Romans 9 - Part 5
Today we resume our previously scheduled post regarding Romans 9 (the length is longer than I may have liked so grabbing a cup of coffee may be helpful!). Up to this point we have looked at verses 1 through 18 and have at times paused to consider the immediate context (Chapter 8). This paragraph spans verses 19 through 26. The immediate context for this passage is the discussion regarding Jacob and Esau. Due to no actions of their own, God loved Jacob and hated Esau. Paul develops this by stating that it does not depend on the man who wills or runs, but on God who has mercy. The last illustration is with Pharaoh who had his heart hardened by God. Accordingly, we have two sets of people for our immediate context. Jacob versus Esau and Moses versus Pharaoh. What is Paul’s concluding summary of the people? He says, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”
Anyone who has ever attempted to state the same thing as Paul knows the question that an objector will next ask. Thankfully, Paul acknowledges this objection and devotes the next paragraph to the answer.
What is the objection:
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”
Follow the reasoning here. God has chosen some men to show mercy to and some men to harden their hearts. This manifests itself in God specially loving some and comparatively hating others. The result in the lives of the people is dramatic. So, the objector asks “How is it fair to blame the person? It is God’s fault! He willed for it to be this way and no one can oppose the will of God and therefore God is ultimately at fault”.
This line of reasoning is probably very common for anyone who has tried to explain the Reformed view of Salvation. Nevertheless, we need not any external Reformed Apologetics. Rather, we will examine the response of Paul.
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?
Well, this is probably not an answer that most Arminians are going to like in this discussion but it is the answer that the Apostle gives. His point is that God has made us in a similar way as a potter molds clay. The potter never has the right, or even the ability, to turn back and ask why he has been made in such a way. Similarly, we do not dare turn and ask of God why he has chosen to give mercy to others and harden the rest. We might also notice at this that this is wholly the decision of God/the potter. We have no indication that this decision is based on anything future that the people may do. In fact, we have evidence stated exactly to the contrary when we learn that “the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.”
Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
Allow me to pose this question do you. Do you believe that God has the right to choose some people for honorable use (will be defined momentarily) and others for common use? If you do have a problem with this, I must beg you to repent of your sin against God. You are in fact clay. God has made you from the dust and He therefore has the moral authority to choose to do whatever He likes with you. If you think that you may turn and pose questions to Him, then please allow God’s rebuke to Job in Job 38-41 be a rebuke to you.
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?
He is dealing with the same question as above. People have rebelled against their creator. God, instantly, has the right and the desire to pour out his wrath upon them. However, he is a patient and long-suffering God. Just as He did not immediately strike down Adam and Eve, He allows wretched sinners to continue in their rebellion. This, my brethren, is Common Grace. God grants to those who attack him the breath, strength, and abilities to carry out their attacks. To answer the original question posed, “Why does He still find fault?” he gives this answer: How could God not find fault? He has created all people for His glory and yet they have rebelled and continue to sin even as the God they hate is sustaining them. God is perfectly just in pouring out his wrath on the reprobate, but even in this, He does so after showing much patience.
And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He called, not from among Jews only but also from among Gentiles.
This is the beautiful truth of God’s special love for His elect. He has endured everything that He might make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy. Notice that everything is being done for the Glory of God. If your theology (whether Calvinistic or Arminian) stops short of this, then we have terribly missed the point.
At this time we must look at these two vessels. We must acknowledge that the text says “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” as well as “vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory”. The Arminian must let the full force of these words hit them. An Arminian should not be able to swallow this easily. They have been prepared for Destruction. Do you allow for this in your Theology? Some Calvinists must also let this verse sink in. This is a Double or Nothing matter. Single Predestination is not consistent with this passage. God has prepared both the vessel of wrath for destruction and also the vessel of mercy for glory. He of course brings this out in two different ways, but both sets of people were equally prepared ahead of time.
As he says also in Hosea, I will call those who were not my people, my people, and her who was not beloved, beloved. And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, you are not My people, they shall be called sons of the living God”
The teaching here is that God is not a God of partiality. He has not made his election contingent on one group of people. He does not just include Jews but from the Gentiles also. This is the great truth of Christianity. Whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or freeman, God has opened the door of Salvation.
How could we dare question the integrity or morality of God? He has the moral right as creator. This is increased by the fact that He has delayed His wrath and made glorious those who do not deserve it out of His mercy. Add to all of this that God is not a God of partiality. He has chosen vessels of mercy from both the Jews and the Gentiles, both groups who have horrifically sinned against their maker (see Romans 1-3).
Oh the day that we can look at this doctrine and turn in doxology to God. I fear for now we will have to continue to contend vigorously for the truths demonstrated here, but how I long for the day where we may hear of God’s beautiful work and simply praise Him for it.
Oh Calvinist Brother, do you love this truth and praise God for it as much as you love to attack the Arminian view? It is true we must defend against error, but it will all be to no avail if at the end of the day we do not love God all the more.
Arminian Brother, do you ever preach the truth in such a way that a person asks you “Why does He still find fault?” or “Why did you make me like this?”. If not, please ask yourself if you are preaching the same truths as Paul.
In Christ alone,