Romans 9 – Fear & Gratefulness

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Ex 33:19)

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth”(Ex 9:16).

Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”(Is 29:16). Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory. –Romans 9:14-23 (NIV)

One of the most contentious issues in Christianity is that of predestination. It is so easy to become mired in this – and this is important and true – unknowable argument. There is no way for you or I to know what the right answer is with predestination. We can say we think it is that way or this way, but to know for sure requires more processing power than our minds possess.

Let us suppose, though, that predestination in its most Calvinist form is true and that only predestination is true – that we play no part in our salvation, not choosing God or reaching back to Him and so on. Let us take this passage from Romans 9 on its own. If we do we have one of two overpowering responses: fear or gratefulness.

Fear: If only predestination is true then God, in His sovereignty, determined some of His creation for glory and salvation and others for damnation all before there was an opportunity for any other choice and prior to any sinful act. Some were created only for destruction, or as Paul describes above, to “make his power known” to those He had chosen to save. What if that vessel, chosen for damnation, is you? What if it is me? What if we have no choice?

Here is where it gets tricky: remember from my last post that those controlled with a sinful mind would not ever want or even be capable of pleasing God. So here is where the fear ends for those of us worried about pleasing God, right? If we are worried about pleasing God we are trying to, or desirous of, pleasing Him so we cannot be, at the same time, a vessel made for destruction. On the other hand, Jesus says in the horrific parable of the sheep and goats that some will go to their damnation after living lives that they thought were for God.

So which is it? I don’t know, but I do have a better understanding of the proverb that Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Pr 1:7). God is worthy of our fear indeed!

Gratefulness: The alternative response to fear is to be grateful. If only predestination is true and somehow we find ourselves on the road to Heaven and glory then we have nothing but gratefulness to show to the Lord because this result would be only by His mercy and grace because He chose us. It would have nothing to do with our actions (so none of us could boast, so to speak.)

If we believed that predestination is true and that we are saved by God’s grace it seems very likely that our gratitude would lead us to a full out, 100% on-fire life for the Lord. It would be the only appropriate response.

For the purpose of this post, we have imagined that predestination is true, but let me assert that since it is in the Bible it is undeniably true. Believers have no option but to believe that. So regardless of which side of the argument you are on, there can be no doubt that at the least predestination is also true and at the most it is solely true.

Since that is the case, even for those of us who are Arminian and believe that we are saved based upon our choice to follow Jesus or not to follow Him, we are also, at the same time, predestined to choose God or reject Him based upon His mercy and determination before creation began. Our only response should be fear or gratefulness, regardless of whether or not we believe we chose God or not.

What do you think?


One thought on “Romans 9 – Fear & Gratefulness

  1. Excellent counterpoint review of the tension in our lives as citizens of the Kingdom of God while we live in the world.For me – there are elements of fear and gratefulness in nearly every element of my spirituality. In both, I'm humbled before my mighty, benevolent, just, and awesome creator.

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