Sovereign Election: Is God Impartial?

Gandolfi Allegory of Justice

“God shows no partiality”, contended Paul of Tarsus in his epistle to the Romans (2:11). Paul explained that the righteous and holy judgment of God falls on those who do not see fit to acknowledge Him1.  God will render to all, first to Jews and then Gentiles, according to what they deserve (2:6).

Gruesomely, the whole world is held accountable because all, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin. “None is righteous, no, not one,” Paul quoted Psalms 14:1-32, “no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless” (Rom. 3:10-12 ESV).  N. T. Wright sum it well,  “[t]he whole world is accountable to God: all people are obviously guilty, and must now face God as their judge.”(Wright 2004: 49)

Although according to the works of the law, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”(3:23 ESV), God’s righteousness is revealed to those whom God, in Jesus Christ, chose before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him.

Those, who God foreknew and also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, are said to have been called, justified and glorified, according to the riches of His free gift of grace, through redemptive work of Christ Jesus (Rom. 8 cf. Ephes. 1:3-11). Craig S. Keener, I suppose, errs in using present tense viz., “God choosing people (8:29–30)”(Keener 2009: Amazon Kindle loc.3974). The usage of past tense viz., foreknew, predestined, called, justified and glorified indicates that Paul understood that God had already sovereignly chose His people.

God shows no partiality. His righteous justice is poured to all who have sinned. To those who God elected, their justice,  was mercifully poured upon Christ Jesus, nailed at the cross. It was there the holy and righteous wrath of God upon His past, present and future chosen people was poured in full strength. It was there the wrath of God was not only quenched but their debt forever paid by the atoning work of Christ Jesus. It was there the righteous wrath of God and His pure everlasting love for His people shined the most.

At the cross, Christ Jesus reconciled those whom God the Father gave Him (John 6:44 cf John 17) from the wrath to come. (1 Thes. 1:10) Through Christ atoning work, He, in love, saved them from the wrath of God. (Ro. 5:10)

Romans 9:14’s disturbing question of God’s fairness emerged from the idea that it was from eternally past, before the foundation of the world, that God according to the good pleasure of His will and in love, not only elected His people but also predestined them for adoption as sons in Christ Jesus to be holy and blameless before Him. (Eph. 1:3-7)  His choice, accord to Paul, was not based on foreseen character of the elects, but God’s alone.

Readings of Roman 9:1-13 that does not trigger a reader to question God’s righteousness in electing His people can be said to have failed to grasp Paul’s case. The notion that given prevenient grace God chose those who He foresaw would freely choose Him, for example, appears to be incorrect because not only would it make Paul’s answers, namely God has mercy and compassion on whomever He has mercy and compassion (9: 15-16a) and that God’s choice did not depend on the subject’s foreseen response, one who runs, but solely on God (9: 16b-16c), offbeat but also his anticipated question of prima facie unfairness of God (9:14) uncalled-for.

The plausible understanding of Romans 9:1-13 that calls for Paul’s anticipated question and answers, I think, is that which view God’s sovereign election based on the character of God and not of the elects. It is Godwho saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”(1 Timothy 1:19 ESV)

Is God impartial? No. The demanded justice for the wages of sin is given to all without partiality. The wages of those who He chose in His Son were fully paid by the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. God’s mercy lavished upon those whom He chose is simply an amazing grace that cannot be demanded to be given to all.

Bibliography:

Keener, Craig S. (2009) Romans. A New Covenant Commentary. Cascade Books – Eugene, Oregon. Amazon Kindle Edition.

Wright, N. T. (2004). Paul for Everyone: Romans Part 1: Chapters 1-8. Both volumes include glossaries. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.


[1] Those whom He has gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done, and they are they who are filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless and ruthless (Romans 1).

[2] Repeated in 53:1-3

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14 thoughts on “Sovereign Election: Is God Impartial?

  1. Every single Scripture which refers to “the impartiality of God” refers to His justice – never to the exercise of His grace.. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but I wrote a post of “The Foreknowledge of God” and dealt with a lot of the misconceptions on that subject about God’s choice which isn’t His choice at all.

    Those whom God judges at the last day will have no complaint. No one will be judged unfairly at that time.

    As far as “irresistible” is concerned, there is another way to look at it besides coercion, which is how the Arminian generally looks at it. But there is an irresistible, such as food to as a starving man or water to a woman dying of thirst.. Our Lord Himself uses such imagery when He blessed those who “hunger” and “thirst.”

  2. The Soteriology topic is so loaded. I’m actually somewhere between Arminianism and Calvinism because I take points from both sides. From my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong, the key difference is the population set of all whom are candidates for salvation. Arminists say all of mankind that ever lived and hard-deterministic Calvinists choose an elected few. From that I further understand that the hard determinants say that because of that there is “irresistible grace”, so there fore there is no way for you to not get into heaven. I disagree with the Calvinists on that because salvation is an interactive (“if you confess with your mouth..”, Rom 10:9) and reciprocal activity and salvation is not a license to sin because you are “chosen” (“What then? Shall we sin because” …Romans 6:15). However if the Calvinists are making a statement of the election of responsibility among believers then I whole heartily agree.

    I personally don’t really feel bothered by the topic of Soteriology because both sides evangelize and spread the gospel. The only thing I feel could cause problems is “irresistible grace”.

    • Thanks Zania for your input. I believe it does not matter what Arminians nor Reformed say but what Scripture reveals.

      Though I hold Reformed understand, I do not agree that grace is irresistible. It is resisted all the time. Traditional reformed Christians like Augustine, Aquinas and Anselm would say that God’s grace to His people is effectual.

      • Isn’t it necessary though to distinguish between saving grace and common grace? Traditionally, irresistible grace has referred, not to the Word of God or the sacraments or the fellowship of believers, etc. – but to saving grace, viz. if you are elect before the foundations of the world you will therefore be saved; the saving grace of God in Christ as applied by the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted by that elect individual, nor would they want to.

  3. Yikes Prayson – looks like you really kicked the Arminian bee-hive huh? As curious as Ishaiya’s comments are i gotta say my favourite so far has gotta be from “gratiaetnatura” – love the idea that someone would rather not believe in God at all than believe He is actually sovereign in all things including their salvation :S

    As to the actual question you pose, i’d agree that God is not impartial. To my recollection, when speaking of partiality, the Scriptures simply state that God “shows” no partiality, not that He – in His being – is impartial by nature.

  4. Time is a created thing. You could say that God creates all history in a single moment. “I am the beginning and the end.” Get that down in to your soul and questions about foreknowledge start to look different.

    • It is an interesting study Rob, time. Physicists say that time did not exist before the universe came into existence. There needs to be some form of change, before time can exist. They have also proved, both mathematically and by observation of high speed sub-atomic particles, that time is relative – time depends on how fast you are moving. So time exists because the universe exists.

      Physics, in this case is in harmony with what is set forth in Genesis, that almighty God created a tri-universe of space, time and matter. From the biblical perspective, it’s revealed that God is working on a “plan,” that is on a “time schedule.”

      Time is critical and a commodity and the Bible is full of references to Time and how it relates to our lives.

      I believe one particular place of rest and application in relation to God’s sovereignty and rule is His guidance and work to accomplish His purposes for our lives individually and corporately. Paul has this in mind, at least in part, in Philippians 1:6 when he says: “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

    • We were made for God’s glory and God demands it!

      “Selfish” is an adjective we attribute to humans. We would be horrified at the thought of a parent having a child for the sole purpose of having the child serve or worship them. God has existed before time and has always existed. God is Creator and therefore there is no greater being than God. God cannot search outside of Godself to find someone with more power or more glory. So there is no purpose in God being selfish because all Creation belongs to God! As human beings it is so easy to project human attributes onto God, such as when some might say that God created us because he was “lonely”. Loneliness is a human attribute. So unfortunately we cannot think in human terms. When a human glorifies him or herself it only causes hurt to others, not joy. Even the human Jesus was not selfish. He did all he did not to draw attention to himself, but to glorify his Father in Heaven.

      The second point is that “selfish” is defined as lacking consideration for others. God continuously gives and pours out blessings on his creation and onto us.

      • Well I am God, and I say you are all silly people barking up the wrong tree. As you can neither disprove or disqualify my claim, then you will just have to assume that I am stark raving bonkers, but also accept that none of you is self-aware enough to understand the magnitude of what it is I’m saying to you. You do not speak for me, you speak only for yourselves, and in that you will only see yourselves.

    • … care to qualify that at all. Or does, “if God is sovereign in all things – including my salvation – then i don’t believe in Him anymore” pretty much sum up?

    • Selfish is probably a poor definition. The first commandment states, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” But is this selfishness? I don’t want me wife to give her love to another and sleep with another man, so am I selfish?

      In regards to your post Prayson there is an old familiar illustration which says that the same sun will melt the wax but harden the clay. It is the character of, or the condition of, the element and not the sun that melts the wax and hardens the clay. God is not going to harden anyone. He did not harden Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh already possessed a hard heart, and God only brought that fact out into the open.

      In order to understand what God is saying through Paul one has to read what is before and what is after Chapter 9 to get the big picture. To grasp the true meaning of Romans 9, one must also read Chapters 10 and 11.

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