Summary: God doesn’t have to answer to us, yet in His mercy He does answer many of our questions that we could never figure out on our own.
When you read the earlier chapters of Romans, you might think that Paul was really down on the Jewish people, but you would be wrong. He didn’t pull any punches with them, and he told them the truth about what God had shown him, and they rejected both him and his message.
In verses 1-5, the apostle Paul makes a tremendous statement, as statement that most of us would not be willing to make. He said that he would give up his own salvation if doing so would somehow secure the salvation of the Jewish people. That’s the kind of heart Moses had for the Hebrew people of his day, and that’s the heart that God had for us all, when He gave His Only Begotten Son to die in our place. Too many people in our time, will not even go on church visitation, much less make any kind of sacrifice in order for people to get saved.
Verses 6-13, begins a section that speaks of God’s choosing. We tend to look at everything through our own tinted glasses, and we often fail to realize that God sees far more than we do. We tend to establish what is right and fair, and then we try to hold God to the standard that we’ve established. He just doesn’t work that way. He does the standard setting.
The first of these verses speak of how God chose Isaac over Ishmael. Now, the Jewish people would be quick to say, “Of course he did, because Ishmael was the son of an Egyptian girl, and Isaac was fully Hebrew. But, that’s not why God chose Isaac. He chose him because he was the child of promise, the child that God had long before told Abraham he and Sarah would have. To help people understand this, God used another example, the example of Jacob and Essau. For a reason that noone but God really knows, God chose Jacob over Essau, eventhough they were twins in the same woman’s womb.
One might say that God foreknew their hearts, and that’s why He chose as He did. I have no argument with that, except that it is God who makes the heart.
Verse 14 asks the question, is God unfair? Is He unrighteous in doing the way He does? He immediately gives the answer, “Certainly not,” then he proceeds to explain to us that God doesn’t owe us any explanation as to why He does what He does. He is not answerable to us, yet He really doesn’t mind us asking, if we do so with submissive humility.
In verses 15-17, he uses the example of Pharaoh’s heart being hardened. There are several times that the book of Exodus tells us that Pharaoh hardened his heart, but hen if says that God hardened his heart.
Now, I really don’t think that it was that God determined to make Pharaoh, and a multitude of others, with the intent of punishing them in hell forever. I do think, however, that in His foreknowledge, God gave them over to what He knew their hearts would desire, and that is to be self-serving. As a result of their unbelief, that led them to this self-serving mentality, they chose to go their own way, instead of God’s way, and the ultimate result of that is eternity in hell.
Could God have stepped in and made them become believers? He doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t “make” anyone become a believer. But, not one person in hell can say that it is God’s fault that he is there.
So, verse 18 summarizes it by saying that God doesn’t have to answer to us. He doesn’t have to, but in His mercy, He does reveal to us that if there’s anything in us that causes us to want to be in the family of God, we can be.
Verses 19-29, tell us that it is of no value to try and argue with God about this matter.
This is a difficult doctrine to sort out. I’ve never really been able to do it. Those who think they have accomplished it, usually ignore many Scriptures on one side of the argument, or the other. The pure Calvinist would say that it’s all God and man has nothing to do with it, yet there are many verses that tell us man does have something to do with it. The pure Armenianist would say that man has a free will to take it or leave it, and God is just waiting to see what he is going to do, and that He’s standing out there somewhere just hoping we’ll do the right thing. That’s two extremes. Most of us don’t subscribe to either of those extremes, but we do tend to lean one way or the other. Historically, Baptist and Presbyterians have leaned more to the Calvinistic side, whereas Methodists, Pentecostals, and others have leaned to the Armenianist side. I personally believe that we have a very real choice, but that God fully knows what that choice is going to be. He is really not waiting and watching to see if you are willing to open that door, He fully knows if you are willing, or not.