GOD’S JUSTICE AND MERCY DISPLAYED IN ROMANS CHAPTER 9
A.W. Tozer said, “God’s justice and God’s mercy do not quarrel with each other.”
I believe Romans 9 primarily testifies to how God has displayed both His justice and mercy in His responses to Israel. It also declares clearly that God’s will cannot be thwarted. Even so, His justice and mercy are perfect in all His plans and purposes. God blessed Israel through His election (calling) and did all that was necessary to bring the Messiah, our savior into the world. Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life for anyone who believes. This we can trust based on many Old and New Testament scriptures.
Romans Chapter 9 is a favorite, go-to section of scripture for those who hold to Calvinistic Reformed theology. Because they think it supports their belief that Man is not able to turn from sin and trust God without the “gift of faith”. Man has only a will against God and must be chosen for salvation by God. Humanity is but a lump of clay as it were, from which God, the potter, molds some vessels for honor and others for dishonor. Calvinists mistakenly read their doctrine of Unconditional Election into this Chapter.
God chooses some individuals for salvation (the elect as vessels of honor) and “passes” over all others having made them vessels of dishonor. This idea and doctrine run contrary to the very nature of God’s mercy, justice and LOVE. It is also contrary to the heart of the gospel which Paul, through the Holy Spirit, so clearly lays out out in Romans. Further, it is NOT what Paul wants to impart to the church. Such a doctrine would be clearly declared but just isn’t here.
GOD IS SOVEREIGN
No true believer would ever argue that God is not Sovereign over His creation. God can absolutely do whatever He wants at anytime. However God never fails to be perfect in both His justice AND mercy. These attributes can not be at odds, otherwise God could not be the perfectly righteous judge He is.
GOD IS JUST
Although God desires that all men would be reconciled unto himself, (1 Timothy 2:3-4) His justice requires that sin must be paid for. He cannot simply “make it so”. To do that would deny his perfect righteousness and would be the opposite of justice. However in His sovereign will He decided that His justice would be led by His mercy. This is clearly seen throughout the Bible. God is motivated by His everlasting love for ALL people.
GOD IS MERCY
This is where God’s perfect mercy is manifest. Christ’s work on the cross created the door to which every single human being who WILL come in belief, can enter. Judgment is reserved for those who do not turn to Christ. God will righteously judge all who do not enter by the narrow gate. (Matt. 7:13) Because of their own unbelief they will be lost. God did not pass over them, but mercifully provided Christ, THE elect one (Isa. 42:1) for all people. No one will have an excuse. (Rom. 1:20)
PAUL’S HEART OF MERCY
Romans 9: 1-6, Paul displays a Godly heart of mercy through the Holy Spirit when he expresses his desire for the salvation of his Jewish brethren. This is seen in the first few verses of Romans 9. Notice Paul first says “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.” The Greek word for “bearing me witness”, is to bear joint witness – the idea of corroboration with evidence. Paul has the same sorrow as the Holy Spirit for the lost. We see this amazing love in verse 3 as Paul says “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren,”. Speaking under the inspiration of God, Paul would lay aside his own adoption in Christ for his people! God DOES NOT show less love for the world and His people, whom He created in His own image. We see God’s self sacrificial love in Christ on the cross, determined before the foundation of the world, by a loving and just Creator!
Paul’s amazing statement of sacrificial love comes right after he boldly expounded on God’s everlasting love at the end of Chapter 8. He says in verse 35, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ The answer is no one, not any created thing can separate us from the love of God. (Rom. 8:39)
He goes from that thought right into sharing his burden, sorrow, and continual grief, for his fellow Jews, to whom were given God’s special choosing, the revelation of His glory, the covenants, the law, service of God and the promises. In spite of all that God has done for them and through them, the Jews rejected their messiah, JESUS CHRIST.
Did God fail to accomplish His plan because of the disobedience of such a stiff necked people? Verse 6 says “NO”. God’s plan, His Word, is still fulfilled and will always come to pass, just not in the way the Jews expected.
Why is Paul focused on Israel in Chapters 9-11? What can we learn as modern day believers?
First, as demonstrated in his own words, Paul sincerely loves his people and is seeking to bring them to Christ. We should have the same such love for the lost!
Also, many Jews at this time had a false assurance of salvation based solely on their national heritage. They saw no need for a spiritual savior because of their status as the “elect of God” as part of God’s promises to the nation of Israel. We must be clear in our understanding today, that our own assurance of salvation is in our identity with Christ, because of God’s grace, and in NOTHING else. Whereby we also are called the “elect of God”.
Further, there were slanderous rumors being circulated that Paul had been saying things like, “Let us do evil that good may come” as seen in Romans 3:8. Paul did not want the believers in Rome to be led astray by such blasphemous rumors and ideas. He was receiving opposition because he preached righteousness through Christ and not from the Law. Some, (most likely Jewish rulers) were actively spreading rumors about Paul and those who ministered with him. Most Jews were still blinded by the Law, and thought by keeping it, they were declared righteous by God. Paul makes it clear in earlier chapters, there is no righteousness apart from Christ’s righteousness. Therefore there is no boasting. We are completely righteous in Christ! But Paul warns, this is NOT a license to sin.
Romans 9: 7-13, Paul then uses examples in Israel’s history that the Jews would certainly understand. He recounts God’s purpose in choosing…Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The promise (i.e. Christ, who would bless all the nations) is through Isaac and then Jacob. In spite of what Abraham and Sarah did in unbelief, God’s purpose and plan stands. In spite of birthright, and even the deception of Jacob, God’s purpose in the election (choosing) of him over Esau cannot be called unfair, and it stands. Note: God’s choosing here is NOT unto salvation but unto the blessings of the promise. Also, God does not literally hate Esau, in fact, God blessed Esau and his people the Edomites until they turned against Israel later.
Paul then asks v14. “is there unrighteousness with God?.
Romans 9:14-21 Paul quotes what God said to Moses in Exodus 33:19. Jews would understand it to mean God shows mercy and compassion to whom He finds grace in His sight. Whom God knows by name. This mercy is not dependent on man’s will or works, and not unto salvation, but unto Gods purpose for choosing Israel as His People. God promised to go before them because of His unconditional promise in the Abrahamic Covenant. Therefore in bringing about His plans and purposes God is both bringing close (showing mercy) and pushing away (hardening) those who He needs to.
Likewise, Pharaoh’s rise to power was orchestrated by God to show that even the greatest power of that day would not stand against His plans and purposes.(v.17) Pharaoh’s heart was hardened first by himself. God simply gave him over to his already hard heart.
This section has been so badly misinterpreted by SOME Reformed theologians that they effectively have God, who knows no evil, creating evil men to serve His glory.
Only God knows the heart of men! Therefore He can be just in manipulating it. It is clear that God never makes man sin, but rather allows them to follow there own sinful heart. Where needed he will harden men’s hearts to accomplish His plans. The hardening is NOT always final, as we will see with the Jews who shouted “crucify him!” Paul is going to explain how even those who crucified Jesus may still yet be grafted back into the vine. (Romans Chapter 11)
Therefore God can manipulate the clay to do his will in bringing about good things (an honorable purpose) or for a dishonorable purpose as in the case of Pharaoh. Because of His omniscience God can justly do this.
Verse 22 says, “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power know, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,…” This verse says those destined for destruction may be given longsuffering to show Gods power. Some may see it as unfair that God would endure and show mercy (for a time) to those who turn away and utterly reject Him. But Paul is saying God is God and we have no grounds to question His will.
Verses 20-24, do not prove, as many Calvinists claim, that God ordained or created the evil that made these vessels of wrath. To understand what Paul is saying, it is imperative to stay consistent with the context. Paul is making it plain that there is no injustice in God’s decisions.
Verses 25-29 Paul starts wrapping up these thoughts by quoting Hosea and Isaiah. Reminding them, there will be a remnant out of Israel that will return in faith to God.
So why did Israel not embrace Jesus as their messiah and attain righteousness? This is Paul question.
This question is directed at the heart of a growing seed of doubt among those early believers. Doesn’t unbelief and outright rejection of Christ by the Jews mean that God’s Word and promises have failed? That this Jesus we are following may not be who He claimed? How could his own people not recognize Him?…they may have thought. Such a seed of doubt must be answered before it could grow and possibly lead people to accept false teachings and reject the truth.
Verses 30-33 Israel sought righteousness through the law. They thought their works in keeping the law made them right with God. They had so much pride in their own righteousness, that they were blind when Christ told them that God wanted simple childlike faith. However, in contrast the Gentiles were finding true righteousness not by the law but by faith in Christ.
Paul, throughout Romans is laying out in the clearest terms, God’s will is in the GOSPEL of Christ!
Jesus was a stumbling stone for the Jews. But it is not over for them yet! Chapters 10 and 11 of Romans will show this.
I challenge you to sit down and read the book of Romans straight through. If you do, you will most certainly begin to understand why Paul wrote what he wrote in Chapter 9, and how that theme flows into Chapters 10 and 11.
THINGS FOR US TO REMEMBER
WE MUST never be tempted to think that God‘s Justice is cancelled out by His mercy.
WE MUST never think we have license to sin so God’s mercy will shine so much brighter. Paul said “God forbid!”
The weight and consequences of sin is immense in this world. We see it all around us, and in us, daily. God’s ultimate day of justice is coming. Therefore…
WE MUST reach out to the lost all around us while God’s wonderful and perfect mercy is still available. Through Jesus, our All in All, the WHOLE world has been granted a way to be reconciled with their creator, to obey the Gospel.
In Christ, God’s Justice is satisfied! Amen.
My response to TULIP (See my TULIP Test Tested post) is God’s S.C.A.L.E. of mercy and justice.
- Separated by Sin
- Chosen in Christ
- Available to All
- Lovingly given Life
- Entered for Eternity
Levit. 19:35-36 You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Proverbs 11:1-2 Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight.