I learned something yesterday, although I don’t like to admit it. However, I think I should because you may hear it from others, so I want to set the record straight. Today is equinox. Yesterday, my neighbor was over to inspect a new-born calf (he uses my pasture). We started talking about the changing season, and I mentioned how the days were sure getting short. He agreed and said that tomorrow (today as I write) the days would be just as long as the night. I looked at him kind of funny, I guess, and he added that it would be the equinox. I had to think about that awhile. You see, I equated the equinox (pun intended) as the sun’s position being halfway between the equator and the poles, thus “equal.” I DID NOT realize that would also mean that daylight is the same as dark. I remarked about how odd it was that I could be 54 years old and not know that. He added that he just learned that himself. We agreed that knowledge like this only comes with age – “enlightenment”, if you will.
Are we ready for Romans 9? This has to contain some of the toughest stuff of the bible to accept, although there are certainly many passages that make me cringe. Just so we are on the same page, these two verses come to mind:
Psalm 137:9 (regarding Babylon) Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!
Hosea 13:8 (regarding God’s judgment on Israel) I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs; I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rip them open.
Our living God, Yahweh, is serious about judgment, folks. Righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne (Ps 88:14, 97:2; Isa 9:7, 28:17; Jer 9:24 – to name a few references regarding that.). God is serious about punishing sin. His expectation is that we do not sin, but we refuse him. On the other had, he rewards sinlessness (righteousness). We have learned that God is the one to declares someone innocent, and that innocence is a result of the cross and God’s mercy. It is an imputed innocence that Jesus paid for. Our study to this point has determined that God places that innocence on those whom he desires to and only those. We have also determined that he has established by faith through the Jewish Messiah. We find no other righteous person in all of history that was not connected through God’s chosen people, and that connection came through direct intervention by God – not simply by ancestry but by special revelation by God directly or through evangelism. Nobody else in history has been forgiven their sins. There is no evidence of this anywhere in the Bible. Furthermore, we have established the bible to be the only accurate representation of history and of the human condition. We have no reason not to believe what it says.
How has this come to be? Why does God choose one and not another? We determined that every single person has no redeeming qualities, so how does God choose, and why? Why not let everyone fry or why not forgive them all? Our response to all this typically that God is unfair, even to the point of being unjust. Paul is quick to nip this thinking in the bud. There are some things God has simply not revealed yet. Let’s see what Paul says:
Romans 9:14-18 What shall we say then,? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Now, we all have likely learned that God hardens people by circumstances that draws out what is already in the human heart – hatred for God. Read the text for yourself. We all have struggled with that one, haven’t we? Paul goes on to explain and gets right to the crux of our inquiry:
Romans 9:19-23 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory –
It is clear that we have been answered with a rhetorical question. We see the same type of response from God to Job, don’t we? Does that invalidate anything – the fact that we don’t get the answers we expect? Certainly not. We have every reason to believe that Paul has more inside knowledge into all things than we do. Does that mean he knows that answer? No, but we have no reason to think he is off base with his question. We must remember that we have come to find the bible the inerrant Word of God. Paul’s rhetorical question is there because God willed it there. So, we have no reason but to pay close attention to it.
Folks, the whole concept of judgment is difficult at best. We know, intuitively, that some actions simply must receive punishment for justice to exist. Otherwise, there would be anarchy and chaos. Even our secular government punishes those who violate the law. The question remains, why do we do bad things? Why is there within us the seed that ensures that every single one will hate God? If Paul is correct through his question, it is “to show his wrath and to make known his power.” We might easily be able to see this in a wicked ruler, such as Pharaoh or Hitler, but the little old lady down the street? Yes, even her.
Romans 3:23, 27a for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….That what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.
1 Corinthians 1:29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Unless this business of salvation is completely in the hands of God, we think we have reason to boast. He completely takes this away from us as we see over and over in scripture. Why, then, is it so hard for us to accept the idea of election? Strongholds, my friends, strongholds. We have the information we need, but we refuse to believe it. Why? Because we want things to be the way we want things to be. When they aren’t, we attack. Yes, unbelief is a form of hostility. Furthermore, it’s ironic that we would feel this way when we should be eternally and infinitely grateful that God chose to show us his mercy! Yes, we say that everyone is guilty and deserves punishment, but we still cling to the idea that humans can somehow justify themselves. So, we skip over these parts of the bible or try to explain it away with mumbo jumbo that in the end nobody believes. Nothing more phony that a born-again that makes up stuff to try answer a tough question. You’ve done it, and so have I. Guilty as charged.
So, can we agree that God has written all these words? I’m not asking you to like them; I’m asking you to agree that they are there. And, if they are there, we are obligated to deal with them. Are we not?
Folks, let this stuff rattle around in your head this weekend. Take some time to learn more about it. I gave you good references yesterday. Be like the Bereans, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) For the record, at times this stuff makes perfect sense to me. Other times, I have to take it step by step. It’s a hard concept, but it’s the piece to our faith that really makes it sensible. Otherwise, we end up with works as our means for salvation which leads to far more unanswerable questions than predestination. We’ll go over some of the other implications of predestination next week, all of which will be necessary to lay a foundation to formulate a response to, “What about those who have never heard of Jesus.”
Father, force us to consider the entirety of scripture. Hammer at our strongholds of unbelief. Completely destroy them so that we may see all of your truth. Let us never be satisfied with lies, no matter how appealing they may be. Let us hunger for truth. Amen.
Copyright © 2017 Scott Powers