Gospel of Grace Alone 41

Romans 9:13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 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 does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 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.

One of the sobering and yet glorious teachings of Scripture on election is that not only does God have mercy on whom He will have mercy and have compassion on whom He will have compassion, but He also hardens those whom He desires. Oh how this causes the natural man to gnash his teeth at the true sovereign of the universe as the natural man desires to be in control and sovereign over himself, which is to say that the natural man would be a god unto himself. But Scripture teaches us very clearly that it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. But what if God has no desire to choose mercy? He does, after all, have mercy on whom He desires (v. 18). But if He does not desire to show mercy, what are we to say at that?

We are also told that God hardens whom He desires. This is such a hard teaching that is ignored and is the cause for many to avoid teaching Romans 9, but even those who dare to teach it don’t really address many of the issues. This hard teaching is necessary, however, if we are going to understand the true nature of grace. To repeat or quote Scripture again, “He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” For God to show mercy in an aspect of grace, but for Him to harden it is an aspect of His justice. His glory shines either way. While that sounds calloused, we are left with no other place to stand on by Scripture and we should not want to stand at any other point than where Scripture stands.

But this great teaching teaches us to encourage sinners to flee from sin because God may harden their hearts and turn them over to sin. It is not that sinners just sin and their wills are free to sin in this life without judgment, but each sin is judged and judged immediately whether one sees it or not. Sin hardens the hearts of sinners and they are turned over to more and more sin. Sin brings judgment in this life and in the life to come. It is by grace alone that God takes sinners that are hardened in sin and to the glory of His grace He softens their hearts and converts them at His mere pleasure.

Another aspect of this teaching is that the thrice holy God is under no obligation to those who sin and are hardened in their sin. While they continue in bondage to sin and sin makes the bondage worse and worse, sinners are helpless in their sin while they are piling more and more burdens upon themselves. Sinners have no power to undo sin or to take sin off of their backs, but sinners are completely at the mercy of God to do as He pleases with them. It takes the blood of Christ to take the guilt of sin away and sinners cannot apply that to themselves. It takes an infinite power to rescue sinners from the power of sin, the devil, and of self. That infinite power can only be exerted by the living God.

Yes, this is a hard teaching and it is rejected by many in the modern day. But this teaching will also set out the grace of God and put it on display for all to see. While justice screams for God to judge sinners and to harden them, God shows mercy and grace and saves sinners by Christ in a way that satisfies perfect justice and yet puts the glory of grace on display for angelic beings and sinners to admire. The right of God to harden the hearts of sinners as a judicial judgment is one thing to admit as true in accordance with a creed, but to bow before God and confess His righteous judgment on us and look to grace alone is quite another. But until we see how righteous God is to harden us in our sin and damn us, we will not see with great clarity that God saves sinners by His grace alone.

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