Romans 8-10

Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.   Paul is emphatic about that, right?    Well then, how do you reconcile his thought that some people are created to be destroyed?
A quick read through these chapters will leave you feeling giddy, and many sermons have been preached, taking the powerful verses that summarize Paul’s thoughts and leaving behind some of the more troublesome ones.   I wonder….what should I do with a blog entry?   Would it be better to point out the highlights or to contrast them against some of the problematic verses?    Should I summarize what Paul is saying?    And thinking of that, why would I need to summarize it?    Anyone reading this blog can just as easily read the Scripture for themselves.  
Ugh.    I don’t know what to do.
Well, how about this…I will try to touch on all three ideas, without getting too involved in any of them.   It’s probably better to see the whole of Scripture clearly than to be very familiar with a very small part.
Paul begins with a wonderful verse about the fact we are no longer condemned to death once we accept Jesus.   I can be accused, but I cannot be convicted because Jesus has taken away all evidence of my sin.  You can’t find me guilty of sinning, because there is no evidence remaining.   Praise the Lord!
Paul moves quickly through the points he brought up in yesterday’s reading.   1. The law cannot save us, and it was never meant to.  2.  Our awareness of the law only awakened more sinful desires in me…desires I wouldn’t have known were sinful if I didn’t have the law to compare them to.  3. Christ is the fulfillment of the law, and the beginning of a new covenant.  The old covenant ended with our spiritual death and rebirth.  4.  When we accept Christ by faith we are reborn into a new covenant.  5. If I listen to and obey my sinful desires I will begin to “spiral down”.  4.  The Holy Spirit living within me once I accept Christ is evidence that I am “reborn”.    Since I am a new creation, I have no obligation to my old nature.  5.  I am able to resist my old nature by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in me.
This brings Paul to the logical conclusion that the believer will quit sinning. (8:4,9,12)   Although he doesn’t say it specifically, he implies that the believer can resist the old nature and can live everyday in the new nature, which means that we stop sinning.    As the chapter progresses, Paul reflects on the wonderful realization that nothing in all of creation can separate us from God’s love.    And the Holy Spirit who is working within us helps us in our weakness and inability by assisting us to pray correctly, etc.    
Hang on….as wonderful as everything is in Chapter 8, chapter 9 is going to raise our eyebrows.
Paul accepts that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Issac.   God could have worked through either one, but he chose Issac.   Ishmael is a child of Abraham, but there is no salvation to be found in his descendants…so even though he is a child of Abraham, he is not a child of the promise.  Issac didn’t choose to be the child of promise and Ishmael didn’t choose to be rejected…God did that.   Therefore Paul says that God can choose whoever he wants and reject whoever he wants.    For instance, take Pharaoh as an example.   God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would resist, and in doing so he brought His people out of Egypt, just as He planned.     Listening to Paul here, we would understand that some are selected and some are rejected.   Verses 22 and 23 identify the two groups as “destined for destruction” and “prepared in advance for His glory”.    Paul even answers his own anticipated question when he asks “what right does God have to punish me for being bad when he destined me for this from the very beginning?”  by saying “you don’t have any right to even ask the question.  God is God and does whatever He wants”.
Whoa!   Does that mean that some people are created by God simply to be destroyed?   Yes.  That’s what it would seem Paul is saying.    However, that train of thought doesn’t fit with the rest of the Bible.   Paul’s words without the rest of the Bible could cause us to believe that some are chosen before time began to be saved, and others to be lost.    But since we have the rest of the Bible (and the rest of Paul’s writings) we know that isn’t true.    For example:  why would Paul feel so strongly that he must share the Gospel with others if they were destined to be in heaven anyway?   Why the comment about “how can they know unless someone tells them, etc.” if they were eventually going to a place “prepared for them in advance”?      
I think what Paul is saying is that bad things are going to happen, and as much as we would like it not to be true, sometimes those bad things are going to be caused by us.   But that doesn’t mean that God cannot forgive and use us to do good.  Paul was the worst of the worst when he was Saul.  He killed Christians by the boatload, and yet God forgave him and transformed him.     If it wasn’t too late for Paul, then Pharaoh could have had the same opportunity.   Judas could have repented and gone to heaven.    The real difference between Judas and Peter is that Peter repented and was reinstated.   That can happen to anyone.    John 3:16 tells us that Christ came to die for the whole world, and that anyone who accepts Him would be saved.    Paul isn’t refuting that, he’s simply saying that there are those who will not choose Christ, and since Christ lives outside of our timeline, He already knows who they are.  He didn’t make them that way, they chose it of their own free will.
Chapter 10:11 says “anyone who believes in Him will be saved”.    Paul isn’t limiting who Christ came for, and he isn’t trying to say that some were created only to be destroyed.