Commentary on Romans 9:16

14 Jun

16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Now the most important word to define in this verse is the smallest word in the verse, the word “it.” What is this word referring to in this verse? The “it” is God’s saving work in the world, the display of His glory to individuals and nations, His work done in His way by His choice. And His choice is rooted in mercy.

God’s saving work does not depend on human will or exertion. What is the difference between these two? Human will refers to inner desires while exertion speaks of action, carrying out the inner desires.

So mercy doesn’t come because I want it and mercy doesn’t come because I work for it. It comes because God chooses to give it. But that’s not fair. How can God withhold mercy from those who want it? Well, let me ask you a question, who doesn’t want mercy? Isn’t mercy something we all want at the end of the day? Some might claim to want no mercy but when the chips are down in their life I bet they will want it. Everybody wants mercy. But not everybody wants mercy on God’s terms. And since He is God that is the way we’ve got to have it if we’re going to get it. We want mercy on our own terms and that usually means we either want mercy plus or we want mercy earned. In other words we want mercy without forsaking our idols. We want God to forgive us for the golden calf even as we are bowing down to the golden calf. Or we want to think we in some way have earned mercy by our goodness or by our effort. But Paul puts the lie to both these approaches. You’re not going to have IT by your desire and you’re not going to have IT by your effort. God’s saving work is God’s work and it is rooted in mercy and in nothing in us.

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