Commentary on Romans 9:18

14 Jun

18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Verse 18 sums it up: God chooses. To some He gives mercy and some He hardens. But this is not a cause of despair. There are at least three reasons for this. First, all of us deserve judgment. Second, God often uses the hardening of some for the saving of many. And third, the Bible is clear that God will not cast away those who earnestly seek Him. We need not waver or wonder. We can know God has awakened our hearts by seeking Him. He will work in those who seek Him because He has already been at work.

God’s mercy is given to those who do not deserve it; his hardening affects those who have already by their sin deserved condemnation.

But God is not flippant. He is not just willy-nilly saving and condemning. The point of this passage is not to say God is randomly choosing some and condemning others. The point of the passage is to say that God’s choosing is rooted in God and not in us. And who is God? He is merciful . . .and mighty. He is the Redeemer . . . and He is righteous. He is just . . . and He is the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ.

Douglas Moo says, “God’s freedom to do that which is in accordance with his will does not sit well with many moderns whose philosophy of life stems from a combination of relativism and belief in personal autonomy. For the Christian, however, it is important to build one’s theology not on personal perceptions of what ought to be but upon the biblical revelation of the character and purpose of God. The unalterable nature of God and the absolute justice of his actions are undoubtedly more difficult for the twentieth-century reader to understand than for those who lived in the biblical period, but a proper hermeneutic calls for us to interpret Scripture in its historical context. While its meaning will never change, how it is to be applied will depend upon the context of the reader. To fault God for showing mercy to some while hardening others is to require that he conform to our fallible and arbitrary concept of justice.”

Warren Wiersbe reminds us that God’s holiness demands justice, but his love manifests mercy: “God is holy and must punish sin; but God is loving and desires to save sinners. If everybody is saved, it would deny His holiness; but if everybody is lost, it would deny His love. The solution to the problem is God’s sovereign election.”

And finally, I want to conclude with a quote from John MacArthur. These men, though not equal to the Bible, can help us think through the Scriptures. “I want to say that believing the plain teaching of the Bible, even when it is hard to accept, is a very important component of Christian discipleship. Because if we will reject this teaching, so clear in its word, because it is uncomfortable to us then there are other teachings that we will be willing to object to and reject because they are uncomfortable to us. But the mark of a disciple is that he believes the word of his master and so because we believe the words of our Master, we believe even when do not fully understand what God teaches us in His word.”

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