly believed that he was the one who was rightfully entitled to his family’s birthright. (Genesis 27)
In order to fully understand the meaning of the statement in Romans 9:13, we must first return to Genesis and the time of their gestation:
“And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, And two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; And the one people shall be stronger than the other people; And the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.”
Here we see that God, when speaking of Jacob and Esau’s future, states with great clarity, that two nations will arise from the seed of these brothers. We later learn that God anoints Jacob as the father of Israel, the small and insignificant tribe that God used to reveal himself to the world, for better and for worse, while:
“…Esau is Edom.”
As we come to find out, Edom, as it grows over the generations, becomes a proud, wicked and murderous nation, one that constantly wars with Israel and even pillages their land after the northern kingdom is carried off to Assyria. In Obadiah, we see God’s fury at this wicked nation (Esau, which is Edom), which gloats at the harsh but necessary judgement of God on his chosen people. Not only is Edom brimming with pride, but it rejoices at Israel’s calamity and plunders them when they are weak and scattered. Just a as God refered to Israel as “Jacob” throughout the Old Testament (including 16 times from Isaiah chapters 40-49), so he referred to Edom as “Esau” in multiple books of the Old Testament. I encourage you to read the entire one-chapter book of Obadiah. Below is the most relevant portion:
“1 The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord God concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour from the Lord, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle.2 Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised.3 The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?4 Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord.5 If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes?6 How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!7 All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him.8 Shall I not in that day, saith the Lord, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?9 And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.10 For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.11 In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.12 But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.13 Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity;14 Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress.15…18 And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord hath spoken it.” Obadiah 1:1-14, 18
It’s clear from the passage above, and the passage I will quote below in Malachi, that God isn’t talking about two individual men, but two nations in conflict, Edom and Israel. God’s fury with “Esau” aka Edom, is clearly justified. The prophet Obadiah notes God’s hot displeasure at their pride and violence,”against thy brother Jacob(aka Israel).” There are few things God despises more than pride. Also, He abhors when the strong take advantage of the weak, even if their weakness is a consequence of their own sin. Edom has done both of these things, and he has done it against God’s chosen and beloved nation, Israel. Vengeance and judgment belong to God, not men, and especially not to wicked, murderous, and godless men.
In Malachi, the final book of the Old Testament, we finally see the source of the quotation used by Paul in Romans 9:13:
“I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, ***The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.***And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.”
As in Obadiah, God is clearly speaking of a people…a nation, the nation that sprung from the loins of Esau…the Edomites. God despised them, not because they came from Esau, but because they were proud and delighted in evil. We have all seen in Jonah where one of the most abominable cities on earth, Nineveh, is given an opportunity to repent and escape judgement. While even Jonah, God’s hand-selected prophet, loathes them and does not want them to be saved, our God, who is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, does. (2 Peter 3:9) The God of the Bible loves sinners, is rich in mercy and wants everyone, everywhere to repent.(Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4; Acts 17:30) Given these examples, and many, many more, it is truly abominable to teach that God doesn’t love all of humanity. For we were once just as wicked as the Ninevites, yet God offered His strong and loving arm of salvation to each one of us. May we never forget what we once were, until the word of God, and his transcendent love, saved us from the hell we deserved:
“9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
VESSELS OF WRATH
After reading of God’s great mercy towards Nineveh, and His dealings with vain, pagan, power-hungry Nebuchadnezzar, how could we ever assume that God randomly decides to make one person for salvation and another to burn for eternity with no hope of redemption? God was rich in mercy, even towards that wicked nation and that outrageously arrogant king – and He is merciful today towards ALL men. Sadly, few care. While God made Nebuchadnezzar suffer mightily and eat the rancid fruit of his vanity for seven long, cold, humiliating years, God did not cast him out entirely, but gave him an opportunity to repent…and that he did, and with great humility and eloquence. (see, Daniel 4:34-37)
While Romans 9 says this:
‘What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:” Romans 9:22
…2 Timothy 2:20-21 teaches us, without equivocation, that even vessels of wrath or dishonor, can be saved when they TURN their hearts to God for mercy:
“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
2 Timothy 2:20-21
2 Corinthians 3:13-16 is a comparable passage, stating that even the spiritually blind will have the veil lifted from their eyes when their heart turns to Him:
“but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.”
2 Corinthians 3:14-16
The 2 Timothy 2:20-21 passage could not be more self-explanatory. Even if a vessel was created for dishonor, that vessel could still choose repentance, humility and salvation. I could quote many verses on God’s death for all and love for all, but that would take up too much space here.(I do have a list of such verses at the very end of this article) I suggest that we simply study our New Testament WITHOUT using a commentary** and you will see His all-surpassing love for the souls of men…all men everywhere.(Acts 17:30) Sadly, you will also see men angrily, and even violently, reject it everywhere.
** I am not against commentaries. However, I think they should be reserved for only the most difficult or confusing passages, lest your entire theology be destroyed by the particular view of one man. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us. (1 John 2:27b; John 14:26; John 16:13)
ISRAEL, GOD’S CHOSEN VESSEL
Calvinists often use God’s selection of Israel as his chosen nation, as evidence of the Augustinian doctrine (which he purloined from pagan Manicheaism) of unconditional election, but this could not be further from the truth when the Old Testament text is carefully examined.
God did not randomly chose Israel so that every single Jewish soul would be saved, to the exclusion of the rest of the earth’s population. No. God chose this small, weak and insignificant people group in order to show the world His incomparable glory and power. (Deuteronomy 7:6-9; 9:1-6) Of course, many Israelites were saved, but sadly many more were not, choosing the pagan gods and goddesses of the Canaanites or Babylon over the ONE who delivered them from slavery, parted the Red Sea and destroyed the most powerful army on earth. (Romans 11:3-4) We see in Luke 13:34 how much this hurt the heart of God:
“34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! ” Luke 13:34
His chosen people, beloved and protected by God himself, chose their own will, their precious sin, and the wicked and idolatrous practices of the vilest nations on earth over the God who dwelt among them and did mighty works year after year after year. Other nations saw His mighty works and feared, sometimes even more than the Israelites did.
We saw this when Caleb and Joshua snuck into Jericho. Rahab informed them that the people of Jericho were terrified when they discovered that the Israelites were approaching. They had heard that the God of Israel had, not only parted the Red Sea, but had unilaterally and thoroughly defeated the greatest, most powerful army on earth – the army of Egypt. God’s hope and purpose, of course, was that the pagan nations who learned of these incomparable deeds, might turn from their manmade idols, to the God who parted the sea and annihilated an entire army, without the assistance of man. Rahab, for one, did and God rewarded her faith by placing Jesus in her lineage.
Unfortunately, there are countless example’s throughout the Old Testament, where the Jews rejected God and were swallowed up by the earth, killed by fiery serpents, executed by the sword at God’s order, or were carried off to be slaves in strange and distant lands. Meanwhile, the pagan and murderous city of Nineveh repented and turned to the God of Israel after hearing the reluctant words of a single prophet! Other examples of non-Jews turning to the Lord include Ruth, Nebuchadnezzar, King Darius, Ittai, Naaman, the centurion who’s son Jesus healed(Luke 7:1-10), the centurion who found God at the cross(Luke 23:45-47), and many, many more.
The purpose of this article is to refute the claim that God irrevocably chooses certain individual people or groups for salvation, while others are blindly and irrevocably sentenced to hell with no chance of salvation. Not only does Calvinist soteriology (doctrine of salvation) slander the character of God, but it nullifies the unmitigated power of His eternal word, which was designed to pierce and turn a soul from a life of willful sin, to a life of simple, humble faith. (Hebrews 12:9-10; Ephesians 1:13; Romans 10:13-14,17) Our God truly is rich in mercy. As scripture says so clearly, God: loves the world, died for all, tasted death for every man, and gave himself as a ransom for all, and WHOSOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. I will post verses establishing this, below. This list is not even close to exhaustive but should be sufficient to prick the heart of even the most steadfast Calvinist, and confirm the unalterable truth, that the one and only God has a generous, merciful and loving heart towards a lost and sinful world, and for that, this forgiven sinner is eternally grateful.
“15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:15-18
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
“35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst…40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:35,40
“37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. John 6:51
“24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” John 8:24
“9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9
“25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? John 11:25-26
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.” John 12:32-33
“46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John 12:46-48
“29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” John 20:29
“31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” John 20:31
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.”
Acts 7:51 (God wants everyone, but everyone doesn’t want him. His grace IS resistible.)
“34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Acts 10:34-35
“43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:43
“24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” Acts 17:24-28
“30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent“. Acts 17:30
“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16
“18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Romans 5:18
“33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” Romans 9:33
“4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Romans 10:4
“9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13 (The condition for salvation is laid out here. It has nothing to do with being chosen. It has to do with faith…a deep faith from the heart. The next two verses below explain how we may obtain a saving faith)
“14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?…17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:14,17
“14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
“…God our Saviour;4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” 1 Timothy 2:3-6
“10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.” 1 Timothy 4:10
“9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 2:9
“2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2
“9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
“17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
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