Main point summary
The justification of God is the justification of God .
Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν;
What then shall we say?
μὴ ἀδικία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ;
There is no unrighteousness with God, is there?
By no means!
τῷ Μωϋσεῖ γὰρ λέγει•
For, he says to Moses,
ἐλεήσω ὃν ἂν ἐλεῶ
"I will have mercy on whomever I should have mercy,
καὶ οἰκτιρήσω ὃν ἂν οἰκτίρω.
and I will have compassion on whomever I should have compassion."
ἄρα οὖν οὐ τοῦ θέλοντος
So then, it is not of the one willing
οὐδὲ τοῦ τρέχοντος
nor of the one running,
ἀλλὰ τοῦ ἐλεῶντος θεοῦ.
but of the mercy-giving God.
λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφὴ τῷ Φαραὼ
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,
ὅτι εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἐξήγειρά σε-
"For this in particular I raised you up:
ὅπως ἐνδείξωμαι ἐν σοὶ τὴν δύναμίν μου
in order that I might exhibit my power by means of you
καὶ ὅπως διαγγελῇ τὸ ὂνομά μου ἐν πάσῃ τῇ γῇ.
and in order that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
ἄρα οὖν ὃν θέλει ἐλεεῖ,
So then, he has mercy on whom he wills,
ὃν δὲ θέλει σκληρύνει.
and he hardens whom he wills.
The particle ἄν calls for the subjunctive verb
Grammar Notes, Questions
Parsing ερουμεν – fut act indic 1 plur – from λεγω γενοιτο - aor mid/pas opt 3 sg – from γινομαι διαγγελῃ - aor mid/pas subj 3 sg Translation What then will we say? Is there not injustice with God? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I should have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I should have compassion." So then, it is not of the one willing nor of the one running, but of God having mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "Particularly for this I raised you up: in order that I might exhibit my power by means of you and in order that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then, he has mercy on whom he wills, and he hardens whom he wills. Grammar Notes -BDAG p.757 explains that παρα with the dative intends close association. The subsection that seems to fit the context of v. 14 the best is #4, "Marker of connection of a quality or characteristic with a person." This use of παρα + τω θεω then draws out the heart of Paul's question, "Is injustice something that is inherent to the nature of God?" -Biblemesh comments on the use of the particle μη to ask a leading question that expects a negative answer. " At this point, it might be helpful to comment on the difference between ο ὐ and μή. The basic difference is that ο ὐ is only used in the indicative mood, while μή is used primarily with nonindicative moods (subjunctive, imperative, optative) and also infinitives and participles. This distinction is motivated by the fact that ο ὐ is used to negate events and processes that are real or presented as real by the speaker, while μή is used to negate events and processes that are nonreal—they are only possible, probable, or necessary (subjunctive & imperative) or they are presented in the abstract (infinitives and participles). For this reason, we call ο ὐ a realis negator and μή an irrealis negator. In this context, the usage of μή with questions that expect a “no” answer makes sense because questions where the speaker expects a negative answer are less “real” than those that expect a positive one, since a question with ο ὐ assumes a situation that corresponds to reality while a question with μή does not. This also fits well with the other contexts where μή is used with indicative verbs (for example, when μή is used with future tense indicative verbs that express probability or volitionality rather than future time reference)." (Reference Library, Other Topics, Asking Questions) -Wallace p.481 talks about the use of μη γενοιτο as having "the force of abhorrence" and in many contexts being equivalent to ου μη + aor subj, the emphatic negative. This context seems to fit, as the leading question that precedes μη γενοιτο already anticipates an answer of "no." So, an additional phrase heightens the negative force of the leading question. -Leon Morris in his Pillar Commentary has a helpful footnote about αρα ουν – "ἄρα is an inferential particle, meaning “so, then, consequently”. In the classics it never begins a clause (as it does in Matt. 7:20; Luke 11:48, etc.). Paul is fond of the word and uses it 27 times (out of 49 in the New Testament), 11 being in Romans (the most in any one book). The form ἄρα οὖν (never elided) is peculiar to Paul (eight times in Romans, 12 times in all). The combination indicates a strong, if not strictly grammatical connection, like “wherefore therefore”. Like διὰ τοῦτο (v. 12) it refers to the previous discussion, but stresses the logical connection more strongly (fn p.242)." Further, BDAG comments that " ἄρα expresses the inference and οὖν the transition (127)." Questions 1. What is the subject/verb of v. 16? 2. How are the 2 "γαρ...αρα ουν" statements functioning? 3. He seems to be answering the question, which he is anticipating in response to his provocative conclusion in vv. 6-13, with an equally provocative statement. What is the argument here?
Exegetical Notes -What does it mean for God to be righteous? How does Paul's justification of 14b-c answer this question? Paul argues for God's righteousness in v. 15 by quoting a statement where God asserts his freedom to do what he sees fit. This question is more fully answered below. -του ελεωντος θεου in v. 16. I initially translated this as a substantive participle in apposition to the noun (the one having mercy, namely God). In retrospect, it makes more sense to see the participle in the 1st attributive position describing the noun (the mercy-giving God). -Does v. 17 support v. 16 or v. 14b? Contra Schreiner and Moo, it seems that the γαρ most likely explains that which immediately precedes it rather than reaching back to explain v. 14b. The αρα ουν... γαρ construction of vv. 16-18 appears to represent a complete thought. As mentioned before, Morris and BDAG support the use of αρα ουν to indicated a developmental inference. In this case, some sort of substantiation would be expected for the claim in v. 16 and is provided by the use of γαρ in v. 17. Dunn in his WBC volume on Romans 9-16 argues that a construction like ου μονον δε, αλλα και (such as we saw in vv. 6-13) would be more likely to suggest that v. 17 introduces an additional explanation of v. 14. He says, "The use of γαρ suggests rather that Paul feels able to treat vv. 17-18 as a development of v. 16 (553)." -εν σοι in v. 17 seems to be functioning instrumentally (Harris' 3rd category in Prepositions & Theology, 119). I translated it accordingly to draw out that meaning more clearly. Questions 1. What is the subject/verb of v. 16? -It seems like the grammatical subject/verb are an implied "it is," although that is not very helpful. What is "it" referring to? What is it that is ultimately "of the mercy-giving God," and what does it mean to be "of" the mercy-giving God? It seems to me that v. 14a is asking what inference ought to be made or what the proper response is to the fact that God's loving Jacob but hating Esau is said to be in order that God's purpose according to election might be preserved. v. 14b-15 then proposes a solution, responds negatively to that solution, and grounds that response. Thus, v. 14a is still without a solution. Now that we know that God is not unrighteous in his actions, what are we to infer about the fact that God's actions toward Jacob and Esau preserve his purpose of election? "His purpose of election is not of the one willing nor of the one running but of the God having mercy." 2. How are the ουν... γαρ...αρα ουν... γαρ... αρα ουν " statements functioning? -The ουν in v. 14 seems to introduce the problem of what ought to be inferred from the conclusions of vv. 6-13. Given that God's predetermined love for Jacob and hate for Esau was expressed in his choosing of the older to serve the younger in order that his purpose of election might endure, what are we supposed to think? -[Establishing Sovereign Freedom] The 1st γαρ in v. 15 grounds the rejection of the proposed answer that God is unrighteous. It does so by saying that God's actions are contingent only upon his sovereignly free will. "I will have mercy on whom I should have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I should have compassion." Paul's understanding of God's righteousness, then, is his commitment to his own self. If God has mercy on the one he desired to have mercy, then he is righteous. If God has compassion on the one whom he desired to have compassion, then he is righteous. Jacob he loved, and Jacob he chose. Therefore, God is righteous. -The 1st αρα ουν in v. 16 seems to introduce a statement that is remarkably similar to the statement in v. 12, describing the manner in which God's purpose of election is preserved. This appears to function as a means of getting back to the main point, which is what are we to infer about God's purpose of election that is maintained by his free, sovereign choice? Paul seems to reassert with new language, that God's purpose is not maintained according to works but according to God who calls. Now, in light of this conclusion, he says that God's purpose is not dependent on one who wills or one who runs but on God who has mercy. -[Explaining Sovereign Purpose] The 2nd γαρ in v. 17 then introduces an explanation for this restatement of the affirmation already established in v. 12. So then, God's purpose of election is maintained by his sovereign decision to show mercy to whomever he shows mercy, but to what end? If it is not an unrighteous act for God to love Jacob and hate Esau, then what is righteous about it? This citation explains that God seeks through his free choice to have mercy on whomever he has mercy (and in Pharaoh's case, to not have mercy on whomever he does not have mercy) to display his power and make known his name. If God is the ultimate standard of righteousness, then it is ultimately right and good for him to make much of himself. Here we find the heart of the answer to the question in v. 14, what then shall we say? We shall say that all of God's actions are for the sake of magnifying his holy and righteous name. Therefore, we infer that God's purpose of election, which was preserved by his loving and choosing of Jacob and his hating and rejecting of Esau, will ultimately testify to his great power and make much of his great name. -The 2nd αρα ουν in v. 18 provides a summary inference, reinforcing God's sovereign freedom to proclaim his great name by having mercy and by hardening according to his will. Additionally, it seems to be the launching point for the next question that Paul will address in v. 19. 3. He seems to be answering the question, which he is anticipating in response to his provocative conclusion in vv. 6-13, with an equally provocative statement. What is the argument here? -This question has been answered already in #2. Doxological Response - The Justification of God seems to be a wonderfully appropriate title of a book based on the question and answer in vv. 14-15 because of its dual meaning. Can we impugn God's righteousness for his election of Jacob and not Esau? Is he not unfair? Is he not unjust? Paul answers with a resounding "Never!" and presents a justification of God. What a task to undertake! Imagine defending a wild lion from the onslaught of a gazelle. It is unfathomable, and yet, for those who are reading this letter who may be tempted to believe the gazelle has the upper hand, it is absolutely essential. So Paul takes up his discourse to justify God, and how does he do it? This is remarkable. Paul knows the lion needs no defending. He knows the gazelle has no hope. However, he is called upon by circumstance to offer such a defense. So what does he do? He simply invites us to watch the lion work. He offers the only justification that makes sense, the justification of God . God is not unrighteous because God is God. God's actions are never unjust because they are always in accord with the will of God. He cannot deny himself. His glory he will not give to another. His law is perfect, his testimony is sure, his precepts are right, his commandment is pure, the fear of him is clean, and his rules are true and righteous altogether. He is the gold standard of good, and his mission is to make much of himself so that his people might experience fullness of joy in him. There is mystery here, for how can he desire that all would repent and be saved and yet harden whomever he wills to harden? The answer, which seems so unsatisfying at times in this life, and which will most assuredly be the most beautiful thing to behold in eternity, seems to be that, although he really, truly desires all to repent, God is most glorified by the purposes that he carries to fulfillment. Therefore, let us be emboldened to go before his throne and plead earnestly for the lost whom we love. God is not unjust! He does not express rhetorical or falsified desires for dramatic effect, but he discloses the deep desires of his heart to which we can appeal when we stand in the gap and intercede on behalf of sinners who are in need of saving grace. Because they are real desires, we can know with great assurance that there is truly more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who need no repentance. What an encouragement not to lose heart, not to grow weary of doing good, not to cease sowing even when tears abound because we know that our labor in the Lord is not vain labor, but in due season we shall surely reap with shouts of joy.