“So then, it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very reason I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.’ So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” (Romans 9:16-18)
Whatever happened to our freewill? Don’t we get to choose salvation? Or does God really control it all, with no “willing” or “running” on our part?
In Romans 9, Paul lays it all on the line. Our human perspective has limitations. We are not the center of the Universe. God is. We don’t get to decide what is fair and right, given our rebellious hearts and sinful inclinations. God does. We have no right to argue with Him or accuse Him. We have no business answering back to Him, or questioning Him (Romans 9:20-21).
He designed all of creation to reflect His glory, but we have consistently exchanged His glory for other things (Romans 1:23). We deserve nothing.
Understandably, it sounds capricious that God may harden some hearts and that some of us may even be “prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22). What sort of God is He? Isn’t it His will that “none should perish and all come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)?
There’s more to say on this topic, and I’ll tackle it briefly tomorrow, but Paul sets out to make a categorical case in Romans 9 — God is in charge!
For some of us, this may cause anxiety. We don’t like to think that God may shape our lives without us knowing!
On the other hand, this can also bring great relief, because the God who shapes our hearts — hardening or softening them — is the One whom I most need to renovate my own heart, even when I resist.
I need God to be bigger than my own will, stronger than my own resolve, and capable of doing for me what I might not even choose for myself.
In my flesh, I don’t like the idea of being a puppet on God’s string, though I’m sure He doesn’t like the idea of being my puppet either!
Paul reminds us with some no-nonsense language that God is at work, constantly, and we are not Him. While we wrestle with our questions, let’s not hesitate to give Him glory. We’re only here at all because of grace.