Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν;
( Since God loved Jacob and hated Esau not because of their works but because of His own sovereign choice) therefore what shall we say?
μὴ ἀδικία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ;
(we shall not say) that there is unrighteousness with God, shall we?
Answer : May it never be!
τῷ Μωϋσεῖ γὰρ λέγει• ἐλεήσω ὃν ἂν ἐλεῶ
(God is not unrighteous) for He says to Moses in Exodus 33:19, "I will mercy whomever I mercy,
καὶ οἰκτιρήσω ὃν ἂν οἰκτίρω.
( To say the same thing in other words ,) I will compassion whomever I compassion." (Ex. 33:19)
ἄρα οὖν οὐ τοῦ θέλοντος
Therefore , (God's righteousness in dispensing mercy) does not depend on the one who chooses
οὐδὲ τοῦ τρέχοντος
nor does it depend on the one who runs
ἀλλὰ τοῦ ἐλεῶντος θεοῦ.
but (God's righteousness in dispensing mercy) depends on the mercying God
λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφὴ τῷ Φαραὼ ὅτι εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἐξήγειρά σε-
For (God's freedom in bestowing mercy is supported in his freedom to withhold mercy as can be seen where) the Scripture (Ex. 9:16) says to Pharoah, "For this purpose I raised you up
ὅπως ἐνδείξωμαι ἐν σοὶ τὴν δύναμίν μου
in order that I might demonstrate in you My power
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,
Therefore , (for God to be righteous He must) on the one hand , mercy whom He wills
ὃν δὲ θέλει σκληρύνει.
but , on the other hand , He (must also) harden whom He wills
The Freedom and Justice of God in Unconditional Election January 12, 2003 by John Piper Scripture: Romans 9:14-18 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. The doctrine of God’s unconditional election is so different from what most of you grew up with that you not only have a hard time believing it is in the Bible, but also a hard time feeling that it is good news. So I am swimming against a doubly difficult current in these messages from Romans 9. On the one hand, I believe that is exactly the doctrine that Romans 9 teaches, and on the other hand, I believe that doctrine is very good news. So I must do my best both to show you that it is there in the text, and that it is good news. That’s my job in these days. It is humanly impossible, but with God all things are possible. So, Lord, please help me. The main point of the message this morning is that God is just or righteous in unconditional election. The structure of the message goes like this: First, we will ask where this objection in verse 14 comes from. Why did anyone raise the question about the justice or righteousness of God? Second, I will give three reasons why the doctrine of unconditional election is good news. Third, we will see how Paul reasserts the doctrine in verse 16: "It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." Fourth, we will try to understand Paul’s argument in verse 15 for the righteousness of God in unconditional election. Where This Objection in Verse 14 Comes From First, Paul asks in verse 14, "What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part?" And he answers, "By no means!" Where did the objection in Romans 9:14 come from? Paul knew the kind of objections that were typically raised against his teachings. He had preached and taught publicly for years in synagogues and churches and market places. He knew what he had to deal with. So he raises the questions that people typically raise and dealt with them. What had he said to raise this objection that God is unjust or unrighteous? The main thing he had said was that God chose Isaac not Ishmael, and Jacob not Esau before they had born or had done anything good or evil. That was the point of verses 7-13. Recall verses 11-13, "Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not [conditionally] because of works but [unconditionally] because of him who calls – 12 [Rebecca] was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ 13 As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’" The point is that God’s favor in election is not based on what we do or what we think or what we feel or what we choose, but on God alone – the one who calls. And we need to stress – because it is so often denied – that the issue Paul is dealing with in this chapter is election for our personal, eternal destinies – individual Jews and Gentiles, not just the Jewish people as a whole and the Gentile peoples, and eternal destinies, not just historical roles. The problem he is wrestling with is stated in verse 3: many of his Jewish kinsmen are accursed and cut off from Christ. That is what creates the crisis – not the historical role of a nation, but the eternal destiny of individual Jewish people who rejected the gospel as he preached from synagogue to synagogue. So the answer to our first question is that the objection in verse 14 rose from Paul’s teaching of unconditional election – that God chooses whom he will graciously save before we are born or have done anything good or evil. Our election to eternal life is not based on what we choose or what we do. It is based on God alone. Which person chooses to trust Christ and be saved, and which one chooses to reject Christ and be lost, is finally God’s choice. And so some of Paul’s listeners objected and said, "God is unjust – he is unrighteous – to base his election on nothing in us. It is unrighteous in God to choose who will believe and be saved or who will rebel and be lost. So goes the objection that Paul raises in verse 14. "Is there injustice on God's part? Is there unrighteousness with God?" Paul answers, "By no means." There is no unrighteousness with God when he unconditionally elects whom he will. Three Reasons Why the Doctrine of Unconditional Election Is Good News Now before we look at Paul’s reassertion of the doctrine in verse 16 and his argument for it in verse 15 I want to give you three reasons that this doctrine of unconditional election is good news. It is good news because it means no unbeliever is so bad that they can say in response to our gospel pleading, "I can’t be elect; I am too evil. I have sinned too long and to deeply." God’s election is not based on how much we do or don’t sin. It is not based on anything we do or think or feel or choose. Therefore, the proper response to that kind of despair is to say, "Who do you think you are to exalt your sin to the level of God? Who do you think you are to wallow in your despair and make your sinful will the sovereign of the universe, as if you could decide who is elect and who is not by the quantity of your sinning?" No! You have no right and no power to declare yourself beyond God’s election. He and he alone decides who is elect. And he decides NOT on the basis of your sin or your righteousness, but on the basis of his inscrutable will alone. You may not play God with your sin. None of it proves you are not elect. Repent, therefore, and call on the name of the Lord through Jesus Christ who has died for sinners. For he has said, "Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’" To the despairing soul who feels he has sinned himself out of the possibility of election, unconditional election is good news. The doctrine of unconditional election is good news because it preserves the praise of God’s glorious grace at every point in our salvation. There was not, and is not, nor ever will be, a point where we become the decisive cause of our salvation. God has chosen us freely so that we may not boast in ourselves but in God. This is good news because we were made to find greatest joy in praising, not being praised. Probably the deepest corruption that we have all inherited from the Fall – and it is especially and blatantly prevalent in the last 50 years – is that we believe and feel that happiness and health come from being praised, rather than from praising God. We think that psychological health comes from being made much of, rather than from being freed from that need to enjoy making much of God forever. That is why we were made, and that is where the greatest and deepest and longest joys are found – not in being made much of, but in forgetting ourselves in the joy of making much of God’s glory, which consists very much in his free and sovereign grace. Unconditional election is designed for that great and happy end. Therefore it is good news. The doctrine of unconditional election is good news because when, by grace through faith, you know yourself loved by God, forgiven, justified, accepted, this doctrine of election assures you that the roots of your salvation – the roots of God’s almighty commitment to save you – are not shallow, but go down deep into the counsels of eternity. It is good news to know that the root of your salvation goes down forever and ever into eternal grace and never gets to a point where it is contingent and fragile and dependent on your foreseen faith or your foreseen good works. There are other reasons for feeling that the doctrine of unconditional election is good news, but that is what we have time for this morning. How Paul Reasserts the Doctrine of Unconditional Election in Verse 16 Third, notice how Paul reasserts the doctrine in verse 16: "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." What is the "it"? "It depends not on human will or exertion." It’s the issue he is dealing with from verses 1-13. Perhaps the shortest answer straight from the text would be from verse 11: "God’s purpose according to election." God’s electing purpose does not depend on human will or exertion. Literally the words are: "It is not of him who wills or of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy." The point it to underline the unconditionality of God’s election. And the completeness of the unconditionality is stressed by using a "willing" word and a "doing" word: "one who wills" and "one who runs." This is important because it touches the very thing that some people find so controversial: the human will. Paul states as clearly as we should wish, I think, that the human will is not the final and decisive condition of election. God is. It is God and God alone. God chooses his own people before we have willed anything like faith, or done anything like love. That’s the point of verse 16, reasserting what Paul already taught in verses 11-14. Paul’s Argument in Verse 15 for the Righteousness of God in Unconditional Election Now finally, what is Paul’s argument in verse 15 for the righteousness of God in unconditional election? Paul has said, No, there is no unrighteousness with God. That’s the point of verse 14. Then verse 15 starts with that key word "for" to show that he is giving a reason or a basis or a ground for what he just said, "For he [God] says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." Now that is a very puzzling argument for the righteousness of God in unconditional election. He says, "No, God is not unrighteous in having mercy on people without respect to their will or work, because God said to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’" It sounds like a restatement of the unconditional election, rather than an argument that unconditionality is righteous. At this point in the chapter I resolved in early 1979 to take a sabbatical from teaching Bible at Bethel College and devote nine months to figuring out Paul’s argument. So I spent from May – January working on it. I’ve told you the upshot before: I wrote a book called The Justification of God (which for me, is one of the most foundational things I have ever written), and I left teaching to come to Bethlehem. That was the effect of one word, you might say, the word "for" at the beginning of verse 15. There is no unrighteousness with God, "FOR, God says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’" There are two keys to understanding this argument. I will give you a bare introduction to them today and then come back to them in three weeks when we take up the rest of this paragraph. First is the context of this Old Testament quotation in Exodus 33:19 ; and the second is Paul’s understanding of the righteousness of God. Let’s take these one at a time to see if we can follow Paul’s argument and how verse 15 is a defense of God’s righteousness in unconditional election. The Context of the Quote from Exodus 33:19 Consider this quote in Exodus 33:19 . Moses is talking to God and seeking God’s promise to go up to the promised land with the people. Then he asks to see God’s glory in verse 18, and that sets up the statement which Paul quotes in Romans 9:15 . In Exodus 33:18 , "Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’ 19 And he [God] 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." Moses asks to see God’s glory. God obliges by saying: Here’s my goodness, my name. And to his name he attaches this sentence: "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." In other words, I think God is saying to Moses, and to us, my glory is expressed in my name, Yahweh (Lord), and my name is expressed in my freedom to have mercy on whom I have mercy. This is who I am. This is my name. This is my glory. My essence as God consists essentially in being free from any constraint originating outside my own will. This is the essence of what it means to be God. This is his name, my glory. One confirmation of this is that back in chapter 3 of Exodus Moses asks God what his name is so that he can tell the Israelites who sent him. God answers in verse 14: "God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you."’’" In other words, God explained his name here as "I am who I am." And in Exodus 33:19 he explains his name as "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." The structure is the same, and the meaning is simply expanded. God’s name, the essence of his glory, is that he IS absolutely and without cause or constraint from outside himself. He is who he is. And, expanding on that in chapter 33, he says his name, his essence, is, "I have mercy on whom I have mercy" – that is, I am absolutely self-existent and absolutely self-determining. I exist freely, without cause or control from any other. And I have mercy freely. At the deepest decision of my mercy there is no cause or control or constraint by anything outside my own will. That is what it means to be God, Yahweh. That is my name and the essence of my glory. The Meaning of God’s Righteousness That is the first key to understanding the argument of Romans 9:15 – the context of the quote from Exodus 33:19 . Now the second key is the meaning of God’s righteousness. What does Paul mean by righteousness, when he says, "There is no unrighteousness with God"? If I had time I would love to develop a long argument from the Old Testament, and from Paul’s use of the "righteousness of God," to show you where I get the answer to that question. But all I have time for is to give you my conclusion and say that I will come back in three weeks with support for it. God’s righteousness is essentially his unswerving allegiance to his own name and his own glory. God is righteous to the degree that he upholds and displays the honor of his name. He is righteous when he values most what is most valuable, and what is most valuable is his own glory. Therefore God’s justice, his righteousness, consists most fundamentally in doing what is consistent with the esteem and demonstration of his name, his glory. God would be unrighteous if he did not uphold and display his glory as infinitely valuable. Now the two keys are in place for understanding the argument of Romans 9:15 . Paul is arguing that there is no unrighteousness with God when he elects unconditionally. Why? Using our two keys, the answer is: because God’s name, the essence of his glory, consists in his absolute freedom to have mercy on whom he will have mercy. That is who he is. And his righteousness is his unswerving allegiance always to uphold and display this glory. Therefore, he must uphold and display his freedom, if he is to be righteous. Let me say it one more time: If God’s righteousness consists in his unswerving commitment to uphold his name and his glory, and if his name and his glory consist in his absolute freedom in showing mercy, then to be righteous he must choose the beneficiaries of his electing mercy before they are born or have anything good or evil. Therefore the doctrine of unconditional election stands and God is righteous in it. And I close with the reminder of how good this news is: No amount of sin that you have ever done can keep you from being God’s elect. God was, is, and always will be free. And your past record of sin was and is no hindrance to your being elect. Call on the name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. And let all the praise for your salvation go to him and not yourself. You were made for this. Find your joy in making much of God and his grace, not making much of yourself. And when you find your rest in Christ through faith, glory in this: the roots of your security go down forever in the eternal grace of God. Amen. The Fame of His Name and the Freedom of Mercy February 2, 2003 by John Piper Scripture: Romans 9:14-18 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 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 does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. We pick up where we left off three weeks ago. Let's review what we saw in Romans 9:14-16 . The question of God's justice was raised in verse 14 because Paul taught in Romans 9:6-13 that God chooses - elects - unconditionally who will believe and undeservingly be saved, and who will rebel and deservingly perish. The terrible reality of perishing people had been raised in verse 3 where Paul was grieving over his Jewish kinsmen who, as he says, are "cursed and cut off from Christ." How can God's word and covenant with Israel stand if so many individual Israelites are unbelieving and therefore perishing? Paul answers in verse 6 that not all those who belong physically to Israel are truly Israel. Then he explains with the examples of Isaac and Ishmael, on the one hand, and Jacob and Esau, on the other hand, that within Israel there has been a remnant "chosen by grace" ( Romans 11:5 ). Isaac not Ishmael was chosen. Jacob not Esau was chosen. That's Paul's explanation of why there were so many of his kinsmen who were unbelieving and therefore accursed and cut off from Christ. It was ultimately owing to God's free and unconditional election of some and not others. So Paul makes this explicit in Romans 9:11-13 . "Though they [Jacob and Esau] were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad [this is where we see the unconditionality] - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call - 12 she [Rebecca] was told, 'The older will serve the younger.' 13 As it is written, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'" God chose Jacob and rejected Esau. And he did this before they were born or had done anything good or evil. That's what we mean by unconditional election. Paul knew that in his day and ours people would stumble over this. People would say that God is unjust - unrighteous - to choose freely and unconditionally who would believe and be undeservingly saved and who would rebel and deservingly perish. So he poses the question that he has, no doubt, heard many times in response to his teaching. He asks in verse 14, "What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there?" And he answers: "May it never be!" God is not unjust in unconditional election. Why not? That is what we began to talk about three weeks ago, starting with verses 15-16. I'll try to sum it up and add the part I promised. The part we looked at last time was how the quote from Exodus 33:19 functions in 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.'" This is given as an argument for God's justice or righteousness in unconditional election. "There is no unrighteousness with God is there? May it never be! FOR, God says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'" How does that argument work? The First Key: God's Glory Includes His Absolute Freedom in Election The context of Exodus 33:19 is all important. This statement of the freedom of God in mercy is given by Moses as an expression and manifestation of God's name, his character, his glory. (We saw that last time.) That's why Paul chose to cite what looks like a simple restatement of the problem: he has mercy on whom he wills. He is free and not decisively constrained by anything outside himself. In the context, this freedom is shown to be the very essence of what it means to be God. It is an expression of his name: Yahweh: I am who I am. I have mercy on whom I have mercy. That is my name. That is my glory. That is what it means to be God. The Second Key: The Essence of God's Righteousness Is His Commitment to Uphold and Display the Infinite Value of His Glory and His Name That was one key to understanding Paul's argument for God's righteousness in the freedom of election. The other key is Paul's understanding of God's righteousness. Last time I simply gave you that understanding and promised I would give some support this time. I said, "God's righteousness is essentially his unswerving allegiance to his own name - his own glory. God is righteous to the degree that he upholds and displays the honor of his name. He is righteous when he values most what is most valuable, and what is most valuable is his own glory." Now, is this the way Paul understands the essence of God's righteousness? Yes. One place to see this is Romans 3:23-25 . "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Notice that sin is defined in relation to the glory of God. Sin belittles the glory of God. It makes God look less valuable by desiring something else more. Then Paul describes God's remedy for that derision of his glory. Verse 24: ". . . and [they] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins." What we see here is that God sent Jesus to die ("by his blood"), and that by dying the righteousness of God could be vindicated and his anger could be propitiated and sinners who had belittled God's glory could be justified by faith alone. Why did God's righteousness need to be vindicated in this way? Because (v. 25b) he had passed over sins. That is, he had acted as though the derision of his glory didn't matter, and thus his righteousness, his allegiance to that glory, is called into question. He acted as though his glory was of little worth. But it is of infinite worth. And God would be untrue, he would be unrighteous, not to uphold and display the true value of his glory. Therefore, in order to justify sinners (like us!) who belittle his glory, and yet not himself belittle his own glory (in acting as though it didn't matter), he shows the infinite value of his glory by vindicating it with the death of his own Son who died for his Father's glory ( John 12:27-28 ). Therefore, what Romans 3:23-25 shows (as well as 3:1-8 and other places) is that God's righteousness is, at its essence, God's unswerving allegiance to the infinite value of his own glory - his own name. It's his unwavering commitment to uphold and display his glory and his name. Paul's Conclusion: There Is No Unrighteousness with God in Unconditional Election Now with these two keys: we open Paul's argument. The first key from the quotation of Exodus 33:19 in Romans 9:15 is that God's glory, his name, includes his absolute being and his absolute freedom in election. "I am who I am." "I have mercy on whom I have mercy." That is his glory, his name. That is what it means to be God. The second key is that God's righteousness is his unwavering commitment always to uphold and display the infinite value of his glory and his name. The conclusion that Paul draws is this: therefore there is no unrighteousness with God in unconditional election. When God acts in this way, choosing the beneficiaries of his mercy freely and without any constraint from human willing or human acting, he is upholding and displaying his name and his glory. And this is the very essence of his righteousness. And so he restates the unconditionality of election in Romans 9:16 : "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." God's ultimate choice of who will believe and undeservingly be saved, and who will rebel and deservingly perish, is not based on human volition or human behavior. Then Paul turns to another Old Testament passage to give further support for his conviction. He cites Exodus 9:16 in Romans 9:17 . And then he states his conviction again in verse 18. Verse 18 says, "So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." You can see how similar this is to verse 15, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." But here the opposite of mercy is also mentioned, namely hardening. "He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." You see what Paul is doing here. He had said in Romans 9:13 not only, "Jacob I loved," but also, "Esau I hated." One is chosen and the other is given over to become wicked. (See the sermon from 12-8-02 and the context of Romans 9:13 in Malachi 1:4 , "wicked.") There are two sides to God's choosing, and verse 18 picks that up: "He has mercy on whom He wills, and He hardens whom He wills." If the mercy is ultimately unconditional, the hardening is ultimately unconditional. That's what verse 18 adds, simply repeating what verse 11 had said, "Before they were born or had done anything good or evil," God chose who would be the beneficiary of his mercy and who would not. Ultimately, God does not save or condemn because of constraints laid on him by the willing or doing of man. God is free. He acts according to his own wise purposes to uphold and display the fullness of his glory. God Hardens Whom He Will To show from Scripture that God "hardens whom he wills," Paul turns to the great old story of the Exodus from Egypt. And he chooses one verse from those 10 chapters, Exodus 9:16 , and quotes it here in verse 17: "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.'" Why this verse from all the verses that he could have chosen that speak of hardening? Why choose one that does not even refer to hardening, and then draw out the conclusion: "He hardens whom he wills" (v. 18)? There are very profound reasons. They relate to God's freedom and to God's great global purposes of world evangelization. But that we will save for next week. I want to devote the entire message next week to going back with you to the story of the Exodus and seeing what the Old Testament teaches about the purpose of God in hardening Pharaoh. But to draw to a close this morning and move to the Lords' Supper, I want to step back, get the big picture and make some clarifying comments. Unconditional election does not mean that our final salvation or condemnation is unconditional. Unconditional Election Does Not Conflict with Real Conditions It is by faith we are saved ( Romans 10:9 ), and it is because of hard and impenitent hearts that we receive wrath and perish ( Romans 2:5 ). There is a real condition that has to be met for justification - namely faith in Jesus Christ. And there are real conditions that have to be met for damnation, namely, hardness and unbelief. There is a real choice that we make which unites us with Christ so that we are clothed with his righteousness and have eternal life. And there is real choice that we make - in Adam and in ourselves - which is resistant to the truth and deserving of condemnation. Unconditional election, which Paul teaches here, does not contradict any of that. What unconditional election teaches is that God chooses who will be in those two groups - who will believe and undeservingly be saved, and who will rebel and deservingly perish. Implications There are two huge implications for us this morning. 1) We should believe on Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and Treasure. "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" ( Romans 10:9 ). Don't be wiser than the word of God. Don't say: God chooses whomever he wills, I don't need to choose him." The Bible says, "Choose this day whom you will serve" ( Joshua 24:15 ). Don't say, "Why should I take hold of Christ if he takes hold of me?" Rather say what Paul says, "I take hold of Christ because he has taken hold of me" ( Philippians 3:12 ). Don't be wiser than the word of God. "God has made foolish the wisdom of the world" ( 1 Corinthians 1:20 ). Humble yourself and turn to Christ and be saved. 2) Beware, when you have believed, that you not boast, as if your believing were ultimately your own doing. Instead be thankful and say with the apostle Paul, "I thank God that from the heart I have become obedient to the teaching of Christ" ( Romans 6:17 ). The Bible makes clear that God saves us in a way that excludes all boasting. Boasting is doubly excluded. It is excluded by the principle of faith and by the truth of unconditional election. Boasting excluded by FAITH. Romans 3:27 , "Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith." Faith excludes boasting because it looks away from all human distinctives (including itself!) and receives free grace. Boasting excluded by unconditional ELECTION. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 , "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." God's choosing, God's free and inscrutable election removes boasting from those who really feel its preciousness. Therefore, believe on Christ, and when you do, thank him. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord. FEBRUARY 9, 2003 The Hardening of Pharaoh and the Hope of the World Message by John Piper Scripture: Exodus 9:8–17 Topic: Predestination Series: Romans: The Greatest Letter Ever Written And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt." So they took soot from the kiln and stood before Pharaoh. And Moses threw it in the air, and it became boils breaking out in sores on man and beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils came upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians. But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, "Let my people go, that they may serve me. For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go. How shall we know God? How shall we know what God is like and how we are to think about him? When I ask myself this question, one response comes crashing into my mind with overwhelming certitude: human opinion counts for nothing. What you feel about the way God should be and what I feel about the way God should be counts for nothing. If someone rises up and makes a pronouncement about what they can believe and can’t believe about God, that is as significant in determining what is true about God as the creaking of a window in the wind. Human opinion counts for nothing in defining God. How than shall we know him? For it is very crucial that we know him. If he is there, nothing in the universe matters more than he does. If he is there, he is like the thunder clap and we are like the scratch on a faint recording. If he is there, he is like the sun shining in full strength and we are like dust-mote floating in the morning beam of bedroom light. If he is there, he is absolute and we are utterly dependent. But now I am risking putting my opinions forward, which don’t matter at all. How shall we know him? We will know him by his own initiative to reveal himself. This he did most clearly and powerfully in sending his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" ( John 14:9 ). Then he said that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide his apostles into all truth so that the truth of Christ and the Father would be preserved and displayed in the inspired Word of Scripture ( John 16:13 ). The effect of this promise was that the apostles could say, "We impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit" ( 1 Corinthians 2:13 ). Drawing Upon the Old Testament But the apostles and their associates who preserved the truth of Christ for us in their gospels and letters were led by the Spirit in them to immerse themselves in the Old Testament as well as the teachings of Jesus. "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets" ( Hebrews 1:1 ). As the Spirit led the apostles into all truth, he did so by leading them to a true and deep understanding of what God had done and said in the Old Testament. This is what we see all through the book of Romans, especially in chapter 9 where we have been since November 3. In Romans 9:4-5 he deals with "the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises, the patriarch" – all of which he sees in the Old Testament. In verses 6-12 he deals with Isaac and Ishmael and Jacob and Esau from Genesis. In verse 13 he refers to Malachi 1:2-3 , "Jacob I loved and Esau I hated." In verse 15 he quotes Exodus 33:19 ("I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion"), and builds his argument for the justice of God on it. And then in verse 17 he quotes Exodus 9:16 and concludes from it in verse 18, "So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills." So if we ask, How can we know God? God’s answer is: I reveal myself to you mainly in my Son Jesus Christ, and through his inspired apostles in the New Testament, who take us back to the earlier revelation of God in history and show us that all of divine revelation is of one piece. The God of the Exodus is the God of Romans. The God who dealt with Pharaoh is the God who deals with us. So Paul roots his teaching about the sovereignty of God and the freedom of God and unconditional election in the Old Testament at every point in Romans 9. He is eager for us to see that New Testament revelation of God is one with Old Testament revelation of God. The Quote of Exodus 9:16 in Romans 9:17 So here we are now in Exodus 9:16 which Paul quotes in Romans 9:17 . It would be good to see that quotation in Romans and what Paul infers from it. In Romans 9:17-18 Paul says, "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." What Paul is doing here in verse 18 is reaching back to verses 15-16 and summing up the freedom of God in mercy ("He has mercy on whomever he wills"), and he is drawing out of the Exodus story about Pharaoh the freedom of God in hardening ("He hardens whomever he wills"). Verse 18 Teaches Unconditional Hardening Before we go back there to see what Paul saw in Exodus let’s make sure we see what Paul says here. What does he mean in Romans 9:18 by the words, "He hardens who he wills"? There are at least seven reasons for thinking he meant: God is free in hardening whom he hardens and does not base his decision whom to harden on anything a person does. Before I show you the seven reasons let’s be sure you know what I am saying, and what he is saying. When I say that he hardens whom he wills, I mean he decides who will rebel in their hardness of unbelief and therefore deservingly be condemned. The hardening of God does not make fault impossible, it makes fault certain. Now here is the mystery – which is why the opinions of man don’t count for much – people who are hardened against God are really guilty. They have real fault. They are really blameworthy. They really deserve to be judged. And God decided who would be in that condition. If you demand an explanation for HOW this can be – that God decides who is hardened and yet they have real guilt and real fault – there are pointers in the Bible. But they will not satisfy the natural, fallen human mind. I do not offer that explanation now. I simply assert what I see in the Word: God hardens whom he wills, and man is accountable. God’s hardening does not take away guilt, it renders it certain. Seven Contextual Evidences for Unconditional Hardening Now, what are the evidences in this text that the words "He hardens whomever he wills," in Romans 9:18 means that God freely and unconditionally decides who will be hard and who will not? First, that’s what the words most naturally mean. "He hardens whomever he wills," says that his will and not our will is decisive in hardening. To be sure, our will rebels and is hard against God. But the natural meaning of these words is that God’s will is decisive beneath and behind our willing without nullifying the importance of our will. Second, the exact parallel with mercy shows that the act of God in hardening is as unconditional as the act of God in having mercy. Verse 18 says, "He has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills." So if we believe that God’s showing mercy is unconditional, the most natural way to take the parallel is that the hardening is unconditional. Third, this is in fact exactly what Paul infers from God’s words in verse 15, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." Paul draws out of this in verse 16, "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." If that is what "I have mercy on whom I have mercy" means, then it is probably what "I harden whom I harden" means, namely, "It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who hardens." Fourth, the parallel with Jacob and Esau shows that mercy and hardening are unconditional. Paul said in verses 11 and 13, "Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad . . . As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’" In other words, the context demands that Paul address not just the love and mercy part of God’s sovereignty but also the hate and hardening part of God’s sovereignty. The parallel with Jacob and Esau in verse 13 shows that the hardening and the mercy are unconditional. Fifth, the objection and Paul’s answer to it in verse 19 show that Paul did not deal with God’s sovereignty the way most people deal with it today. Paul raises the objection: "You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’" Now at this point most people today say, God finds fault because his hardening is a response to our prior self-hardening. For example, one popular, and usually good commentary, says, "Neither here nor anywhere else is God said to harden anyone who had not first hardened himself." That Pharaoh hardened his heart against God and refused to humble himself is made plain in the story. So God’s hardening of him was a judicial act, abandoning him to his own stubbornness. (John Stott, *Romans: God’s Good News for the World* [InterVarsity Press, 1994], 269. He is quoting Leon Morris) Let me say this calmly and firmly: That is exactly the opposite of what Romans 9:18 teaches. And the fifth reason that I say so is this: Paul could have so easily removed the objection of verse 19 that way, and he did not! The objector hears Paul say, "God hardens whomever he wills," and he responds, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" How easily Paul could have answered the objection with all the answers of modern man! And he didn’t. Because they are the wrong answer. They turn his teaching right on its head. He said, "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?" Indeed he said more – but in a direction exactly the opposite of what people today (or then) expect. Sixth, verse 21 shows that Paul sees mercy and hardening as unconditional because he speaks of the objects of mercy and hardening as coming from the same lump of clay: "Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump (there’s the crucial phrase!) one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?" The stress is that it was not the nature of the clay that determined what God would do with it. It was the free and wise and sovereign will of the potter. He has mercy on whom he wills and he hardens whom he wills – from the same lump of clay. Seventh, we read in Romans 11:7 , "What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened." In other words the decisive issue in who is hardened and who is not is election, not some prior willing or running on our part, but God who elects. "The elect obtained it, the rest were hardened" (11:7). "Jacob I loved, Esau I hated" (9:13). "He has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills" (9:18). A Mystery Now let me say again, after these seven reasons for believing in God’s freedom in mercy and hardening, that I have not removed a mystery, I have stated a mystery. God hardens unconditionally and those who are hardened are truly guilty and truly at fault in their hard and rebellious hearts. Their own consciences will justly condemn them. If they perish, they will perish for real sin and real guilt. How God freely hardens and yet preserves human accountability we are not explicitly told. It is the same mystery as how the first sin entered the universe. How does a sinful disposition arise in a good heart? The Bible does not tell us. To call the mystery "free will" – ultimate human self-determination – is only to put another name on it. Why would a perfectly good, ultimately self-determining creature (if there were such being) ever do evil? Ultimate human self-determination no more explains the mystery of the origin of evil than unconditional election explains the guilt of the hardened sinner. All it does is give the mystery a different name. The real question is: Which is the more Biblical name of the mystery, "Ultimate human self-determination," or "Unconditional election"? Romans 9:18 is plain in its context to all who will see: "God has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills." The mystery remains, but the revelation is clear. Seeing What Paul Saw in the Old Testament Now, where did Paul see this in the Old Testament? The answer in Romans 9:17 is that he saw it in the story of the Exodus where God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. He quotes Exodus 9:16 . So let’s go back there and see what Paul saw. You recall what is happening. God has sent Moses and Aaron to command Pharaoh to let his people go. Pharaoh refuses over and over, and God multiplies his wonders in Egypt with more and more miracles – ten plagues and then a great sea-splitting deliverance – to show that he is God and Pharaoh is nothing in his rebellion. Eighteen times Exodus refers to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart so that he does not let the people go. Just before the verse that Paul quotes ( Exodus 9:16 ) it says, for example, in Exodus 9:12 , "But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them as the Lord had spoken to Moses." The key here is the phrase "as the Lord had spoken to Moses." When had God said to Moses that Pharaoh would harden his heart and not listen to them? Two times: one of them before Moses had ever arrived in Egypt (the other in 7:3 before any mention is made of Pharaoh’s self-hardening). In Exodus 4:21 Moses is preparing to go to Egypt, "And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.’" The reason this is so important is that time after time you hear people say that God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart doesn’t start until the seventh plague and is the result of his own self-hardening. But that that is not true. God said to Moses before he ever arrived in Egypt: This is what I am going to do. I am going to harden Pharaoh’s heart. And this is what happens in the very first meetings with Pharaoh, not just the later ones: Before the first plague. Exodus 7:13 , "Still Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said." After the first plague. Exodus 7:22 , "But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh's heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said." After the second plague. Exodus 8:15 , "But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the Lord had said." After the third plague. Exodus 8:19 , "Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. And in every case what the Lord had said was, "I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go" (4:21; see 7:3). The point is this: whether it says Pharaoh hardened his heart (8:15) or that his heart "was hardened" (8:19) in each case it is happening "as the Lord had said," and what he had said was, "I will harden Pharaoh’s heart." Which means that behind "self-hardening" and behind the "being hardened" is the plan and purpose of God. It is not described as a response to what Pharaoh does, but as a sovereign rule over what Pharaoh does. Paul sees this and draws it out and states it in Romans 9:18 , "[God] has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills." Relating This to the Righteousness of God Now how does this relate to God’s righteousness? Remember, that is the issue in this part of Romans 9: "Is there then unrighteousness on God’s part?" It relates very directly. Recall the definition of God’s righteousness that we found last week: God’s righteousness is his unwavering commitment to uphold and display the greatness of his glory and the honor of his name. Now we see why Paul chose to quote Exodus 9:16 in Romans 9:17 rather than one of the verses that relate directly to hardening. Instead he quotes a verse that shows the purpose why God exercised his freedom in hardening as well as mercy: "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." He chose a verse that expressed the very purpose that relates implicitly to the righteousness of God and the hope of the world: namely, God’s commitment to uphold and display the honor of his name – "that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." In other words, God’s freedom in mercy and hardening is at the heart of God’s glory and God’s name. This is what it means to be God – to be ultimately free and unconstrained from powers outside himself. Treasuring and displaying this glory and this name is right – it is the meaning of "right." And it is God’s purpose for the whole earth. He will reveal it to the whole earth. Here is the sum of the matter, and may it cure us of much trifling with God. He is just in all his dealings. And the essence of his justice is the regard he has to the infinite worth of his own glory and his own name, that is, his own freedom and sovereignty. And let us remember the point from last week: The central act in the universe where God displayed this righteousness and vindicated the worth of his glory was in the sending of his Son to die so that he might pass over sins and justify the ungodly. Let no sin and no sense of unworthiness keep you from coming to him for salvation.
Study Questions on Romans 9:14-18 John Piper 1. What had Paul said that makes the question / objection raised in 9:14 pertinent? 2. Try to come up with a crisp definition of God’s righteousness from such OT passages as Ps. 143:1,2,11; Dan. 9:14-19; Is. 48:9,11; Ps. 31:1-3; and Ezek. 36:22-32. 3. How is the quote from Ex. 33:19 (Rom. 9:15) a support for Paul’s assertion that there is no unrighteousness with God? That is, explain the logic of Paul’s argument in 9:14,15. (Note the request of Moses in Ex. 33:18 to which god’s words are a response.) 4. Both the subject and verb are left out of v.16. Paul assumes that his readers will have no trouble supplying them from the context. Rewrite v.16 inserting the subject and verb Paul intends. 5. What is the closest parallel in 9:16-13 to 9:16? 6. From the connection between verses 15 and 16 explain what the really terrible thing is about claiming to have free will (i.e., self-determination). 7. What does “run” mean in 9:16? Read 1 Cor. 9:24,26; Gal. 2:2; 5:7; Heb.12:1. 8. a. Explain how v.17 argues for v.16. b. What is the difference between the OT proof in v.15 and the OT proof in v.17? b. Read Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8. What is the relation between what these texts say and what Ex. 8:32 and 9:34 say? 9. Why do you think Paul used Ex. 9:16 (which does not contain the verb sklhrunein ) to infer that God is free to harden, when there are numerous verses where it explicitly says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 14:4,7)?
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The Righteousness of God in the OT as Background for the argument of Romans 9:14-15 Ps 143:1-2 faithfulness is parallel to righteousness Ps 143:11 "for your name's sake" is parallel to "in your righteousness" A Psalm of David. 1 Hear my prayer, O Lord ; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness ! 2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. 3 For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. 4 Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. 5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. 6 I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah 7 Answer me quickly, O Lord ! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. 8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. 9 Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord ! I have fled to you for refuge. 10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! 11 For your name’s sake , O Lord , preserve my life ! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! 12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant. Is 48:9-11 Isaiah 48:9 “ For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake , I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. Dan 9:14-19 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself , as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord , make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name . For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake , O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name .” Ex 33:18-19 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory .” 19 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... Ex 34:6 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “ The Lord , the Lord , a God merciful and gracious , slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness... Romans 9:14-18 14 Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; μὴ ἀδικία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ; μὴ γένοιτο*. 15 τῷ Μωϋσεῖ γὰρ λέγει·* ἐλεήσω ὃν ἂν ἐλεῶ καὶ οἰκτιρήσω ὃν ἂν οἰκτίρω. 16 ἄρα οὖν οὐ τοῦ θέλοντος οὐδὲ τοῦ τρέχοντος ἀλλὰ τοῦ ⸀ἐλεῶντος θεοῦ*. 17 λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφὴ τῷ Φαραὼ ὅτι εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἐξήγειρά σε ὅπως ἐνδείξωμαι ἐν σοὶ τὴν δύναμίν μου καὶ ὅπως διαγγελῇ τὸ ὄνομά μου ἐν πάσῃ τῇ γῇ . 18 ἄρα οὖν ὃν θέλει ⸆ ἐλεεῖ, ὃν δὲ θέλει σκληρύνει. "Therefore since God's righteousness consists in his acting unswervingly for his own name's sake (= glory) and since his glory consists largely in his sovereign freedom in election, God is not unrighteous to disregard human deeds and distinctives in choosing whom he will to bless. In fact, he must pursue his purpose of election in this way in order to remain righteous, for only in his sovereign, free bestowal of mercy on whomever he wills is God acting out of a full delight in his own glory." Piper, The Argument of Romans 9:14-16 (1976)