Musings 120

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. 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.

It seems that while there are many articles and books written on hermeneutics (science of interpretation), there are few that really deal with one of the main issues at hand. It also seems that books on apologetics seem to miss some of the major points made by Paul. The real issue with interpretation and with apologetics is God. This may sound elementary and perhaps even silly to some or perhaps even many, but we must start with God, who God is, and His sovereign rights over all of His creation. It is not necessary to come up with a fancy philosophical argument to convince the fallen reason of man or to jump through hermeneutical hoops to arrive at a correct conclusion. Perhaps we just need to get our interpretations in line with the character of God.

It is true that during the Reformation that the Reformers went by the thought that Scripture interprets Scripture and that was a tremendous principle. However, we should also know that there is another major thought that we should go by and that is the character of God interprets Scripture. We must bring our theology and our interpretations of Scripture to the character of God first and foremost. It is also true that Christ reveals the character of God by His Person and works, but we must learn to look for the Divine nature shining forth in and through Him. After all, He came to manifest God and His glory. The point, then, is that while Scripture interprets Scripture, the testimony of Scripture to the true God should lead us to study Scripture in light of who the true God really is.

In Romans 9:13 Paul writes that it is written “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” Of course we have heard the immediate and impassioned arguments of men that God is unjust if He does that in a literal way. But how does Paul answer that argument? Yes, He goes to Scripture, but He goes to Scripture to show how the character of God is such that He is not unjust. What pounds the argument that God is unjust into the dust is the fact that God will show mercy on whom He will. God is sovereign over those He shows mercy to and is under no obligation whatsoever to show mercy to anyone. The living God is sovereign and that is supposed to still our mouths and our hearts. It is the character of God that is to shut the mouths of men.

Paul moves on in the passage (vv. 17ff) and speaks of how God raised up Pharaoh for His own purposes and He did so that His name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth. Paul then continues the earlier statement (God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy) and now says that God will harden whom He desires. Oh how people argue that this is not fair and how God should not find fault with us then. However, Paul takes us back to the potter and the clay and tells us that the potter has the right to make one lump of clay as he pleases. In other words, Paul takes the person who is arguing back to the character of God and sets forth God as sovereign. God both has mercy on whom He desires and also hardens whom He desires. He is extensively sovereign.

Taking men back to the character of God in His glorious sovereignty is not popular in our day, but it is biblical. It is also the only real answer to those who bring up these questions. If we will take note a lot of times people do question the character of God in issues like these. The way to answer their questions is not to find a philosophical loophole as such, but to show them the true God. In a very real sense all theology is about God and it is the study of God and what He has revealed about Himself. It is God, His beauty, and His glory that shines forth in the Gospel. After all, it is the good news of God and the good news of the glory of God. We cannot preach the true Gospel apart from preaching the true God in the Gospel or the true God as set forth in and by the Gospel. These little canned messages centered on getting people to pray a prayer or make a decision out of nothing but self-love is quite foreign to the Gospel of God. God is to be our most basic hermeneutic and our most basic apologetic.

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