Objections to Gods Sovereignty pt 2
Good Morning! Please turn with me in your Bibles to Romans chapter 9. As always, if you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please take one from the back table and let that be our gift to you.
Now, as we are turning to Romans 9, I want to kind of sum up what we have already seen in this chapter. Kind of collate the information. Paul, coming off of Romans chapter 8 has brought us to the top of the hill, if you will in regards to what we are hearing about God. God is good and faithful, there is no condemnation. The Holy Spirit works in us and through us and even prays for us and through us when we don’t know what to pray. God works out all things to His glory and has done so since before the begining of time. And when we are in Christ, nothing, ABSOULUTLEY NOTHING can remove us from the love of Christ.
Thats what Paul just gets finished with when he moves into, what we know as chapter 9. He didnt write the letter with Chapters. None of the books in the Bible had chapters originally. The closet thing to it would be the Psalms. The chapters and the verses were added later to help us navigate the text. And he finishes what we know as Chapter 8 and moves into what we know as Chapter 9.
At the very beginning he expresses so heartbreak and grief for those who dont know Christ, we are outside of his love and therefore in line to experience his just wrath. Those that are outside Christ included some of Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham. Stemming from that, three questions are brought up that object to Gods sovereignty.
First, stemming from Israel not being fully, corporately saved, the question is brought up, Had Gods Word failed? There was question whether or not God’s promises were really trustworthy? There was question whether or not God had fail to deliver on what he said he would do.
Pauls response is that God is sovereign and his Word does not, will not and cannot fail. We may misunderstand some of the things that he promises, or who he promises them to, but his promises will be fulfilled. In this case, the promise is made to the spiritual descendants of Abraham, which may or may not include physical descendants of Abraham. Its Gods right to chose.
The second objection is that it is unjust, it is unfair for some to be saved from their sins and the eternal consequences there of, but for others to not be saved. That salvation is left solely up to God, his wisdom, his providence and his sovereignty, with no dependence on human will or exertion, is in fact unjust. It is only by his mercy that we do not get what we deserve, his wrath, but instead, we may receive his mercy and eternal life with Him. He pours out his mercy, “that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Verse 18 here, the last verse we looked at last week, Paul writes, So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. He decides in his perfect and infinite goodness and justness and holiness and mercy, who will respond to his call and who will not.
The third objection is the one we will look at this morning. We will pick up and read Romans Chapter 9, verses 19-23 as Paul continues on. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Romans 9:19-23, Paul writes:
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—
So the third object that Paul is responding to here is an exercise on If, If, If… If God is sovereign, and IF he has mercy on whom he has mercy and IF he hardens whom he hardens, then we don’t have a choice to accept or deny. And IF we don’t have a choice, then how can he find fault with those who he decides not to save?
Now, this is a tough question and its one that Paul response to excellently I think. Remember about Paul. Paul’s writings can be tough, they can be somewhat “In You Face”, when needed, they can be blunt, as a matter of fact. But Paul writes out of love and compassion. He writes with a shepherds heart. HE started this chapter crying out in great sorrow and unceasing anguish over his lost brethren. And he answers here, with words inspired by the Holy Spirit, with the Words of God. He takes great care in how he answers this objection and he answers it with 3 responses.
First, the first part of verse 20, he lays it out, saying,But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Now this may be the least gentle or compassionate of the three responses, but it may also be the most true. We, as human beings, as the people who God created, as his creations, we have no right to argue with him about anything that he says or does.
God shows us throughout scripture, that he is the boss and what he says goes. With Moses numerous times, both before and during the Exodus that his word is final. He rebukes Job when job tries to overstep his bounds. Jonah, so many of the prophets, the same thing. In the New Testament, through the Apostles, through Paul, Peter, James and John especially, God says it. End of discussion.
And one thing that God says throughout the scriptures, can seem like a contradiction on the surface. It can seem as if he saying two different things if we are looking for contradictions and errors in the scriptures. But the Bible, being the Word of God is able to hold two tensions together and them both be true.
It does so often with a variety of things, in this case, two truths are both truths. God is sovereign and nothing happens outside of his will. He has Mercy on whomever he wills and he hardens whomever he wills. Only those whom he calls will respond to his saving grace, and all that he calls will respond to his saving grace. Thats truth number 1.
Truth number two is that Man is responsible. He is, we are responsible for our actions, for our thoughts, our sins, all of our decisions. Gods grace is poured out on us through faith. He has given us the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, His Son. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God. That is the only way to be saved is by hearing the Gospel and responding to it in faith.
All of us have that opportunity, to either respond or to reject. And we are responsible for our decisions. John 5:39-40, Jesus, talking to the Pharisees, says “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Jesus puts the responsibility on each individual if they refuse to come to him. We see in both the Old Testament and the New, the idea that those who reject Jesus as the Messiah, reject the cornerstone, reject the foundation of the faith. Again, the onus, the responsibility is on those who do the rejecting.
God and his Word are crystal clear. Yes God is sovereign and Yes man is responsible.
The second way that Paul responds to this objection is with an illustration, one that God himself uses in Isaiah and Jeremiah. God is the potter and we are the clay. Paul in the second half of verse 20 and verse 21, Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
My Aunt and Uncle in Pennsylvania are potters by trade. I have seen them mold something, and they saw imperfections that I could not see. It looked so good to me. But they knew better. They saw something I didn’t see and they decided to undo the whole thing and started over. Is there anyone that can say that they didn’t have the right to do that? They were the potters who take the clay and mold it into something useful and something beautiful, something that is worth making.
They create out of the clay their creations. Their clay doesn’t look at them and say, I am going to be a mug, or I am going to be a bowl. They decide what that clay will become.
As such, we, as Gods clay, as what is being molded by God, we don’t have any ability or right to question why God has molded us into what he has molded us into. As the Potter, he says what we are going to become. He knows what he has planned and what it takes to make us into that. He knows and has every right to decide that some vessels are designed for wrath and some vessels are designed for glory.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. God created. The earth was without form and void. God took this clay without form and void and molded all of creation. He took the dust from the ground, formed Adam and blew life, breathed his Spirit into him, creating Mankind. He is the Creator, we are the creation.
It is hard for us to remember that order. We forget that we can’t tell God what is right. We forget that we can’t tell God what to do. Timothy Keller reminds us that “If your God never disagrees with you, you might just be worshipping an idealized version of yourself.”
God is the Potter, we are the clay. God is sovereign, Man is responsible. Those are the first two responses Paul gives. They flow right into the third. Basically, because God is sovereign, and because he is the potter, the Creator, he knows how it will all work out. Because we are the clay, because we are the creation, we don’t know how it will all work out.
Go back for a moment to the vessels that my aunt and uncle mold and create. The bowl that they create doesn’t know what it is going to be used for. It doesn’t know if it will be a cereal bowl, a soup bowl, a storage bowl, whatever.
In that same vein, we, as the clay, as the creation, don’t know what God is going to use us for. Paul points out that from the same lump, some are made for honorable uses and some are made for dishonorable. Some vessels made for wrath and some for glory. Both categories show Gods grace and mercy. Both categories give glory to God. We don’t know what God is going to use us for.
We looked at Romans 8:28 recently, that God uses all things for good for those who love him. God works it all around and pulls it all together to achieve his glory and to show his power and to exhibit his goodness and mercy.
Now, we can rarely see this things playing together in real-time. God, who is outside of times, see it all, knows it all and orchestrates it all. We see things around us and wonder how this can all be a part of Gods plan. We see the absolute evil in our families, our communities and in the world and we question Gods will, and his timing.
2 Peter 3:9, Peter writes The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
God is patient. He wants as many people as possible to be saved and to join him in glory in eternity future. We don’t know who those will be. We don’t know how God will use us.
In Acts chapter 8, we see God work out so many variables to bring Phillip to a place in Samaria, where he happens upon a eunuch riding by, who is riding the scriptures, but needs someone to explain them to him. Philip is more than happy to oblige and the eunuch hears the Gospel. He believes and wants to be baptized immediately.
If we watched that mans life, before Philip showed up, we would have assumed he was bound for destruction. But God knew better. God used Philip and the scriptures and everything else to call the eunuch to him. For his part, the eunuch heard the Word of God. He believed the Word of God. He trusted in the Word of God, Gods goodness and forgiveness and respond to the call of God.
And that’s the biggest key. One Systematic Theology says “People do not learn of Gods choosing them by prying into his eternal councils but by embracing Christ as offered in the Gospel.”
Now the cross, the gospel, the saving faith of christianity is foolishness to those who don’t believe. And it is foolishness to us, its counterintuitive. It goes against what we as humans believe, what we think and what we would expect. It goes against what we think is fair.
The way that changes is that, when we respond to the Gospel, the Holy Spirit makes Gods Word real to us. God changes our hearts from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Jesus and his perfect and complete work on the cross brings us from death into life.
So we are going to finish with a quick refresher of what, exactly is the Gospel? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15, verses 1-5: Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
And thats what we respond to. We have the repsonsibility, now having heard it to say, Yes, LORD, yes God, I believe in what you Word Says, I repent of my sins and put all my trust in you, knowing that I cannot do anything to earn this gift of grace, of forgiveness and of eternal life.
Or you can say, No thanks. I don’t believe I’m a sinner. I don’t believe I need to repent. I don’t believe in Gods Word. I can do it all myself. I can be good enough, do enough good things that I don’t need to put my trust in Christ.
I repeat and emphasize what paul started out this chapter for those who fall into that second grouping. I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,[a] my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Ultimately, if you trust in Gods Word, we can have a foundation on things like this that transcends our feelings or our instincts. And we can submit those to the truth of Gods word.
O Lord, we bow before You and we ask that You would open our eyes to understand hard things, things that are not intellectually hard to understand. The reason and the logic is impeccable and clear, but these things are hard for our hearts to get around. Some of us resist them. They just don’t sound right. They’re counter intuitive. Others of us are in the process of resisting Your grace and using this type of a teaching to do it. Still others of us have never tasted the joy of salvation because we don’t realize how gracious and how sovereign You are. To all of these we pray, O God, You would speak in Your word today. For we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.