A misunderstanding of God's plan for the two houses of Israel
Calvinism, a word that is linked to a myriad of doctrines, and has very real implications of how one perceives the character of God. The Calvinistic teachings are having a resurgence in colleges, seminaries, and churches, and a topic that can/has caused great division. Let us further note that Calvinism is at odds with Arminianism, which is typically the polar opposite teaching. It is erroneously assumed that one has to fall into one of the two doctrinal positions, both of which have their own flaws.
This overview explains the abuses that Calvinism makes in claiming for itself passages that were written to/about Israel. When we read the scriptures with Israel in mind, specifically the northern 'house of Israel,' it quickly eradicates the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. There is no need to delve into the debate, as the internet is littered with arguments on it. This series is simply aimed at helping the reader discover the original audience - Israel. With the correct audience in view, the arguments are superfluous.
Judah & Israel: The vessels of honor and dishonor
As with any false teaching there are several "proof-texts" to substantiate one's view. Two of Calvinism's main texts happen to be one chapter apart, contextually unrelated to 'Gentiles.' Let us see:
Romans 9:21-23, "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,"
Calvinists, and even reinforced by its opponents, teach that these Scriptures speak of the saved and lost, Christians and non-Christians. It is further purported that God made some people to go to heaven and doomed the rest to hell (of which the proponent of Calvinism is always going to heaven). This conclusion is come to by ASSUMING that the reader MUST be the vessel of honor seeing as he is 'saved'. This kind of assumption has led to 500 years of concentrated debate.
Before assuming the 'saved' is being spoken to, we must first observe the context. In so doing, we will see that the differing vessels refer to the two houses of Israel; Israel and Judah,1 not saved vs. lost. This author is aware that the average believer who is reading this may not understand the significance of the distinction between the southern house (Judah) and the northern house (10-Israel). However, understanding this distinction is critical to properly understanding these verses.
In short, God divorced 10-Israel, and cast her into the nations (Gentiles), mainly through the Assyrian invasions (around 740-722 BCE). God didn't divorce Judah, although she was still punished mainly through the Babylonian invasions (between 597-582 BCE). When God divorced 10-Israel, He did so because of her unfaithfulness to Him. He then scatterend her into the nations, but promised to restore her WITH Judea (southern house) so that the two houses may be one once again. This is background for the Hosea quote that Paul is referencing here in Romans:
Romans 9:24-25, "Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Hosea, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved."
Hosea 1:10, from which this is quoted, is unquestionably speaking about the judgment coming on Israel/Ephraim. God is promising to scatter the house of Israel (10-Israel) into the nations (Gentiles), but also promises to restore the two houses (Hosea 1:11; 2:23). Hosea is NOT speaking about 'lost' non-ethnic-Israelite Gentiles, but ethnic-Israelite-Gentiles. This is a mouthful to say, but properly conveys the audience. When reading Hosea it is clear that 10-Israel was to become part of the nations/Gentiles, and no longer be 'His people' (i.e. divorced). However, God has not forgotten His foreknown/former people and will restore them fully at the Second Advent.
God has "called" 10-Israel and not the "Jews only". These vessels (9:21-23) do NOT refer to God predestinating or pre-determining, before the foundation of the world, who will go to heaven or hell. These vessels have to do with the difference between Judah and Ephraim (10-Israel). These vessels of honor are the Judeans and the vessels of dishonor are the Ephraimites/Israelites.
Paul is explaining to these believing Jews that once God had divorced Ephraim (Jeremiah 3:8); but now He is "calling" the scattered Ephraimites as He has been "calling" Jews. As Paul discloses in chapter 11, it is because of Israel's rejection of His Son that He is now redeeming ethnic-Israelite-Gentiles by faith. God's plan is that by redeeming the despised Ephraimite Gentiles, it will provoke "his people" (Jews) to jealousy.
God foreknew, predestined, and called Israel
Notice another Calvinist proof text:
Romans 8:29-30, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."
We are told by Calvinists that God fore-chose, before the foundation of the world, who would be saved and predestinated them to this end. But, is this what the Scripture says? Do we read anything about "before the foundation of the world" here? Absolutely not! (A few verses in Ephesians are adulterated and interjected here to teach this baloney, more on this in part 2.)
Calvinism goes on to teach that those whom God predestinated will be saved, and those who He did not choose will be damned. In other words, it is God's choosing who will believe on Him for salvation or not. But is this what this Scripture is saying? Absolutely not! Once again, the context must be consulted which is speaking of Judah and Ephraim.
Notice above (8:29) that "whom he foreknew" is not speaking of the uncircumcised heathen Gentiles in our present age of grace. Notice further that the passage does NOT say that God 'foresees' the future decisions of Gentile believers. Those God "foreknew," before Christ's first coming, are Israelites! God's chosen people, whom He foreknew (knew before) in the prior centuries, were "predestinated" to be conformed to the image of God's Son. Why? That Yeshua may be the firstborn among many Hebrew "brethren." Notice further that it is God's chosen people Israel that are "foreknown" just three chapters later, and in this same context:
Romans 11:1-2, "I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he FOREKNEW. Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elijah? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,"
Israel is God's foreknown people, not uncircumcised heathen Gentiles! My friend, when Westerners seek to read all the Scriptures as if we are the only thing in God's plan, it causes us to miss His dealings with all of Israel. Israel is God's elect, His chosen people, whom He before "knew" Yeshua's first advent. It is "his people" that will be nationally saved (Romans 11:26-27), and once again be in the forefront of God's glory in the age to come.
My friend, having thus spotlighted two of the main proof-text passages as contextually dealing with Judah and 10-Israel, one should see the instability of this extremity. Calvinism has caused extreme division over the last several centuries by missing God's plan of restoration for Ephraim. Israel has been, and continues to be, God's chosen people. Now, through the grace of God, Ephraim has been given a new covenant, and may find peace with God.
May we be joyful in the goodness of God which is available to all, especially in us who believe!
1 Israel, also called Ephraim, is comprised of the northern ten tribes of Israel, often referred to as 10-Israel on this site to lessen confusion. Judah is comprised of the southern two tribes; Benjamin and Judah. The tribe of Levi wasn't traditionally counted but was more heavily concentrated near the temple in Jerusalem.