There are a couple of passages I want to look at today, and contrast who the people are who are being talked about, specifically if they are groups or individuals. We must be careful and diligent to study correctly, and not work to make scripture match our theology. The first passage we find in Romans Chapter 9, so let’s look and see if this is talking about individuals or people groups.
In Chapter nine, Paul begins talking about his kinsmen from Israel, those who are unsaved, wishing they would be saved. It’s clear he begins by talking about individuals from within a certain people group, but not the entire group, he being a Jew is saved while many others are not. He moves to say that not all the children of Israel, or children of the promise are actually Jewish by nationality or genetics, but are children of the promise. So Paul speaks of children of Israel who are not children of Israel by blood, being children of Israel by the promise. Can we then conclude he is talking about individuals or a people group? He is still talking about a group of people, but that group being those who have been selected as part of the promise. When Paul moves to the lump of clay being shaped by the potter, would it not stand to reason that those being shaped for honorable use would be those chosen, and dishonorable use would be the not chosen? So, is Paul talking about a people group in Romans chapter 9 or individuals being chosen? If he was talking about a people group being chosen, would it not be the entire nation that was chosen, and not individuals who were not of the people group being chosen to be part of the people group? It would stand to reason that the people being spoken of are individuals, not entire groups of people. Otherwise, we would see entire nations become saved and become part of the promise, not just individuals. What are your thoughts?
Now let’s look at the other chapter I was to look at, which is 1 Timothy chapter 2. In this passage Paul tells us to pray for all people, he is then specific about kings in high positions. Paul goes on the say that God desires for all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of salvation. Is this talking about people groups or specific people? Let’s look at the people Paul points out, he says for kings in high position. It’s interesting that Paul points out this group, asking us to pray for all people and then specifically for kings and people in high position. What would be the purpose of such a request? If the church was focused on sharing the gospel and praying for a certain group of people, it would require the Apostles to point out they needed to include other groups of people. In this case, Paul tells them they need to include those who are in power, because God does not will only the poor to be part of the Kingdom, but also for kings and rulers to be part of the church. Paul does not single out an individual or a nationality, but a group known by position, influence and authority. Paul seems to be speaking to pray for a group of people, and that command ties right into the statement that God desires all to be saved. The all in this statement must then refer to those they are called to pray for, that people of every socio-economic status will be part of the kingdom.
So often, we have interpreted these verses to fit a specific theology or a specific view. This is dangerous and detrimental to the Church, to throw away exegetical practice for the sake of theology. In this study, I have employed a tool called Bible Arcing, which connects phrases and ideas and shows the relationship to one another. This isn’t the only study too, but it’s helpful when we begin to ask questions such as “who is Paul speaking about in these verses”. There are many passages that we interpret differently, we cannot be afraid to be incorrect in our theology and be correct in our exegesis of passaged. The alternative is the pathway to heresy. Regardless of what we think, feel or what to believe, a proper use of scripture should always be able to make us change our thinking.