Summary: In this sermon, the apostle Paul answers whether it is fair of God to hold us accountable to him when he makes the decision regarding our eternal destiny.
Today I’d like to continue our study in Romans 9, one of the most difficult chapters in the entire Bible. Let me say how glad I am that God has allowed me to preach these difficult truths to you. You have not resisted the clear teaching of God’s word, but you have embraced it for what it is—the word of the living God.
Let’s read Romans 9:19-29:
19You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”
26“And in the very place where it was said to them,
‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”
27And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.” (Romans 9:19-29)
Each of chapters 9, 10, and 11 begins with a personal statement by the apostle Paul, in which he identifies himself with the people of Israel and expresses profound concern for them. To him Israel’s unbelief is far more than an intellectual problem. He writes of the sorrow and anguish he feels over them (9:1-5), of his prayerful longing for their salvation (10:1), and of his conviction that God has not rejected them (11:1-6).
It may be helpful to summarize the argument of Romans 9. Paul begins by confessing that Jewish unbelief causes him not only anguish of heart (9:1-3), but also perplexity of mind as he asks himself how the people of Israel with their eight unique privileges could have rejected their own Messiah (9:4-5). How can their apostasy be explained? Paul’s questions and answers proceed consecutively.
First, is it that God’s Word has failed (9:6a)? No, God has kept his promise, which was addressed, however, not to all Israel but to true spiritual Israel (9:6b) whom he had called according to his own “purpose of election” (9:11-12).
Second, is God unjust to exercise his sovereign choices (9:14)? No. To Moses he stressed his mercy (9:15), and to Pharaoh his judgment (9:17). But it is not unjust either to show mercy to the undeserving or to harden those who harden themselves (9:18). Both mercy and judgment are fully compatible with God’s justice.
Third, and this is the question in today’s study, why then does God still blame us (9:19)? Or, as the English Standard Version puts it, why does God still find fault? Paul’s threefold response to this question uncovers the misunderstandings of God which it implies:
1. God has the right of a potter to shape his clay, and we have no right to challenge him (9:20-21).
2. God must reveal himself as he is, making known his wrath and his glory (9:22-23). And,
3. God has foretold in Scripture both the inclusion of the Gentiles and the exclusion of Israel (except for a remnant) (9:24-29).
And fourth, and this is the question we will study next time, Lord willing, what then shall we say in conclusion (9:30)? The explanation of the church’s composition (a Gentile majority and a Jewish remnant) is that the Gentiles believed in Jesus whereas the majority of Israel stumbled over him, the stone God had laid (9:30-33). Thus the acceptance of the Gentiles is attributed to the sovereign mercy of God, and the rejection of Israel to their own rebellion.
With this summary before us, let me now continue with today’s lesson. Today, we deal with the question Paul asks in 9:19a: “Why does he [i.e., God] still find fault?”
If salvation is due entirely to God’s will (which it is, as stated twice in verse 15 and twice more in verse 18), and if we do not resist his will (which we do not, and indeed could not), “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” (9:19).