I am also currently thinking about:
John Piper and Romans 9-11
They need more thought (together and separately) than I’ve yet had time for, but I’m struggling to fit Romans 9 into a ‘God as Giver’ paradigm, or at least this bit:
“Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—”
Yes, I get that verse 23 goes on to say that the ultimate purpose of God showing His wrath and power is to bless the ‘objects of His mercy’ – so it’s a ‘good’ thing….but it still seems a little more John Piper than Mike Reeves.
I’ve had a pretty love-hate relationship with Romans 9-11 since I became a Christian – with much more hating than loving, for the most part. I started off by ignoring it because I couldn’t deal with the God I encountered there. Then I had a mini Copernican revolution (hugely influenced by Mr. Piper) and became a Calvinist 18months ago, at the end of a long period of intellectual repentance for all the (spiritual) crimes I committed while studying theology(!). Suddenly Romans 9 made sense, and in fact, although still scary, was good news. God was huge and terrifying, but He was also astoundingly full of grace to rescue me, and I could love Romans 9 for the first time. Now I’ve started listening to Glen Scrivener’s opinions …and I’m back to wrestling. How do I see God as Giver and still do justice to this God who says:
2 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a]28You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. 30 I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. 32It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.
God promises all the blessings of the new covenant – a new heart, a new spirit, the ability to obey God – and He says He’ll do it for the sake of His own holiness. When I read that, I wonder whether Mr. Piper was right all along and ‘God’s highest concern is His own holiness’.
And yet, there’s something about the Ezekiel passage that encourages me. God says ‘Israel, I’m not doing this for your sake, so be ashamed and confounded for your ways.’ (v.32) That is, don’t think that this blessing shows that you’re in the right with me – you haven’t earned this. So maybe God’s declaration that ‘I’m not doing this for your sake, Israel’ isn’t so much, ‘I’m not doing this out of love for you but out of concern for My own reputation’ but ‘I’m not doing this because you’ve earned it by your deeds, but because of My own great character – My perfection – which is epitomised by this pouring out of mercy on you despite the fact that you don’t deserve it’.
Nonetheless, despite the fact that that makes me feel somewhat hopeful, I still feel very confused by it all and would welcome any corrections/comments people have. I think a lot more reading and prayer is in order before I lay this to rest…