Friday, August 27, 2010

God’s Sovereignty and Our Choices

Continuing from the last post regarding God choosing to harden the hearts of some…

Romans 9:19 “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? “

Again, Paul is anticipating the questions of the readers of this letter. The question--If God hardens someone’s heart, how can He condemn that person for something over which he had no control?

Romans 9:20-21 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Paul is firm in his reply that we have no right to question the authority of God. God Himself answered this thought through the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 18:3-6 “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”

And the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 29:16 “…. for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?” (Note: This is a rhetorical question with an obvious answer—NO.)

God creates every person according to His own purposes. That purpose includes the ability to choose whether or not to follow God in faith and obedience. Each person has an inner understanding of God’s declaration of Himself through creation.

Romans 1:19–20 “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

Romans 9:22-23 “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,”

These verses just build on the thoughts presented above in my opinion. It is important to note that the word “what” is not in the original; sometimes the translators make understanding more difficult by the words they add. In fact, it sounds like Paul is saying that God “endured with much longsuffering” the wickedness of those who chose to reject Him. Those are vessels “fitted to destruction”—condemned for eternity.

John 3:18 “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Why was He so longsuffering? To make use of these wicked vessels to demonstrate His wrath (punishment, vengeance, anger) and His power in order to declare Himself and draw to Himself “the vessels of mercy,” those who would turn to Him in faith and repentance.

There has to be a contrast between good and evil for man to recognize his need for a Savior. God purposed through men of faith to demonstrate the contrast of blessing for following Him in faith and obedience and judgment for those who choose to reject Him.

“afore prepared unto glory” – This takes us back to Romans 8:29-30: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

Romans 9:24 “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.”

“Even us” = vessels of mercy
Paul is saying that the children of faith, the vessels of honor, would consist of Jews and Gentiles. Through the inspiration of the Spirit, Paul declares this to be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Hosea.

Hosea 2:23 “And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people [the Gentiles], Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” [brackets mine]

Romans 9:26 “And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.”

Another quote from Hosea: Hosea 1:10 “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.”

I tend to think this verse is emphasizing the restoration of the people of Israel to relationship with Jehovah. He had scattered them to the far ends of the earth and this is a promise that they will once again be brought back to the place from which God dispersed them—the land of Israel—as children of the living God, part of the family of faith.

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