Sermon: God Does as He Pleases With His Creation Romans 9:14–29

God Does as He Pleases With His Creation

Romans 9:14–29

(we had some issues with the audio. Sound quality is low for the first 1.40. )

Truth Taught- God has determined to use His creation to show His glory.

Introduction

Last time Paul was making a case for defending God’s promises to Israel. Since many more Gentiles were coming to faith than Jews, there were those who were saying that God’s promises to Israel had failed.

We learned that God’s promises were consistent with what was taking place because they were not made to national Israel but to the true Israelites, those not born in Abraham’s bloodline but those born of faith like Abraham’s.

We also learned that true Israel is made up of all who believe both Jew and Gentile. We also learned that the way the promises of God come true is through divine election, never through natural means such as bloodlines or human will but only from God’s divine decree and initiative.

Anytime the doctrine of election surfaces it automatically creates questions in our minds. The reason is that this is an area where God alone decides.

Isaiah 55:8–9 (ESV)

   For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

   For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The reality with some truths found in the Bible is that we probably wont fully grasp them this side of glorification. This is because God’s ways and thoughts far exceed ours and what is right for God may at times not seem exactly right from our perspective, at least at first. So, beloved don’t think you’re the only one who has ever been confused, left wondering, and even left questioning God because of the truth of divine election.

I remember the first time I heard it.

I remember one of the first times I taught it.

I have been asked basically all the questions there are to ask concerning it.

If you have questions, you’re not alone. If you have questions let’s listen to God answer them in His Word.

Here’s the catch…If your question is addressed in God’s Word then you’re required to accept it and believe it.

If we were to write a thesis statement from last week’s text, it would be something like this: God has kept His promises by making Christians where and when he chooses.

Romans 9:6 (ESV)

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,

God keeps His promises…

Promise is that through Abraham God will create a people who love and worship Him. We learned last week it’s not through being a physical descendant of Abraham but a spiritual offspring by faith. True Israel, the Israel God made the promises to are the children of faith or as Paul writes, the children of promise.

Last week we saw two foundational proofs that God’s promises had not failed but are meant for God’s elect.

  1. Isaac and Ishmael– both were Abraham’s children but God’s divine love was set on Isaac and not Ishmael. Isaac was the son of promise not Ishmael. Isaac received the promise not Ishmael; Isaac was elect not Ishmael even though both were Abraham’s descendants.
  2. Jacob and Esau– Both boys were born of Isaac and Rebekah. Both were Abraham’s grandchildren. God chose to extend His promise to Jacob but not Esau. The text tells us this was so God’s purpose of election would continue. So, Jacob received the promise not Esau.

Romans 9:14–29 (ESV)

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 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?” 21 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? 22 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, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As 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.’ ”

27 And 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, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

       “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,

we would have been like Sodom

and become like Gomorrah.”

  1. Objection…God is Unjust (9:14-18)

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

What people were asking and Paul had heard it every time he taught this truth is that God is not fair or God is not just. There injustice on God’s part.

Adikia is the Greek word translated as injustice. It means to not keep a promise or to behave unfair. This word has been used already a few times in Romans to refer to men but here it’s used for God. Beloved, we must resist ever claiming that God is unfair.

Paul’s answer: By no means!

God is perfect in every way.

So, just like the way Paul proved that God’s promise has not failed by using two examples, he does the same thing here. In both, he uses accounts from the Exodus.

  1. Exodus: No One Deserves God’s Mercy

15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy

Here we see God extending sovereign mercy to the people.

Paul takes us now from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Moses and the terrible account of the Golden Calf. This account proves beyond a doubt that God’s mercy in extending His favor does not depend on human willingness to follow Him but it’s the purpose of His own initiative.

In fact Moses uses this very Golden Calf event to prove the same thing Paul is proving, namely, that God has mercy on whomever He choses to show mercy to.

Deuteronomy 9:4–7 (ESV)

“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord.

It’s right after this that Paul quotes from Deuteronomy…

15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy

God shows mercy on a rebellious people because He has chosen to do so and for no other reason.

God doesn’t look ahead and see who will be good followers then elect them. No, if God looked down through time to see who would chose Him He would see no one because there are none who seek after God, no not one.

Paul rightly concludes that God’s sovereign choice does not depend on man in any way.

  1. Exodus: God Hardens Some So That the Many Will See What a Great Redeemer He Is

17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Paul now takes us back to Egypt to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.

Remember the account of the various plagues of Egypt? At various times it is stated that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart for the purpose of not letting the Israelites go so that God would then in turn send the plagues to devastate Egypt because of their pagan worship and so that God’s power and glory would be seen.

Exodus 10:1–2 (ESV)

10 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”

So, the point Paul is making is this: God can and does show mercy to whomever He choses and hardens whomever He choses and the amazing reality is that in both cases God is glorified.

In the case of Pharaoh and the Exodus, God’s glory and power became widely known and everywhere the Israelites travelled; God’s glory and power seen in Egypt went before them.

Joshua 2:9–11 (ESV)

and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

The end of everything God does results in His glory whether it is showing mercy or wrath both are glorious to God.

  1. Objection: God Can’t Hold the Lost Accountable

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 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?” 21 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?

Paul, at this point, could have went back to Exodus and showed how in the beginning it was Pharaoh who hardened his own heart…

Exodus 8:32 (ESV)

32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go.

The reality is Paul doesn’t go there. He simply and powerfully says basically, who do you think you are to question God? 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?

Paul then uses an OT example from a time when God was greatly angered because the Israelites were questioning His sovereign will and acting like they knew the future and could control events.

Isaiah 29:16 (ESV)

16    You turn things upside down!

       Shall the potter be regarded as the clay,

       that the thing made should say of its maker,

“He did not make me”;

       or the thing formed say of him who formed it,

“He has no understanding”?

Paul uses this example to make his point.

Jeremiah 18:3–6 (ESV)

So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

God is clearly the Potter who can make whatever and whomever He desires.

Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 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?

To challenge God’s right to control the universe and everything in it is to make a play for His throne. It’s literally to turn things upside down. To question God’s right to do as He pleases is to seek to dethrone God and sit on His throne. It’s really satanic because that is exactly what Satan tried to do.

Isaiah 14:13–14 (ESV)

13    You said in your heart,

‘I will ascend to heaven;

       above the stars of God

I will set my throne on high;

       I will sit on the mount of assembly

in the far reaches of the north;

14    I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High.’

God has the sovereign right to make clay pots for various purposes. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses were made to bring God glory through His mercy. Ishmael, Esau, and Pharaoh were clay pots created to bring God glory through His justice. He is God and we are not.

Here’s where we need to be careful. When God hardened Pharaoh’s heart He was taking Pharaoh’s sinful will and cementing it further. In other words, He did not make Pharaoh do something he didn’t already want to do. God handed him over to the consequences of his state of sinfulness. Pharaoh hated the God of the Bible and God simply solidified his current state. Pharaoh is responsible for his actions and will be held accountable for his sin.

Where hardening keeps a person in his current sinful state, election takes us from that state of being God’s enemies to being God’s people.

I must also make something else clear: No one will be condemned who truly desires to be saved. One of the tragic characteristics of those who are condemned is that they do not desire to be saved.

  1. God is Patient in Order to Show More People His Grace

22 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, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As 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.’ ”

27 And 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, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,

       “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,

we would have been like Sodom

and become like Gomorrah.”

Now Paul is asking an amazing question. His question gets to the heart of the issue. If we are to ask God questions concerning His sovereign choice of some and not others, they should be along the lines of this question.

His question is not why some and not others but why does God endure with much patience those whom He will not show mercy to?

In other words, why didn’t God simply judge Egypt immediately without the plagues? Or why did God bear with unbelieving Israel in the wilderness for 40 years? Why does He do it patiently and slowly?

Let’s hear Paul’s two answers:

  1. Enduring with Much Patience Shows More of God’s Power and Glory to His People

Because the Exodus happened slowly and multiple plagues were displayed more of God was made visible. It’s been said that each of the plagues were against a god the Egyptians worshipped. They worshipped the Nut- the goddess of the sky…God rained hail and fire from the sky. They worshipped Hapi the god of the Nile River…the Nile turned to blood. Etc. At every point God was showing His power over the false god’s of Egypt.

22 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,

  1. Enduring with Much Patience Shows More of the Riches of His Grace

23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and endured with patience vessels of wrath so that His glorious redemption would be seen. He hardened Pharaoh so that…
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”

Here’s the amazing truth Paul wants us to see. He shows us this by quoting from Hosea where God declare through the prophet that His people would not be His people. In other words, He declared them literally to be Gentiles.

But now because of events like the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart Gentiles (those who are not My people) will be declared My people. Gentiles who God calls are declared His people. So let’s say it like this, because God hardened Pharaoh’s heart some of Pharaoh’s descendants (Egyptian Gentiles) are now counted as God’s people. Gentiles from all over the world are counted as God’s people because His power was seen through the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.

Conclusion

We should be amazed that there are any Christians at all let alone that we would be among them. I pray we feel the wonder that not only is there mercy for some when none deserve it but that God’s mercy overflows to the most unlikely people which includes us. Because God is a God of mercy, because we don’t know who God has chosen, and because the truth of election is somewhat of a mystery, we should pray fervently for those people who are lost around us with the anticipation that God will also call them as He has called us.

Finally this truth must humble us to see salvation from beginning to end as a work of mercy for undeserving sinners, just like us.

**Resources Used…

John Stott on Romans

Christopher Ash teaching Romans

John MacArthur on Romans

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