Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com
8ermon #107 — Romans Series
Title: Objections to
God’s Sovereignty Answered
Text: Romans 9:1-33
Subject: Divine Sovereignty
Date: Sunday Morning — January 15, 2017
Reading: Romans 9:1-33
We believe and preach, without apology, the Gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ.
Š Divine Sovereignty (Psalm 115:3)
Š Total Depravity (Romans 5:12)
Š Unconditional Election (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
Š Limited Atonement (Galatians 3:13)
Š Irresistible Grace (Psalm 65:4)
Š Perseverance of the Saints (Philippians 1:6)
Š Free Salvation in Christ (Romans 6:23)
Whenever unbelieving men hear this message of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, unless they are converted by God’s grace, they respond by raising three very common objections. Throughout the ages, the objections have always been the same. They do not vary by as much as a syllable. I want to deal with those objections in this message. If you are taking notes, the title of my message is — Objections to God’s Sovereignty Answered. Our text will be Romans 9:1-33. — Objections to God’s Sovereignty Answered (Romans 9:1-33). The answers given to the objections Paul deals with in this chapter will not stop the mouths of reprobate men who despise God’s sovereignty, or satisfy their quibbles. But they will satisfy the hearts and minds of all who believe God.
This chapter begins with Paul expressing his own heaviness of heart for his lost kinsmen, who despised Christ and the Gospel of God’s free, saving grace in him, who have been cast off by God because of their unbelief (vv. 1-5).
(Romans 9:1-5) “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, (2) That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. (3) For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: (4) Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; (5) Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”
Then, in verses 6-8, we see the first objection to the Gospel Paul confronts in this 9th chapter of Romans. — If we declare that God has forever cast off the Jews as a nation, that the chosen objects of his grace are found among both Jews and Gentiles, and that these chosen sinners scattered among all the nations of the world are the true Israel of God, they respond saying, — If that is the case, then the Word of God is of no effect. Either God will yet turn again to Israel and restore to them his kingdom, or his Word is null and void.
Paul answered that objection in verses 6-8. The purpose of God has not failed at all. Salvation was never promised to Abraham’s physical seed, but to his spiritual seed. His spiritual seed is Christ and all who are in Christ (vv. 6-8; Galatians 3:13-16).
(Romans 9:6-8) “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: (7) Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. (8) That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”
(Galatians 3:13-16) “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (14) That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (15) Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. (16) Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”
The casting off of natural Israel was always in the purpose of God. The Jews rejected the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, nailed him to the cursed tree, and were cast off by God precisely because he had purposed from eternity to save his elect, his true Israel, and gather them from the four corners of the earth. The Lord God cast off the Jews that the fulness of the Gentiles might be brought in, that he might save us by is grace. God still has an elect remnant among the Jews who must be saved; but his true Israel includes his elect remnant among the Gentiles too (Romans 11:25-26).
(Romans 11:25-26) “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. (26) And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
Here’s the second objection. — When we declare the glorious Gospel doctrine of God’s sovereign election, his free, electing love in Christ, as Paul did in verse 9-13, where he gives the very words of God himself, who said “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’, unbelieving men and women, especially religious people, raise this objection — That’s not fair! That isn’t right! That makes God unrighteous. Man has a free will. Paul answers that objection in verse 14-18.
(Romans 9:9-13) “For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. (10) And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (11) (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) (12) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. (13) As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
(Romans 9:14-18) “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.”
So much for your imaginary free will! — This eighteenth verse is a plain, crystal clear declaration of God’s absolute sovereignty in the whole affair of salvation. God almighty has the unquestionable right and power to have mercy on whom he will. The illustration Paul used of God’s sovereignty was Pharaoh.
The Scriptures declare that Pharaoh hardened his heart against the Lord (Exodus 9:34-35) and that the Lord God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:1). Both are true. Pharaoh hardened his heart in rebellion and unbelief; and God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in leaving him in his rebellion and unbelief.
God still hardens men’s hearts today, just as he has in the past. All it takes for God to harden your heart is for him to leave you alone, to leave you to yourself, to your own wisdom and your own evil ways.
Š If light is not given, darkness will reign.
Š If faith is not granted, unbelief prevails.
Š If grace is not bestowed, hardness of heart only increases.
Wherever the Word of God is rejected, wherever the means of grace is despised, it becomes a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, leaving those who despise it in greater hardness of heart and greater condemnation (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).
(2 Corinthians 2:15-16) “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: (16) To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?”
If we get this far without being stoned to death and assert that God does indeed have mercy on whom he will and then dare to declare that God’s sovereign, eternal will and purpose is absolute and irresistible, eyes begin to bulge, veins pop out, and raging sinners, who are so mad at God they could spit nails, raise this third objection to his sovereignty, which Paul states in verse 19.
(Romans 9:19) “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?”
The objection is this. — If God’s will is absolutely sovereign and irresistible, if he so completely governs all things that even the wrath and evil deeds of wicked men serve his purpose, if no one and nothing has the power to resist his will, that just makes us nothing but robots. Why does he blame sinners for anything?
Paul give three answers to this third objection in verse 20-33.
1. It is utter foolishness and the height of absurd arrogance for any man to dare presume to sit in judgment upon God! Who are you, who am I that we dare question the wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of God? How dares a worm sit himself up as the judge of God! God almighty does not do something because it is right. What God does is right because he does it (v. 20).
(Romans 9:20) “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?”
2. God is the Potter, we are nothing but clay in his hands, just wet mud, nothing else! God, as our Creator, the Potter, has the absolute right, power, and authority to make what he wills of us, either vessels of wrath or vessels of mercy (v. 21; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-6).
(Romans 9:21) “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”
(Isaiah 64:8) “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”
(Jeremiah 18:1-6) “The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, (2) Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. (3) Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. (4) And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. (5) Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, (6) O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”
3. In verses 22-33, God the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to tell us that God has determined to make known two things in this universe, by which all will be compelled acknowledge him alone as God: ——— The Power of His Wrath and The Riches of His Glory in His Grace.
Vessels of Wrath
(Romans 9:22) “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”
The Lord God almighty is a God of justice and wrath as well as a God of mercy and grace in Christ. As such, he is determined to make all men see both the power and justice of his holy wrath against sin in the “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”
Notice that these vessels of wrath are people fitted to destruction. The word “fitted” means “thoroughly and completely made up to.” They are people fitted to destruction not by what God has done but by what they do, by their own sin, unbelief, and hardness of heart, just like Pharaoh (1 Thessalonians 5:9; 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4).
(1 Thessalonians 5:9-11) How we rejoice in the fact that “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, (10) Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (11) Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”
(1 Peter 2:8) But Christ crucified is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”
(Jude 1:4) “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
These vessels of wrath are endured by God with great longsuffering, not for their sakes, but for the sake of his elect, the vessels of mercy, whom he has purposed to save (2 Peter 3:9).
(Romans 9:23) “And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”
Vessels of Mercy
Be sure you catch the difference in wording here. — The vessels of wrath are said to be fitted (fitted by their own hands) for destruction. Whereas God’s elect are said to be “the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.” They were from eternity prepared for glory, and are by redemption and grace prepared for glory by God’s hands, by what God has done for them and in them through the mediation of his dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Š Prepared by God’s Purpose (Romans 8:28-30)
Š Prepared by Christ’s Obedience (Romans 5:19)
Š Prepared by Christ’s Atonement (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
Š Prepared by Divine Regeneration (John 3:3-7 — Made “Partakers of the Divine Nature”)
(Colossians 1:12-14) “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: (13) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (14) In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
(Colossians 2:9-10) “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”
Paul is here describing the distinguishing grace and sovereign mercy of God toward his elect (1 Corinthians 4:7). We have not received God’s mercy, love, and grace in Christ because were better, or wiser, or made a better choice than others, but because God chose us in Christ before the world began and revealed his grace in us, to show forth and get praise to his own glory (Ephesians 1:1-14; 2:4-7).
(Ephesians 1:1-14) “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: (2) Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: (4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (8) Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; (9) Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: (10) That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (11) In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (12) That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (13) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (14) Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
(Ephesians 2:4-7) “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (6) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (7) That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
Robert Haldane wrote, “In looking over this passage of Scripture, every man ought to observe that man plays no part in the redemption of his soul; all is done by God. Everything pertaining to the redemption of a sinner is done not through a cooperative effort, but by God. He elected. He predestinated. He called. He justified. And he glorified. God has undertaken for us.”
Again, in Romans 9:24, Paul tells us that the promise of eternal salvation is not to Abraham’s physical seed, but to his spiritual seed — Christ and all who are in Christ by the grace of God, both Jew and Gentile.
(Romans 9:24) “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
In verses 25-28 Paul quotes from Hosea (2:23), showing us that the Old Testament prophets spoke plainly of a time when God would finish his work with the nation of Israel and call his elect from among the Gentiles. He made a truly short work in the earth, when he destroyed the Jewish nation in righteousness and sent the Gospel to the nations of the world. Yet, there is still in that nation an elect remnant who shall be saved. How like our God this is! — In wrath he remembers mercy!
Now, look at verse 29. Here the Holy Spirit shows us something of the glory and majesty of the doctrine of election. Many say, “That is a hard doctrine.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This doctrine is a cause for rejoicing. Election does not shut the gates of heaven. It opens them! Were it not for God’s electing mercy, love, and grace in Christ, we would all perish, both Jew and Gentile. We would all be destroyed, like Sodom and Gomorrah.
(Romans 9:29) “And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrah.”
Verses 30-33 show us the conclusion of the matter. This is not my conclusion, or even Paul’s conclusion. This is God’s conclusion. Here is the result of God’s purpose of grace toward his elect and his just wrath upon the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
Š The Jews, who had the oracles of God and sought righteousness not by faith in Christ but by their works, stumbled over Christ the stumbling stone, and perished.
Š Whereas, the Gentiles chosen by God’s grace, redeemed by Christ blood, and called by his Spirit, though they made no pretense of righteousness or of seeking it, have obtained it in Christ by faith alone.
Š Thus, the Scripture is fulfilled in us believing Gentiles, where God said, “I am found of them that sought me not.”
(Romans 9:30-33) “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. (31) But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (32) Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; (33) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
The Lord Jesus Christ, our crucified Substitute, is by God’s own appointment, a Stumbling Stone and Rock of Offense, over which proud, self-righteous religionists trip, stumble, and fall into hell. But he is a tried and sure Foundation Stone upon which guilty, helpless sinners, trusting his blood and righteousness alone, are built by the grace of God. —— And those who trust him shall never be ashamed. True believers, those who trust Christ alone for all righteousness before God, shall never be ashamed of trusting him alone, ashamed to confess that they trust him alone, or put to shame because they trust him alone.
Š In Their Own Consciences.
Š Before an Accusing World.
Š At the Bar of God.
Š To All Eternity!
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and go home unashamed before God.
(Romans 10:8-13) “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; (9) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (11) For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (12) For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and go home unashamed before God. Oh, may God give you faith in his dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!