Hard Truth, Part 2
Yesterday we began to look at an important but difficult to interpret passage of the book of Romans. The passage begins with a declaration that God will have mercy on whomever He will have mercy and compassion on whomever He will have compassion. There is a strong flavor of God’s election and sovereign choice. Paul also reminds the reader that there is no unrighteousness with God. This leads to a significant theological question which is found in verse 19 and then a rather lengthy section after that: “19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.” 26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.” 27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved. 28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.” 29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”
The question could be rephrased like this: “If God is the one choosing whom He has mercy on and whom He does not, then what fault is there in man? If a man was not selected for mercy then is he really in rebellion against God? Can we rightly put the blame on God for the rebellion of some men? The answer is a defense of the character of God. The creation has no right to challenge the creator. Paul then speaks to the idea that God has chosen people not only from Israel but also from the Gentiles and he cites three Old Testament examples. On some level, that answer isn’t very satisfying but then on a deeper level it truly is. It’s not possible for us to fully understand God’s work in salvation and this world. If God is real then we would expect Him to “operate” in a realm of thought and deed of which we would be very unfamiliar at times. The main context of this chapter is God’s activity in the nation of Israel. However, I think there are enough other passages of the Bible which speak to the idea of election as well. No one comes to God on his own. No one is drawn to God unless God draws Him first. I’m not able to explain how the sovereignty of God and the free will of man intersect but I believe that intersection occurs. I’ll just continue to trust Him and believe Him and proclaim Him to others. I hope you will do the same.