Sunday, August 18, 2013
Vol. II - Chapter 3 - Rom. 9:14-24
Vol. 11 — Chapter 3 — Romans 9: 14 – 24
GOD IS SOVEREIGN — OBJECTION ANSWERED
(14) What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. (15) For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. (16) So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. (17) For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. (18) Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. (19) Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? (20) 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? (21) Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (22) What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. (23) And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. (24) Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Verse 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. Paul anticipated the objection of the natural, unsaved mind to the truth of election, reprobation, and God’s sovereign mercy. The carnal mind reasons that loving Jacob and hating Esau before they were born implies that there is injustice in God. It is the very height of madness for men to charge God of being unjust because He elects some and rejects others. They question the right of God for loving Jacob, who had done nothing good, and hating Esau, who had done no evil. Paul answers “God forbid,” — God forbid that anyone should dare charge God with folly: “He is the rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut. 32:4). All that God does is consistent with the perfection of His character: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). The Scripture makes it clear and plain, that there is no injustice in God for dealing with individuals the way He does. The language of the redeemed is, “God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters” (Job 33:12c-13). Paul does not try to explain by logic or human reasoning, but he simply quotes to the Jews their own Scriptures: “to show that the Lord is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (Psa. 92:15). God in the Old Testament had shown the Jews in their own Sacred Books — the first book of the Pentateuch written by their great law-giver Moses — the right of manifesting His sovereignty, and that His claim was found in their Jewish Scriptures, which the whole nation claimed to receive and revere.
Verse 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Instead of apologizing or making a defense for God, Paul rests his doctrine solely on the Scriptures and produces God’s own words to Moses declaring the truth of Sovereign mercy (Exod. 33:18, 19). God has spoken and this is enough for a true believer. But Israel had sinned by practicing idolatry. They violated God’s covenant. They had manifested the perversion of their wicked heart by making other gods and worshipping them. Moses went before Jehovah God and pled for mercy. The Lord then laid down to Moses this great principle of unmerited favor by which He works. Moses received mercy, not because of anything in himself or anything he had done, but because the Lord willed to give him mercy. Our Lord did not say, “I will shew mercy to him that is worthy of my mercy, and will have compassion on him that deserves my compassion.” But He did say, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. It is our Lord’s sovereign will that He emphasizes in the passage of Scripture. It is not the Arminian theory of so-called free will of humans, but it is the free, sovereign will of God. That is the heart of the Gospel — the free will of God. GOD IS BOSS.
It is the will of God that determines all His actions. His will is absolutely sovereign. He doeth all things to please Himself as we read in I Psa.135:6, “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” All spiritual things are done according to His sovereign will (Matt. 11:25-27). His will is eternal and never changes. “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). His omnipotent will is always efficacious — it is carried out perfectly. Therefore “None can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou?” (Dan. 4:35). He declares, “My word shall accomplish that which I please and shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). The will of God in not in any way conditional for “He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? And what His soul desireth, even that He doeth” (Job 23:13).
So the Lord here laid down the great principle, which was of Divine grace, and God acts with perfect freedom in exercising His compassion and bestowing mercy upon whom He will, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” — unmerited favor; “I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” — sovereign, Divine grace. So the apostle simply quoted to the objectors their own Scriptures. So in this way the apostle proceeded to answer the case under discussion, that of sovereign election and reprobation, the justice of God cannot be doubted. The answer to any and all questions concerning God, and the things of God, must be derived from the Scriptures themselves.
Arthur W. Pink gives us an excellent comment on God’s sovereign, saving mercy from Exo. 33:19 in his commentary Gleanings in Exodus: “Mercy is that which none can claim as a right: might they justly do so, it would cease to be mercy. Hence God reserves to Himself the right to extend it to whom He pleases. To this principle the apostle, when treating at length of the sovereignty of God, called attention in Romans 9:18. Nor is God unrighteous in this. None is wronged if “mercy” be withheld. God is therefore free to act as He pleases: ‘Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will with My own?’”.
In the Scriptures there is a threefold distinction made concerning the word “mercy.” First, there is a general mercy of God which is over all His works, and manifested towards all His creatures. “His tender mercies are over all His works’ (Psa. 145:9). God has pity upon the brute creation in their needs, and supplies them with all the necessary and suitable provisions. The beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish in the deep, together with the whole of inanimate creation, all show forth the praises of Him who is the Creator and Preserver of all; but oh! what incomparably greater favors God has bestowed on man! “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).
Secondly, consider the incomparably greater favors God has bestowed on man — all men, believers and unbelievers! This is a special mercy of God which is exercised to the children of men, helping and succouring them, notwithstanding their sins. An undying life, the gifts of intellect and thought, knowledge and reason, and the providential bounties with which our Lord crowns the rolling year, rendering it meet and right for men, as His creatures, to acknowledge His goodness as their Creator. To them He communicates all the necessities of life: “for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). The mercies which God bestows on the wicked are solely of a temporal nature — confined strictly to this present life.
Thirdly, But the mercy alluded to by the Apostle in our passage before us infinitely transcends all of this. It is something supernatural, saving, special, peculiar and particular, and therefore all are not partakers of it. There is a sovereign mercy which is reserved for the heirs of salvation, which is communicated to them in a covenant way, through the Mediator. It is spiritual mercy flowing from the love of God the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Holy Ghost, to the elect only. (Micah 7:18). God can never cease to be merciful, for this is a quality of the Divine essence: “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful” (Psa. 116:5). The exercise of His mercy is regulated by His sovereign will. His pardoning mercy is obtainable only through faith in the atoning blood of the Saviour.
His mercy and compassion on some does wrong to none. Has He not the right to confer upon some that which He owes to none? The manifestation of God’s love to unworthy sinners is grace. Grace always has respect to unworthiness. When God reveals His love to His own in misery, that is mercy, mercy always has respect to misery. Mercy for every elect and redeemed sinner whatever his state or condition may be. Mercy safe and secure in our Lord Christ to be communicated by His all bountiful hand, moved by His heart of eternal love. Do we ever hear of His turning a deaf ear to an importunate call upon Him for mercy through His wounds and blood? Do you ever find our precious Lord Jesus turning away from Him any poor, broken-hearted sinner? No! We never find a broken heart turning to Christ, and Christ indifferent to its misery.
Verse 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. The reason why God bestows saving benefits on any sinner, is not in man but in God — not in man’s merits in any form or degree — but entirely in God’s sovereign mercy. It is not in man’s desires or exertions. True desires and right exertions in the heart of a sinner is the result of the new birth (Psa. 110:3) — the work of God in the inner man. It is all by the sovereign good pleasure of God (Phil. 2:13). The origin of saving grace and mercy, and also of the desire and the exertion through which, though not for which, saving mercy is conferred is the sovereign will of God. The sinner is dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1), and he cannot, he will not, and cannot will to come to Christ. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:45). Though the sinner is spiritually dead and totally unable to come to Christ, he is very active. He resists and rejects the Gospel in unbelief, but with a view to salvation he is wholly passive. Salvation is of sovereign mercy — totally of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
Contrary to the free will doctrine of our day the truth of Scripture is that no man has of himself the will to come to Christ, and that no mere human persuasion can cause that will to arise in his soul. Christ told us that the will to come is the fruit of the drawing of the Father (John 6:44, 65). The dead sinner must be given to Christ to give him a new heart, and to call him out of darkness into His marvelous light. Salvation is a Divine work from beginning to end. God alone determines who shall be saved, and God alone accomplishes the work of salvation (John 17:2). The sinner’s will to come to Christ is rooted in, and is the outcome of the Lord’s unconditional, free and sovereign election.
But regardless of the Scripture evidence given, the pulpits across our land, yea, throughout the free world, will ring out the lie of free will, causing multitudes to trust in themselves and their decisions that make them twofold more a child of Hell. Man will is not free. He is the servant of sin. Man’s will never acts independently from the rest of his faculties. As someone said, “It isn’t some sort of gyroscope, apart from any of the desires or thinking of the individual, it is a very central and integral part of the human being — the human soul. Man’s soul consists of three things: his intellect, his emotions, and his volition — his mind, heart, and will. The will of man never acts independently of the feeling and thinking of the individual, “for from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts” (Mark 7: 21-23) etc., and the sinner is captive to his evil heart (Gen. 6:5). The will always without any exception, does what the mind and heart tell it to do (Gen. 8:21). The will does not act contrarily to the mind and heart, to the affections and intellect of man. Man cannot possibly will anything other than what his mind and heart tell him to do.
Look at the natural man the Scriptures describe. All he does is sin. His heart, emotions, mind, motives, ends, goals — everything in man is contrary to God. Natural man is “enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7); dead in sins (Eph. 2:1); loves unrighteousness rather than righteousness (John 3:19). Many speak as if unsaved man has the freedom to choose the Lord Jesus Christ, to desire to come to God, but the Scriptures state that Man’s so-called free will” is really in total bondage to sin and Satan (John 8:34; Rom. 6:20; 2 Pet. 2:19; Rom. 7:14, 25; Acts 8:23; Eph. 2:1; 4:18; Ezek. 36:26; Matt. 7:18; 12:34; John 6:44; Rom. 8:7-8; 2 Tim. 2:26; Luke 1: 21-22). Our Lord tells us that the unregenerate man is the servant of sin and only He can set the sinner free (John 8:33-36). It is only as God grants repentance in the seeking sinners soul that they are enabled to “recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:26). Before the Son makes the sinner free, he is the bondslave of sin. He can follow his evil heart in the lusts of the flesh — he can do what his wicked heart and emotions desire, but the problem is he always wants his own evil, wicked way. He is not really free. He’s controlled by his sinful appetite. He is the servant of his own emotions, affections, desires and passions.
The deliverance of sinners from bondage is altogether of the free, sovereign grace and almighty power of God. He raises sinners from the death of sin, makes them new creatures in the Lord Jesus Christ, and works in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Rom. 3:24; 4:1-8; 11:5-6; Eph. 1:19-20; 2:1-10; 2 Cor. 5:17-18; John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; Phil. 1:6, 29; Jam. 1:17-18; 1 Pet. 1:1-5; Psa. 110:3; 2 Tim. 1:9). The will of fallen man is inevitably restrained from all spiritual good by his innate depravity. No one can tell the truth by saying man is truly free for his fallen will always prefers evil. Christ declares that the sinner is the servant (bond slave) of sin, and must be made free by the Son if he is to be free indeed (John 8: 34, 36).
Verse 17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. The choice by Almighty God of some unto eternal life inevitably implies His rejection of others, vividly confirmed in the example of Pharaoh. The Apostle Paul introduces his quotation from Exod. 9:16 with the phrase “the scripture saith unto Pharaoh.” When Moses stood before Pharaoh the Scripture referred to had not been written yet, but even had it been it is not the Scripture that makes such announcements to men, but God Himself as He did here through the mouth of His prophet Moses. As B. B. Warfield said, “These acts could be attributed to ‘Scripture’ only as the result of such a habitual identification, in the mind of the writer, of the text of Scripture with God as speaking, that it became natural to use the term ‘Scripture says,’ when what was really intended was ‘God, as recorded in Scripture, said.’” See Gal. 3:8; 4:30).
On the phrase “have I raised thee up” no commentator has been better in their comments than John Calvin. Calvin said, “Since many interpreters also destroy the meaning of this passage in attempting to minimize its harshness, we must note first that in Hebrew the expression ‘I did raise’ is ‘I have appointed thee.’ God is here desirous to show that Pharaoh’s obstinacy would not prevent Him from delivering His people. He affirms not only that He had foreseen Pharaoh’s violence, and had the means at hand for restraining it, but that He had so ordained it on purpose, with the express design of providing a more notable demonstration of his power.”
The doctrines of Election and Reprobation ever have been and will be, while the true Church of God is in her militant state, caviled at and hated by every carnal mind. God is and always remains free and sovereign, not only to bestow His mercy and compassion on whomsoever He will, but He is equally the sovereign Lord in regard to Reprobation (1 Sam. 2: 7-8). The case of Pharaoh establishes the principle and illustrates the doctrine of Reprobation. “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” This truth of double Predestination could not be more clearly and forcefully stated. In spite of all his pride and rebellion against the Lord, Pharaoh must not for a moment imagine that he is sovereign, and that his opposition to the Word of God and his refusal to heed, could possibly thwart God’s purpose. The vain rebellion of Pharaoh actually served God’s eternal purpose and brought to pass the very opposite effect from that intended by him. God’s purpose was that, though Pharaoh’s perversion and obduracy, He might show His power, and His name might be declared throughout all the earth. It was for this very purpose that God raised up this wicked king. The powers of evil are shackled to the throne of God so that in the end only one will is supreme in the universe, that of God Almighty and All-Wise (1 Tim. 6: 15-16). The Sovereign of All must in the end carry out all He ever set out to do, HE IS BOSS. All sin is with men, but even the wrath of men will praise the Lord, and for His purpose and glory all men and things exist (Psa. 76:10).
On the doctrine of Reprobation the Prince of the Puritans, Dr. John Owen, had this to say: “Yet farther to evidence that this purpose of God or intention spoken of is peculiar and distinguishing, there is express mention of another sort of men who are not thus chosen, but lie under the purpose of God as to a contrary lot and condition: ‘The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil,’ Prov. 16:4. They are persons ‘whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb,’ Rev. 13:8; being ‘of old ordained to condemnation,’ Jude 4; being as ‘natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed,’ 2 Pet. 2:12. And therefore the apostle distinguishes all men into those who are ‘appointed to wrath,’ and those who are ‘appointed to the obtaining of salvation by Jesus Christ,’ 1 Thes. 5:9; an instance of which eternally discriminating purpose of God is given in Jacob and Esau, Rom. 9:11-12: which way and procedure therein of God the apostle vindicates from all appearance of unrighteousness, and stops the mouths of all repiners against it, from the sovereignty and absolute liberty of His will in dealing with all the sons of men as He pleaseth, Rom. 9:14-21; concluding that, in opposition to them whom God hath made ‘vessels of mercy prepared unto glory,’ there are also ‘vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,’ Rom. 9:22-23. . . . What is the decree of Reprobation? The eternal purpose of God to suffer many to sin, leave them in their sin, and not giving them to Christ, to punish them for their sin. — Rom. 9:11-12; 21-22; Prov. 16:4; Matt. 11: 25-26; 2 Pet. 2:12; Jude 4.”
Verse 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. “This eternal purpose of redemption, the redemption of the elect, chosen not according to their will but according to the Divine will, is the dominating object of all prophecy. This is the Kingdom of Grace and the Covenant of Grace which is the central feature of the Inspired Word. This is what God has all along been working to. In pursuance of this, He invades history, selects one man (Abraham) to become the channel through which the historic purpose must be worked out; selects and divides among his seed, according to His pleasure, rejecting this branch or that, in the vastness of His wise designs, giving no account of His matters, being answerable to none in any of His mighty and eternal acts, making of the same lump of human clay, some to honour and some to dishonour; rejecting entire segments and almost whole generations of Israelitish people, so that unless He had reserved to Himself a remnant according to the election of grace, the entire nation would again and again have become altogether as Sodom and Gomorrah (Rom. 9:29)” (Charles D. Alexander).
From the cases of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, the Israelites who were pardoned, and the Israelites who were punished, God, in bestowing His favors or withholding them, acts out “His purpose according to election.” “He has mercy on whom wills” — chooses — is pleased — “to have mercy,” without reference to merits of any on whom He bestows His blessings.
Our Lord is absolutely sovereign in dispensing mercy, “Therefore he hath mercy on whom He will have mercy.” As to this special, saving mercy of God, none are the objects of that but the elect, the “vessels of mercy” (Rom. 9:23). “St. Paul has no higher object than to make clear that the inclusion of any individual within the Kingdom of God finds its sole cause in the sovereign grace of the choosing God, and cannot in any way or degree depend upon his own merit, privilege, or act” (B. B. Warfield).
“And whom he will he hardeneth.” Paul tells us that this hardening of Pharaoh’s heart took place according to God’s eternal purpose of predestination. God predestinated Pharaoh to do the very things which he did, and God put him there in his wicked rebellion. Pharaoh and all the wicked are predestinated as vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction. “Paul does not inform us that the ruin of the ungodly is merely foreseen by the Lord, but that it is ordained by His counsel and will. Solomon also teaches us that not only was the destruction of the ungodly foreknown, but the ungodly themselves have been created for the specific purpose of perishing (Prov. 16:4, see also Matt. 11:25-26; Rom. 11:7; 1 Thes. 5:9; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4).” (John Calvin). B. B. Warfield adds, “St. Paul explicitly affirms the sovereignty of reprobation as of election — if these twin ideas are, indeed, separable even in thought: if he separates God as sovereignly loving Jacob, he represents Him equally as sovereignly hating Esau; if he declares that He has mercy on whom He will, he equally declares that He hardens whom He will.”
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. No, He did not, nor does He ever, harden the heart of an unhardened sinner, for there is no such being. The unregenerated hearts of the entire fallen race are blind (Eph. 4:18), darkened (Rom. 1:21), full of evil (Gen. 6:5), hard (Rom. 2:5), proud (Jer. 49:16), and rebellious (Jer. 5:23). In the Scriptures in Exodus it is God who introduces the subject of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Though many tell us that it was Pharaoh who first hardened his own heart and that God’s hardening of the king’s heart was merely an act of retribution, the Scriptures prove that to be untrue. Before Moses even reached Egypt the Lord God informed him that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will not allow the people to go. The account given in Exo. 4:21 says, “And the Lord said unto Moses, when thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thy hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” This is the first reference in the Scriptures to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and God said it would be He, Himself, and not Pharaoh, who would do it. The Lord Jehovah tells us, “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:1).
The Scripture teaches positively that the hardening and “darkening of their foolish heart” is a Divine intentional act (John 12:40; Josh. 11:20). Our Lord Christ and His apostles make it clear in such passages as Matt. 13:14, Mark 4: 12, 14, Luke 8:10 that there are times in the preaching of the Gospel that God causes the Word to come to a man in such a way that hearing he hears not, but hardens his heart. Paul addressed the hearers at Rome (Rom. 1: 28; Acts 28:26-28), “To give over to a reprobate mind,” and to the darkening of the heart, which have the same effect as the hardening. It is remarkable that the New Testament presents the idea of hardening in a passive form, not as an act of the subjects themselves, but as a calamity which has come upon them as a terrible consequence of their sins (see Rom. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:14; Mark 6:52; Acts 19:9; Heb. 3:13). In light of these Scriptures it is impossible to deny that the Scripture reveals God as the Author of hardening (2 Thes. 2:10-12). Those who say that the God they worship cannot harden any man’s heart, ought to see that they do not worship the God of Scripture.
Verse 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? There are many scholars of free will persuasion who tell us that this chapter does not deal with salvation at all. We give the following quote from the JFB commentary that proves the lie of such unfounded assertions as that. “If God chooses and rejects, pardons and punishes, whom He pleases, why are those blamed who, if rejected by Him, cannot help sinning and perishing? This objection shows quite as conclusively as the former the real nature of the doctrine objected to — that it is election and non-election to eternal salvation prior to any difference of personal character: this is the only doctrine that could suggest the objection here stated.” It is clear that this ninth chapter of Romans deals with personal Election and Reprobation, the eternal destinies of every man, and that all men are in the hands of God the sovereign.
Pastor Henry Mahan made the following observation: “Here is the third objection to sovereign mercy held forth by the natural mind. The first objection (vs. 6) is that most of Israel perishes, so it seems the purpose and promise of God have failed. The second objection (vs. 14) is that God is unjust to choose some and pass by others. Now in verse 19 we come to the third objection: if God shows mercy to some and none can resist His sovereign will, then why does He find fault with sinners? If the wrath of men is so under the control of God that it, too, serves His purpose, then why blame the sinner?” In the next four verses we shall see the apostle’s answers to this objection.
“Thou wilt say then unto me” — the apostle once more intercepts an objection here against the doctrine of God’s absolute predestination, which is a hard doctrine for sinful man. Paul brings us face to face with the revelation of the absolute Sovereign, Who accomplishes all His good pleasure and does all things for His own Name’s sake (Isa. 46: 9-10). And, realizing the rebellious state of man’s sinful heart, he introduces another objection that will undoubtedly be lodged against his doctrine, that especially in verse 18 above: “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”
“Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” The objector, by stating that no one hath ever resisted the will of God, is simply expressing his disdain for the Sovereign God and the doctrine of His sovereignty. He is blaming God for his depravity. This is what Adam did in the Garden when he complained to God “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me.” It maintains that the doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God necessarily involves the denial of the responsibility of man. By it man would bring the truth into discredit, and maintain man’s sovereignty over against that of the living God. It is the accusation of that damnable heresy that God is the Author of sin and the denial of the responsibility of man. “We may readily admit that we confront a problem which we shall never be able to fathom or to solve, the problem how God is able to execute His counsel through the instrumentality of moral agents, and especially through the wicked, without ever encroaching upon their moral responsibility. Two things, however, are very clear from Scripture. First, is that God sovereignly rules even over all the acts of men and especially over all the acts of the wicked to His own purpose. And, secondly, fact is no less clear from the Word of God, namely, that in doing so He never infringes upon man’s accountability” (Herman Hoeksema).
A central example of this is Judas and the enemies of our Lord Christ that nailed Him to the Cross. On the one hand, it is evident that God used them to crucify the Son of God (see Acts 2:23 and 4:24-28). On the other hand, the wicked instruments were without excuse. It was their sin and wickedness that executed the greatest of all crimes. They were well aware of their own sins.
In as far as the question, “Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” represents an attempt of the wicked to excuse himself and escape the righteous judgment of God by an appeal to the sovereignty of God and the irresistibility of His will, is but an anti Scriptural LIE. The objector falsely presents the matter as if God’s act of hardening were ever in conflict with the will and desire of the one that is hardened. The fallen nature of mankind “loves darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). Man loves iniquity, and seeks his own damnation, consciously and knowingly. He also hardens himself even in spite of the Word of God. Never does it occur that a sinner sincerely and genuinely repents or would repent and says: “O, how I desire to be a child of God, to know Christ, and serve Him,” while God hardens him. Reader, if it is your sincere and earnest desire to be saved, to be redeemed and delivered from sin, to be reconciled to the living God, to be called His child, He does not harden such a one, but has even now wrought His grace in your heart.
“There is a twofold ‘will’ of God referred to in Scripture, namely, His secret and revealed will — the former being the principal from which He works, and which is invincible, the letter being the rule by which we are required to walk and which is never perfectly performed by any man (Dan. 4:35; Rom. 9:19; cf. John 7:17 and Luke 12:47). And there is a twofold ‘counsel’ of God — the one referring to His eternal decree, and the other to His advice to us (Isa. 46:10; Acts 4:28; cf. Prov. 1:25; Luke 7:30).” (A. W. Pink).
Verse 20 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? “But, O man, who art thou” — who art thou who enters into a dispute and strives with God? (Job 33:13). O worm of the earth — by nature a child of wrath, dead in trespasses and sins — dost thou exalt thy ignorance, and display thine enmity, by opening thy mouth against God, His truth and His ways? There is a terrible “woe unto him that striveth with his Maker” (Isa. 45:9). All men have nothing that we can call our own, but sin; that is the parent of ignorance and pride. Will you exalt these against the wisdom and grace of God? Shall our corrupt reason reply against God, call Him to account of His ways, and say unto His, “What doest Thou?” Do you not know that we have all forfeited all possible right to God’s favour? No good thing dwells in our nature that would entitle us to His mercy. John Calvin added, “No doubt, if the objection had been false, that God according to His own will rejects those whom He honors not with His favor, and chooses those who He gratuitously loves, a refutation would not have been neglected by Paul. The ungodly object and say, that men are exempted from blame, if the will of God holds the first place in their salvation, or in their perdition. Does Paul deny this? Nay, by his answer he confirms it, that is, that God determines concerning men, as it seems good to Him, and that, men in vain and madly rise up to contend with God; for He assigns, by His own right, whatever lot He pleases to what He forms.”
Just who does wicked mankind think they are to question God’s providence or even hope to understand His ways (Isa. 29:16)? How foolish and arrogant for a finite creature to sit in judgment on the mercy and justice of the Creator! The answer to all of what God does is found in Himself, not is the puny wisdom of man. The Scriptures reveal clearly that there never was, on never will be, a poor sinner willing to come to the Lord Jesus who finds the way barred, or who feels that he is restrained from approaching and appropriating Him and all His blessings of salvation. But on the other hand the truth that no man has of himself the will to come to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that no mere human persuasion can cause that will to arise in his soul, is also taught just as clearly.
Verse 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? In the exercise of the sovereign purpose of God, there is nothing that the infinite man can do concerning Him. It is an ocean too deep for us to fathom. High above human thought, beyond the scope of human sight, of the human mind, the Omnipotent and Omniscience is ruling, and His rule is supreme (Psa. 2:9). Mr. A. W. Pink said it well, “The Potter forms His vessels for Himself. Let man strive with His Maker as he will, the fact remains that he is nothing more than clay in the Heavenly Potter’s hands, and while we know that God will deal justly with His creatures, that the Judge of all the earth will do right, nevertheless, He shapes His vessels for His own purpose and according to His own pleasure. God claims the indisputable right to do as He wills with His own.”
“Hath not the potter power over the clay?” The whole emphasis in this text falls on the power, that is, on the right, privilege or authority, the sovereignty the Heavenly Potter has over the clay. God has a right to do with His own creatures what He will (Jer. 32:17, 27) . And in the execution of that right He exercises it in a way that is consistent with His righteousness and glory. God is the Creator of all and He created man and placed him upon this earth for the purpose of glorying Him (Psa. 86:9) — that is the chief end of man. Therefore, God has the right to do what best serves His glory.
“Of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour.” There is, therefore, no difference in the quality of the material from which He shapes His vessels. The great Dutch theologian Herman Hoeksema wrote, “The vessels, both unto honor and dishonor, signify the finished work of God with men, their final, eternal state. The vessels unto honor are the glorified saints in the eternal Kingdom; the vessels unto dishonor are the damned in Hell. The former are the objects of His eternal mercy; the latter of His sovereign wrath. The final state of the saved and of the lost is illustrated, therefore, by the vessels unto honor and the vessels unto dishonor. And both are presented by the figure as being the handiwork of God. Scripture here teaches very plainly that God has the indisputable right to do with men, even with a view to their eternal destiny, as He pleases. No one has the right to call Him to account for what He does. . . . Besides, according to the illustration the Potter has the indisputable right to make vessels unto honor and vessels unto dishonor. He shapes them so that they can serve an honorable or dishonorable purpose. . . . It may be fairly admitted that when God sovereignly prepares men for eternal glory and eternal desolation, He does not violate the moral nature of men; but the fact remains that His determination of men’s eternal destiny, whether they shall serve as vessels unto honor or as vessels unto dishonor, is, according to the text, free and sovereign, and not limited by man’s disposition or choice.”
This text is often disputed over, not only among sovereign grace men and free willers, but often between godly grace men themselves. Some hold that men were considered, in the mind of God, in the decrees of Election and Reprobation, as unfallen men previous to creation and unfallen. Those who hold this view are supralapsarians. Those who hold that the lump of clay represents fallen mankind are called sublapsarian These are the two basic views. The word lap has to do with the fall of man. The word supra is used to refer to the views of those who believe that Election and Reprobation in the decrees of God precedes the fall of man. The word sub is used to refer to the views of those who believe the decrees of Election and Reprobation, follows the fall of man (in the mind of God).
I have studied this subject for 50 plus years. We’ve read, studied, meditated upon, and prayer over the Scriptures daily. Too, we have read the works of hordes of godly men on this issue. We can see why both sides hold to their views. We do not dogmatically hold to either. While our Lord revealed in His Word the order of each day of creation and sequence of His creation activity during the creation week, He nowhere gave us in His Word the order of His decrees. He is a timeless Being. Suffice it to say that “Known unto God from all eternity are His works” (Acts 15:18). The renowned commentator John Calvin held to the view that the lump of clay that the Potter used in forming the two different vessels represented man as fallen. The esteemed Theodore Beza, Calvin’s co-pastor with him in the church at Geneva, and his successor, held the view that the lump was man considered before the fall. Though they differed on this point of view, they lived as friends and brothers in great peace, sincere love, and harmony. Let all the saints of God do likewise.
Verse 22 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. The words of verses 22 and 23 are immediately connected with the figure of the Potter and the clay, and they show the purpose for which God makes vessels unto honor and dishonor. On the one hand it is to show His wrath and to make His power known, and on the other hand, that He might manifest the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy afore prepared unto glory. Our Lord will make known His wrath against sin and He will make known the riches of His grace and glory. As A. W. Pink wrote, “God is going to display His mighty power upon the reprobate not merely by incarcerating them in Gehenna, but by supernaturally preserving their bodies as well as souls amid the eternal burnings of the Lake of Fire.”
“What if God, willing to shew his wrath.” Paul does not say to shew His justice or righteousness, for that is as much observed in God’s glorifying and making happy the saints, and much more in some respects. God’s justice is more gloriously manifested in the sufferings of Christ for the elect, than the damnation of the wicked. The seconding coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is a manifestation of the “wrath of the Lamb”, upon the ungodly, “and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16-17).
“The vessels of wrath” are those referred to in verse 21as vessels unto dishonor; the reprobate wicked. Herman Hoeksema shed much Scriptural light on this phrase when he wrote, “What is the meaning of the vessels of wrath? . . . The expression then refers to the wrath of reprobation. It denotes the ungodly as the Most High ordained them from before the foundation of the world to be manifestations and objects of His righteous wrath. He sovereignly ordained them to be bearers of His wrath and to serve the revelation of His righteous indignation against and hatred of sin. And they are, then, vessels ordained in wrath and unto wrath. . . . The entire context deals with God’s sovereign and eternal determination in the matter of salvation and damnation.” God is sovereign not only in the election of grace, but also in the determination of the destruction of the wicked (1 Thes. 5:9). While it is true that the wicked deliberately seek their own destruction and walk in the way of eternal desolation, their end is determined by Almighty God.
“Endured with much longsuffering” as our Lord forbears the vessels of wrath while He is longsuffering over His people. With a view to God’s decreed and that must be realized God endures, tolerates, the wicked in time, until they shall have served His eternal purpose. “Were God to immediately break these reprobate vessels into pieces, His power of self-control would not be so eminently appear; by bearing with their wickedness and forebearing punishment so long, the power of His patience is gloriously demonstrated” (A. W. Pink).
“The vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” The vessels of wrath are so constituted that their entire makeup and design and institution serves the purpose of reaching the end of destruction — everything tends to their destruction, serves the purpose of leading them not to temporal destruction, but to eternal desolation: “but unto them which be disobedient , the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (1 Pet. 2: 7b-8). The meaning which our text, along with this verse in Peter and many other verses, yields, can only be that God fitted these vessels unto destruction. While it is true that the reprobate fit themselves for punishment by their own wickedness for everyone will be judged “according to his works,” the Scriptures are plain that subjectively the non-elect do fit themselves for destruction. However, “the verse does not say the vessels of wrath fitted themselves, not does it say they are fit for destruction; instead; it declares that they ‘fitted to destruction,’ and the context shows plainly it is GOD who thus ‘fits’ them — objectively by His eternal decrees” (A. W. Pink). (see Jude 1:4).
Verse 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. The vessels of mercy are not merely the saints considered as historically the objects of God’s saving mercy, but the elect ordained in mercy from all eternity. They received His saving mercy, love and grace, because God chose to reveal Christ in them and make them objects of His saving mercy from eternity — afore-ordained unto glory.
“The riches of his glory.” Herman Hoeksema said, “Glory is always and principally the glory of God, for God alone is glorious, and there is no glory apart from Him. The glory of God is the radiation of His Divine, infinite goodness. Now, it has pleased God, according to Scripture, to reveal and reflect that glory of His goodness in His people. His glory is infinitely in the Son; in the eternal and only begotten Son He beholds and has delight in His own glory. He willed and ordained a people that should share in that glory of the Son of God in a creaturely way.” Our Lord Christ said that He had “given them the glory which Thou (the Father) gavest me’ (John 17:22). This is the glory of Christ as the Chosen Head of His true Church — Mediator of the covenant — and Husband of His bride (Eph. 1: 6-8). This glory of our Head belongs to all His members, and every member, in time, receives it from His gracious hands, possesses it, and enjoys it. “The Lord will give grace and glory” (Psa. 84:11). Not grace without glory, nor glory without grace. His grace is great in His people’s salvation (Psa. 21:5). The Father of glory planned it — the Lord of glory purchased and accomplished it — the Spirit of glory applies it. In the person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines in our hearts (2 Cor. 4:6). To His glory He has called us (2 Pet. 1:3). Of His glory we are partakers (1 Pet. 5:1). All of the elect are sharers of God’s riches of His wondrous grace, vessels whom He “afore prepared unto glory,” whom He predestinated to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). In bringing vessels of mercy to glory God makes known the riches of His glory. His glory shall arise out of theirs, and therefore it is said to be “His inheritance in the saints.” From Christ the Hope of glory in us we are brought to the enjoyment of Christ our Glorious Hope for all eternity.
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 9:14-23
Verse 14. But if the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty is taught here, then the question is precisely the same that is asked in our day. To it Paul returns an emphatic if not an indignant negative. In all their history the Jews had gloried in the peculiar favor God had borne to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thus far Paul has maintained before the Jews his defense of the Divine sovereignty out of their own sacred books, (quoting them as of Divine authority), in particular from the first book of the Pentateuch by their law-giver Moses and from their last prophet Malachi. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
These arguments of the apostle are founded on two assumptions. The first is, that the Scriptures are the Word of God; and the second, that what God actually does cannot be unrighteous. — Charles Hodge (1797-1878).
The whole life of man until he is converted to Christ is a ruinous labyrinth of wanderings. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. No one ever accused God of being tainted with sin but a wicked sinner. No one ever thought the works of God unequal or unfair but a rebel. No one ever was found speaking out against God’s decrees and sovereign purposes but an unregenerate son of Adam. No one ever pronounced a criticism against God’s dealings with men, but a false religious professor! — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).
Never is a man in his right mind till he is converted, or in his right place till he sits by faith at the feet of Jesus, or rightly clothed till he has put on the Lord Jesus Christ. — J. C. Ryle (1816-1900).
Verse 15. Hell would be justice to all of us, and anything short of that is mercy. — T. T. Shields (1873-1955).
That is the sovereignty of it all, and that is the thing that has flooded this heart of mine. God was under no imperative to give me a new heart — He could rightly have left me in my sin and in my false religion, but He brought me out. He separated me unto Himself and set me to crying night and day for a new heart. Yes, I begged the Lord to bestow on me what He and He alone could give — not realizing at first that the desire for a new heart is itself evidence that the old heart has been eradicated. B. B. Caldwell said, ‘You never desire a new heart until you have one’. — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).
There is no mercy but in Christ. Everything which can be called mercy must have Christ in it, or it is no mercy, be it what it may. It must have its very nature from Christ, its sweetness from Christ, and its everlasting countenance from Christ. — Robert Hawker (1753-1827).
Verse 16. A Christian is not one who by searching has found out God, but one whom God has found. — T. T. Shields (1873-1955).
The greatest judgment which God Himself can, in the present life, inflict upon a man is to leave him in the hand of his own boasted free will! A man's free will cannot cure him even of the toothache or of a sore finger; and yet he madly thinks it is in its power to cure his soul. — Augustus M. Toplady (1740-1778).
In setting out the ability and inability of man we see how pernicious the true nature of inability is. The enmity man has with God cannot just be taken away by a mere choice, prayer and/or decision. Man must be born from above in order to truly believe. This enmity is not taken away by a choice, but by a new heart. This sets out the Gospel by grace alone. Man does nothing in terms of work for salvation and does nothing but what grace enables him to do. We must never let these things slide away or we will have allowed the Gospel to slide. Man’s inability is from his enmity with God and even a hatred of God. Man will always fight with God until God changes man’s heart. Until the heart is changed, man will always be at enmity with God and will not love God. Until all the enmity has been removed there will be no faith because there cannot be love. — Richard Smith.
THE WILL, choice and desire practically mean the same thing. Men act freely in choosing that which is agreeable with their nature, love and desires; but they do not thus act freely with that which is not agreeable, for it is contrary to their real choice. They may be, and very often are prevented from possessing their choice, but not from willing or desiring it. But the Arminian belief that the will is self-determining and that man can of himself change his will is a very great error. In nature’s night men act freely in committing sin, because they are willingly in love with it and as willingly bound with its chain, and are willingly haters of God, and they have no power or ability or real willingness in and of themselves to reverse all this.
They may, and often do, claim to make such a choice; but as this can only be an empty profession, what is it but hypocrisy? For without the blessed Spirit’s work of grace in the heart, no one can make a genuine profession of religion. And it is very wrong to urge anyone who has not had this heart-change to make such a profession, for of all things surely this is the worst place to practice deception. But when the gracious Lord is pleased to take away the hard and stony heart and give a tender heart of flesh, and shed abroad His love therein, then this regenerated person freely loves God, and can then freely and truly choose to make a profession of His service. For when he is painfully made aware of the awful plague of his heart, he then will freely hate sin instead of loving it as before. And such awakened sinners should certainly always be encouraged and comforted, and it is wrong not to do so.
But man positively cannot of himself reverse his desires, change his heart, and prepare himself for God’s service. And all men are quite powerless to aid each other in this line, for “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1). “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 12:23). “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:34, 35).
I am positive that the above is true. But, sad to say, in this proud age of popular profession, free will is so often perverted and “run up to seed,” and an acquired head-knowledge is generally substituted for the necessary Spirit-given heart-work. The devils plainly possessed quite an intellectual knowledge of Jesus Christ. (See Luke 4:34, 41). Historical knowledge alone puffeth up; but God’s grace in the human heart humbleth. — Elder W. S. Craig (1867-1961).
Verse 17. That God is the one who determines who shall, and who shall not be saved, is one of the clearest teachings of Scripture. — G. I Williamson (b. 1925).
The powers of evil are shackled to the throne of God so that in the end only one will is supreme in the universe, that of God Almighty and All-wise. — Charles D. Alexander (1897-1962).
See that you make not God the Author of sin, by charging His sacred decree with men’s miscarriages, as if that were the cause or occasion of them; which we are sure it is not, nor can be, any more than the sun can be the cause of darkness. Be it always remembered, that the Lord’s rejecting of men puts nothing of evil into them, nor necessitates the will; it only leaves them to their own ways, which they freely choose; yet banking them in , and stopping them up, as He did the fountains of the great deep, lest they deluge the world with sin. — Coles.
We first notice those things connected with the reprobate which the Lord does: and next, those which He does not. (1) Every reprobate sinner is by the Lord’s appointment an accountable being, and under the Law (whether Adamic or Mosaic) which he has broken, and by which he will be judged. (2) Every reprobate sinner is the recipient of providential blessings, for the abuse of which he is accountable. (3) Every reprobate sinner has a punishment awarded him according to the measure of his iniquity. (4) Every reprobate sinner will be judged at the last by the Lord Himself. In connection with these things that the Lord does not do in the reprobation of those that are lost: — (1) He did not infuse sin into their nature — (2) He does not tempt men to sin. — James Wells (1803-1872).
The heat of the sun softens the wax, but hardens the clay. What are we? Wax softened, or clay hardened? There must be the experience of moving and melting, or there can be no sealing unto the day of redemption. — Thomas Bradbury (1831-1905).
Verse 18. I know not how it is with others, but I find myself very unable, nay, most unable when I have the greatest occasion, to lay hold upon this mighty mercy of God; to rest upon it, and make it my own; and to use it for my consolation and support, I long for this with the full purpose of my heart; and my groans and tears in secret are well known to God. But I have also an evil heart of unbelief, which suggests a thousand doubts and fears, sometimes of God's willingness to save me particularly, who am so very vile and faithless; and sometimes of my own reality of desire towards Him, which is often dreadfully mixed with the desire of other things, and overwhelmed with cares and sorrows, difficulties and temptations. O what great troubles and adversities hath God shown me! How shall I be delivered from the body of this death? How shall I lay hold on eternal life? How shall I know that I have fast hold; or be assured, that none shall be able to pluck me from it? O Lord, to be assured of this Thy favour, is both in life and death, of more worth to me than a thousand times ten thousand worlds. For I might have these, and be wretched; but, with Thee, I can have nothing but life and peace for evermore. — Ambrose Serle (1742-1812).
If an old Hell-bound sinner is ever brought to the place where he knows that he is lost, because the Holy Ghost has pricked him in the heart by the Word of God and revealed to him his sinful condition, he will beg God to have mercy on him. And when God is pleased to make him a new creature in Christ, he will be in love with the Lover of his soul and will delight to do the will of God and walk in loving obedience to Him.
We’ve got a stuff called ‘salvation’ now that makes the death of the Lord Jesus Christ a joke, and it makes God a minister of sin, and speaks peace to men where there is no peace. It is filling Hell full of church members who believed the lies that are being preached. The only people who will bring praise and glory to Christ are those who are under the Guiding Hand and rule of Him whom God appointed and decreed to be LORD over all mankind. I say that the Gospel is a holy-making Gospel, and we do not live a holy life in order to be saved, but we live a holy life because we are saved. And when a man is justified by the blood of Christ, that is the beginning of a holy life. That’s where holy living starts and that person who is not on the road to the time when he will be like Christ is traveling on the wrong road; Christ is not his Lord. In the churches today Christ is offered to men and women as One who will keep you out of Hell and let you do as you please, but the Lord Jesus Christ of God’s Word demands holy living. If sin is damning its thousands, religion today is damning its tens of thousands.
What a miracle it will be if God ever fixes you so you’ll not just attend services, but where you will begin to listen to God’s Word! I have been preaching all these years to a generation of people who seem to wish to trust in the work of Christ, but without falling in love with Him. And thus Hell is full of people who have believed a fact but were not joined to a Person. I cannot understand that type of ‘salvation.’ What does a sinner expect when he doesn’t desire to be under the rule of Christ, but continues a rebel against that rule? I cannot understand a salvation that turns out men and women who do not intend in the deep recesses of their souls to become willing bondslaves of our Lord Jesus Christ. I say to you, my friend, that church members who live in known sin, who do not pant after holiness, who have no love for Christ — I say to you, they are in mortal danger and they are on the road to Hell and know it not. — Rolfe Barnard (1904-1969).
Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve, Mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve. — Rolfe Barnard (1904-1969).
The sovereignty of God proclaims itself with a yet more astonishing glory, in His eternal disposal of men’s everlasting condition. To show, or not to shew mercy to persons equally dignified (or rather undignified) in themselves — to make of the same lump one vessel to honor and another to dishonor, is the sublimest act and most apparent demonstration of sovereign power concerning men. The reason of which (and that to satisfaction) might have been given, and would, had it benefitted the greatness of God, or the trust and reverence we owe to Him; but for the present He is pleased to give none other but that of His right; nut may not He do what He will with His own? — Coles.
The greatest tragedy in American history is the degeneration of a theocracy into a democracy; what started out to be “one nation under God” has become one nation without God. What happened to the nation that dared to found itself upon the principle that God was supreme, Christ was the Head of the government, and men would be governed by the principles of His Law? Democracy (rule by the people) got to the bighead and began to flex its muscle against Theocracy (God-rule). Men have fancied themselves superior to God, their wisdom more up-to-date and thus more excellent than His. Sadly, this degeneration has sifted down into the churches, so that it is common among men within the churches to think that the Bible is out of date, and that it no longer is a sufficient rule for the management of the affairs of men, not even in the church.
The whole argument of God’s eternal election of grace boils down to a simple question: Does God have the right to do as He wills without consultation with men? Is God in fact the Owner and Disposer of all things, or has man in fact fallen heir to all and thus has the right to do as he wills? Though few will acknowledge that this is the real question, it most certainly is. Who really is Boss, human intelligence or Divine? — Jay Wimberly (1936-1912).
Verse 19. “For who hath resisted his will?” i. e. His decretive will, and the answer implied in the question is, None. However, with regard to the perceptive will of God, man can and does resist, and for this he is justly held responsible by God. It was the perceptive will of God that the Jews could not crucify the Lord Jesus Christ. They acted in this manner contrary to God’s command, and were therefore guilty; still, it was the decretive will that the Saviour should be crucified, for the Jews and Roman soldiers did only what “His hand and His counsel determined before to be done.” The perceptive will of God is the rule of duty to us; the decretive will, the plan of operation to Himself. The distinction is plainly just, natural and Scriptural. The perceptive will of God is sometimes called His revealed will, and His decretive called His secret will. . . . The perceptive will is the sole rule of duty to man, as its name shows; and fearful guilt is always incurred when the commands of God are disregarded or despised. It is not my business to inquire whether God has a secret decree — that I shall or shall not, in point of fact, comply with His injunctions; it is enough that I am bound to do so, and am justly held punishable if I do not obey. Whatever rule of operations He may prescribe to Himself, the one which He has given to me is plain and intelligible, and His unrevealed purposes will afford me no shelter if I neglect or disregard it. — J. H. Thornwell (1812-1862).
This is said in support of the former, and means not God's will of command, which is always resisted more or less, by wicked men and devils; but his will of purpose, his counsels and decrees, which stand firm and sure, and can never be resisted, so as to be frustrated and made void. This the objector takes up, and improves against God; that since he hardens whom he will, and there is no resisting his will, the fault then can never lie in them who are hardened, and who act as such, but in God; and therefore it must be unreasonable in him to be angry with, blame, accuse, and condemn persons for being and doing that, which he himself wills them to be and do. Let the disputers of this world, the reasoners of the present age, come and see their own faces, and read the whole strength of their objections, in this wicked man's; and from whence we may be assured, that since the objections are the same, the doctrine must be the same that is objected to: and this we gain however by it, that the doctrines of particular and personal election and reprobation, were the doctrines of the apostle; since against no other, with any face, or under any pretence, could such an objection be formed: next follows the apostle's answer. — John Gill (1697-1771).
The mystery of God’s Will is twofold. The distinction is between His Secret Will and His Revealed Will; between His Decretive Will and His Permissive Will. Yet God’s Will is one. The distinction relates to the different aspects which the Sovereign Purpose of Jehovah bears to persons and circumstances. The Will of the Lord is unfolded in events. For instance, if we examine the Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, in its relation to the Will of God, we find the following singular combination of facts, which are exceedingly instructive and well worthy of careful consideration: (1) It took place by the Permissive Will of God. The Lord determined to allow it to take place. Nevertheless: (2) It was contrary to His Revealed Will, as made know in the Law, which shows it was His will that no murder should be done. But, (3) It was strictly in accordance with His Decretive Will, because He ordained it for salvation. His secret purpose was fully accomplished in this way.
The case of Abraham teaches a similar lesson. God plainly commanded him to offer up his son Isaac, and appointed the very place (Gen. 22:2). This was the Lord’s Revealed Will to Abraham. At the same time His Secret Will was to spare Isaac, and accept a substitute — in short, that Isaac should not be slain in fact. We have to note that Abraham had to obey God’s Will revealed in His Word. In this lies the obedience of faith. In due time deliverance was wrought by the revealing of the Lord’s secret purpose of mercy in a mysterious providential interposition. — Edward Carr.
Verse 20. There are some things that no man may think, or say or do. None may think that God is such an one as himself, or say that he is competent to judge what God may or may not do, or arraign the Divine conduct in any way whatever. The substance of Paul’s rebuke to the bold intruder is, O feeble sinful worm, who are you? You forget that you are both a fool and a criminal. You are not fit to judge anything, except that you are of yesterday, that your own righteousnesses are as filthy rags, that you know nothing as you ought to know it, till you learn that you are a fool, and that to you God is in no wise accountable. God has not submitted His plans or His government to you for revision or to get your judgment on them. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
That God does all things right there is no question, but the grounds of His conduct He does not now explain to His people. Much less is it to e supposed that He may justify His conduct by explaining the grounds of it to His enemies. No man has the right to bring God to trial. — Robert Haldane (1764-1842).
Mere human reason can never comprehend how God is good and merciful, and, therefore, you make to yourself a god of your own fancy, who hardens nobody, condemn nobody, pities everybody. You cannot comprehend how a just God can condemn those who are born in sin, and cannot help themselves, but must, by a necessity of their natural constitution, continue in sin, and remain children of wrath. The answer is, God is incomprehensible throughout, and, therefore, His justice, as well as His other attributes, must be incomprehensible. — Martin Luther (1483-1546).
The objection is founded on ignorance or misapprehension of the relation between God and His sinful creatures, supposing that He is under obligation to extend His grace to all, whereas He is under obligation to none. All are sinners, and have forfeited every claim to His mercy. It is therefore perfectly competent to God to spare one and not another, make one vessel unto to honor and another to dishonor. But it is to be borne in mind that Paul does not here speak of God’s right over His creatures as creatures; but as sinful creatures; as he himself clearly intimates in the next verses. It is the cavil of a sinful creature against his Creator that he is answering, and he does so by showing that God is under no obligation to give His grace to any, but is as sovereign as in fashioning the clay. — Charles Hodge (1797-1878).
Verse 21. The word EXOUSIA rendered power, means also authority and right. In this case it means, the lawful power or right; He not only can do it, but He has a perfect right to do it. — Charles Hodge (1797-1878).
Paul, here, merely denies the power of the Christian to intrude into the power of the Divine sovereignty. His purpose is to show that the word of God touching salvation has not come to be ineffectual because the Jews rejected it. That is the argument he is on now, and he then advances in it, and says, “Not even al the lineal descendants of Abraham in the select line according to the plan of salvation were to be saved; not all of them could see these two covenants side by side; one was a national covenant, with its seal of circumcision, and promising the earthly Canaan, and the other was the grace covenant that looked to a spiritual seed. Or as he puts it in another place, “He is not a Jew (in the spiritual sense) who is just one outwardly, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly. The circumcision is not the circumcision of the flesh, but the circumcision of the heart — regeneration. — B. H. Carroll (1843-1914).
The apostle hath drawn a beautiful model for imitation in this particular, which may serve as a guide for every one, who supposes himself called upon to make reply to the presumptuous reasoning of the un-humbled mind. He borrows a figure from common life, of the Potter, exercising power over the same lump of clay, to make one vessel unto honor, and another to dishonor; and takes occasion therefrom to shew, that He who hath made all things, and for whose pleasure they are and were created, hath an unquestionable authority to do what He will with His own; and to strike dumb into everlasting silence the profane tongue, which might be prompted to go further and demand a reason; everything is referred to His will who hath appointed all, and terminates in this; shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? — Robert Hawker (1753-1827).
The first source of blessings — perfect holiness, adoption, etc. — were ordained us without consideration of the Fall, though not before the consideration of the Fall; for all the things which God decrees are at once in His mind; they were all, both one another, ordained to our persons. But God in the decrees about these first sort of blessings viewed us as creatures which He could and would make so and so glorious . . . But the second sort of blessings were ordained us merely upon consideration of the Fall, and to our persons considered as sinners, and unbelievers. The first sort were to the “praise of God’s grace,” taking grace for the freeness of love; whereas the latter sort are to “the praise of the glory of his grace,” taking grace for free mercy. — Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680).
If (O brethren) the Lord hath some vessels of glory, which He prepares beforehand, and makes capable of glory (Rom. 9:21-22); if the Lord doth not sever you from sin is compunction, and empty you of yourselves in humiliation, you can not receive Christ, nor mercy — you can not hold them; and if ever you miss of Christ by faith, your wound lies here. How many be there at this day , that were once profane and wicked, but now by some terrors and outward restraints upon them they leave their sins, and say they loathe them, and purpose never to run riot as they have done; and hence, because they think themselves very good, or to have some good, they fall short of Christ, and are still in the gall of bitterness, in the midst of all evil. It was the happiness of some men, if they did not think themselves to have some good because this is their Christ. O you that live under precious means, and have many fears you may perish and be deceived at the last! But why do you fear? I know you will answer, “O, some secret and unknown sin may be my ruin.” It is true, and you do well to have a godly jealously thereof. But remember this also, not only some sin, but some good thou thinkest thou hast, and restest in without Christ, and lifting thee up above Christ, may as easily prove thy ruin; because a man’s own righteousness rested in doth not only hide men’s sins, but strengthens them in some sin by which men perish. Trusting in one’s own righteousness, and committing iniquity, are couples. (Ezek. 33:13). . . . Christ will have all flesh veil, and be stripped naked, and made nothing before Him — made vile, empty, and nothing, or you must perish. — Thomas Shepard (1605-1649).
This truth, that God determines sovereignly who shall be saved, and who shall not be saved, the doctrine that God is GOD, that He is the sovereign Lord, even in the matter of the salvation and damnation of man, is not according to the flesh, and does not meet with general approval. How could it find grace in the eyes of sinful men? It humbles all the pride of man. It casts him prostrate in the dust. It relation to God it makes him a mere nothing. It leaves him no power, no wisdom, no goodness, no glory whatsoever. . . . How could it even be expected that this doctrine that exalts God and lays low all the pride of man, could find favor with sinful men, that always exalt themselves against the Living God. — Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965).
Verse 22. It is not wise for the novice to meddle too much with Divine purposes and mysteries. Nothing has greater tendency to confound the understanding and to harden the heart than to take strong meat too early. Let us not talk of these matters too lightly. Hidden things belong to God; things that are revealed belong to us. Touching the Almighty we can not find Him out, but He is excellent in power, judgment and grace. He will not afflict without cause. Let us rejoice that the great truth of Divine grace is written in the Word and revealed in Christ. — Martin Luther (1483-1546).
If God suffers them to show forth His own patience and long-suffering here, so as to have the fuller blow at them hereafter, and to take, as it were, the more advantage in making His power known, even the power of His wrath. For this reason, He endureth with much long-suffering the “vessels of wrath, fitted to destruction;” they are fitted to destruction already, and they are vessels of wrath, such as deserve to be with wrath, brim-full with wrath every day. Yet they are full of comforts, and continue safe a long time, that their perishing at last may make God the more known in the greatness and irresistibility of His power. — Joseph Caryl (1602-1673).
What right have you to find fault? What can you say against the Divine conduct? If He shall be willing to let His creatures see that He is glorious in justice and power in punishing some, who have long and wantonly insulted Him, and at the same time in a way of righteousness saving others, by nature no less sinful, yet by grace prepared for a glorious inheritance? This whole argument regards men as sinners. — William Plumer (1802-1880).
But if we wish fully to understand Paul, almost every word must be examined. He then argues thus, — There are vessels prepared for destruction, that is, given up and appointed to destruction: they are also vessels of wrath, that is, made and formed for this end, that they may be examples of God’s vengeance and displeasure. If the Lord bears patiently for a time with these, not destroying them at the first moment, but deferring the judgment prepared for them, and this in order to set forth the decisions of his severity, that others may be terrified by so dreadful examples, and also to make known his power, to exhibit which he makes them in various ways to serve; and, further, that the amplitude of his mercy towards the elect may hence be more fully known and more brightly shine forth; — what is there worthy of being reprehended in this dispensation? But that he is silent as to the reason, why they are vessels appointed to destruction, is no matter of wonder. He indeed takes it as granted, according to what has been already said, that the reason is hid in the secret and inexplorable counsel of God; whose justice it behoves us rather to adore than to scrutinize. And he has mentioned vessels, as commonly signifying instruments; for whatever is done by all creatures, is, as it were, the ministration of divine power. For the best reason then are we, the faithful, called the vessels of mercy, whom the Lord uses as instruments for the manifestation of his mercy; and the reprobate are the vessels of wrath, because they serve to show forth the judgments of God. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
Verse 23. What is the purpose of God in His creative acts? Paul makes the answer clear in Eph. 1:6, “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” Here, he defines that purpose as the show of the wrath and power of God. In the judgment of sinners is displayed His righteous wrath against wickedness, and in His mercy to sinners is seen His great grace. The whole of the created universe exists to display the glory of God’s great justice and grace! Notice the eternity of the purpose of God: “which He had afore prepared unto glory.” The purpose of grace was designed in eternity past, executed in time and experience, and shall ever ahead demonstrate the grandeur of that grace as well as the glory of God’s justice. — Jay Wimberly (1936-2012).
Salvation is and ever will be wonderful in manifesting “glorious riches” of wisdom and power, justice and mercy, truth and grace, faithfulness and righteousness. Augustine wrote: “According to their desserts God makes some vessels of wrath; according to His grace He makes other vessels of mercy.” No creature can say which of all God’s attributes is most glorified in man’s redemption. The common impression is that love and mercy are most illustrious. Perhaps they are. But who can fathom the wisdom. Estimate the power or gauge the justice therein displayed. — William Plumer (1802-1880).
The elect differ from the reprobate only in the fact of their deliverance from the same gulf of destruction. This, moreover, is by no merit of their own, but by the free goodness of God. It must, therefore, be true that the infinite mercy of God towards the elect will gain our increasing praise, when we see how wretched are all those who do not escape His wrath. — John Calvin (1509-1564).