Summary: Three reasons we can trust God to be fair in the unfolding of his plan.
There are certain phrases every parent begins to expect from their kids. Phrases like "why?" or, "But Greg’s parents let him do it." One of those phrases is, "That’s not fair!" We said it as kids, and when we become parents our kids bombard us with that phrase. And of course the standard response we learned from our parents that we pass on to our kids is, "Life’s not fair."
When you’re a kid, you expect things to be fair. But as we get older, we tend to grow more cynical. But even in our cynicism we hold out hope that at least there’s one person who is fair: God. Even if a criminal slips through justice in this life, we hope they don’t slip past God’s justice. Even when we’re wronged and betrayed by people we care about, even when those we care about turn on us, even when we’re tricked out of our hard earned money, at least we can trust that that person will have to stand before God. Even if life isn’t fair, at least we can trust God to be fair.
But what if he isn’t? What if God plays favorites, or if God’s definition of fairness is different than our definition of fairness? When a person begins to doubt God’s fairness, that suspicion erodes very core of his or her confidence in God. How can you trust someone who isn’t trustworthy? How can you put your confidence in someone who might let you down?
We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of Romans called "Good News for Our Times." In this series we’ve been looking at God’s message to our world through His Son Jesus Christ. In the first four chapters of Romans we looked at the good news about God’s integrity, in chapters 5 to 8 we looked at the good news about God’s love, and then last week we started chapters 9 to 11 by looking at the good news about God’s faithfulness.
I mentioned last week that Romans chapter 9 is one of the most difficult and controversial chapters in the New Testament. Differences over how to understand Romans 9 have parted friendships, split churches, and divided Christians into different doctrinal groups. In fact, I probably made some people in our church mad last week when I started going through this chapter, and I’ll probably make even more people mad this week. I introduced chapter 9 last week by posing a dilemma. The dilemma is this: If Jesus Christ fulfills God’s promises to the Jewish people of Israel, then why do the majority of Jewish people reject Jesus as their Messiah? We saw that even though the nation of Israel has mostly rejected Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises to them that God isn’t done with Israel yet. But because Israel has rejected Jesus, God has created the Christian Church to fulfill God’s purposes in this stage of his plan. We saw last week that this is nothing new, because God has always used individuals and nations in special ways to fulfill his strategy. Just as in the Old Testament God chose Isaac over Ishmael, just as he chose Jacob over Esau, so now has chosen his Church over Israel for the unfolding of God’s plan. But Paul warned us last week that this shouldn’t cause us to think that God’s promises to Israel have failed or that the Church has replaced Israel. It simply means that for the time being God is using the Christian Church for the outworking of his strategy.
Now a person could look at God’s strategy and conclude that it isn’t fair. God’s choice of Abraham out of all the nations, his choice of Isaac over Ishmael, his choice of Jacob over Esau, his choice of Israel over the other ancient nations, and now his choice of the Church over Israel could be construed as God playing favorites. Is God fair in the way he’s working out his plan?
So today we’re going to see three reasons we can trust God to be fair in the outworking of his plan.
1. God’s Motive (Romans 9:14-18)
Let’s look at vv. 14-18 together. When Paul uses this phrase, "What shall we say then?" he’s anticipating a false conclusion from what he’s said so far. Back in chapter 3 he said, "What shall we say then? Is God unjust to judge people?" (3:5); in chapter 6 he said, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that grace might abound?" (6:1); and in chapter 7 he said, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin?" (7:7). In each case he rejected the conclusion as a false conclusion.
So does God play favorites with people? Paul rejects this conclusion as wrong, and he quotes a verse from the Old Testament book of Exodus to prove that God isn’t unjust.