How do you explain Esau?

Here I am again.

I finally went to the part of your website that brought me there in the first place. I was on challies.com and found a link to Dr. James White's site. While there, I found that he teaches and believes OSAS. Additionally, I found that he has a running argument, an argument that has become quite public, going with Dan Corner who I have quoted on my site. This argument has become quite ugly and, as much as I agree with Corner, I do not appreciate his hostile, accusing manner. His attitude precludes any true communication.

I found your site by going to Altavista and entering the words "predestination once saved always saved". I was looking for an explanation for those passages in scripture that seem to contradict the teachings, pro and con, about predestination and man's part - free will and personal choice - in salvation. I enjoyed reading, but I did not find what I was looking for. I appreciate your efforts to defend those verses that clearly indicate there is a choice to be made (by man), but you never dealt with the apparent contradictions. Like the OSAS teachers who defend (with scripture) their points, you defended your points (with scripture) without trying to understand why there are two sides to this issue in the first place. I wish I could come across some dialogue about that. Everything I'm able to find on the subject is never any more that a thorough defense of one side or the other.

You have heard the saying, "where there is smoke there is fire", and I am saying that these disagreements so easily defended with verse after verse proves but one thing. Apparent contradictions are found in the Holy Bible after all and man has yet to understand these things. Disagreements, where each side can be defended scripturally, would not be possible if these apparent contradictions did not exist. I hope you have noticed that I keep saying, "apparent" contradictions. You see, I cannot believe that the Bible is at fault. True contradictions in scripture do not exist if God's word is inerrant, which I believe it is. Yet, those apparent contradictions do exist. I want to find a way to tie it all together. I want to find and understand the truth. I'm not looking just to prove my own belief system. I want to understand fully, if that be possible.

Article Title: "I came across some articles in support of Calvinism and I have been in misery ever since."
Quote: "I think you have found the flaw in Calvinism, or at least the reason I don't believe it. If you believe that God decides who will get to heaven and who will suffer for eternity in hell, then what you are saying is that God loves some people but not others. Not because of anything about that person, but because He chooses to love some and not others. That is not the God that I personally know and whose words I read daily. That is not the God that claims to love everyone and who claims that He does not want anyone to perish."

However, the Bible does say that God, by His own choice, loves some and hates others, and this decision is apparently not based upon anything that person has or has not done. Please read on to find those passages and then tell me, how do you and I (those of us who believe man has free will and an obligation to choose one way or the other way) deal with these verses? Here are the apparent contradictions I refer to - we must digest these truths and try to understand how this can be since it does not agree with those scriptures that we use to defend our position.

THE BIBLE DOES SAY THAT GOD HATES SOME PEOPLE AND LOVES OTHER PEOPLE ACCORDING TO HIS OWN WILL:

Malachi 1:1-3
The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? [Was] not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.

THE BIBLE DOES SAY THAT GOD'S CHOICE TO LOVE SOME AND HATE OTHERS IS NOT BASED UPON ANYTHING THAT PERSON DID OR DID NOT DO:

Referring to the twins, Jacob and Esau, we read,
Romans 9:11-13 For [the children] being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

THE BIBLE SAYS THAT WE ARE NOT TO QUESTION GOD OR REPLY ABOUT WHETHER THIS IS RIGHT OR WRONG OF HIM. (Nevertheless, I'm hoping we can explain it.)

These next verses seem to say that it is NOT OUR BUSINESS to ask WHY or HOW God can LOVE one baby/child/person/nation and HATE the other. Apparently, its simply up to Him and is His business only for the word says:
Romans 9:14-20
What shall we say then? [Is there] unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? NAY but, O MAN, WHO ART THOU that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus?

My response is in Green:

I will deal with the passages you quoted, but first I want to address the so called contradictions. There are no contradictions in God's word, so when we find something that appears it contradicts something else we can be sure it is our understanding that is clouded not God's word. This is exactly why I don't go into depth explaining all the passages others through up. Take predestination for example, I can show you that God loves the whole world and that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, so what they call predestination can't be true. Does that mean that they can't find passages that seem to say some people are predestined? Sure can they, but they can't truly mean that if those other passages are also true, so we have to look deeper to see where the truth is. I have dealt with this in several of my pages, but you are right I don't take verse for verse and explain them. For one we can only understand to a certain extent. For example, I do believe what God's word says that we were predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Does that mean that God chose us and we had nothing to do with it? No, it just means that it was God's will that we be conformed to the image of Christ. We are reading too much into it if we take that to mean that it was only us that God willed to be conformed to the image of Christ.

I know you have heard the passages before but let me quote just two to show you what I mean:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. [NASB-U]

If predestination is true, then who is God being patient with? Since their view says that He chooses us and it is on His time, then He must be being patient with Himself, plus it would make Him out to be a liar, since He chooses and since He claims to want all men to come to repentance yet He only enables a few.

1 Tim. 4:9-10 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. [10] For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. [NASB-U]

Savior of all men, especially of believers. But Calvinist claim that Jesus only died for the sins of those who God predestined, which would mean that He is not the savior of all men. No doctrine can be true if it contradicts God's word and predestination does just that. Jesus died as the savior of all men, but only those who believe and follow Him will be saved.

So that brings us back to contradictions such as God hating Esau. I try to stress to everyone who will listen that you have to take the Bible as a whole and not make stands on isolated passages or you will be prone to error. Another thing is that we have to be careful when we read the Bible, we need to understand the cultural aspects of it. It was not written to us, or for that matter to English speaking people, nor was it even written in English. So we have to be careful not to read into the Scripture our own cultural biases.

This is what happens when people read about Esau. They read the word hate and take it as meaning what they think of as hate. This is not a mistranslation, the world in Hebrew is hate, but the problem is that in the culture and in the Hebrew language hate can mean other things besides what we think of as hate. Even if we didn't know that, we can still tell that this can't mean hate in the normal sense of the word because of what Jacob finds when he finally returns home.

Genesis 33:8-9 And he said, "What do you mean by all this company which I have met?" And he said, "To find favor in the sight of my lord." [9] But Esau said, "I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own." [NASB-U]

Now if God truly hated Esau then Esau was more powerful than God, since Esau was also blessed and had prospered. So this is a clue that the word hate here does not mean intense dislike, as we think of it. That does not explain what it does mean, it just means we have to search deeper to find out what it really means.

One more passage which shows that God looked after Esau and his descendants:

Deut. 2:20-23 (It is also regarded as the land of the Rephaim, for Rephaim formerly lived in it, but the Ammonites call them Zamzummin, [21] a people as great, numerous, and tall as the Anakim, but the Lord destroyed them before them. And they dispossessed them and settled in their place, [22] just as He did for the sons of Esau, who live in Seir, when He destroyed the Horites from before them; they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. [23] And the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and lived in their place.) [NASB-U]

The important part to our discussion is verse 22, just as He did for all the sons of Esau. Again it sure doesn't look like God hated Esau in the way we think of hate, or He sure has a funny way of showing it.

Okay, let's try to figure out what is going on here. For that we need to look at the New Testament.

Romans 9:6-13 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; [7] nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "through Isaac your descendants will be named." [8] That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. [9] For this is the word of promise: "At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son." [10] And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; [11] for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, [12] it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger." [13] Just as it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." [NASB-U]

This passage gives us the answer, but you need a little background to understand it. The Jews were arrogant, they claimed God's love because of who they were. They said Abraham is our father and therefore we are God's people. But what they were really saying was that they didn't need to follow or honor God because they were physical descendants of Abraham. God is trying to show them that is wrong. So in this passage Paul makes it clear that physical birth is not what makes you a descendant of Abraham when it comes to faith. In other words just because you were born a Jew does not mean you will be saved, you must believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him. But what does this have to do with Esau? Everything. Esau and Jacob were twins. In the Hebrew culture the oldest son would get everything. So it was important which twin was born first. We know from the account that the birthright belonged to Esau because he was born first. So by cultural law he was to inherit everything. But we also know that did not happen. Why didn't it happen? Because God made it not happen.

God rejected the physical birth order and instead made Jacob, the second born, the heir and the line of the Messiah. This was unheard of in the culture but God is making a point. Now Paul is making the same point, just because a person is a Jew will not save them, they will be rejected unless they come to Christ through faith, not physical birth, and those who are second, the gentiles, will be accepted as heirs of Abraham by their faith.

So let me go back to the hate part. God rejected (hated) Esau as the heir and instead appointed (loved) Jacob. See the word is hate, but it does not mean what we think of, instead it means that God rejected his physical place and replaced him with one who did not deserve the place. This explains why God would bless Esau as a great nation while saying He hated him.

The same idea is seen in this passage:

Romans 11:13-24 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, [14] if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. [15] For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? [16] If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.
[17] But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, [18] do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. [19] You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." [20] Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; [21] for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. [22] Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. [23] And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. [24] For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? [NASB-U]

The natural branches were rejected because they depended on their physical birth to get them into the Kingdom of God, while wild branches were grafted in because of their faith. So you could say that God hated some of the natural branches and loved some of the wild branches, but it again is not the hate and love that we normally think of. Paul tells us that those hated branches can again be grafted back in if they will come to faith.

Now let me address Pharoh, because this is another area where people get off into the weeds. It is not that we are not to judge God's character, it is that we are not to judge Him for what He does because we don't know what we are talking about. We can judge God's character because He tells us what His character is and He is not a liar.

Remember you have to take Scripture in context and the context of Romans 9:14-20 is the same as the passage we just looked at. It is about rejection and God's purpose. But let me go back and speak about Pharoh. This passage makes is sound as if God made Pharoh do what he did, but is that true? It is true that God hardened Pharoh's heart, but did Pharoh have a real choice? Let's go look, the story starts in Exodus 5. Now look at these verses; Exodus 7:13 and 7:22, 8:19 and 8:32, and 9:7. Then look at Exodus 9:12. It was then that God hardened Pharoh's heart. Up to that time he had a choice, now granted God knew what his choice would be from the start, but it was not that God did not give him a chance, he chose to harden his own heart. Again let's look for confirmation in other places in Scripture of this:

Romans 1:18-27 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, [19] because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. [20] For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. [21] For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [22] Professing to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
[24] Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. [25] For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
[26] For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, [27] and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. [NASB-U]

God gives us all choices, but there is a point past which those choices disappear and God no longer deals with us but rather takes us to the logical end of our actions and choices. But that still does not explain the statement that we should not question God's ways. Again this is not always what we first think of when we hear those words.

Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." [NASB-U]

What does this mean? Well again let me go to other Scripture to interpret this passage:

Esther 4:14 "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?" [NASB-U]

Here is the point. Esther was born at a specific time for a specific purpose. Her purpose was to follow God and thereby save her people. Pharoh was also born at a specific time and for a specific purpose; his was to bring glory to God by hardening his heart so that God could show His glory. But don't miss the point. God did not make Pharoh who he was, but God knew who Pharoh was before he was born and God arranged for him to be born when he was and in the position that he was for God's purposes. This does not take Pharoh's choice away, it just shows that God knows the beginning from the end and we don't and therefore we have no right to question why things happen.

Again it is important to understand the context of all this. Remember Paul is talking about the physical Jews who claimed to be saved because they were descendants of Abraham. Now Paul is telling them that many of them are going to spend eternity in hell because they rejected Jesus Christ. Their argument was that God was unfair, why would He cause them to be born as Jews just to send them to hell. Paul is making the point that it is their choice whether to reject or not, but they should not question God's judgment as to who is born when and into what nation, Jew or Gentile. God is saying that He will have mercy on the Gentiles and reject the Jews and they have no say in the matter nor does any man. The Jews could not just have babies and expect them to be saved, because the physical didn't matter, it was what was in the person's heart that counted.

I hope you are beginning to see why I don't address all those passages on my page. I would have to write a book to do so, there is no one sentence answer to them, and to be honest I just don't have the time to do this kind work for all of them. There is, however, and answer to them.

Ralph

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