Sippo continues in reference to Romans 9:14-16,

This is locus classicus for the doctrine that there is no strict merit before God. God is not obligated to reward the creature for morally upright works done by the natural man apart from God or His covenants. This does not exclude the possibility of condign merit {due to the obedience of faith under enabling grace} or even congruous merit {rewards based on a covenantal agreement}.

Jacob and Esau were not a part of the Abrahamic covenant? Where does the text discuss such issues as condign or congruous merit? Such an introduction of extraneous concepts utterly derails the Apostle’s argument, showing once again how the faithful Roman Catholic simply cannot engage in direct exegesis of the text when Rome has “infallibly” defined what the text can or cannot say. When you find someone not deriving their beliefs from the text, but instead having to argue, “well, that does not necessarily exclude what I believe,” you know you are looking at unbiblical presentation. Once again Calvin spoke with clarity:

It may indeed appear a frigid defence that God is not unjust, because he is merciful to whom he pleases; but as God regards his own authority alone as abundantly sufficient, so that he needs the defence of none, Paul thought it enough to appoint him the vindicator of his own right. Now Paul brings forward here the answer which Moses received from the Lord, when he prayed for the salvation of the whole people, I will show mercy, was Gods answer, on whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. By this oracle the Lord declared that he is a debtor to none of mankind, and that whatever he gives is a gratuitous benefit, and then that his kindness is free, so that he can confer it on whom he pleases; and lastly, that no cause higher than his own will can be thought of, why he does good and shows favor to some men but not to all.


Sippo moves on to the next section:

For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. (v.17-18)

Once again, a contrast between my own comments on the text from The Potter’s Freedom followed by Sippo’s.

The example of Pharaoh was well known to any person familiar with the Old Testament. God destroyed the Egyptian nation by plagues so as to demonstrate His might and power in the earth, and key to this demonstration was the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Before Moses had met with Pharaoh the first time God told him:

When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. (Exodus 4:21)

It was God’s intention to bring His wrath upon the Egyptians. God’s actions were not “forced” by the stubborn will of the Egyptian leader. God said he would harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he did. Listen to the impudent response of this pagan idolater to the command of Moses:

And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.'” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:1-2)

Is this not what God said he would do? Will someone suggest that Pharaoh’s heart is “soft” here? No indeed, and Moses well knew that God was behind this for when the Pharaoh then increased the work load of the Israelites, Moses complained to God in Exodus 5:22. Why complain to God if, in fact, God had nothing to do with it and it was all just a matter of the Pharaohs “free will choice”?

This provides the background of Paul’s citation of Exodus 9:16. The portion of truth that here stings the pride of man is this: it is more important that God’s name be magnified and His power made known than it is any single man get to “do his own thing.” Pharaoh was surely never forced to do anything sinful (indeed, God probably kept him from committing many a sinful deed). He acted on the desires of his wicked heart at all times. But he is but a pot, a creature, not the Potter. He was formed and made and brought into existence to serve the Potter’s purposes, not his own. He is but a servant, one chosen, in fact, for destruction in the waters of the sea. His destruction, and the process that led up to it (including all the plagues upon Egypt), were part of God’s plan. There is simply no other way to understand these words.

Paul then combines the fact that God showed undeserved compassion and mercy to Moses (Exodus 33) with God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 5) and concludes that whether one is “mercied” or “hardened” is completely, inalterably, and utterly up to God. The verbs here are active: God performs these actions. He mercies whom He wills and he hardens whom He wills. The parallel between mercy and hardening is inarguable. We may like the mercying part more than the hardening, but they are both equally a part of the same truth. Reject one and you reject them both. There is no such thing as preaching God’s mercy without preaching God’s judgment, at least according to Scripture.

In contrast, Art Sippo:

God used Pharoah to demonstrate his power. If you read Exodus, it is clear that Pharoah was never a righteous person. There were times that he was tempted to let the Hebrews go as God had requested, but then God hardened his heart so that he would not act in an outwardly goodway when his heart was far from it. God had no mercy on Pharoah but withdrew even basic “common grace” from him and allowed Pharoah’s innate rebellion free reign. God did not ‘make’ Pharoah sin. He removed his grace so that Pharoah’s sin was all the more visible and egregious. This was the position that Luther took in his book The Bondage of the Will and I think that on this matter he was quite correct. The rest of that book contained many questionable ideas and I do not endorse it in its entirety.

Is that really all that Paul is saying here? Sippo is forced to see numerous truths in the passage, but he mixes them with falsehoods. God did harden Pharaoh’s heart, but it wasn’t because “his heart was far from it.” He had told Moses he would do thatbefore Moses ever stood before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21). The text Sippo is allegedly examining states the purpose in plain language, but Sippo’s theology precludes him from allowing for it. It is quite true that God did not have to “force” Pharaoh to sin; no one has said otherwise. Simply removing His restraint from Pharaoh’s sinful heart was all that was needed. But the key assertion of the text, that God’s mercy is in fact not based upon the “qualities of the person being saved” to quote Sippo directly, passes utterly untouched by Sippo’s pen. The parallel Paul presents between mercying and hardening is likewise ignored. The text is simply ignored. Let the reader observe.

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