Paul had just finished his discussion in Romans 11 saying that the Gentiles had been grafted into the tree of faith. The tree in that case represents God’s people, so while it had started with the people of Israel, God then placed the Gentiles within the tree, although establishing them there as a graft into the tree following what had originally come through the nation of Israel, not rooted themselves as their own tree.
All of this is based on God’s gift of grace and mercy and that mercy is given based on his sovereign choice. Indeed, in Romans 9, Paul spends a lot of time and shares several examples to talk about how God chooses his people, even if to us it doesn’t seem “fair”. He gives the example of Isaac as Abraham’s child, even though Abraham already had Ishmael. He gives the example of Jacob and Esau, that God chose Jacob, the younger twin, instead of Esau the older. And then he also gives the example of Pharaoh, that God used him to show his power to the nations by destroying him.
So, God is choosing those who will be his people. He is selecting them, showing his intentions, even from a human timeline perspective, prior to the existence of those he has selected, such as in the case of Jacob.
Given this, we could then reason that we, as human beings, could accept God’s choice by faith, and there are many scriptures that suggest that this is how our relationship with God works. However, then this morning as I was reading Romans 12, I noticed this:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.Romans 12:3
I’ve always liked this verse a lot because I like that Paul calls us to humility. We should understand and live under God’s grace and mercy, not living as if we have earned God’s favor and he owes us and should allow us to have eternal life. But instead, we should live under the knowledge that God has given us grace, and grace is unmerited, undeserved.
Still, we could then say that we accept his grace and mercy by faith, but here we see something different. Instead of our faith, we see that there is a source of our faith.
Note that I say source of our faith, not the object of our faith.
Here, Paul says “in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Hmm… That’s different than what I thought. So, my faith is placed in Christ’s sacrifice as a payment for my sin, and it is placed in Christ’s resurrection that I will live eternally, just as he will live forever. As a follower of Christ, I also follow him in his death and resurrection.
However, the source of my faith, the reason that I have faith in the first place to place in Jesus’s death and resurrection is because God has distributed it to me. I am not the source of my own faith, but instead God is the source of the faith that I have in Christ. He has given this faith to me and I am the conduit through which the faith flows back to Christ.
So, this makes God’s choice completely sovereign. It is his choice, not mine, so I have nothing that I can brag about, and as this verse says, certainly nothing that I should think of myself more highly than I ought. Instead, God has done all of the work of salvation and, for those who believe, is also the author and source of our faith in that salvation.