The Sovereignty of God | Romans 9:19-21
Brian Hedges | October 27, 2019
This morning we are considering a topic that is also close to the heart of the Reformation, the sovereignty of God, as we continue our series in Romans 9-11. It’s appropriate that we begin with a quotation from a Puritan, and this morning from the New England Puritan Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards left behind an incredible wealth of material, both personal writings, analysis of revival and of spiritual life; and then also really deep, theological writings. One of the things that Edwards left behind was a diary, where he tells us a lot about his early experiences as a Christian and even before he was a Christian.
One of the things that Edwards said is this. He said, “From my childhood up my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in choosing whom he would to eternal life and rejecting whom he pleased, leaving them eternally to perish and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear a horrible doctrine to me.”
Now, when you read a quote like that, you may be surprised that it comes from Jonathan Edwards. After all, this is the theologian who left us The Freedom of the Will, and yet this was his experience. Perhaps that’s how you have felt as well. Maybe even last Sunday, as we began to dig into Romans 9, maybe you also felt something of a revulsion against the sovereignty of God. Maybe you’ve even felt the same objections that Paul is anticipating in Romans 9. “This must not be fair!” And Paul even asks the question, doesn’t he, “Is there unrighteousness with God?” Well, if you have experienced that you are in good company; Edwards himself felt it, and many others have as well.
This morning we’re going to dig into Romans 9 a little bit deeper. We’re going to continue with our study and try to understand the flow of Paul’s argument, and especially how he appeals to the sovereignty of God itself.
Let me just remind you of where we have been. Romans 9 begins with an emphasis on evangelism, an evangelistic burden that Paul has for his fellow countrymen, his kinsmen according to the flesh, the Jews. There were many unbelieving Jews. Not all Jews were unbelievers, but many of them were unbelievers. This is what prompts Paul’s discussion of Romans 9-11. He wants to wrestle with this question of how is it that Jewish people do not believe, and does this mean that God’s promises and God’s word have failed?
His assertion is that God’s promise has not failed, his word has not failed, because God’s purpose was never to save every individual Jewish person. Salvation is not by race, salvation is by grace. Ethnic background, even a Jewish background, did not guarantee salvation; it was rather by the grace of God. “Not all who are of Israel are Israel.”
That’s Paul’s argument, and he gives us two examples of this. Ishmael was not chosen, but Isaac was; Jacob was chosen, Esau was not. Right? He uses this as something of a springboard, then, to begin to discuss the sovereignty of God in both mercy and in wrath, the sovereignty of God in both salvation and in condemnation.
As he does this, he’s raising questions, he’s raising objections. The first one we’d looked at last week (I’ve already stated it), "is there unrighteousness with God?" He says, “May it never be,” and then he goes on to assert once again that God in his righteousness has mercy on whom he will have mercy and he hardens whom he will.
That brings us, then, to another objection that follows right on his conclusion. The conclusion of verses 14-18 is in verse 18: “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”
That raises another objection. We didn’t get to this one last week, so this morning we’re picking up on this one, and we’re going to organize this message around the theme of the sovereignty of God. We’re going to look at three things, three things about God’s sovereignty.
I. God Is Sovereign in His Authority
II. God Is Sovereign in Wrath and Judgment
III. God Is Sovereign in Mercy and Salvation
You’re going to see each one of these things in the text.
I. God Is Sovereign in His Authority
Here’s the first thing: God is sovereign in his authority, and Paul here is raising and answering an objection. You see this in verses 19-21. Here’s the objection. “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’” The basic objection is this: If God has mercy on whom he will have mercy and he hardens whom he wills, then how can God hold people accountable? Doesn’t that mean that people are just robots? Who can resist his will? That’s the idea. That’s the question that Paul raises.
Notice how he answers in verse 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?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump on vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”
This is really interesting, how Paul responds. This is not how you would expect Paul to respond. Notice that Paul does not say, “Oh no, you’ve misunderstood me!” He doesn’t say that. He doesn’t back off from the sovereignty of God. He doesn’t do that. He instead puts man in his place. That’s his first response. “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”
Now, it’s important to understand that Paul here is not saying that there’s never a place for an inquisitive question, where someone is answering, “Well, how do these things work in Scripture?” That’s good. We should wrestle with theology. It’s not [always] self-evident what Scripture means, and it takes hard work and exegesis and theological dialogue and working in the text to come to conclusions.
But the phrase here, answer back, this is a phrase (it’s actually just one word in Greek), and it really means to contend. It means to contend or to argue against God. You know this with your children, don’t you? You tell your child to do something, and your child might say, “Well, how would you like me to do this?” That’s just an inquisitive, “give me a little more clarity on what I need to do.”
You tell your child to do something and they say, “Why?” What are you going to say? You’re going to say, “Don’t talk back to me!” Right? Talk-back! Back-talk! Right? That’s what Paul is targeting here. “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”
And then he begins to answer. He appeals the metaphor of potter and clay. So Paul is wrestling with this idea, right, and he appeals now to a metaphor, and the metaphor is that of a potter and its clay.
Now, what we have to know is that this has its roots in the Old Testament itself. He is quoting here from Isaiah 29:16, probably an appeal to Isaiah 45 as well as to Jeremiah 18. Scripture over and again uses this metaphor of the potter and his clay, molding the clay how he wills. What Paul is doing here is invoking the idea of God’s sovereign authority.
Now, listen, here’s a little theology lesson for you. Anytime you’re going to deal with the sovereignty of God, there are three components to that sovereignty.
Those components are God’s activity in the world. This has to do with God’s will and what he chooses to do in the world, God’s activity. Secondly, God’s ability. This has to do with God’s power, that he actually has the power to reign in the world. But then also (this is the third thing), God’s authority, and God’s authority has to do with his right to rule.
That’s what Paul is appealing to now. He is saying that God has the right to do as he pleases. You see it right there in verse 21. “Has the potter no right over the clay?” The Greek word here, exousía, is the word that means authority. “Has the potter no authority over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” Paul is appealing to the authority of God, God’s sovereignty in his authority, his right to do as he pleases.
Again, this is something that in our humanness, in our fallen humanity, at least, we tend to object to this. We don’t want a God who has absolute sovereignty, a God who has absolute rights. But I want to just defend this from Scripture, and I want you to see in other places of Scriptures that this something—it’s not just Paul saying this, but this is something that is asserted in Scripture over and over again. Let me give you just four passages of Scripture.
The psalmist in Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” So, God has the authority, as the God who reigns from the heavens, to do whatever he pleases.
Psalm 135:5-6 makes essentially the same point. “For I know the Lord is great and that our Lord is above all gods; whatever the Lord pleases he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” God does what he pleases.
Do you remember the story of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel? In my personal devotions I’ve been in the book of Daniel for the last ten days or so, and Daniel 4 is this amazing story of Nebuchadnezzar, this proud king of Babylon. You remember that God humbled him. God made him act like a beast for a period of time. He basically went insane. Do you remember that after he came back to his senses he made this confession about the sovereignty of the most high God? Do you remember what he said?
Here it is, Daniel 4:34-35. He says, “I blessed the most high and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion and his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’”
Lest you think that’s just a pagan king attributing authority to God, listen to what God himself says in Isaiah 46:8-10. “Remember this, and stand firm and call to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, for I am God and there is not other; I am God and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’”
Listen. This is the crucial issue in dealing with a passage like this and in dealing with this hard doctrine of the sovereignty of God in both judgment and in salvation. Here it is. Does God have the right to do as he pleases with his sinful, fallen creatures? Does he have the right? Paul says he does, that the potter has right over the clay, to make a vessel for honor and a vessel for dishonor.
If you want to say, “Well, I don’t want a God like that. I don’t believe in a God like that. That’s not the God that I believe in, that’s not the God that I serve,” here would be my response, and I want to borrow an illustration here from Tim Keller.
Tim Keller has done this four or five times in various sermons; he reminds people of a movie that I’ve actually never seen, but it’s a movie that’s been made twice, called The Stepford Wives. Anybody ever seen The Stepford Wives? A few of you have.
There was one made back in the ’70s, and then they did a remake maybe 10 or 15 years ago; I think Nicole Kidman was in this movie. It’s essentially about this community of people in Stepford, somewhere in New England, and these men in the community somehow do away with their wives, and they replace them with exact lookalikes, but all the wives are robots. So these robot wives never contradict their husbands, they never argue, they always do exactly what they’re told, they always do exactly as their husbands please. They never do anything except exactly what the husband wants them to do.
Keller says there are a lot of people who want "a Stepford god." You want a god who conforms to your own imagination, your own expectation, your own desires. But here’s the problem with a Stepford wife or a Stepford god; if your god is simply made in your own image and exactly like you and never contradicts, that god is not a real god, and you don’t have a real relationship with God. If there’s never a place where God the Creator cannot contradict you or cannot correct you through his word, or cannot assert his right as Creator over you, then there’s no relationship with him. It’s not a real relationship.
I think we have to ask ourselves, do we want to submit ourselves to God as he really is and to God as he is revealed in Scripture? Because the God of Scripture is a God who has authority, he is a God of sovereignty, he is a God of power, he is a God who has unequaled supremacy among all things, and he has the right to do as he pleases. This is the most fundamental claim of Scripture. God is God, and you are not, and neither am I. God is sovereign in his authority.
II. God’s Sovereignty in Wrath and Judgment
That leads, then, to the second claim of this text, God’s sovereignty in wrath and judgment. Again, look at verse 21 and then verse 22. “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? 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...?”
Now, we’re breaking right in the middle of the sentence there, but I want you to just see what Paul is saying here. First of all, let’s understand this imagery of the vessels, the two different kinds of vessels. This is obviously talking about clay pots that would be made for an ancient household. These clay pots had varied uses. Sometimes a clay pot would be used for an honorable thing; maybe you make a goblet that you drink your wine from, or you make a plate that you eat your food from. But a clay pot could also be something like a wastebasket, right, something for disposing waste after you eat. Or maybe you make a utensil for the garden, something that’s going to be in the muck and in the dirt; but not something that you would eat from.
That’s what the metaphor is suggesting here. You have the same clay, the same lump of clay, but out of this same lump of clay you have two different kinds of vessels made, one for honorable use, one for dishonorable use.
Paul uses this metaphor in another place, in 2 Timothy 2, where he says, “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use and some for dishonorable use.” There he’s essentially saying you should put away from yourself the dishonorable things in your life. He’s using the metaphor differently.
This was common. This was a common word picture used in biblical times, and Paul puts it to use here. Notice how he applies it in verse 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?”
Here’s one kind of vessel, a vessel of wrath. Notice what he says about these vessels of wrath. He says that God endures them with much patience. The word “patience” is the word “longsuffering.”
I think it’s interesting that here is the emphasis of Scripture at this point. It’s not saying that God is in a hurry to dispense his wrath, that God’s waiting up in the heavens, can’t wait to strike people with his thunderbolts of wrath and of anger. That’s not the picture at all. Instead, the picture in Scripture over and over again is that here are sinful people, here are sinful individuals, here are even whole societies, and God warns and God waits and God pleads and God gives opportunity to repent. Sometimes he will even wait centuries.
You remember how in Genesis 15 he tells Abraham, “It’s going to be 400 years before your descendants inherit the land of Canaan,” because he’s going to wait until the iniquity of the Amorites has filled up. He’s giving them four centuries to straighten their act out, and of course they don’t, but God is showing patience, he’s showing longsuffering.
Now, God as the Creator, as soon as human beings rebelled he had warned—he had warned Adam and Eve, hadn’t he? “In the day you eat thereof you shall surely die.” He had warned them. But he commutes the sentence. They don’t die. He gives them life. He extends their life. He allows the human race to continue.
What’s God doing? He is showing his patience, he is showing his longsuffering. This is the disposition of God towards the vessels of wrath; that is, towards sinful human beings are headed for destruction. His disposition towards them is one of longsuffering, it’s one of patience, the patience of God.
Here’s a quotation from another one of the Puritans, who wrote an amazing 1200-page book on the attributes of God. There’s one long, long chapter on the patience of God, and I want you to just hear what he said. This is Stephen Charnock. He said, “Slowness to anger or admirable patience is the property of the divine nature. God is slow to anger. He takes not the first occasions of a provocation, he is longsuffering, and he forebears punishment upon many occasions offered him. It is long before he can sense to give fire to his wrath and shoot out his thunderbolts. Sin hath a loud cry, but God seems to stop his ears not to hear the clamor it raises and the charge it presents. He keeps his sword a long time in the sheath.”
God’s patient. He is patient with the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. Nevertheless, their end is destruction. They will eventually be destroyed.
Douglas Moo in his commentary points out that this word for destruction is always used by Paul to describe final condemnation. For example, in Philippians 3:19 he talks about the enemies of the cross, and he says “their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” In contrast to that he talks about believers, who have our “citizenship in heaven,” and we are “waiting for the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Christ will come and he will “transform our lowly bodies to be made like his glorious body.” It’s a clear contrast between eternal perishing and eternal glorification, and I think that’s the contrast here. The vessels of wrath are prepared for destruction.
Now, what does this mean, they are prepared for destruction? It’s interesting, the commentators fall on two sides of the debate here. The voice of this verb “prepared” is in the middle or the passive rather than the active, so it could suggest that God is not the one who prepares them, but they have prepared themselves for destruction. On the other hand, there are some people who argue that it is God himself who prepares those for destruction. An argument can be made for both sides.
I think at the end of the day this is what we should say. We should say that there is a mystery to God’s will and man’s will in this whole process, and I think we can say with absolute certainty that Scripture emphasizes both that God is sovereign and that he does what he wills. He does have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he wills he hardens. We saw that last week. And Scripture equally emphasizes that human beings are responsible and accountable for their choices, for their decisions, for their rebellion. They are responsible to believe the gospel when they hear it, to repent of their sins. That’s their responsibility, and God holds them accountable for those choices. He holds them accountable for those decisions.
So at the end of the day, when the final judgment comes and some people will be acquitted and pardoned and received into everlasting life and some people will be condemned, there will be no one who goes to hell who will be able to raise their fist against God and say, “God, I asked for mercy and you didn’t give it.” That won’t be the case. Those who finally are condemned will be people who rebelled against God and who persisted in that rebellion, hardening their hearts against God.
I think C.S. Lewis is exactly right when he says in his wonderful book The Great Divorce, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell,” Lewis says, “choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it, those who seek find, to those who knock it is opened.”
We are responsible for our choices, and if you find yourself on the day of judgment condemned, it will not be because you asked God for forgiveness for Jesus’ sake and he refused; it will be because you refused the offer of the gospel and you hardened your heart against God.
III. God Is Sovereign in Mercy and Salvation
God is sovereign in wrath and in judgment, but notice this. This is all to serve his mercy. Verses 23-29 shows us that God is sovereign in mercy and in salvation. Look at verse 23. “...in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” That’s God’s purpose here.
I want you to notice several things about this, several observations from the text here.
(1) Here’s the first. Notice this, that we you go back to verse 21, the vessels of mercy and the vessels of wrath, the vessels for honor and dishonor, are made out of the same lump. Okay? Get the image. Here’s a potter, and he has a lump of clay, and out of the same lump of clay he makes some vessels for mercy, some vessels for wrath.
I think that presupposes that the lump that is considered here is the whole mass of fallen humanity. In other words, the idea here is not that God created some people with the intention or the purpose of destroying them. The idea here is that God, though he created man upright, though he created man perfect, though he created man righteous, man has fallen, and now God looks at fallen humanity and out of the same lump of fallen humanity he chooses some for salvation and others he leaves in their sin and they are condemned.
That means that those who are vessels of mercy receive mercy even though they deserve wrath. We don’t have a claim on God’s mercy, but we receive mercy even though we should have been condemned.
(2) Then notice this. The reason it says for why God “endured with much patience the vessels of wrath” is in order to make known the riches of his glory. We see that in verse 23. Verse 23 is continuing the sentence, it’s continuing what is already begun in verse 22. Verse 22 tells us that God has “endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy.”
In other words, it’s showing us here that God’s wrath and God’s mercy are not equivalent, they are not symmetrical. God does not delight in wrath in the same way in which he delights in mercy. In fact, his wrath serves his mercy. His wrath serves as the dark backdrop against which the brilliance of his mercy shines. That means that mercy is ultimate, not wrath.
(3) Then notice this, that these vessels of mercy include Gentiles as well as the Jewish remnant. You see this in verses 24-30. I’m just going to read the text; we don’t have time to dig into these verses in detail, but let me just read it so that you can see how this connects to Paul’s main argument.
He talks about these vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, and then in verse 24 he says, “Even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”
Now, I think this just gives the lie to those who want to say that this chapter, Romans 9, is only about the destiny of nations, because Paul says right here it includes the calling of Gentiles. That’s not all Gentiles, but it’s Gentile believers. Then he argues for this from the Old Testament.
Verse 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.”’ ‘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.”’ 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, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.’ And as Isaiah predicted, ‘If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.’”
What Paul is doing here is he is arguing from the prophetic literature for both the inclusion of the Gentiles in the people of God and for the preservation of a remnant of the people of Israel, a remnant of Jews. That’s part of Paul’s big, overarching argument in Romans 9-11, and he’s really going to come full circle to this in Romans 11 as he talks about God’s future purposes for Israel.
(4) Here’s the last thing for you to notice about God’s mercy, God’s sovereignty and mercy in salvation. Notice this. It says that the vessels of mercy are prepared for glory. This is what I want us to just grasp this morning. It’s mercy because we don’t deserve it, but what we get is the exact opposite of destruction. The vessels of wrath get destruction, the vessels of mercy get glory.
If you know the book of Romans, you know that glory is a term that has been showing up again and again and again in crucial parts of this book. In Romans 1:23 Paul tells us that we have exchanged the glory of God for idols. This is the heart of human sin. Instead of loving God, instead of worshipping God, we worship created things.
In Romans 3:23 he says that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, all being both Jews and Gentiles.
Then he tells us that because of the cross of Jesus Christ, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and faith in the blood of Christ, we are justified by God’s grace, justified by the blood of Christ, justified through faith in Christ. Because of that, Romans 5:2 says, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Our hope is that we will see the glory of God, we will experience the glory of God, and not only that, when you get into chapter 8, it’s not just that we will be spectators of God’s glory, it’s also that we will be participants in God’s glory.
Romans 8:18 says, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory—” get this “—which will be revealed in us.” It’s not that you’re just going to be watching a show called the glory of God, like someone in the grandstands watching a football game. That’s not the idea at all; it’s rather that you are going to be drawn into this drama so that you yourself are a participator in the glory of God. You will be glorified together with Christ.
In fact, this is so certain that Romans 8;29-30 tell us that God has “predestined us to be conformed to the image of [Christ],” and then verse 30, “Those whom he predestined he also called, those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
This is what we’re waiting for. We’re waiting for glory. We’re waiting for that day when we will be utterly transformed in mind, in soul, and in body, and it will mean not only that in that day will you be free from the power of cancelled sin—you’re already free from the power of sin, you’re already free from the condemnation of sin, but there’s coming a day, brother and sister, when you will be free from the very presence of sin! Sin will be eradicated.
Not only that, but your body, which right now is subject to decay—right? The older you get, the more you realize this, right? You have to get glasses because you can’t see anymore, you start walking more slowly because you have an ache in your back, you start getting arthritis and gray hairs and all the rest. You’re slowly aging. You’re dying right now. You’re dying. You know why? Because you’re not glorified yet. You’re dying because your body is subject to decay.
Paul is telling us that a day is coming when all of that’s going to be reversed, and it’s going to happen in that moment when Jesus Christ comes again in his visible, glorified humanity, and we will see him, and in a twinkling of an eye, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15, we will be transformed, and our lowly bodies will be made like unto his glorious body, and all of the sickness and all of the sorrow and all of the death, all of the decay...everything wrong will be made right. Everything that plagues us will be taken away, everything sad will be untrue, to quote Tolkien. That’s what we’re waiting for. We’re waiting for glory.
Why is this our hope? There’s only one reason why this is our hope: it’s because of the sovereign mercy and grace of God. Vessels of mercy who are prepared for glory.
How then do we respond to the sovereignty of God in his authority, in his wrath and judgment, in his mercy and salvation? Let me give you three ways as we draw to a close.
Number one, submit to his sovereignty. That is, submit your mind and your heart and your will to God’s claims in Scripture of having the authority and of the right to do with his creatures as he pleases.
I began with Jonathan Edwards, who found this doctrine horrible. He did not like the sovereignty of God. You know what happened to him? Well, he got converted, for one thing, but he came to understand the sovereignty of God in Scripture in such a way that it absolutely changed his whole perspective. I want you to listen to the end of the quote, as he describes how he went from contending against God’s sovereignty to actually delighting in it.
He said, “There has been a wonderful alteration in my mind with respect to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. The doctrine has very often appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.”
Brothers and sisters, this is often the case. It’s often the case that when you move from contending against it to grasping the glory of it, grasping the beauty of it, grasping the mercy of God, the grace of God; when you begin to recognize that the reality is that I deserve nothing, I have no claims on God, but God in his sovereign kindness, in his goodness, in his mercy has chosen me, he has brought me to faith, he’s led me to repentance, his goodness has brought me all the way to the cross of Christ and I know that my sins are forgiven, I know that I have eternal life, and I think, “How did I come to believe this?” I have to trace it all back to the Spirit of God and to the word of God and the grace of God in my life.
When I come to see that, what does it do? It produces joy, it produces delight. It actually leads to an assurance, a deep assurance of salvation, because you know for the first time that the reason why you’re saved is not because of anything you did, it’s because of what God has done. It’s because of God’s grace given to you in Christ. So submit to, even delight in the sovereignty of God. That’s number one.
Number two, repent in response to God’s patience. God is patient with the vessels of wrath, and I’ll just remind us that when Paul talks about wrath in other places he also describes even believers as people who at one time were subject to the wrath of God. In Ephesians 2 he tells us that we were at one time “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Let me just remind you of what Paul says in Romans 2:4-5, because he uses many of the same words that he’s using here in Romans 9. In Romans 2 he says, “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 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.”
Don’t miss this. God’s kindness, God’s patience, is meant to lead you to repentance. Therefore, when you consider the patience of God, how he has borne with you, he has not sent you to hell, he has not taken your life—you’re alive! You’re hearing the gospel! There’s an opportunity right now, today. The mercy of God is available for you! You today can believe and repent and be saved. You can be completely forgiven of all of your sins. You can be assured of eternal life. Why? Because of the patience of God. Therefore respond to his patience. Don’t refuse it, don’t resist it.
Then number three, adore his glorious mercy. Submit to his sovereignty, repent and respond to his patience, and adore his glorious mercy, remembering that that mercy, free though it was in the sovereign and eternal counsels of God, free though it was, it was also costly.
What did it cost? It cost the blood of Jesus Christ. It cost the cross of Jesus Christ. In fact, when you look at the cross, in the cross you see as you see nowhere else in all of history or in all of the universe, in the cross you see the wrath of God and the mercy of God coming together. Listen: when Jesus died on the cross, he died as a propitiation, an atoning sacrifice, to satisfy the wrath of God; and he did! He completely paid for the sins of all who would ever come to him, all who would ever believe. He bore that wrath, so that if you believe in Christ there’s no wrath for you; and he did it in love, he did it because of God’s mercy. He did it because God loves to save sinners. Therefore, adore the mercy, the mercy that leads you to glory, the mercy that is glorious in its character, the mercy which is demonstrated in the cross.
I just want to close with these wonderful words from the old hymn-writer William Rees. I love this hymn, and I probably quote this about twice a year, so you’ve heard it. Let me just remind you of them.
“On the mount of crucifixion
Fountains opened deep and wide.
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Flowed incessant from above;
And heaven’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.”
The mercy of God, the wrath of God, the peace of God, the justice of God; it all comes together in the cross of Jesus Christ, and that’s our hope.
I’ll just end the same way I did last week. If you’re sitting there and you’re asking the question, “How can I know that this is for me? How can I know that I’m elect, that I’m chosen, that I’m predestined?” here’s the only way: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. Let’s pray.
Great God of mercy and of grace and of love, we bow before you this morning with deep gratitude in our hearts for your mercy, for your compassion, and even for your sovereignty, because we see that if we had been left to ourselves, if we had been left in our own sin, we never would have been saved; but in your free and sovereign mercy and grace you have chosen us and redeemed us and sealed us by your Spirit, you’ve brought us to yourself. So we say thank you.
Father, I want to pray this morning for anyone who does not believe or has never believed up to this point. I pray that today would be the day of salvation. I pray that today would be the day of mercy and of grace, that people would come to Christ in saving faith, would look to the cross and look to that fountain of love and grace and mercy that flows through the cross, that flows from your eternal throne.
Lord, I pray for any who are struggling with the teaching this morning. I do recognize that we’re in all different places in our doctrine, and I just pray, Lord, that we would all submit our minds to Scripture and be willing to come back to Scripture again. I say that for myself as well. May we submit to the authority of your word, to what you have revealed of yourself in your word.
Lord, I pray that as we’ve considered these things today that it would produce in our hearts genuine worship and praise, that with Paul we would say, “Oh, the depths of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” So Lord, as we continue to sing together and to pray together as we come to the Lord’s table, may we do so with hearts of worship, praising you and adoring your mercy, your grace, your goodness. We pray that you would be glorified in it; in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.