As Paul wrote to the church at Colossae, his heart for their well-being and spiritual health bled through every word. These verses are a prayer of sorts for their deepening love and burgeoning knowledge of Christ, who Himself is the Christian’s and the church’s greatest wealth and treasure. As Morningview stands on the cusp of a significant capitol campaign for the renovation of our building, the focus is set upon drawing near to, depending upon, and treasuring Christ.
John Murray has rightly noted that calling upon God’s name for salvation does not occur “in a vacuum; it occurs only in a context created by proclamation of the gospel on the part of those commissioned to proclaim it.” What Paul does here with this series of questions in verses 14 and 15 is walk us backwards from the sinner calling upon the Lord to the original cause of God sending His messengers to preach. What we are meant to understand is that the proclamation of God’s Word is God’s ordained means to draw His people to Himself in saving faith.
Two of the verses from this text in Romans 10 have appeared in virtually every biblical gospel tract over the last half century. They describe how saving faith is appropriated in the concert of heart belief and verbal confession. In this sermon, we explore the nature, the expression, and the result of true faith, as well as God’s confirmation of His promise that He abounds in riches for all who call upon Him in faith.
At this point in chapter 10, Paul is continuing to use the tragic error of the Jews to highlight the incredible gift of God’s grace to the nations. As the Apostle quotes from Deuteronomy 30, he is demonstrating how Christ is the fulfillment of everything God promised to Israel. Through the clear contrast of law and gospel, we are meant to realize once again that human effort has no part in our salvation and that God, in Christ, deserves all the glory in our gospel obedience and witness to the nations.
With the beginning of Romans 10, Paul is continuing to use the spiritual plight of his own people as the reference point for explaining that God’s sovereign purpose of redemption includes all the peoples of the world. As Paul again expresses his personal burden for Israel, he helps us to understand the proper heart toward the lost and the ignorant zeal of works righteousness, but his focus is verse 4 where he reminds us that true righteousness is a gift of God through Christ our Lord.
As we reach the end of Romans 9, Paul is wrapping up his very directed discussion of the doctrine of election. There is a shift in these final verses to view the subject from man’s perspective. The only possible explanation that Gentiles, who do not pursue God at all, have attained righteousness is because they believed, and that exercise of faith is a gift of God. The Jews, on the other hand, have pursued righteousness diligently, but because they trust in their works and not in Christ, they have not attained it. Faith, or lack thereof, is the reason Christ is a cornerstone for some and a stone of stumbling to others.
As we near the end of Romans 9, Paul is careful to teach that God’s sovereign purpose in election includes Gentiles. Inclusion of them was not an afterthought nor a late addition, but part of His eternal plan from the very beginning. Just as God had chosen a remnant of Israel after disavowing them, God also chose Gentiles to receive His grace. Even more, the only reason anyone is saved is because God Himself spares them from destruction and makes them His own.
Up to this point in Romans 9, Paul has shown very clearly that election is God’s choice to save certain individuals from the penalty of hell by uniting them with His Son and bringing them into His eternal glory. God chooses who to save purely as a matter of His own sovereign will, without any consideration of the will or works of man. God has mercy on whomever He wills & He hardens whomever He wills. Verses 22-23 teach us that, as a function of His holiness, God desires every moment to demonstrate His wrath and make His power known through the judgment of the wicked. However, He patiently endures the wickedness of vessels of wrath for the sake of making known the riches of His glory and grace to His chosen children.
When we get to verse 19 of Romans 9, Paul is anticipating the third objection raised against what he has been teaching on the doctrine of individual election. The reasoning goes like this: If God has mercy on whom He desires and hardens whom He desires, how is it that He still holds men accountable for whether or not they believe and obey Him? Paul’s response is to remind us all that we are but clay in the hands of the Potter, and God is absolutely righteous in retaining for Himself the exclusive right to do whatever He wills with whomever He wills.
“So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” Verse 18 of Romans 9 is one of the hardest verses that Christians grapple with. If God is loving, why would he ever harden anyone? Doesn’t that make God unfair? The truth of the matter is that just as God sovereignly and independently chooses who will receive His mercy, He also sovereignly and independently chooses who He will harden. And doing so does not make Him unfair or unjust.