Grace Alone Should be Our Cry – History & Theology, Part 73

I the past several blogs we have been looking at the motives of God in saving sinners. In the last two BLOGS we have looked at Romans 9:6-16. In this BLOG I would like to look at Romans 9:22-23. The purpose again is to see the Gospel of grace alone and how it is connected with historical Augustinian theology and not Arminianism. Historical Augustinian theology stresses the will and choice of God while Arminian theology stresses that man must make a choice of his free-will. A will that is truly free is a will that is free from grace and that shows that the Arminian position denies (at least by implication) in reality the teaching of grace alone. The motive of God in saving sinners must be from Himself if salvation is to be all of grace.

Romans 9:17 – For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

Earlier in Romans we have seen how Paul stresses the fact that salvation is from God’s mercy and compassion and specifically not of the will and acts of man. We have seen how God chose Jacob over Esau before they were born. As twins they had the same parents and same bloodline, so the choice is surely seen to be the choice of God and not of themselves. This shows that God’s motive had to be of Himself rather than one of the boys. Paul knows that people will argue that God is not fair about this and he began to rebut that charge by simply saying that God is not unjust. It is one thing to argue that the doctrine of election is unfair, but it is quite another to argue that it is unjust. Those are two separate arguments. To be fair means to be equal. To be just means to treat one by a standard of justice that is morally good.

What standard of justice will we use against God? Paul goes on with his argument that God raised Pharaoh up for the purpose of demonstrating His power through him and that His name would be proclaimed throughout the earth. In other words, the motive of God in raising Pharaoh to that high and exalted position was to exalt God. We know that the book of Exodus speaks several times of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Now if God raised Pharaoh up for God’s purposes and hardened Pharaoh’s heart for His own purposes, what can we say to that? Was God unjust for a judicial hardening of Pharaoh’s heart? No, for He has mercy on whom He will have mercy and the contrast to that is that He will harden whom He will harden. All are born dead in sin and God has the absolute right and an absolute just right to harden a sinners heart if He so pleases. He also has the right to show mercy as He pleases.

Without question at this point if we are looking at this text and interpreting it according to the character of God, we can see that mercy is a sovereign act of God and He shows it according to Himself. God’s motive in showing mercy is not in human beings, but is exclusively in Himself. He acts according to what He desires in displaying His power and glory not according to the will of humans. This is so hard to human pride and self-sufficiency. Not only can I not work enough for salvation, I cannot earn one thing for salvation. Not only can I not work one thing for salvation, I cannot will one thing for salvation. It all depends on the mercy of God. Where does that leave the sinner? It leaves us all at the foot of the cross asking God for a broken heart that has no trust in the works or will of self. It leaves us in the hands of God knowing that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy rather than have motives to save because sinners have just a bit of free-will that they exercise. Oh how we value human freedom at the expense of the glory of God. How we value the right of human choices over the right of God to choose and our rights and choices that we sacrifice God’s choices at the altar of self-love. We so value our own choices that we are willing to denigrate the Gospel of grace alone to keep them. Grace alone should be our cry!

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