election and the free offer of the gospel

“Joseph and Jacob”, Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow

Romans 10:5-15
For Sunday, August 10, 2008
Proper 14

I find it interesting that just after Paul has taught about election in chapter 9 he now talks about free will in chapter 10. Election once again refers to the fact that no one can come to faith unless God chooses them. “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Yet now in Rom. 10:9 Paul writes of the free offer of the gospel: “… if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

How can both divine election and the free offer of the gospel be true? We don’t know. What we do know is that Paul teaches both which suggests we ought to do the same. These two ideas are like two sides of a mountain whose intersection at the peak is obscured by a cloud. For Western minds, this is deeply troubling, because we want to categorize, harmonize, and therefore control all our bits of knowledge. Yet to force election and the free offer of salvation into our control would only diminish the gospel.

Our calling as followers of Christ is not to control but to trust and obey while proclaiming the gospel as it really is. It seems to me the free offer of forgiveness from a wild and powerful God is just what the world needs.


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