A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 14

Providence (Part 2)

A continued discussion on providence, emphasizing that God is faithful to his promises.

Gerry Breshears
A Guide to Christian Theology
Lesson 14
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Providence (Part 2)

I. God is faithful.

A. Jacob and Esau

B. Pharaoh and Israel

C. The Metaphor of Clay

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Class Resources
  • There are two approaches to systematic theology: the deductive approach and the inductive approach. Find out how these two approaches differ and you need to understand each one.

  • We serve a personal God who speaks, telling us about himself and ourselves and the world around us. There are two types of ways that God reveals himself: general revelation and special revelation. In this lecture, you'lll discover what God says about himself through creation and your conscience.

  • Special revelation is a combination of the life of God revealed in his works and the words of God that tells us the significance and meaning of those acts. Discover how God reveals himself through special revelation and what we can know about him.

  • Know why the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture is foundational to an overall understanding of the Bible.

  • Learn how to deal with ambiguous passages in the Bible, why the Bible is silent on many issues, and whether God still speaks today.

  • Discover the names of God, their meanings, and their significance. 

  • Learn about the characteristics of God, including his compassion, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness, justice, jealousy, and holiness.

  • Learn about the characteristics of God, including his constancy, his omniscience, and his omnipotence.

  • Understand what it means that God is three persons, but still one God.

  • Learn about some key terms in systematic theology, including freedom, sovereignty, and election. 

  • Understand both Armenian and Calvinist perspectives on the doctrine of election.

  • Understand the difference between naturalism and creationism, and know the four approaches to Genesis. At this time, there is no sound after 20:30. 

  • Discussion on the three views of providence.

  • A continued discussion on providence, emphasizing that God is faithful to his promises.

  • An overview of the doctrine of humankind, including their origin, the biblical definition of spirit and soul, and the relationship between body and spirit.

  • A biblical definition of image of God.

  • An overview of sin, including its origin and essence.

  • A continued discussion on sin, including its consequences and degrees.

  • An overview of the deity and humanity of Christ.

  • A continued overview of the deity and humanity of Christ.

  • An overview of the life of Christ.

  • An overview of the Holy Spirit, including the role of the Holy Spirit.

  • A continued overview of the Holy Spirit, including what it means to be filled with Holy Spirit.

  • An overview of spiritual gifts, with emphasis on prophecy and tongues.

  • An overview of salvation and how people come into a relationship with God.

  • An overview of grace.

  • An overview of conversion, regeneration, and justification.

  • An overview of sanctification.

  • An overview of perseverance and security.

  • An overview of the church, including its definition, the priesthood of all believers, and the role of church in culture.

  • A continued overview of the church, including denominations and church government.

  • An overview of church polity, or simply how things get done in the church.

  • An overview of baptism.

  • An overview of communion, including the three views on the elements and various church traditions surrounding its administration.

  • An overview of death, including what happens after death and the prospect of future rewards.

  • An overview of God’s kingdom, including its present and future state.

  • An overview of the views on the Tribulation and the Millennium.

  • An overview of the eternal state, including the final judgment, hell, and the new heaven and earth.

  • A brief encouragement to church leaders.

  • A further discussion on the Bible, including translations, its authority, prophecy, and canon.

Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.

Course: A Guide to Christian Theology

Lecture: Excursus on Romans 9

This is the 14th lecture in the online series of lectures on a Guide to Christian Theology by Dr Breshears. Recommended Reading includes: Biblical References from the Course and Study Guides 1 – 39.

(Any slides, photos, study guides or outlines that the lecturer refers to should be down loaded separately. If they are not available, you may be able to find something similar using the Google© search engine.)

I. Secure in Our Salvation

Another passage that ends up being contentious is Romans 9. The heart of Romans 9 for the Calvinists says that God does whatever he wants anytime with anyone. He is working with individuals to bring them to do whatever he wants. I want to present my view in regards to this chapter. This chapter does not talk about individuals and salvation but rather it is a history of Israel to support Paul’s point that we can be secure. At the end of Romans 8 it says that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. So what about the Israelites? They have been cast aside and thus the beginning of Romans is asking, what about the Jews? The fundamental answer is not all ethnic Jews are saved and he develops this. Then he goes back to say that God is persistent and faithful to bless his sinful people because he has chosen them and he will not go back on his promise. I think this is the heart of what Romans 9 says.

II. Jacob and Israel; Esau and Edom

In Romans 9:11 it says, ‘though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls – she was told, the older will serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob I love, but Esau I hated.’ So both of these guys are deceivers, especially Jacob and then Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. In dealing with these two characters, God is faithful to his promise with Abraham, ‘out of your seed, a deliverer will come.’ So he picks Jacob and I think the point is that nobody is problematic enough that God can’t use them, especially in Jacob’s case. This is totally his sovereign choice as to which one to choose. Why did God hate Esau? And this does mean hate! We need to understand Old Testament illusions to understand the answer to this. Where is this quoted from? This is quoted from Malachi 1:2 “I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, “how have you loved us?’ “Is not Esau Jacob's brother?’ declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.’ If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,’ the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’’ Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!’ So Esau represents the nation of Edom that comes out of Esau. The same goes for Jacob; it is not the historical person but the people that come out of him. Edom represented evil and bad people who God brought destruction upon. God keeps being faithful to Jacob even though they as a nation don’t deserve it; oh he punishes them but he is still faithful to them. It doesn’t say that God hated Esau before he was born as it comes from Malachi and not from Genesis.

III. Their Faithfulness vs God’s Faithfulness

In Roman 9:14, ‘what shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.’ And this comes from Exodus 33. In Exodus 32, we have the golden calf with Moses coming down from the Mountain with the stone tablets and God becomes very angry with the Israelites. But Moses asks God to show him his glory. I will have mercy with whom I have mercy and compassion with whom I have compassion. So we see it was Israel in Exodus who had just committed heresy with the creation a golden calf to worship. What God is saying, he will have compassion on sinful Israel and in this he shows the depth of his mercy. Thus God says, I will have compassion on sinful Israel and it is not limited except to Israel. And this is consistent because of his commitment to the Israelites. A point here is that no one needs to earn God’s mercy. With Jacob and thus Israel God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend upon their faithfulness. It only depends on God promise to be faithful.

A. Pharaoh Again

Now is verse 17 in regards to Pharaoh where God commanded righteousness from Pharaoh but Pharaoh refuses as they go back and forth with Pharaoh’s response and the complex of different wills. God forces him to decide by presenting him with the different plagues. So whom does God have mercy on? He has mercy on Jacob and thus Israel and also sinners. Whom does he harden? Pharaoh who deserves it, but he was faithful to Israelites because of his promises to them and his covenant with them. In verse 19, the question is posed, ‘who resists God’s will?’ It doesn’t say they can’t; what it says is there is no sense to resisting God’s will. Both Pharaoh and Israel both resists God’s will. Why was Judah carried off to Babylon; it was because of their sin. He punishes them because of his love for them and allows them to return. No one is powerful enough to resist God’s will.

B. Reshaped Like Clay

What about the potter in verse 21? This is a metaphor from the Old Testament in Jeramiah 18:2 where it says, ‘go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.’ The pot he was making was flawed and so he reformed it into another pot. He doesn’t start with a new gob of wet clay. This refers to Israel; God is still faithful to them. He doesn’t destroy them; instead he works with them bringing them up to what God wants them to be. He says this starting with verse 6, ‘can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does? Like clay in the hand of the potter, so you are in my hand, Israel.’ God goes on to say that if he wants to bring destruction on a nation but that nation repents then he will relent. In verses 9 and 10 God says the opposite; if a nation is evil in his sight, he will reconsider the good he had intended to do for it. So we can say that is a matter of will within that nation who repents or doesn’t repent of their sins. So we see the responsiveness has a lot to do with what God does.

C. His Faithfulness Remains

Back to Romans 9:22-23, ‘what if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath that were prepared for destruction, in order to make now the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.’ The key verb here is ‘having endured with great patience.’ It doesn’t say who prepared them for destruction. The key verbs in 23 are ‘made known’ and ‘on those he prepared.’ God is preparing people for mercy and the people he is preparing are the Israelites; the righteous people of Israel. He is bearing with patience, not making them evil. But Israel tried to do it like Pharaoh; they didn’t pursue it by faith but as if it were based on works. So Romans 9 isn’t talking about individual salvation, it seems to me, except by application. It is not talking about God’s providence in my life except by analogy; it is talking about God faithfulness to bless his sinful people Israel as a proof to say that nothing can separate us from the love of God. When he decided to be faithful to us, he will do that. Yes, we can resist but his faithfulness remains regardless on his chosen people who we as Christians are now.

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