It's Not Arbitrary

Verlyn Verbrugge

READ : Romans 9:6-13

. . . so that God’s purpose in election might continue, not by works but by his call. (vv. 11-12)

Remember “Eenie, meenie, miny, mo”? As a kid when I couldn’t make a decision on what to do, I used that ditty to help me decide. That way the choice seemed arbitrary—chosen randomly for me.

Some people think God uses a totally arbitrary method like this to decide who will enter his kingdom. Paul asserts that God’s choice of Jacob was, in a sense, arbitrary. To use theological language, Jacob’s election was unconditional, based on nothing he was or did.

But note that God never said before Esau’s birth that he would be damned. He only implied that Jacob’s family tree would produce the Messiah, and that Esau had to shape his life around Jacob’s line: “The elder shall serve the younger” (v. 12; see Genesis 25:23).

But Esau and his descendants made life choices to serve idol gods and to fight against Israel. After centuries of wickedness, God finally said, “I have loved Jacob [the Israelites] but I have hated Esau [the Edomites]” (Malachi 1:2-3). Esau’s descendants were rejected on the basis of their sinful choices, not God’s arbitrariness.

God’s invitation to humanity is the invitation Paul preached: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved —you and your household” (Acts 16:31).


Lord Jesus, I do believe, and I accept your blessed promise of eternal life. Amen.