Objections to Gods Sovereignty
Good Morning! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Romans Chapter 9. If you don’t have a Bible, if you do not own one, we have a couple on the back table there that we would love for you to have. If you do not own a Bible, please let that be our gift to you.
Now, as we get into what Paul is writing here in Romans chapter 9, it is easy for us to have the intellectual answers and responses, but it is much harder to have the right, true emotional, instinctual and reactionary answers and responses.
We look at what Paul has been showing us about God, not only over the course of the last chapter and a half, but over the last 9 chapters, building from the beginning of this letter and still continuing to build as he writes chapter 9 here.
Paul is hammering home the point, in many different ways, with many different applications, that God is completely and totally sovereign. That what he has determined, not just seen, but determined before the beginning of time has zero chance of not happening. That God has chosen, strictly in his Goodness, His grace and his Mercy, He has chosen to save some of us from the eternal punishment deserved from our rebellion against him and our sin.
That doesnt always sit well with us. In fact, in our emotions and our human understanding we do whatever we can to reject this idea. We reject what God has clearly taught. We call him a liar. We say that things are not fair because we dont understand them. We attack Gods character.
Ultimately, we dont want to come under authority, and God demands that we submit to his authority. In all this, human objections to Gods authority, to his will, to his goodness and fairness pop up all the time. Romans chapter 9 addresses 3 of those such questions. We addressed the first one last week.
God promised Abraham that his descendants would be the recipients of the promise. Not all of the Jewish people, the physical descendants of Abraham, were saved. So then, has Gods Word failed? No! We, in our human wisdom, see the promises that God makes and assume they will be fulfilled in a certain, specific way. God says otherwise.
In this case, the promise is not made to the physical descendants, though they have many advantages, but to the spiritual descendants, all who believe in Christ. All whom God has called to him, will receive the fulfillment of the promise of God and Gods Word will not have and has not failed.
This morning we will take a look at two more of those objections. Overall, we will end up looking through verse 29. We are going to start with verse 13, which we also touched on last week, some of that overlap I was mentioning. We will start with verse 13 and in this first section and read through verse 18, looking at the first objection. Romans chapter 9, verses 13-18. Paul writes:
As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 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 depends not on human will or exertion,[b] but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
So, in its essence, the argument here is that it is unfair for some people to be saved and for some to not be saved. The argument usually comes along like this, “It is unfair for God to choose to save some and not choose to save others.”
Now, if you think this as well, if this question, or objection is a struggle for you, or if you hear this objection and want to know how to respond to it, or if you have any other questions and objections, or hear from others various questions and objections, I’m going to show you today how we answer and respond to those questions. It’s the same way Paul responded to those questions and objections.
We look at what the Bible says.
Simple and clearly. What does Gods Word say? If we limit it to that question, we can see the answers to our questions very easily. Paul here, very simply answers this objection. He says, “No, it’s not unfair, nothing about God is unfair!”
And Paul shows that this is what Gods Word says. Many places, in many ways. Now, we see that said very simply and clearly, but, who wants to raise their hand right now and say, “But God…” But you don’t know my situation. You don’t know what I’ve been through. But my brother, but my sister. But my child, but my grandchild…
That answer God gives us through out scripture, the answer that Paul gives us here is simple and clear. We make it complicated. Our sin nature, that we are all born with, makes it complicated. This fallen, broken world makes it complicated. When I read this, I make it complicated. Im willing to wager, more often than your willing to admit, when you read this, you make it complicated.
The answer is simple. The situation, the context, the application can all be complicated. So let’s try to keep this simple.
Hope brought up a point this week. We were watching something together this week, I don’t even remember what it was. But it was a couple of episodes of something in a row. She went to skip one of them. At some other point in time, she had seen the end of the episode, the last few minutes or so. She knew what happened, She had been spoiled to the ending. That ever happen to you? See the end of something before you see the whole thing? Or someone spoils the twist, the surprise of a movie you have been waiting to see? Whats the point of watching it then, right?
God never gets spoiled in that way. He is never surprised by the ending. And it isn’t because he sees the whole picture, it isn’t even because of his omniscience, his knowledge of everything. God does not see the episode or movie all at once and know the future if you will. No, God wrote the script. He wrote it with the ending already in mind. He wrote the ending, and in a way, it is the purpose of the story.
Again, it’s not that God sees all and knows all, but he determines all. He creates all. He has authority over all. He gets to determine what happens, he gets to determine when it happens and he gets to determine who it happens to. He and he alone has the right, the ability and the authority to determine anything, let alone everything.
God says, simply and clearly, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” and Paul again, makes crystal clear that because of this, it is based on God, his mercy and his character, his perfect mercy and his perfect character, and not on anything about us, no human exertion, no human will. His mercy is based on him and him alone.
Paul bring sup Pharaoh. It is interesting to me. We see Pharoah in the beginning of the book of Exodus. Pharaoh was again and again presented with the truth of Gods Word and with Gods plan and Pharoah continually rejected it. It’s very telling, I believe that the language the Bible uses alternates between Pharaoh hardening his own heart, and God hardening Pharaohs heart.
They are both used. They are used interchangeably. And they are used with no difference. The Bible makes no distinction between God hardening his heart and Pharoah hardening his own heart. And I think that’s a key thing to keep in mind when we remember and acknowledge Gods sovereignty and authority. It doesn’t take away our responsibility.
John Piper says, Results are God’s business. Obedience is ours. And this is true obedience that he is talking about here. This is not checklist obedience. This is not righteousness based on obedience. This is an obedience out of love, out of thankfulness, out of passion and out of submission to a greater authority than ourselves.
That means obeying to the best of our ability. That means obey, not just enough, but all the way. That means obey just like we love, with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.
That means that we plant seeds. We plant them with love and passion. We plant them anywhere and everywhere. We plant them in all times and places because we don’t know which ones he will water. We don’t know which one will be on rocky ground, on shallow soil, on fertile ground. We don’t know who he is calling to himself. We do not know the end of the movie, who gets saved and who doesn’t. God knows because he wrote the movie. God knows because he determined it.
And He determined it for a specific purpose. Look back at what Paul quotes, what God said to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
To the Glory of God alone.
The purpose of Gods revealed will. To show his power in us so that his name might be proclaimed in all the earth. This specifically is not talking about salvation. That would be real easy to take out of context. God shows his power in us, his followers, us healing people and doing miracles so that we can bring people to Christ. That would be a wrong interpretation and application of this text.
God raised up Pharaoh. He made this man the most powerful man in the world at that moment in history. He put him in charge of the greatest nation in the world at that point. And he hardened his heart. Pharaoh was not and would not be a believer. He would not know Gods mercy and grace. And God used him, in his wickedness, in his evilness, in his sin, to show Gods own power. He showed his power for his own glory. He showed us power so that his name would be proclaimed in ALL the earth.
He showed us his power because one day, in the end, all will eventually submit to Gods authority. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is LORD. But not all will bow and confess in time.
God is for God. All of Gods choices, while he works all things together for the good of those who love him, all of Gods choices are made to glorify himself. All of Gods choices are made with the perfect knowledge of a perfect God, who is perfectly good, perfectly merciful, perfectly just, perfectly perfect. There is no unfairness in God.
Just because we can’t see everything he sees, doesn’t mean he is wrong. Just because we don’t see everything he determines, doesn’t mean he doesn’t determine it. Deuteronomy 29:29. The secret things belong to the LORD. He doesn’t reveal everything to us. He is under no obligation to.
That doesn’t change our responsibility, shouldnt change our obedience. There is quote that is often sourced to Charles Spurgeon that says: If the Lord had put a yellow stripe down the backs of the elect, I’d go up and down the street lifting up shirt tails, finding out who had the yellow stripe, and then I’d give them the gospel. But God didn’t do it that way. He told me to preach the gospel to every creature that ‘whosoever will may come.’” Jesus says, “and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
Results are Gods business. Obedience is ours. To be obedient, we need to submit. To be obedient, we need to acknowledge his authority. In order to rightly obey, we need to forsake any authority that we think we have the right to lay claim to.
We insert what we think is our right to have authority over or in place of God in a number of ways. Lets start with this. What is the name that God has given himself in the Scriptures?
Gods name, Yahweh, translates I AM. I am what? Thats part of the problem. We want to finish what we see is an incomplete sentence, an incomplete description. But for God, I AM is a complete sentence. For us, we try to fill in the blank, we speak for God where he has not spoken.
We try to label God, to conform him to what we want or what we expect. We do what we have no right to do. We do what we have no authority to do. Only God has the authority to define himself. Only he has the authority to declare what is true. And he has. And he has revealed to us what he has declared true. He has given us his inspired word, inerrant, infallible and fully sufficient. He has given us the Bible.
This book, his Word, reveals all that is needed to be revealed for us to do what we are supposed to do. It is fully sufficient for matters of life and faith. And it gives us the answers that we need. It does not always give us the answers we want. That works two ways. Sometimes it is silent, not answering the questions that we ask of it. More likely, more often, it answers the questions we ask. It answers simply and clearly. But it does not give us the answers we want.
We can intellectually and verbally affirm we believe that the bible is true, fully true and completely true, but if we take Gods answers and we change them to fit what we want them to say, then we are not being obedient to God. We are not submitting to his authority.
When Paul answers this objection, that God is unfair because some are saved and some are not, when Paul tells us there is nothing about God that is unfair, and that all his choices, which are not dependant on human will or exertion, but on God himself, when Paul shows us that simply and clearly that God is completely and totally sovereign and has planned all things out before time began, and that ll his choices and decisions and determinations are done for His Glory and His Glory alone… When Paul tells us that, we don’t like it.
It can trigger some fatalism in us. Thats the attitude that, since God has predestined it all, I don’t have to actually do anything. I don’t have to submit. I don’t have to obey. I don’t have to evangelize. I don’t have to repent. I can continue to sin. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, Eat, Drink, for tomorrow we die.
God squashes that pretty hardcore if you read anything in the Bible. Gods sovereignty does not negate man’s responsibility. Gods sovereignty does not negate your responsibility.
This is the next objection that Paul responds to. Dealing with what responsibility we have and why should we bother doing anything. We will dig deeper into that next week.
As we come close to finishing up this week, want to come back and emphasize, we don’t always like what God says in his Word. We don’t have to. We do have to submit to it.
We have to do what he has told us to do. He doesn’t make that optional. And when we are saved by God, when he has chosen to show us mercy and compassion, we want to do what he tells us. Not in order to achieve righteousness, not to earn favor or salvation, not to be worthy of mercy and compassion, but because he has already shown it to us.
We are not saved by obedience or by works, or by human will or exertion. But we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, by Christ alone, as revealed in scripture alone, all to the glory of God alone.
We show that salvation, we show our faith with obedience, with works, with our human will and exertion, powered by the love of Christ which compels us.
That means that we put to death the sins that live inside us. In our salvation, our sins have been crucified and we are new creations. Our sins have been forgiven and we are to pursue holiness and sanctification. But they have not all been driven out.
We still have sin inside us. They can include sins that we are working through, trying to drive them out. They can include sins we don’t want to let go of. They can include sins that we have hidden or denied so much that we don’t recognize them as sins. What sins are you hiding from others, including yourself? What sins are you justifying based off your situation, your circumstances? Or based of what you want the Bible to say instead of what it actually says.
Anger, pride, sexual immorality, apathy, indifference, idolatry, and so much more. But not only killing sin, but also, in the positive, doing the good works that God has prepared for us. Creating disciples, do justice, love kindness, taking care of widows and orphans, sharing the good news of the Gospel, studying the Word, praying and so much more.
Gods word is clear. What he says is often and mostly simple and clear. Allister
Begg likes to say, “The Main things are the Plain things and the Plain things are the Main things.”
Our job, our responsibility is to do all things to the glory of God. And to do that, we need to submit to Gods authority and his will as revealed through his word, the Bible.