“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,” (and then we have another citation of another Old Testament text) “‘For this very purpose,'” (God had a purpose, it wasn’t Pharaoh’s purpose) “‘For this very purpose I raised you up,'” – I did this. “oh but Pharaoh had all these choices. Yes. And “For this very purpose I raised you up.'” [We might go a little bit long today because it is going to be hard to stop.] “For this very purpose I raised you up.” Now, folks if you’re zoning out, tune in here a second because I have got to challenge any of you who are listening today. You, if you want to understand what the Scriptures teach about this, you need to have the same priorities that God has. And you have to ask yourself the question, “What is most important to me?” Because God said the reason he raised Pharaoh up was ” to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”
   So I want to ask everyone that calls himself a believing Christian in the audience today, where in your priority list is the demonstration of God’s power and the proclamation of His name throughout the whole earth? Nothing in there about the free will of man, is there? Nothing in there about making men feel good about themselves, nothing in there about meeting their felt needs. The demonstration of God’s power and the proclamation of His name, those are not big priorities for the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians today. So it shouldn’t surprise us in the least that the vast majority of those folks do not like what Romans 9 has to say.
   God had a purpose. He raised Pharaoh up. He used Pharaoh. Now if you… people go “Oh how can He do that? I just wont worship a God like that.” Really? Was Pharaoh in Adam a rebel sinner? “Well, yeah”. And so God could have brought His wrath to bear against Pharaoh at any point and brought him to judgment for his sins? “Well, yeah.” And so because God does not choose to bring Pharaoh to judgment immediately, but instead uses him to demonstrate His power and to make His name known throughout all the earth that somehow makes God unjust? Surely not!
   “How does Paul interpret this text? Well what’s the apostolic interpretation? Well this is just talking about how God used Egypt.” Well, you tell me. What does verse 18 say? You can’t cut it out of your Bible, you’ve got to deal with what it says. “So then, those whom He wishes, He mercies and those whom He wishes He hardens.” Yeah, it says hardens right there. You go, “I don’t want that in my Bible!” But it is right there. Because we know that Pharaoh, his heart was hardened. And people go “well yeah but he first hardened his own heart” except before, look back at Exodus 4: 11 & 12 before Moses ever stood in front of Pharaoh, God said “I am going to harden his heart.” “Yeah, but he wanted to harden his own heart.” Yes he did because he was a sinner and all sinners want to do that. And God was actually restraining Pharaoh from being worse than he was. But the point is God had a purpose. And if your theology is such that God could not have a purpose and Pharaoh could have gone, “You know what? I repent.” So that God’s entire purpose for the Exodus, the Passover, the picturing of Christ, the demonstration of His name and His power throughout the whole earth, and the spoiling of the Egyptian gods; if your theology is “Well you know God may have wanted to do all that but all Pharaoh had to do is repent and it would have been just fine.” Then I say to you, you are not talking about the God of the Bible. You have made up a god in your own image; don’t call it the God of the bible. Because the God of the bible needs to be defined on the basis of the bible, not what you like about Him, okay?

   And there is also something else that needs to be seen. It is “whom” He wishes He mercies and “whom” He wishes, He hardens, singulars. This is not about nations. The application was to Pharaoh. “For this reason I raise you up” These are singulars. Those are hard words, people don’t like them but they’re there. And you know the final proof of what we’re saying is true is real simple. The objection raised in verse 19 is the exact objection to our exegesis. This isn’t the objection people raise to Steve Gregg, Dave Hunt or Norm Geisler because their whole exegesis is meant to get around the very issue that is raised in verse 19.
   “You will say to me then,” (Now, here come the objector again. This is where at least Gregg has come up with something really interesting. I’ll play it for you. It’s a total spin on this one.) “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'” This is all one statement of the objector. You can’t divide this up into separate sections. The objector is saying, “Well, if God is the one who mercies whom He wills, and hardens whom He wills, then how can He still find fault with any of us? For who then resists His will if it’s His will that’s behind the mercying and if it’s His will that’s behind the hardening, it was His will behind Jacob and Esau, it was His will behind all of these things then there’s no grounds for Him to find fault because no one can resist His will.” Now Gregg is going to say that actually only part of that is what Paul’s referring to. We’ll play it and respond to it. It falls apart upon examination but we will get to that later.
   Notice Paul’s response. Some people say that Paul did not actually reply to this, that he just left into the great… and some good reformed men have said that he doesn’t really respond to the question. I think he does. I really think he does because if you’ll look at the text, now the translation is “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” But the problem is that’s putting it into good English grammar. The very first words of the response in the Greek are, “Oh man.” “Oh man, who are you who is answering back to God?” And you see, when you fully understand the massive chasm ontologically that separates God and man, then the answer is very clear. The answer is very clear. “Who are you oh, man? Who are you oh creation, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?”
   And this is what so offends people, is that they just do not want to allow God to be the potter and we are the clay. God has to be like you and me. God has to be like us. He is just sort of a super big version of us. But that’s not how Paul viewed Him. “The thing molded” that is you and me. Not just nations, we are talking creatures here. “The thing molded will not say to the molder, the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?” Cups do not have the right to say to the one who made them “I think you should have made me taller,” or “I think you should have made me wider,” or “I think you should have made me out of porcelain rather than out of plastic. Why did you make me like this?”
   “Does not, (verse 21) the potter have the right over the clay, to make from the same lump” Same lump, no foreknowledge here, no I am just going to do whatever my foreknowledge shows me I can do. No, that raises all sorts of impossible issues in regards to God’s creatorship. But “Does not the potter have a right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?” When the potter puts the clay on the wheel and says… starts that thing spinning, can anyone tell the potter, “Well, now, you need to make all the same kinds of things from that. You can’t make a beautiful fine vase and then make something that you’re going to put your trash in. No! You can’t do that!” The clay cannot sit there and say “I am supposed to be made this way!” No. The clay is in the potter’s hands. And the potter can make from that clay vessels for honorable use and vessels for common use as he is free to do because of his authority over the clay. And this is what men do not want to believe. God does not have that kind of sovereignty over me. He has surrendered that authority to my free will. That’s what they want to believe. They do not want a God that is powerful. They do not want a God who is the Potter and I am the clay. And in fact, Mormons especially are extremely offended by this kind of language and this kind of imagery. And how could they not be if their god is in fact just an exalted man? But Christians, people who claim they believe the Bible are just as offended by this message, just as offended. I had people get up in a class I was teaching at a large Southern Baptist church many years ago and leave the classroom simply because I read this text. I hadn’t even commented on it. I just read it and they didn’t like it.
   “What if God, although willing” (Verse 22, we’re going to try and wrap up here as soon as we can but don’t want to short change everyone on this one.) “‘What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known-” See the consistency here? Did you see before “make my power known” “make my name known?” Here it is again. “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath,” and I simply ask again that everybody in the audience that calls yourself a Christian, do you believe it is important for God’s wrath to be demonstrated? And for most post-Evangelicals today they go, “What? What wrath? The church I go to never talks about wrath.” “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. And {He did so} to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, {even} us, whom He also called.” (Talk about tying this whole thing up- called, the elect of God, takes you right back to the end of chapter 8). “Not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.”
   Now amazingly, despite the clarity and the force of this whole text being taken together, people will come to the text and they will go, “Now, now, note something here, when it talks about vessels of wrath prepared for destruction it doesn’t say that He prepared for destruction.” And some people will also throw Satan in here, “Well it’s Satan that prepares them for destruction, see.” Or, “They prepared themselves for destruction.” What is the context? Is not the exact preceding statement, verse, sentence about the potter and the clay? If you want one of the most clear, compelling examples of how men will twist this text to their traditions, look at how many scholars will point it out, “Oh, it doesn’t say that He prepares them.” As if the preceding sentence wasn’t even there. You have vessels of wrath prepared for destruction and you have vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory. Now, if you don’t like that, you’ve got to ask yourself the question, “Why?” Why? Do you really trust the sinner man to make the decision to who’s in which rather than the mercying God who is accomplishing His own self-glorification?
   Have you noticed something about this entire text going back all the way to Romans chapter 8? It is God who is doing all this. God is the subject. All the verbs, God is doing them. It is all for His purpose and His glory; the demonstration of His wrath and His name and His power. It is all about God and it ain’t about us. And that destroys our ego. And the very essence of human religion has always been and always will be the creation of structures whereby man can control the power of God. And it is only in consistent, biblical Christian faith that you find the freedom of God and the total dependence of man upon that free God and His mercy and grace consistently proclaimed. And as any proclamation of this lesser biblical view is made, it will always be at this point that these lesser proclamations will depart because they cannot allow God to be God. They cannot allow God to be free. The very essence of human religion is the assertion of the autonomy of the human creature and the subservience of God to that autonomous will. The very essence of Paul’s argument here is that it is God who is the autonomous will and we are His creatures. And yes, there is sarcasm in these words because to talk about pots and vessels talking back, yes there is sarcasm there because it’s foolishness. And yet that is what the creature does when he demands that God answer the questions of justice when God has demonstrated His justice from the very beginning.
   So, there you have Romans 9 and I would suggest to you that if you’re going to reject what it says, you are going to have to demonstrate that I have somehow shifted my methodology of hermeneutics and interpretation. I have somehow not followed the text along. If you come up with another understanding, if you want to say some sections are about nations and some sections are about people, then you have to demonstrate from this text, not some other text, don’t go jumping off someplace else. If you can’t give me an interpretation of Paul’s argument here, if Paul ends up contradicting himself or he’s talking about this thing here and that thing there so there is no compelling argumentation here, I suggest to you, you are not truly under the authority of the word of God. You are putting your traditions first. And so there it is. And I understand that the only way that anyone can like what Paul says here is by an act of grace. It’s an act of grace. Yes, I am saying to anyone that’s a Christian, you have to believe this; you do not have any choice. This is God’s revelation. But I also recognize that especially if you were raised with certain traditions being crammed into your mind, you’re recoiling from this. I remember a man who talked to me after a class once again at that same large Southern Baptist church and I had read from Romans chapter 9 and he was talking to me afterwards and he says, “I had read Romans 9 and I thought, You know what? I thought that sounded like predestination, but I knew we didn’t believe that so I just put it aside.” There are so many people in that situation. There are so many people in that boat. There is what the text says. But please, whatever you do, don’t just put this aside. Read the text. Read it in its context. Allow it to speak for itself and recognize that the God who is described there is the God who walks every page of the Scriptures.

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