Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Election not Based on Good or Bad Works

In Rom. 9:11, "works" are clearly construed as the doing of either "good or bad." That's important, not least in the light of the claims of the proponents of the new perspective on Paul (NPP). The NPP folks take "works" in Paul's vocabulary to refer to the "boundary markers" or "ethnic badges" of circumcision, food laws, and Sabbath that would distinguish Jews from Gentiles. But Rom. 9:11 provides a crystal clear instance of Pauline usage of the "works" vocabulary where the meaning cannot be reduced to mere "boundary markers" or "ethnic badges."

No, the ethnic badge bit just will not work here. Here "works" are construed by Paul in broad moral, behavioral terms—the doing of either "good or bad." And that includes the gamut of human behavior after being born. Moreover, since he chooses Jacob and not Esau, we are also looking at the period of redemptive history prior to the given of the torah. That's also important. Being a good reader of redemptive history in Scripture (and being an inspired apostle of the risen Jesus as well), Paul understands that God's election of Jacob and not of Esau does not depend on their good or bad moral behavior. Not even a little. And so the implications for our understanding of justifcation—as Paul makes evident (e.g., Rom. 8:30; 9:33-10:4; 11:7)—are equally clear, and enourmously important. As in, eternally important; as in, one's status on the last day.

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