God’s sovereign will in election and regeneration Volume 1 number 3


3. God’s sovereign will in election and regeneration Volume 1 number 3

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. So then it is not

of him that willeth, nor him that runneth, but God that showeth mercy. Ro. 9:15,16

15)The all important aspect of verse 15 is that in support of the “God forbid” of verse 14 the mercy of God is not a matter of justice to those who are partakers of it but altogether of free and sovereign grace. This true whether the mercy be viewed as the theocratic election of Israel to covenant privileges or, in terms of what is the apostle’s particular interest, as the mercy that is unto salvation. Justice presupposes rightful claims, and mercy can be operative only where no claim of justice exists. Since mercy alone is the constraining consideration, the only explanation is God’s free and sovereign determination. He has mercy as he pleases. This is the emphasis of Exodus 33:19 and to this Paul makes his definitive appeal. Back of this thesis is the polemic of the apostle in the earlier part of the epistle for the principle of grace.

16)Can be regarded as the inference drawn from the Scripture quoted in verse 15 but it is preferably regarded as a statement of what is involved in the truth just asserted. The relation would be then as follows: if God has mercy on whomsoever he wills, “then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy”. The emphasis falls here on the exclusion of man’s determination as the negative counterpart to God’s exercise of mercy. The first negation refers to human volition, the determination belonging to man’s will; the second refers to man’s active exertion (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24, 26; Gal. 2:2; 5:7; Heb. 12:1). The mercy of God is not an attainment gained by the most diligent labour to that end but a free bestowal of grace. No statement could be more antithetic to what accrues from claims of justice or as the awards of labour. 8

Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Jas. 1:18

18)James designates God the Father of lights. By implication, however, he calls God our Father. Even though he omits the word Father, he employs the concept to give birth. Fatherhood is part of God’s nature. He is the Father of Jesus Christ and through him is our Father. a. “He chose to give us birth.” The first verb in this sentence is “chose”; because of its position it receives emphasis. “We have been born of his saving will (Jas. 1:18), and because God himself is the unalterable on (cf. Jas. 1:17), his gracious will cannot be overthrown.” We did not choose him; rather, he chose us and saved us from death. He gave us new life in Christ Jesus. In verse 15 James depicts sin giving birth to death. In verse 18 he states that God “chose to give us birth through the word of truth.” God is our creator but also our redeemer. In this verse the context favours the interpretation that God is our re-creator. He gives us life through spiritual birth. b. “Through the word of truth.” Paul uses this expression a number of time (11 Cor. 6:7; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 11 Tim. 2:15). It refers to the gospel, as Paul explains in his letter to the Colossians. When this gospel is proclaimed, God regenerates the sinner and reforms him into “new creation” (11 Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:10). Writes D. Edmond Hiebert, “There is no substitute for the proclamation of the gospel.” c. “That we might be a kind of firstfruits.” God created, regenerated and renewed us. We are his handiwork, his prize possession. James says that we are “a kind of firstfruits.”

In Old Testament times, the first fruits were holy and belonged to God: the first-born of man and of cattle, the first produce from the vineyard, orchard, and field (see, for instance, Exod. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 19:23-25; Num. 15:20-21; Deut. 18:4). However, already in the Old Testament the prophets began to use the expression figuratively. Jeremiah writes, “Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest” (Jer. 2:3). And in the New Testament, Christians are God’s first fruits (Rom. 11:16; 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:15). In his epistle, James calls us “a kind of firstfruits of all [God] created.” We belong to the countless multitude (symbolically represented as the 144,000) who “were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb” (Rev. 14:4).

What an honor! We are God’s first fruits and as such are holy. That is, God has chosen us from all his creatures to be holy and has dedicated us to himself. We belong to God. Therefore, let no one ever think that God can lead us astray. That is impossible, for he is holy and we, his first fruits, share his holiness. 9


8.John Murray, The New International Commentary On The New Testament, The Epistle To The Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, WM. B. Eerdmans, Reprinted 1982), Volume 11 p. 26.

9.Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, James and 1-111 John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 53, 54

Mr. Kettler is an ordained Presbyterian Elder and the owner of the http://www.Undergroundnotes.com web site where his theological, philosophical and political articles can be read. He has worked in corporate America for over 30 years. Mr. Kettler can be contacted by e-mail at: jack@kettlerwellness.com

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