Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 27, 2018.
Let us begin this morning by reciting our May memory verse, Romans 9:15-16, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
Today marks our 4th Sunday in Romans 9. Next week will be our last, God willing. Then on June 10th, Pastor Jim Edgell will be with us canidating for the position of preaching and teaching pastor and it is our intent that he would preach the beginning of Romans 10. It will be a good opportunity to see how he handles the living Word of God in the flow of our study of Romans.
However, let us now turn our attention back to Romans 9. Let us first do a brief review. As I have said dozens of times, the book of Romans is about the Gospel. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. The reason that the Gospel is the power of salvation is because the Gospel is the testimony that we are sinners void of righteousness, and because we are sinners the wrath of God looms over us, and our only hope is to cry out for God’s mercy. God's mercy comes in the form of his Son, Jesus Christ. It is only through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven of our sins and receive eternal life. It is Jesus or hell. Those are the two options.
In Romans 9-11, Paul is addressing the Israel problem, which is not really a problem, but God’s plan. It is only seen as a problem because people don’t know God’s sovereign plan. Israel has rejected their own Messiah. They have, generally speaking, rejected Jesus, therefore they will not be forgiven, they will not receive eternal life, and they will spend eternity in Hell. This leads some people to the question, does this mean that God has been unfaithful to the promises he once made to Israel to never forsake them? Two weeks ago we saw that the answer to that question is no because not all Israel is Israel. True Israel is spiritual Israel, those whom God foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and gloried. Just because you are a biological descendent of Abraham means nothing for salvation purposes. What matters is that God’s purpose of election might continue.
This led to the question of “Is there injustice on God’s part?” Last week we unpacked that question and saw that this answer is an emphatic no, because God will have mercy on whomever he wills and he will harden whomever he wills. That God is free to make an independent sovereign decision about the display of his mercy and the display of his wrath, or power. And we recognized that this sovereign display of his wrath and his mercy is the pinnacle of God’s glory. To know the one true God is to know God this way, as Sovereign over all humanity. If this is not your idea of God, then your idea of God is not a Biblical God, and your idea is a false God. One that you have created to make you feel more comfortable. And let us not forget that God does not eternally exist to make sinners feel comfortable. God is a God who makes sinners tremble. So with that summary, let us now turn out attention to the next portion of Romans 9. Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s inspired and inerrant Word.
Why Does He Still Find Fault?
The question, “Why does he still find fault?” Points back to Paul’s statement in verse 18, “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” The question in verse 19 is in response to this statement by the Apostle Paul. If God is the one who is ultimately sovereign over men. And it is God who ultimately causes men to repent and believe in Christ or reject the call of God, then why are men accountable? Why are men blamed if God is ultimately the one who does these things?
It is believed that when Paul writes this question, he is picturing a person who is antagonistic against God; that this hypothetical questioner is not humbly pursuing a deeper knowledge of the glory of God, but is instead asking a judgmental question, indicting the fairness, the justice of God’s action. It is believed that Paul is picturing a person whose heart is not submitted before God, but instead has been hardened towards this truth that is being unpacked in Romans 9.
My guess is that we may have some of those hearts among us today. Perhaps you have sat through our teaching of Romans 9 and you have bristled at the Words of the Apostle Paul; that you have mulled over in your mind “trap-like” questions hoping that it will unravel the whole tapestry of God’s Sovereignty in election. If so, let us carefully listen to Paul’s response to this question about finding fault in man, when it is ultimately God’s will.
Look at verse 20, ”But 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?” First, let us notice what Paul does not say. He does not say, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. You must have misunderstood what I am saying. Each of you have thing called Free Will. And God punishes people based upon their free will decisions.” Paul said nothing like that, did he? One would think that if there was such a thing as a person having ultimate free will over their hearts and their actions, that this would be the ideal point in Scripture to say so, but we see nothing of the sort.
What do we see instead? “But 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?” What an interesting section of scripture. Paul says,” Who do you think you are?” The purpose of this response is to put the antagonistic questioner in their proper place. To humble them to the appropriate position of their standing.
And Paul uses the phrase, “O man.” In Greek this word is Anthropos, this is where we get the words like anthropology. The Hebrew equivalent of the word anthropos is word is adam. Which makes us think of Adam in the Garden of Eden, which is why I think Paul says this phrase, “O man”. Because if you go back to Genesis 2:7 what do we see? It says “then the LORD God formed the man (adam) of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man (adam) became a living creature.”
You and I are dust. It is God who formed us. He made us. He made us in accordance to His will. He created us in accordance to His purposes. Paul continues with this line of thought by saying, ” Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Adam, as the representative of the Human race, did not sit down with God and go over the blue prints before he was formed. Nor did any of you. We are who we are because God decided who we would be.
Paul goes on with this thought by saying, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” Obviously the Potter is God and the lump is all of humanity. This biblical concept of the Potter and the clay finds it roots back in Isaiah 45:9, which is a very interesting passage. Let me read it to you quickly, “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’”
In the passage of Isaiah God is pronouncing woes against those who question God’s will for Israel. It is a dangerous business to stand in judgment of your Maker. But that is exactly what so many of us do on a regular basis. We read things like Romans 8 or Romans 9 or Ephesians 1 question God’s wisdom. I hope we feel the weight of this rebuke, not only in regards to God’s sovereignty over the salvation of mankind, but in all things we read in Scriputre that leaves a bad taste is our wretched mouths. The wisdom of this world is just a bunch of dumb pots clanging together making a bunch of noise.
The bottom line is found in Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” God can do whatever he wants whenever he wants because He is the Creator of it all.
Make Known the Riches of His Glory
Which leads to verse 22 and 23, “What 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— “
In this section of Scripture we see the doctrine of Reprobation. It is the opposite of the doctrine of election. In election people are destined for glory. In reprobation people are destined for damnation. We see this doctrine in verse 22, “has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.”
This doctrine should not surprise you, for we have already seen it previously in Romans 9 with the mention of Esau and Pharaoh. In verse 22, Paul merely expresses it. This is not the only place we see reprobation expressed directly in Scripture.
On top of the expressed teaching of reprobation, I would argue that everywhere we see God's soverign act of grace, we are implicitly seeing the doctrine of reprobation, in that God selected who would receive grace and therefore did not select others.
As we think about this doctrine of reprobation, we should not forget a few things. First, God is not required to save anyone. We have already studied Romans 3:10-12, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” And Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” We as sinful man, deserve damnation, for we have sin against the most High and Holy God.
Second, God chose to save some people through his Son. This choice to save is not like the choice not to save. The choice to save is an action. The choice not to save is the lack of action. By God allowing people to be vessels of wrath, he is merely allowing what naturally is expected. As I have said before the story that makes the most sense in the Bible is the flood. Because the world deserved judgment. Justice required punishment.
Third, those who are saved, the elect, are saved through the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God. God did not save from afar. God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived in this fallen world, was tempted in every way, yet he did not sin. Then, at Calvary, God poured out his wrath upon his one and only Son. This wrath of God poured out on Christ was the equivalent of Hell, nothing less. Therefore, those who are vessels of wrath, reprobates, share something in common with Christ. Christ took upon himself the wrath of God, and so will they.
To Make Known the Riches of His Glory
However, Paul does not say any of those things in this paragraph. Instead he says in verse 23, “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy,” The word “in order” is a word that points to God's purpose. The reason why the Potter made people who would be destined for Hell is so that the elect would eternally know the infinite sweetness of God's mercy. Without actual wrath, there is no mercy. Hell must exist, for us to feel the significance, the weight, of being rescued from it.
In the plan and the purposes of God, it is not an accident that the last thing we will experience before we begin eternity with Christ is the Great Day of Judgment. Many people wonder why there is a judgment day, for Christians who die are already with the Lord. So why have Christians stand before God in judgment if we already know the outcome? Verse 23, “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy,” God desires to display the riches of his glory that is displayed in his wrath and his mercy.
On the great day of Judgment all those whose names were not written in the Lamb's Book of Life before the foundation of the earth will be cast into the lake of Fire, which is the second death. At that moment, the riches of God's glory will be on full display, for we deserve the lake of Fire, but because of Christ, we will enter into God's presence for all eternity.
We will never forget that moment, and for all eternity we will sing the praises of the Lamb that was slain; not from our heads, but from our grateful hearts.
In closing, I fully acknowledge that there are still unanswered questions. How does this all work? How is God sovereign and we are accountable. How does God remain righteous and without sin, yet prepare some for vessels of wrath. How does this all work?
I don't know completely. God does not tell us all the detains. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, ““The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The details of God's sovereignty in election and reprobation is a secret thing, and it is God's and not ours. And we should not grumble, complain, call God unjust, or unfair. We should rejoice that God has graciously revealed what he has, for he didn't have to, but he did. He is a good father, and we are called to be like children.
Matthew 18:4, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”