The fall of Genesis 3 severely severed human relationships; first with God, and second with fellow human beings. Before the flood, we saw the fruit of humanity’s broken relationship in Cain’s killing of his brother Abel. After the flood, we see the fruit of humanity’s broken relationships as we pick up the narrative in chapter 11. We see how men in this new world rebelled against God, seeking to glorify and deify themselves, and the destructive effects their sin has on humanity’s relationship with one another. First, we see the common root of their sin, and how it worked itself out in their lives. Second, we see the destructive effects of their sin in severing their relationship with God, and with one another. Finally, we see how they need to be reconciled to God, and to one another, and how Christ is the only hope for that reconciliation.
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.
At first glance, this text seems to support the idea that if we do good things for people in need, we will go to heaven, but that is far from the truth. Christ does indeed encourage us to manifest righteous behavior and to do good works, but our labors are not what saves us; they are evidences of the fact that Christ has saved us by His work on our behalf. As we are in Christ, we will bear out the fruit of Christ, and one of the most significant fruits of Christianity is our compassion for those in need, particularly our compassion for the fatherless.
The Mercy that God Displayed to His Once Orphaned Children Impacts the Mercy that His Adopted Children Display to Orphans
The more Christians understand their former position as an orphan, the greater burden they will have for orphans. The more Christians worship the God who displayed mercy to them, the more they will show mercy to orphans. Orphan care is a visible picture of the gospel.
“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.
In this passage a government official’s desperate search for Jesus leads him from Capernaum to Cana. To the man’s astonishment Jesus heals his dying son with a word from 20 miles away. This miraculous sign resulted not merely in the physical healing of his son, but in the spiritual salvation both of the official and his household. Jesus removed he barriers to the man’s belief by a word of corrective reproof, a word of simple direction, a word of confident assurance, and a word of life-giving power.
One of the most prevalent arguments leveled against the doctrine of individual, unconditional election is that it makes God out to be an uncaring monster, that it somehow makes him unjust. People said the same in Paul’s day. In Romans 9:14, Paul anticipated the fact that many would believe God to be unrighteous for exercising His sovereign choice of individuals. Paul’s response in Romans 9 is that the righteousness of God is manifested most in the fact that He acts with a sovereign freedom in choosing who will receive His mercy.