Day 24

Righteousness through Faith

from the Romans reading plan

Romans 9:20-33, Jeremiah 18:1-6, Ephesians 1:11-14

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: Romans 9:20-33, Jeremiah 18:1-6, Ephesians 1:11-14

I did an internship in Washington D.C. the summer before my junior year in college. The job was good enough; I coordinated summer camp logistics for kids interested in politics. Yes, it was as nerdy as you’re imagining, and yes, I was a former attendee. But the best thing about that summer wasn’t licking envelopes and herding hormones. It was meeting a new group of friends at church.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the town of Stars Hollow from the TV show Gilmore Girls, but those quirky, fictional characters had nothing on my new, real-life friends. Despite the fact that I was a stranger in town, and only planning to stay for eight weeks, they grafted me in, constantly hounding me to join them for weekend adventures of camping, floating down rivers, or taking long motorcycle rides through the Shenandoah Valley. It was as dreamy as it sounds, and healing for my soul in many, many ways.

We talked about the gospel, too, and one of those conversations led to the topic of the providence of God—what some call “predestination.” The candor of the conversation shocked me. Who talks about this stuff anyway? And what does the providence of God even mean?

I was kindly pointed to today’s passage in Romans, and from there one friend explained the idea that God knows, plans, and orchestrates everything. All the days ordained for me (and you, for that matter) were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). We are God’s workmanship created to do good works that He prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Salvation itself is a righteousness that comes by faith, and even that comes from Him.

At face value, the concept that God is in control of everything might seem offensive. We humans have a cosmic authority problem. We don’t like to believe that Someone else has the final say in our lives. When Paul asks in Romans 9:20, “Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”, I want to scream, “Yes! That’s what my prayers to God sound like on a regular basis!” But if we are to take Romans 9 to heart, we have to concede that God is ultimately the one in control of His creation.

In the years since my dream summer in D.C., I’ve learned a lot about faith. I’ve read much more of the Bible. I’ve spent countless hours with Jesus. And despite all that, God’s providence is as mysterious to me now as it was then. But I do know this: I would rather believe in a loving God who is fulfilling His purpose for me, than a cosmic universe that is inflicting its chaos on me.

I look at the seasons, coming and going in their time. I look at the ocean waves, which know their boundaries. I look at my face in the mirror—imperfect, yes, but a masterpiece in the Master’s hands. I look at the miracles of birth and life and death. None of it is a mistake. This beauty is His creation, and He is sovereign.

If we trust Him—if we believe His love—we can put away our questions of Why did you make me like this? and put on the posture of Thy will be done.


 Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.

Post Comments (64)

64 thoughts on "Righteousness through Faith"

  1. Rosalyn says:

    Rom 9:20-33
    It seems that God and predestination in this case is more about God knowing the paths we will take to Him before we take them. For some it will be the obvious stone in the road. For others, they will miss it completely, trying and taking every other route around it, over, under and around, until they go through it.
    Jer 18:1-6 talks about the potter at the wheel. Isn’t it saying God can shape us and remold as many times as He likes, until He is satisfied? I believe that. Most of us are cracked pots that need repairing anyway. We are sinners.
    Eph 1:11-14 “it is in Christ, once you’ve heard the truth (of salvation) and BELIEVED IT” it may take a few times of hearing it. I think God knows we’re hard headed. I think that is WHY He sent a savior. That Savior WILL set us free WHEN we believe it.

    I love all of this affirmation and truth. I used to worry about many things. Some I have CHOSEN to no longer to worry about. In fact they are NOT mine to worry about. They are my husbands personal worries. I don’t need to take his personal hang ups personal. Those are his. It’s freeing for both of us l, I hope. It is, when I turn the tables and look at my own sin. If my husband harped I might sneak and lie. By quietly standing by, praying and waiting I am able to hear the Holy Spirit encourage me to keep my eyes open and obedience to Christ.
    God is so faithful!

    1. Susan says:

      This is such a thoughtful and thorough comment on the readings. Thanks. I have struggled with idea of pre-destiny. Your explanation of your thinking helped me so much.

    2. jenn in GA says:

      Rosalyn, i’d never seen the distinction between the sentences of vs. 13! having a grown son who has heard the truth and acknowledges it, but who is holding God at arm’s length right now, it gives me renewed hope to think that it may take hearing it in another context for him to believe it and embrace it and live by it. thanks for sharing.

    3. Jody Heavenrich Hensley says:

      Love this…thank you!!!

  2. Stacey Cochran says:

    I read the Scripture early this morning in the KJV, then again in the ESV when I was having my morning break at work. I just read it in the Message during my lunch break because I was still having trouble understanding it. While it is still a hard passage, the way it is broken down in the Message just gut punched me. I am one of the ones who didn’t seem interested in God, but through His movement in my life, I became His daughter. But I can also see what Paul is saying about Israel as pertaining to the church. We have become so involved with our projects, programs, and plans (I’m so guilty!) that we forget God. We forget where we were and what He has done for us. My prayer is that I never forget that I was once disinterested in God until He changed me and never lose sight of what He has done and continues to do in my life.

    Verses 30-32 “How can we sum this up? All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them…”

  3. Sarah says:

    Wow. This is my first time back to the site in a long time and this post is exactly what my husband and I have been recently talking about. We’re in a long season of waiting and I ask those questions of God all the time. I choose to believe in a loving God who is fulfilling His purpose for me, for us. On every hard and confusing day.

  4. Kristy says:

    It seems Paul is pointing out the Gentiles inclusion in the Gospel more than anyone’s exclusion due to predestination. We apply this to our individualistic view of faith but Roman readers would’ve been more concerned with entire nations’ identifying as non-chosen. It definitely applies today, as God knows who will and who will not believe. But big picture is more helpful in understanding predestination, I think.
    Also, why did God create non-believing nations anyway? Bc no one is excluded! They still had a chance!

    1. Pascale says:

      Thank you Kristi for this statement. I agree with you, that we tend to read Romans (and most of Scripture) with self-centric lenses that tint our understanding of what 1st century Christians were expressing/experiencing. We need to read what Paul is writing in context and appreciate the Bible as true story that finds its crux and climax in Jesus. Romans was written in those days in that way for its intended audience with a message that has application even today.

    2. Kaylee says:

      Thank you for this explanation, Kristy! I’ve been trying to dive into this concept for some time now and it’s been quite the topic to grasp. This really opened my eyes to some truth.

  5. CJ says:

    Okay, girls. I am seriously struggling with Romans 9. Have any of you found any commentaries/ resources that have helped you unpack it a little bit more? Normally, I like to look at The Message when I’m struggling to comprehend, but even that is over my head with this chapter! So thankful that our sweet Father can handle our questions and walks in the trenches with us!! Thanks in advance xoxo

    1. Pascale says:

      Can I suggest N.T Wright’s Paul for Everyone series? He has a knack for unpacking hard concepts that theologians and historians argue upon for readers like you and I. Have fun as you journey with God in asking questions!

    2. Heather McDermott says:

      Check out The Believers Bible Commentary! It has helped me a lot when unpacking difficult scriptures and concepts!

    3. Keri says:

      I’m using It’s easily accessible since I’m already on my iPad with the SRT app, so I just bounce back and forth. Really helpful!

    4. LoreneC says:

      I usually read the nasb. But there are tons of passages that just seem unclear to me. In the original Greek some words can have multiple meanings and translators usually only employ one. I have just started using the amplified bible though and it’s amazing! It pulls all the meanings together in a comprehendible (albeit wordy) and complete way. I love it for studying!

  6. Pascale says:

    These latest devotional are well intended and try to provide perspectives on tough questions like predestination many struggle with. However, Romans is not primarily concerned with explaining how faith works (nor is it detailing a salvation gospel as we in the modern times have done) but in showing that through Christ the gentiles have been included in God’s plan and family as always intended and foretold through the Scriptures. Jews and Gentiles are called to be one: having the same condition before God, the same Lord, the same Spirit….
    Paul’s anguish is to see that reconciliation worked out and the family of believers put aside their prejudices and love be each other as Jesus loved them. That’s the beauty of Romans…a life reconciled to God and reconciled to others!

  7. PronetoWander says:

    One thing I love about being Christian is how we can interpret things differently, but as long as we believe Jesus is the savior, we still belong to the body of Christ. No one person is fully right or fully wrong (obviously other than Jesus) with interpreting the whole bible. I think some things will just be revealed to us in heaven and we will all be like ‘oh I get it now’. Predestination is something I can’t fathom fully because it seems mean of God. It’s scary to me that he would choose for some not be saved, I.e. What if he didn’t save my brother? My cousin? Your husband? Your child? It doesn’t sound like the God I know. But I do know that just because I don’t understand something doesn’t change who God truly is. So it turns me to trust, I still struggle with that concept of predestination but I also know if it is what he was meaning, He is still God and smarter than me. But it still doesn’t make sense of why God died for us but would purposely leave people out. I think of God hardening pharaoh’s heart and it makes me a bit angry to be honest. I think God would welcome all. But again, I will trust Him and call Him Good even when I don’t understand.

    1. Wildflower says:

      I have the same anger as you about predestination. Luckily I think he can handle our anger and questions. One thing I always remind myself though is that prayer is powerful. I have people close to me who aren’t saved and I choose to believe that God will listen to my prayers and make himself known to them.

      1. Brittany lou says:

        Thank you sister!! This is the same way I feel on this subject! We serve a loving God who died on the cross to save all!
        It’s beautiful that we serve the God we do! So thankful.

  8. Casie says:

    As someone who had a less than ideal childhood &’struggles with depression, I have often wondering why God chose this life for me? Is it because he thinks I am strong? But now I see little bits of my story reflected back to me in Gods eyes and at my weakest moments, my faith was strongest because God was holding me through it. Thank you for this beautiful reflection on a challenge passage!

    1. Karen From Virginia says:

      I’ve had similar challenges and have questioned if God loved others more than me. But I have seen over and over that trusting God with my weakness has made my life and walk with Jesus so much sweeter. Being real with Him and also trusting Sovereign love has been a great source of strength especially when life doesn’t go right.

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