Summary: God’s righteousness, God’s mercy & compassion, Man’s will, God’s will
Romans 9 v 14-18
God’s righteousness (14)
The earliest utterances of a child apart from “Mama” or “Dada” is “No!” or “It’s not fair!” We keep quiet about the vast teeming multitude of unfair things we think, say or do every day, but if God does something we’re not happy with, we cry foul. And how exactly are we qualified to determine what is fair?
It’s just that something inside us struggles particularly with God choosing some and not choosing others. And yet the Holy Spirit makes it clear here that it is simple impossible to accuse God of unrighteousness, because He is the very essence of righteousness! Things are good because God says they are, not the other way round.
Read Deuteronomy 32:4. What characteristics of God are connected to His righteousness (‘just’ in the NIV)?
Read Genesis 18:25. Abraham correctly expects God to make a distinction between the wicked and the righteous, to destroy the one and save the other (God has put this thinking into his head). And yet in the case of salvation, no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). It would be righteous to destroy all of humanity. How can we then complain if God destroys only some?
Give one good reason why God should not justly destroy you.
God’s mercy & compassion (15a, 16b, 18a)
It is comforting that “the quality of mercy is not strained” in these verses, and that the concept appears more times than any other (four), plus two compassions. The emphasis through repetition hints that God inclines to show mercy rather than justice, and yet clearly He displays mercy only in the case of a few, and justice in the case of the many.
Throughout this passage Paul is conducting a debate with an imaginary interlocutor (fellow-speaker). Usually Paul builds a case for God’s actions (theodicy), but here he cites a reflexive argument, given by God himself in Exodus 33:19 to Moses. Why do you think God argues this way, when very often He is prepared to share His reasoning with us?
Man’s will/desire (16a)
All of those who “look to the Son” (John 6:40) will be saved. There is no desire in us to do that (Genesis 6:5). How do John 1:12,13, John 6:44,65 and Philippians 2:12,13 further our understanding of how a godless, dead soul might desire the living Christ?
Man’s works (16b)
This word trecho speaks of the exertion of all one’s effort needed to escape or overcome. You could imagine a man running flat out trying to get away from a tide of lava flowing after him.
From Isaiah 64:6 and your knowledge of God’s Word, why are man’s strivings useless when it comes to salvation?
How would you best explain to a non- or new-Christian that their works contribute nothing to their salvation?
God’s power and name (17)
Read Exodus 9:13-17. Why does God dish out ten plagues rather than just put Pharaoh and all his cronies to death?
By the time the children of Israel reached Canaan, the people have heard what God has done and are terrified. The Moabites even hire a prophet curse the Jews.
Read Numbers 23:18-24. In what ways does God make His power manifest here?
Read Zechariah 14:9. Why does God want His name declared in all the earth?
God’s will/choice and God’s hardening (18)
This verse is similar in construction to verse 15, but introduces the element of ‘hardening’ or ‘making obstinate’. However, in Exodus it speaks just as frequently about Pharaoh hardening his own heart as it does about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, and the first hardenings seem to come from Pharaoh, as it were.
Read Acts 19:8,9 and Hebrews 3:7-15. It is not simply God hardening people directly, but that their heart becomes hard through various processes. What things lead to hardening of heart? The consequence?
What things lead to softening? The consequence?
Can Christians yet harden their heart against God (see Mark 6:52)? In what ways are you hardening your heart against God? In what ways might He be seeking to soften your heart and show you mercy?