Summary: Who’s in control when things seem to go against even what God says? Look again! God’s word never fails! Our understanding is stretched by God’s amazing sovereignty over all.
Who’s in Charge?
Our God’s Sovereign choice is mercy for those who have faith.
The see-saw of sovereignty and free will falls clearly on the sovereignty side in Romans 9.
There was a time when humanity viewed knowledge as a pyramid where at the bottom there was much to learn, but the more we grew and learned, the higher we climbed and the less mystery there was to solve. Eventually, given enough time, we could reach the top and have all knowledge!
Today that view is inverted. The more we learn the more we see that there is to know. Such is the mystery of understanding God. When we attempt to put God in a box, we come up with an idol of our own making.
Seeking to understand God’s sovereignty and man’s free will and how these work together can be like defining how Jesus is both God and man. To fail to accept both is to enter heresy. The answers defy our logic. We may not be able to grasp it all, but we can believe what God says about it. Such an exercise stretches our thinking and challenges our neat and comfortable theological positions.
Today we enter into the mysterious section in Romans that takes us high above the clouds into a heavenly view. We will remain up here through chapter 11. Let’s climb!
Read Romans 9
After affirming “If God is for us, nothing can stand against us!” in Chapter 8, the question arises: If that’s true, what happened to Israel? Wasn’t God on their side too?
Paul’s answer in Romans 9 is a strong one: God is in control.
Here’s an outline of what we see in verses 1-29
His word and purposes do not fail
His election always stands
His mercy is His own to give to whom He pleases
He prepares some for destruction and others for glory
Even the present situation with Gentiles coming in and Israel being hardened is part of God’s plan. God has mercy on whom he chooses and he hardens whomever he chooses.
The objection that God is not fair is disposed with in verses 19-24 in four questions:
1. "Who are you to talk back to God?"
2. Can not the potter do what he wants with the clay?
3. What if God chose to make his wrath and power known through objects prepared for destruction?
4. What if he did that to make the riches of his glory known to the objects prepared for his mercy? God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
This chapter raises some very uncomfortable news. Look especially at verse 16.
If chapter 9 were all that we had in the Bible, our understanding of salvation would be greatly altered!
How much of your eternal destiny depends on you in this chapter? Look again at vs. 11-18
Ok, ok… I realize we need to come up for air, but before we do let’s notice the practical application of this section of scripture.
What is the desired effect of these verses?
First and foremost it is to bring humility and reverence for our awesome God.
Also, it is to bring gratitude that shuts out any pride about having a hand in being among those whom God has chosen.
Third, it is to establish that righteousness that saves us is not found by our working but by our trusting in God.
We can get pretty cocky sometimes about our freedom to choose. It is easy for some to think that we can just sin and pray for forgiveness and God will just handle it. As if he is obligated to do so. But what we read here sounds different. This tells us that our freedom to chose rests in God. Who gave you the freedom of choice? The one that gave it can take it away. Our freedom to choose him is based on his grace to us and his mercy to us. He, in no way
is obligated to offer you mercy and grace. It is his choice. In fact, Paul gives us some examples of those who God chose to use as vessels prepared for destruction. Judas always comes to mind when we think about this. Did he have a choice? (Yes, but…). Was he not a son of perdition from the word go? And yet he made all the moves himself. (God never violated his free will). Judas plays an important role in the plan of salvation. Even his death is prophesied in the scriptures. Scriptures offer us no easy answers for this.
We are used to thinking about salvation sort of like playing a board game. God moves, then it’s your turn, then God moves again, then it’s your move. It sure looks that way in the real life situations, and even in some scriptural examples. But Romans chapter 9 is here to remind us that the game and the rules to the game belong to God. God always rules.