A QUESTION I WAS ASKED:
'I Cannot Figure Why God Would Decide That Esau is Destined to Hell No Matter What...?'
Whoa there! Whoa there!
It sounds to me that you have been influenced by some of the worst imbalances to be found in certain areas of Calvinism (or, more likely, Hypercalvinism). The truth is, the Bible nowhere states that Esau is 'destined' for Hell; in fact, apart from the 'beast' and the 'false prophet', the Bible never mentions certain specific people who are going to Hell (although it lists very many who are clearly saved!)
Let us look at the Scripture which has been so sadly misrepresented:
We are looking at Romans 9 and I might suggest that the reader reads the whole chapter – without any doctrinal pre-suppositions! Just read the chapter. I am here going to quote from an article I wrote around one year ago since it covers some of the ground we need to look at:
Here Paul is clearly discussing what some have sneeringly called 'Replacement Theology'- Christians now become the true heirs of Abraham and the true people of God. We are spiritual Israelites. Even as a passionate Benjaminite, Paul cheerfully upholds this great truth.
Here we read of God's choice in how He uses people to fulfil His mighty purposes upon earth; He is never dependent on any real or imagined merits of the people He uses. God chose Jacob above Esau for a specific purpose; He is utterly sovereign. By the way, salvation and heaven and hell are not being discussed here. Please note the context: it is this present life and world and how a sovereign God decides to use people to fulfil His purposes upon earth which is under discussion.
So is God unfair in how He may use people upon this earth?
No. The Creator God has every right to say, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy...' God is under no obligation here. There is absolutely nothing here to suggest that Paul is discussing God's calling of certain people to Eternal Life, and his rejection of others. God's 'hardening' of Pharaoh is discussed, verses 17-20, then we are presented with the picture of the potter having a perfect right to decide how he will use his lump of clay, verses 20-21. God alone decides how He will raise up people or nations to fulfil His purposes. We may liken this to things in more recent times: God has powerfully used Great Britain and the United States to send countless millions of Bibles around the world. Yes, other nations too, of course, but especially us. We should not congratulate ourselves about this - its just the way that God ordained that it would be done, not because we are better than other peoples. So, in that sense, He 'raised us to honour'. But God also - in His perfect wisdom - decided that the German people would play a major part in two 20th century world wars; in that sense, He 'raised them to dishonor' (perhaps we should say, 'lowered them to dishonor') - just the way He decided to do it; it does not mean that Germans are more evil than Brits, and it certainly does not mean that all Germans are doomed to Hell!! .....'
Nothing in Romans 9 states that Esau – or even the Pharaoh of Exodus for that matter – is going to an eternal Hell. The chapter discusses how God may choose to work things out in His plan down here on earth; He is completely free to use people and historical episodes to work out His grander purposes (of course, when we come to Romans 11, Paul has good news for the Jews: they may be rejected now in favour of the Gentiles but God will eventually do a powerful work among them - Romans 11:25-36)! But we leave that subject aside because our question concerns people like Esau who seem to suffer rejection in the way that God works out His purposes upon this earth, yet there is a connection: physical Israel too presently seem to be 'on the outside' because the way that the Grand Sculptor is working out His purposes, yet the final verses of Romans 11 make it plain that God will finally do a powerful work among them, even so those individuals who have not enjoyed the blessings and the good things of life in their earthly existences are not without hope!
Romans 9:22 says this:
'What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom he also called...'
Here a comparison is drawn between those 'prepared for destruction' (those who have not enjoyed God's favour and are apparently without hope) and 'the objects of his mercy' (believers), but while 'prepared for destruction' may initially sound fatalistic, it is not so. Don't forget that elsewhere in the New Testament even those of us who are now Christians are described as formerly 'without hope' (Ephesians 2:12).
But what about God 'hating' Esau (Romans 9:13) - what can that mean?
This is equivalent to saying, 'Jacob I chose, but Esau I rejected' – this does not refer to any personal hatred God felt toward Esau. God did not allow the good things to travel the way of Esau and his descendants on this earth because He was fulfilling a plan through the line of Jacob and Isaac culminating in Christ, in that sense (and in no other way) He was -effectively - 'hating Esau'.
Jean Calvin – great theologian that he was – saw the election and choice of God in the way He works things out in this present world, as discussed in Romans 9-11, as Eternal election: although it is clear that that is not under discussion in most parts of these chapters and yet when eternal election is discussed in these chapters it is mostly highly positive (Romans 11:12,15-36)!
Unfortunately, the later Calvinism (over which Calvin himself obviously had no control), took a somewhat flawed understanding to an extreme which becomes virtually the Fatalism of the pagans, with our decisions – as to whether or not we will follow Christ – already made for us (despite the Bible's constant stress for all of us to choose!). Eventually some hypercalvinists even refused to evangelize – 'because the Lord knows His own' – even though the New Testament constantly stresses evangelism! This is what happens when our doctrinal preferences start to take over and we eventually only interpret the Bible through our favoured doctrinal-colored lenses! Grace is certainly a biblical doctrine, and a joyful one at that, yet a few appear to view it as something which allows the believer to simply lie in a huge, soft spiritual bed of satisfaction, comfort and smugness while God is rushing around in order to try to please and to increase the believer's comfort! While works will save no one, the New Testament appears to say to us, Do you have faith? Prove it by your works!! (James 2:14-20).
Robin A. Brace
MUSELTOF COUNTERCULT AND APOLOGETICS
WITNESS TO THE WORD