Romans 9:14-16 "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."
Romans 9:33 "just as it is written, 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.'"
In our last post, we began considering a suggested approach to the amazing chapter of Romans 9. Romans 9 is a mighty spiritual Himalaya mountain range. Like the physical Himalaya mountains, some of the summits and peaks have been climbed and accessed. Other summits remain inaccessible to even the most ablest of mountaineers. In Romans 9, we find the spiritual Himalaya being none other than God's mercy. Some verses in this chapter are easily accessed (such as Romans 9:33, which tells us that all who believe in Him won't be disappointed). Other verses in Romans 9 are rooted in the eternal character of God, inaccessible to the entirety of comprehension to even the most ablest commentators. This doesn't mean that Romans 9 cannot be understood. Just as we can marvel and appreciate and even make our journeys through the Himalayas, so too with Romans 9. With that said there are points where we have to admit that all glory goes to God and that there is no inherent contradictions nor incoherence when it comes to the divine revelation of His salvation. When the Lord declared to Moses that He has "mercy on whom he has mercy", He doesn't explain why He showed mercy to, say, Israel - other than the fact that He chose her in love (see Exodus 33; Deuteronomy 7:7-8).
Moreover, those who sadly die in their sins, despite persistent pleadings to believe, repent and be saved, can only blame themselves. Romans 9 won't let us proceed to long without feeling burdened for lost souls and praying for God's mercy to be shown and revealed to those unconverted persons near and dear to our hearts (see especially Romans 9:1-5).
In today's post, we continue from where we left off in the last post - drawing parallels between Moses and Paul. Since Paul quotes several Old Testament texts - including the narratives of Exodus written by Moses concerning God's hardening of Pharaoh and His Divine choice to redeem His people - all we aim to do is approach the summit of this mighty Himalaya of Romans 9. We thus far have considered the following:
1. Both Moses and Paul have missionary hearts (Exodus 32:32-33 and Romans 9:1-5)
2. Both Moses and Paul appeal to God's Divine Choice In The Redemption Of His People (Exodus 32:12-14; Romans 9:6-13)
Today we offer two other suggested ways of approaching Romans 9, with final thoughts and applications.
3. Both Moses and Paul center on God's incredible mercy in the saving of sinners
In Exodus 33, we find Moses praying further to God on behalf of the people. God was obligated to uphold His holy name. The people had blatantly disregarded His direct orders not to worship any idols, since God is the only true and living God. God told Moses in Exodus 33 that justice demanded that He destroy the people and not accompany them in their journeys.
Justice said "yes" to carrying out deserved destruction on a people who stood to be judged. But Moses interceded and pleaded with God. Consequently, God's desire to show mercy, rather than wrath, resulted in God's mercy saying "no" and preserving those persons whom He had redeemed on account of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The result? God revealed His true intentions to save the people whom He redeemed. We see this played out in Exodus 33:15-19 -
"Then he said to Him, 'If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?' 17 The Lord said to Moses, 'I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.' 18 Then Moses said, 'I pray You, show me Your glory!' 19 And He said, 'I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”'
God's justice needed to be carried out, but mercy said: "no". The result was God's true intention to withhold that which was deserved - judgment - by showing mercy. Amazingly, we find Paul quoting this text verbatim in Romans 9:14-15 "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."
This focus on God's overwhelming merciful choice to save undeserving sinners redounds through Romans 9 (see Romans 9:18; 23) and is expressed by way of quoting other Old Testament prophets (Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 in Romans 9:25-26; Isaiah 1:9 in Romans 9:25-29 and Isaiah 28 in Romans 9:33). If we could offer four principles to consider in working through Romans 9, they might be the following:
a. God is fair or just (Romans 9:14)
b. God is merciful (Romans 9:15-18)
c. God doesn't send people to hell, since people who sadly die in their sins chose to persistently reject Jesus Christ and God's well-meant offer of salvation (Romans 9:19-24 and John 3:36)
d. God’s Divine purpose according to His choice includes the appeal to the sinner's free-moral agency to believe, repent and be saved (Romans 9:33).
4. Both Moses and Paul appeal to their audiences to respond to God's saving purposes (Exodus 34 and Romans 9:33).
God gives the people a series of instruction in Exodus 34 to abstain from idolatry and to resolve in their commitment to follow Him as the true and living God. God's issuing of commands would require His grace to carry them out. The importance of an appropriate human response of saving faith in the context of God's saving grace is required for the application of salvation.
Both God's Divine work of election and calling in salvation does not in anyway negate the responsibility people have to respond in saving faith. If for anything, the evangelistic thrust of both Exodus 32-34 and Romans 9 ought to put to rest any fears that sometime arise over the mistaken notion of a conflict between God's eternal intentions in the redemption of sinners and the personal responsibility people have to respond in repentance and faith.
God grieves over any sinner who dies in their sins (Ezekiel 18:23) and would desire all men to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus Himself - God in human flesh - looked upon a young man with whom He was appealing to for repentance with a love and compassion in Mark 10:21. As far as we know, that young man to whom Jesus was talking to walked away - never tasting in the salvation that is found in Jesus as Messiah.
Whenever we come to Romans 9, Paul makes mention of the importance of a response of faith to all that he has written. In Romans 9:33 we find these words in Paul's closing of this grand chapter - just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Truly we find in Romans 9 the persistent teachings on God's Divine working in salvation on the one hand and the human responsibility people have to receive salvation.
Today the attempt was made to offer a way of approach to Romans 9 by noting parallels between Moses and Paul. We observed four similarities that can aid us in navigating this incredible chapter:
1. Both Moses and Paul have missionary hearts
2. Both Moses and Paul appeal to God's Divine Choice In The Redemption Of His People
3. Both Moses and Paul center on God's incredible mercy in the saving of sinners
4. Both Moses and Paul appeal to their audiences to respond to God's saving purposes
As the Baptist Faith and Message notes in its respective, successive articles on salvation and God's purpose of grace:
"Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer."
"Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility."
May all who approach Romans 9 do so with two attitudes: humility on the one hand and absolute awe of God's mercy on the other-hand. If we use those two attitudes as guard-rails in reading Romans 9, we should arrive in the right reading and application of its truths.