Summary: A teaching message on Romans 9:18-29.
Romans Series # 43 June 19, 2002
Title: When God Seems Unfair Remember These 2 Things
Introduction: Welcome to New Life in Christ. We are currently in Chapter 9 of Romans as we continue with message #43 of our verse-by-verse study of the Book of Romans.
Read Romans 9:18-29
As a father of four children, I sometimes have to make decisions that affect their lives. Decisions such as: friendships, dating, bedtime, entertainment choices, allowances, etc... Very often these decisions seem unfair to one or more of the children. In rare cases they will grow angry and demand that I, the father, explain myself. In those situations, the first thing I do is make very clear that because I am the parent and they are the child, I do not have to explain or justify any of my decisions or actions to them. This does not mean that their criticism of me being unfair is valid. It does not mean that I do not have good reasons for the decisions and actions I take. It just means that I don’t have to answer to the demands of a child.
In a way the verses we just read are related to a similar situation. Paul has just explained how God chooses to show some people mercy, while at the same time hardening the hearts of others, in particular the people of Israel. Their reaction was similar to my children’s in the aforementioned illustration. They accused God of being unfair and demanded that he explain himself. In response to this, Paul writes these verses. In them we learn two things we all need to know when God works in ways that seem unfair to us.
First: God is not answerable about his decisions or actions.
Second: God is not arbitrary in his decisions or actions.
The first thing we all need to understand is that God does not owe us an account of why he does what he does, whether in his dealings with Israel and the Gentiles or any other matter. God is not answerable to us about his decisions or actions, yet an accusation against God and the demand for explanation from God is exactly what some people were seeking.
Read Verse 19
“Why does God still blame us? For who resist his will?” In other words these people are saying, “God hardened our hearts to reject the Gospel and no one can resist his power so what right does he have to hold us accountable for rejecting the Gospel?” Clearly implied in these questions is an accusation that God is unjust and unfair and that he should explain himself.
Keep in mind that this question is not asked with a humble attitude, but with a “talking back to God” attitude as verse 20 states. God is not opposed to us seeking genuine answers to perplexing questions, provided we do so with humility, submissiveness, and an acknowledgement of his right to decline to answer. This is why many Old Testament prophets could sincerely ask God tough questions and not be rebuked while at the same time Job was rebuked by God for demanding an account from God. When we don’t understand God’s ways we need to remember that. . .
1. God is not answerable about his decisions or actions.
This is the basic principle that Paul conveys in verses 20 and 21.
Read Verses 20, 21
In verse 20 Paul asks an important and enlightening question, “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” In other words, what right have you to question God or demand explanations from him? You’re just a man and he is God. Could you imagine in the Army a soldier with the rank of private going to the commanding General and accusing him of being unfair for rescinding his unit’s pass privileges and then demanding that he explain himself. The General’s response would be “Who are you O private to talk back to a General?”
God is God and we are not, therefore we have no right to accuse God or question God. Remember your position and God’s position. He is the highest general and we are the lowest private. He is the Father and we are the children, or as Paul explains in verse 21, he is the Creator and we are the creation.
In verse 21 Paul uses the analogy of God as a potter and people as the clay to make the point that we are not in a position to question God. The analogy should not be taken too far since humans are not entirely like clay. We have the ability to make choices, to resist God’s will, and even to talk back to God unlike clay. In other words, we shouldn’t think that every aspect of our lives, including our eternal destiny, is determined by God alone. That would be taking the analogy way too far and beyond the scope of what Paul intended. One thing that will become clear in chapters 10 and 11 is that God’s choices concerning our lives are determined by our choices concerning God.