Perhaps you’ve heard people question God’s justice and goodness. Questions like: If God is good, why is there evil in the world? If God is just, why does He allow suffering? If God is truly loving, why would He send anyone to hell? If God is fair, why is faith in Jesus the only way to be made right with Him? Aren’t there many paths to pleasing God? What about the person who has never heard? Many see these and other questions as reasons not to believe in God’s existence or to believe in some man-made version of Him instead.
Have you questioned God’s justice and goodness? Or have you learned that your arms are too short to box with God? In chapter 9 of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he dealt with the question “Is God unjust?” The Spirit inspired Paul to answer that God’s justice is beyond question. We can understand that God’s justice is beyond question.
Below is an automated transcript of this messageGood morning, church! We’re continuing our series through the book of Romans. We’ve entitled this series, “Righteousness Revealed.” We get the title for the series from Romans 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed…” We’ve been working this out over several years; we started a couple of years ago with chapter one and now we’re in this third installment. We’re working through chapters nine through twelve.
Last week, we started with chapter nine, verse one. We will be picking up at verse fourteen today. We’ve entitled today’s message, “Questioning God’s justice.” Do you ever hear people ask questions about whether or not God is just? Do you ever hear those questions posed in our culture today? Perhaps questions like this, If God is so good, why is there evil in the world? Do you ever hear questions like that? If God is so fair and just, why does He allow suffering? He’s all powerful, so why does He allow suffering in the world? If He’s truly loving, why does He send people to hell? If God is fair, why is Jesus the only way to be made right with Him? Aren’t there many paths to God? What about the person who’s never heard? These are the kind of questions that we hear posed about God’s justice. Is God just? Is He fair?
We come up with all kinds of versions. Either we decide to believe that there is no God, since we have “held court” in our own minds, and said, “I don’t think He’s fair, so therefore I don’t believe that He exists” or we believe in a different version, a man made version of God instead.
Some years ago, I was sharing the good news, the gospel, with a woman and she stopped me right as I was starting and said,”My father died when I was a little girl. I can’t believe in a God that would take a little girl’s daddy away from her. I can’t believe in a God like that.” And so, I said, “Is it possible for us to be angry at someone who we don’t believe exists? Is that possible?” I said, “Because I want to tell you my story. My father died when I was a little boy. My father died when I was eight years old and I was really angry at God about that. My view of God has not changed since I was a little boy. He’s all powerful, all knowing and all able. So, why did he let my father die? I was angry at Him about that, but instead of doubting His existence, I told him, ‘God, I’m really mad at You. I am really angry at You about this, but would You help me? Do you know what He did? He took away my anger and He replaced it with peace and comfort. He became a Father to me.What if you stop shaking your fists at God and said, ‘God help me with this?’ You’ve been angry a long time.” It had turned into bitterness in her. She had kept this thing between her and God for years and years. I said, “Would you be willing to lower your fists and open your heart?” She said, “I’m willing.” And so, we prayed together and a change came over her countenance as peace fell upon her. She was hearing from the Lord that she had been angry against Him when He was the one who loved her the most. Her heart was changed by His love and joy and peace. She dropped her fists and opened her heart.
Have you ever heard the quote: “Your arm’s too short to box with God?” It first appeared in James Weldon Johnson’s 1912 novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, which he attributed to a preacher named John Brown. Describing this powerful preacher, he wrote: “He struck the attitude of a pugilist and thundered out, ‘Young man, yo’ arm’s too short to box wid God!’” He was correcting one of the young men in his congregation. In 1976, a Broadway musical based on the Gospel of Matthew, opened by the same name, “Your Arms Too Short to Box With God.” Music and lyrics were written by Alex Bradford. It ran for nearly 3 years and 429 performances.
Have you questioned God’s justice? Have you questioned His goodness in your life? Have you wondered if He’s fair or have you learned that your arms are too short to box with God?
In chapter nine, with Paul’s letter to the Romans, he dealt with this question, “Is God unjust?” As the Spirit inspired him to answer, he basically answers like this, “God’s justice is beyond question.” I believe today we can come to that same conclusion that God’s justice is beyond question.
As we look at the text, we will see three reasons why His justice is beyond question. We’re gonna pick up at verse fourteen of chapter nine of the book of Romans. Romans 9:14-33 (ESV) 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only . a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” 30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” This is God’s word. Amen.
I hope you have your seat belts on; we’ve got a lot to cover! Three reasons why God’s justice is beyond question. Here’s the first:
1. Because of His divine mercy and compassion.
Because of His divine mercy and compassion. You’ll remember we left off last week with verse thirteen with that final statement, “Jacob I have loved and Esau I have hated.” Now, that’s a difficult statement. Paul anticipates the objection. Are we saying God is unjust? It sounds like God is unjust that He gets to choose who He loves and who He doesn’t love. That sounds like He’s not fair. He’s unjust. And so, Paul is anticipating our objection and our questions.
The word, “injustice,” could be translated as “unrighteous.” That means that God is not righteous. He’s not fair. He’s not just. Paul moves now, as he’s going through the Old Testament, to argue for his answers. If you’ll notice last week in the earlier part of chapter 9, he began with Abraham and then he went to Isaac. Then he went to Jacob. Now he’s moved up to Moses and Pharaoh. And then, he’s going to progress into the prophets. It’s like he’s going through the whole Old Testament and answering these questions in chronological order.
He’s moved up to Moses; before we talk about that, look at Paul’s first answer to the injustice on God’s part. “By no means. God forbid it.” like that. It reminds me of how my mother used to answer my “Why?” questions. I don’t know if you had a mother or a father like mine, but I’d be pleading with my mom, “Everybody’s going to this party and I’ve been invited to this party. Everybody’s going.” My mom would reply, “Well you’re not.” “Why?” I would ask. “Because I said so,” she would tell me. Verse 15, “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
“Because I said so;” was the worst answer ever. Do you know why? That answer so galls the teenager as well as the adult because the flesh hates authority. We hate authority. We want to be God of our own lives. We want to be in charge. And for somebody to say “I’m the parent and you’re the child,” we need a reason. The reason is because I’m the parent; I’m the mom and you’re the child. We didn’t like it and our flesh still hates it. But we are learning, in the Spirit, to submit to the authority of the Lord.
How about you? Have you learned that yet? Paul is saying here to “forbid it. By no means.” But then he says, “For he says to Moses.” It’s like he changes topics. It’s like he doesn’t follow the sequence to make a defense for God’s justice. His answer is “No. God is merciful.” How is that an answer?
I was reading John Stott’s commentary. He says, “Paul’s way of defending God’s justice is to proclaim His mercy. It sounds like a non sequitur. But it is not. It simply indicates that the question itself is misconceived, because the basis on which God deals savingly with sinners is not justice, but mercy.” God doesn’t deal with us based on justice. I’m glad. He deals with us based on His mercy, which is according to His character, not according (verse 16) to human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. It’s not according to your will or running. It’s not according to your attitude nor your action. It’s according to His character, His mercy and compassion that He deals with you that way, rather than dealing with you the way you deserve.
The earlier example of Moses was from chapter 33, verse 19 of Exodus, “And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” This is the part where Moses is up on the mountain, praying to God after the people had committed idolatry with the golden calf. Moses asks for God to show him His glory. God says that He will show mercy on who He wants to and He will show him His glory. And so, that’s what Paul is quoting here.
Now. He quotes from Exodus, chapter nine, the story of Pharaoh. Do you remember that story? This one is troubling. “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh ” (17) – God had Moses say this to Pharaoh (Ex. 9:16). For this very purpose. I’ve raised you up so that I might show my power in you. So, Pharaoh thinks he’s God. In fact, he’s worshipped as God; the son of Ra, the sun god. He thinks he’s sovereign over all things, but God wants to teach him that he is not sovereign and He gives Pharoah ten chances with the ten plagues. Each time, he says, “Let my people go,” and, for a minute, Pharoah will. As soon as the plague was over, Pharaoh changed his mind and hardened his heart. If you read the progress of how Pharaoh hardened his heart in the book of Exodus, it talks at first like he’s hardening his own heart. And then, along the way, it starts transitioning to God is hardening his heart.
Now, this creates attention in our understanding. He has mercy on whomever He wills and He hardens whomever He wills. That’s a hard verse there. First of all, they’re saying that those two words, “mercy” and “harden” are set up like antonyms, like they’re opposites. But, they’re strange opposites because the opposite of mercy might be hate or harm or lack of mercy. The opposite of “harden” seems like it would be softened, but maybe they still inform each other. So, let’s think about that for a second. Is God’s mercy so that He would soften our hearts, so that we are receptive? God’s hardening is giving us what we already have, turning this over to it so that we’ve chosen to be hard towards God and, therefore, he lets us. This is called “judicial abandonment;” turning us over to our own choices. Letting us experience the wages of sin that we have chosen. This is what I think we have in view here.
The word “harden” in the Greek is the Greek word, sklērynō. It’s where we get the medical term “sclerosis,” as in hardening of the arteries or hardening of the organs like multiple sclerosis. It’s a deadly disease. Hardening of the spiritual heart is also a deadly disease. To have a hard heart towards God is to be unavailable to Him and to be non-repentant of our sins. To say, “I want to be in charge.” This “judicial abandonment” then might look more like this: instead of Him making Pharaoh, so that he would have a hard heart. He made him so he had freedom of will and he hardened his heart. You might look at the ten plagues as actual mercy because he’s ramping them up in difficulty. But each time, he could have softened his heart, but he doesn’t. God told Moses He’s not going to soften His heart because God has foreknowledge.
It appears to me that in chapter one of Romans, we have an explanation of this hardening. Romans 1:24-25 (ESV) 24 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” In other words, he let them have what they chose.
A great North Carolina baptist preacher of a previous century, Vance Havner, pastored a church in eastern North Carolina many years ago. He writes this,“The same sun melts ice and hardens clay, and the Word of God either humbles or hardens the humanheart .” It seems that the sun is the same, but it’s the condition of the heart that is different to how it responds.
Dr. Leon Morris says, “Neither here nor anywhere else is God said to harden anyone who had not first hardened himself.”. How’s your heart today? Do you have “sclerosis of the spiritual heart?” In other words, are you in charge? Are you in control? Do you want it your way and you’re a judge of God, so that you say, God, you’re not fair to me. I’ve got my fists up to you God. The more we lean into that, the more God, although he will try to get our fists down to soften our hearts, gives us over to that, so that we choose the hard heart. But, God is full of compassion, grace and mercy.
Psalm 145:8-9 (NKJV) 8 “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. 9 The Lord is good to all,and His tender mercies are over all His works.” If justice hadn’t been satisfied by Christ, then we would still b”e dead in our sins. We would still be in need of tender hearts.
Ephesians 2:4-5 (NKJV) 4 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” What do you want? Do you want a just God or a merciful God? Which one do you want?
Have you ever gone a little over the speed limit? I hear murmuring among you people. Some of you here have a “lead foot.” You know what I’m talking about. You have a “heavy foot.” Well I remember one night, some years ago, I was coming home late from Virginia. I was in the car by myself; it was about two or three o’clock in the morning. I was driving through Knightdale. I’ll tell you how long ago this was, it was before the 264 bypass was put in and you had to go through downtown Knightdale. It would slow way down to like 35 to 45 right there. I was going over that. There was no one on the road. I was listening to tunes; I was moving. And then, I saw it in the rear view mirror… you know. I saw blue lights. Do you think I said, God,You know what I want right now I want fairness, I want justice. I hope that police officer gives me what I deserve. I want You to be just, God. You know that’s what I prayed. I begin to pray aloud, Dear Lord, Jesus, show mercy upon me, a sinner. I guess I looked at the speedometer and I was going a lot over the speed limit. In those days I had just become a pastor. I was so proud of it, I put a clergy sticker on my bumper . The policeman comes up and I roll my window down. He leans in and he asks, “Reverend, are you in a hurry to get somewhere?” I was humble. I said, “Officer, I was in a hurry to get home but I was speeding and I know you have to do your job.” He asks me for my license and registration and goes back to his car. I look in my rear view mirror and I can see him back here, he’s got the lights on. I’m dead. Did I pray for justice? No; I prayed for God’s mercy and compassion to move upon that officer’s heart right now. He came back and said to me, “Reverend, (and he handed me my license and registration back) you drive safely now on the way home and keep it under the speed limit. We’ll let you off with a warning this time.” I told him, “Oh, thank you officer.” I rolled up the window and I praised Jesus.
You know, we always want God’s justice on other people, but we always question God’s justice, if something’s not going right in our lives, When we come face to face with our own sin, we don’t ask for God’s justice. We want mercy, we want forgiveness, we want compassion. This is what Paul is trying to teach us. You’re asking the wrong question. It’s not that God is unjust; why is God even saving anyone when He has the right to do otherwise?
Now we’re at verse 19 and he again, the second time, anticipates our objection. He says, 19 “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” In other words, the answer is because of His supreme power and purpose. This is the second reason that God’s justice is beyond question.
2. Because of His supreme power and purpose.
It’s because of His supreme power and purpose. And so, he anticipates this. So, if God is sovereign and He chooses whom He has mercy on and he chooses who He hardens, then how is anything my fault? Look at verse 19, “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” If all we are is “automatons,” If we’re just robots. We were born that way and can’t help it. This is how God made us. . We identify ourselves by our sin. We let our sin become our identity. This is who I am because God made me that way. That’s the pushback. You think that’s new. You think we just came up with that this century.
No, Paul says; I see this coming. I hear your objection. You’re saying if God is the one doing the choosing, then I’m not responsible. He answers it, first of all, and he fires a shot across the bow. Who do you think you are? Because I said so. That’s how he seems to answer at first. What does the molded say to its moulder? Why have you made me like this? Paul is quoting Isaiah here and Jeremiah as well, who talked about the potter .
It reminds me of this; it sounds like the book of Job to me. Remember in the book of Job, Job’s friends, so called comforters, are not comforting him there. He has the worst set of friends; they are trying to convince him the reason this happened to him was because he is a sinner. He defends himself. If I could just get us before God, I could find justice. After 38 chapters of this, God speaks up. Here’s what God says to him in Job 38:2-4, 40:8-9 (NIV) “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand… “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”
He spends the next four chapters asking Job questions, “Where were you when I flung the stars in the sky? Where were you when I set the foundations of the mountains? He goes four chapters with this; read the book. When He finishes, Job responds in Job 42:1-6 (NIV) “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. …My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job has the right orientation that God is God and we are not. That orientation is important. And so, that’s where Paul is really headed here. First, he asks us, Who do you think you are? Then, he gives us the potter story, 21 “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”
We have in view here of what Isaiah says about this. It says in Isaiah 45:9 (ESV) “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? Is this a “God joke?” Can you picture a pot saying to the potter, Why didn’t you give me handles or at least one handle? Come on, give me some handles. First of all, pots don’t talk. But if they could, they might ask for handles. Why didn’t you give me handles? You’re not fair. God, why did you make me look like this and her look like that.
I don’t know how many parents we have in the house. Do you remember the first argument you ever had with your kids? If you have two of these kids and you don’t give them the exact same amount of dessert or the exact same of whenever you buy, it’s not fair. It’s like we have this thing inside of us. We can always tell when it’s not fair except for when we’re not fair. We can always tell when it’s not fair towards us.
My wife and I went to dinner this past Friday in Goldsboro. They bring out this great bread and they give you a plate to put a slice of bread on it. Robin was about to put some bread on her plate. I saw a gnat land on her plate. I said, “Honey, you’ve got a knat on your plate!” She took a napkin and is folding it over to mash the knatwith her napkin, but I handled it. I mashed the knat with my finger and flicked it off of her plate. I didn’t wait to hear if that knat was guilty. I didn’t hold court. I didn’t wait to see if it would pray for help. That knat landed on my wife’s plate and I exercised my sovereign right. Some of you are like me and some think I’m a harsh pastor, a harsh dude. Well, that knat is so far down the chain for me that I didn’t give it a second thought. God has made humanity sovereign over the earth, but God is so much higher than I am that I’m less than that knat. Yet, God in his mercy and compassion loves me.
We live in a culture today that has lost the majesty and supremacy of our God. We talk about our “buddy Jesus.” We’ve lost the distance. Paul is reminding us here, Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are ? He’s the creator; you’re the creature. Who do you think you are asking, “that’s not fair.” What we need today is to be reminded of how big God is, the Creator of the universe. How far He stooped to send us Jesus, to give us mercy and grace and to love us.
In verse 21, Paul does say he makes some for honorable and some for dishonorable. I don’t want to skip over that. In other words, he makes some for special and some for menial. I have told you all this before but my wife has special plates at the house. Special stuff that I’m not allowed to eat on unless y’all come over and eat with us for company. I eat on the menial plates. But at Christmas, I get to eat on the Christmas plates. Maybe you have special plates at your house in a special cabinet. He makes some for honorable, some for dishonorable. It’s not good or bad.
22 “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—” We’re still talking about pots and vessels; some, he calls vessels of wrath. In other words, judgment is presently on them. What if the question is, “What if even though they have rejected God and this wrath is upon them? What if the way He shows His power and another way of saying that His authority is by enduring and putting up with it to show His great patience?” Because we have rebelled against Him, He is just but He’s delaying it to give you time to repent. What if it is to show His authority and His justice?
Paul is actually backing off a little bit. He’s really explaining it now, after he “woke us up” and said, “Who do you think you are? Paul is really saying, Look, really look at God. Even though we deserve His judgment, He is putting it off. He’s showing His great patience, even though we deserve it right now.
And then, Paul says, He has endured it with much patience, vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. There’s a better translation here and I can understand the difficulty because we don’t have an equivalent in English, but the word “prepared” here, is in the Greek passive, which means that the subject acts on itself. A better way of reading this might be something like this, “vessels of wrath fitted by themselves to destruction.” In other words, God didn’t make them, as it sounds here, destined for destruction; the minute He made them, that’s what He meant for them. That’s not what it says, it says, “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” In other words, they’re responsible for it. So you see that makes it a lot clearer. It’s not that God made them that way. They made themselves that way. And God has turned them over to it to let them have what they’ve chosen.
Verse 23, “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—” I pray that’s you today; that you’re a vessel that resides under His mercy. And then, Paul says um that he might make known the riches of his glory which he has prepared. He is active, the first prepared were active. They were acting on themselves for their own destruction. But here, we must take responsibility for our sin. We cannot take responsibility for our salvation because He is the One who was chosen to show His mercy to us.
Paul goes on. Now, he begins to talk about glory, which God has prepared for us. That speaks of our eternity with God, that we would share His glory. And then, Paul says, 24 “even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” He begins to quote the prophets, He starts with Hosea. He’s working this out, because the Jews are asking, Why did you let the Gentiles in? I thought we were Your chosen people. What happened? And so he’s saying that I’ve been telling you this for a long time; I told Hosea about it. 25 “As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
Paul’s working his way through the Old Testament, as I was saying before. That’s Hosea 2:23. And then, Paul says, 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” I’m going to call people that were not my people, Sons of the living God.
And then he quotes Isaiah and he talks about Israel. Paul says, 27 “And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved.” You see that only a remnant of them will be saved; another way of translating the word, “remnant,” is leftovers. Part of the remnant that Paul is quoting is in Isaiah chapter 1:9 “Sodom and Gomorrah” to make this case. Here he says, if not, you have been like Sodom and Gomorrah, completely destroyed.
Paul is working this out; to call God unjust, is to forget how merciful He is and how patient He is. You see God’s wrath, according to Romans, is already being revealed in this world today. We already are getting and experiencing that, which we choose. So much of our hurt, so much of our suffering is self inflicted. God’s judgment is already being revealed in that He allows that to take its course. You might say, Well, how is that fair? God, and His sovereign freedom, has decided to let us have the free will to rebel against Him and to experience life without Him. You might say, I don’t like that. Here’s what I would say to you, He’s God and you’re not. This is the hard pill to swallow, to say, He is God and I’m not. I’m not in control. When I choose to go contrary to His will, He will allow me to experience the wages of that, the outcome of that.
Romans 2:3-5 (ESV) 3 “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” There’s a day coming when God’s patience is not the way He will deal with the vessels of wrath. There’s a day coming, judgment day, when people will give an account for their rejection of God. I’ve got to say that my flesh still doesn’t like it when I hear someone say “Because I said so” and my flesh doesn’t like it when God says, “This is right and this is wrong, this is what will happen if you do…” My flesh rebels. I want my own way. The answer is , instead, to say, I repent God. God, I repent and I come under You. I don’t want your “blue lights with a ticket. I want Your mercy and I want Your grace.
Robert H. Mounce, in his commentary, writes “Human logic cannot harmonize divine sovereignty and human freedom, but both are clearly taught in Scripture. Neither should be adjusted to fit the parameters of the other.” We feel this tension and for all of Chapter nine up until now we’ve been putting most of the weight on God’s freedom to choose His sovereign freedom. He is God and I’m not.
Before Paul gets out of the chapter, he puts some weight on this side. And I would caution all of us to be careful about trying to completely solve that which God has not revealed to try to untangle that, which is still the intention, because we’re going to keep reading here. Paul is going to ask another question, in verse 30. This is our third reason:
3. Because of His salvation to whoever believes in Jesus.
Paul says, 30 “What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith.” You let those Gentiles in and they didn’t have the law, they didn’t follow the worship, they’re just as lost as they can be, and you’re letting them in. You’re saving them. This is a stumbling block for them. He says, the reason is because of righteousness, that is by faith. In other words, it is not by works; the reason they believe in the gospel is they’re saying, Yes, I’m a sinner. I want Jesus. That’s why I’m letting them in. Paul says, in verse 31, “but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. “ Do you mean that we’ve been pursuing righteousness all this time and they get it for nothing? They get it by faith. You’re not getting it because you think you can earn it by keeping the law. That’s what he says.
He anticipates the question in verse 32, “Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone.” You can’t be good enough to please God. It’s not about good works, it’s about faith in the works that Christ has already accomplished.
And then he closes with this, verse 33 “as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” He closes with this quote from Isaiah 8:14. Again, it’s in Isaiah 28:16 about the stumbling stone. They’ve stumbled over the stumbling stone. What does this stone behold? “I’m laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense.”
And then, look what he pops in here on us. After he’s been talking about God’s sovereignty for the whole chapter, Paul says, “whoever believes.” There’s man’s free will; do you see the tension? It’s a “both and” that he’s talking about. “Whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” Who is this? Well, Peter preached about Jesus. He preached about Jesus to the Sanhedrin, the day that he and John had healed the crippled man in the temple. They were t put in jail overnight and beaten because they were preaching Jesus. The next morning at the court, Peter stood before the high priest and the leaders of the Jews. He said this in Acts 4:11-12 (ESV) 11 “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” He’s the stone.
It was prophesied by the prophets that there would be One who would come and it’s Jesus. The Jews stumbled over it because they couldn’t believe in that kind of a Messiah, one that would come and die for their sins rather than one that would come and overthrow the Romans and make them the kings of the earth. Instead, they get this humble Jesus, Who comes and tells them the good news that God loves you and you can, by faith, believe in Him and become a child of God. Just like that, they stumble over that.
The book of Romans says it was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks Maybe that’s you today. This whole gospel, the Jesus story, is kind of a stumbling block.All I have to do is believe and just say I’m a sinner and I need a Savior? I believe in You, Jesus? That is exactly what I’m saying. In the flesh, the human intellect will resist that because we have a default to performance. We think we have to do something. It’s by faith that this righteousness of Christ is ascribed unto you. You receive it by faith. It was a stumbling block to the Jews and it could be foolish to us if we don’t have soft hearts to hear it.
Let me ask you this question, “Will you get your fists down?” Put your fists down; stop being angry at God, questioning God, judging God. Put your fists down and open your hands and open your heart. Say, God, soften my heart. Give me a new heart so that I can receive all that You have for me. You’re full of compassion and mercy. I’m so glad today that I will not, and if you’re a believer today, you will not face a just God, you will face a merciful God, Who is your Father. But, those of you who are hard towards God and have decided to be in charge of your own life, you’re storing up judgment. You will face a just God who will respond to you with justice. I pray today that everyone in my hearing, whether it’s in person or those that are watching online, that you would choose to drop your fists and your questions and say, You are God and I’m not. Save me. Save me. Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.
Let’s pray, Lord, thank You for Your word. Thank you for Jesus, Who is the great expression of Your mercy and grace, but also Your holiness and Your righteousness. They both merge on the cross. Lord, I pray for the one in my hearing right now that would say, I’m a sinner. I need a Savior. I repent. I turn away from my sin and I turn to Jesus. I’m dropping my fists and I’m opening my heart. Lord, come into my life. I believe You died on the cross for my sins, that You raised from the grave and that you live today. Lord Jesus come and live in me, make me the person You want me to be. I want to be a child of God. I want to be a Christ follower. If you’re praying that prayer, believing, the Lord will save you. Whoever believes He will save, you’ll not be put to shame. Others are here and you know Christ as Lord and Savior, but you’ve been looking around you and you’ve been saying, That’s not fair, or feeling these kinds of thoughts. What if we pray together today, not my will, but Yours be done? What if we begin to say, God, You are God and I’m not. What if we just let go of trying to be in control? We’ve asked Jesus to save us, but then, we try to take lordship back. What if we say, God, you’re in control of my marriage, you’re in control of my education. You’re in control of my business. You’re in control of what I own right now, Lord, we pray it all now, in the name of Jesus. Amen.