There is No injustice with God

The Glory of the Gospel: Studies in the Book of Romans  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Paul responds to objections against God's Sovereign Election and declares God to be Righteous and Just


Open: We continue with the second message that deals with God’s Sovereign role in Election. As stated last week, this is a difficult teaching to understand. I am not stating that I have a complete understanding or the closest interpretation to the heart of God. I am teaching the text and asking the Holy Spirit to be our true teacher.

I ask for your grace in this matter, because it is a difficult doctrine for humans to accept. As Douglas Moo states, “No doctrine stimulates more negative reaction and consternation than this one. Some degree of such reaction is probably inevitable, for it flies in the face of our own common perceptions of both human freedom and God’s justice.”
Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 599.

One Objection to the Doctrine of Election is that it makes God unrighteous (Rom 9:14-18)

Explanation: As a reminder, Chapters 9 - 11 deal with the topic of God’s Election as it relates to the Jews and the Gentiles. In the first part of the chapter Paul has declared that the widespread rejection of Jesus by the Jewish nation is not because God broke any of His promises or that the Word of God cannot be trusted. Instead, God’s Sovereign choice of nations and of individuals is part of His unfolding plan and actually assures that individuals will continue to respond to His saving Grace.
In this section of the letter Paul is dealing with objections to the Doctrine of God Electing individuals to salvation while passing over others. The first objection is found in v. 14 and it can be stated like this: “If God makes a Sovereign choice of some people then He is unrighteous in that He doesn’t choose all people”
Paul deals with this objection by emphasizing that God is indeed just in that He chooses to grant mercy to some. Paul quotes from Exodus 33:19 when He says “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Rom 9:15)
Argument: Paul reaffirms God’s Sovereignty in the process of Election in the next verse when he declares that salvation is not according to the will of an individual or of a person’s striving to follow the law. Instead, it is of God who shows mercy (Rom 9:16) This is difficult language for us to hear. We live in a world that tells us that we are the center of the Universe; that we can have whatever we want when we want it. Coming against the Divine Revelation of God’s Sovereignty is uncomfortable and we want to work around what is being taught.
If you think this makes God unfair you are agreeing with the objector in v. 15. You do not have a developed understanding of Grace either. If it can be demanded, then it is not grace. God bestows His grace upon us a free gift which cannot be earned (cf Ephesians 2:8-9)
If you think this is a teaching that Paul came up with on his own, then reflect on the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John when Jesus declares “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44)
To illustrate this teaching Paul uses the encounter of God and Pharaoh during the Exodus event. The whole account is found in Exodus 4-14, but we don’t have time to unpack all that is there. I do want to point out that the term hardened is used about 14 times in these chapters in reference to the heart of Pharaoh heart’s being hardened. It is not until the 10th use of the term harden that God is identified as the One who did the hardening (Ex 9:12, during the 6th plague). The point of this illustration that God does perform judicial hardening on hearts of unbelief who become stubborn in their rejection of His work. Pharaoh deserved God’s justice because He rejected God’s demands, so God confirmed Pharoah’s unbelief by Hardening his heart.
God does use judicial hardening in the heart of unbelief. Nowhere in Scripture does it ever state that God is the agent who makes the initial hardening. God does have the right to harden people in their unbelief and He does do this.
Application: Recognize that God is Righteous and Just in His Sovereign role of Election. To the unsaved - do not keep rejecting His truth when He reveals Himself to you. Respond to the Holy Spirit in surrender.

Another Objection to the Doctrine of Election is that it is not fair to humans (Romans 9:19-23)

Explanation: This objection to God’s Sovereign role in Election is that God is being totally unfair to His creation because people are unable to contend with God. Paul’s response is to counter this objection with God’s Supreme Authority as Creator. Because God is in a unique category (He is the Eternal One) outside the box, He has the Authority to deal with the box according to His will.
Before going any further, let’s look at the heart of the objector. This is not someone with genuine questions who is trying to learn more. This is the response of one who is antagonistic towards God and is accusing God of foul play. This is the main starting point with many unbelievers - they simply don’t want to be accountable to God. They value their perceived freedom over the reality of God’s revelation
Paul illustrates this truth by likening God to a Potter who has power over the clay, a truth taught in the OT in several passages. One such passage that Paul quotes from is from Isaiah in which God declares, “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? Or thy work, He hath no hands? (Isaiah 45:9)
Argument: The argument that Paul is bringing up against the objector is that God has the freedom and ability to do whatever He wants because He is the Creator. God alone is the only truly autonomous being in the Universe. As the psalmist declares, “But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Ps. 115:3)
The point being made is that God as Creator is not obligated to any of His creations. He is the Potter, we are the clay. He very graciously bestows mercy on some for the Praise of His glory, and on others He simply allows them to go their own way - a way, which tragically ends in destruction.
As I shared last week there are other interpretations of this section which deal with service, not salvation. According to that interpretation, God as the Divine Potter makes some of His vessels for honorable use, while other vessels he allows to be made for dishonorable use. With humility, I find this thought an attempt to evade the meaning of the passage. I believe the text is dealing with Salvation, not service.
The focus Paul is leading up to is that God is a Merciful God and that He does save those who are undeserving. He is gracious in that He does not give each human what he or she deserves - an eternal separation from Him in a place called Hell.
Here is an illustration which I hope you will find helpful. Credit to apologist James White for the following: One theologian who rejects Unconditional Election paints the picture of a farmer who is driving by a pond on his tractor. As he approaches the pond he notices that a group of young people have ignored the ‘No Swimming’ sign and are now all in the process of drowning. All of them are incapable of saving themselves and need help. The farmer jumps off his tractor and swims out to several and brings them safely to shore while ignoring the cries from the other drowning people. [This paints a terrible picture of God as relates to Election]
What if, however, that is an inaccurate view? What if the real picture of illustration involves a rich man who finds his large home in flames. Not only is His house on fire, it has been set on fire by the very people who are now in danger of burning to death. The rich man goes into His own house and discovers that none of the people are concerned about the fire and have no desire to be rescued. They think they are doing Okay! In spite of this, the Rich man rescues many of the doomed rebels, even at great cost to Himself. This I believe is a more accurate understanding of the Doctrine of Election and leads to the third point:

The result of God’s Election is a widening of the Gospel Call (Romans 9:24-29)

Explanation: Paul now shows how God is expanding the call in Salvation History. Yes, the Jews as a whole are rejecting their Messiah, but one result of their rejection is the inclusion of the Gentiles. Paul will give this greater detail in Chapter 11, but he introduces the idea in chapter nine through a couple of OT prophecies. which describe how God is incorporating non-Jews into His family. Both Hosea and Isaiah earlier taught that this very thing would take place - those people groups who were once outside the family have now been brought into the family
Argument: God is for our good and for His glory. The Jews had by and large failed in their mission to the world, so God chose at this point in time to make a new offer - a new covenant with the world. That which had been prophesied ( a foreign group of people becoming God’s own people) was taking place before their very eyes. The Gospel call had been extended to the Gentiles and many were placing their faith in Christ. Jesus was building His church!
Application: We must never forget that the Cross is a stumbling block to people. It is a vivid reminder that we cannot fix ourselves and that we all need Jesus to fix us. His death on the Cross made salvation possible and His Divine Decree of Election ensures that salvation is obtained by believers. As Paul states at the end of chapter nine, “whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 9:33)
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