Grace for All: Paul, the Potter, and Perspective? (Romans 9)

This post is a part of a series that is examining each essay in the recently published book Grace for All. 

Dr. James D. Strauss, who passed in 2014, was Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Lincoln Christian Seminary (link). His essay, edited by John D. Wagner tackles the challenging argument that Paul presents in Romans 9.

This chapter starts off a section that is widely accepted as starting in chapter 9 and continuing through to the end of chapter 11.

By (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

By via Wikimedia Commons

The section starts off with Paul’s concern for the Jewish people:

For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites … (Rom 9:3-4 NASB)

A concern that is marked throughout the section, as it is expressed again in chapter 10:

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. (Rom 10:1)

and again in chapter 11:

… Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them … (Rom 11:13-14)

It is within this context that Paul writes about God’s sovereign right to have mercy on whom He will, and harden whom He will (Rom 9:18) and to form His creation as He desires.

Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use? (Rom 9:21)

In Arminius’s examination of Roman’s 9 he notes that it is important to settle the main thesis or question that Paul is addressing. He proposes the challenge that Paul will seek to refute is as follows:

Does not the word God become of none effect, if those of the Jews, who seek righteousness, not of faith, but of the law, are rejected by God.

Is that the right thesis that Paul is refuting?

On what idea does Paul base his argument? Continue reading