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June 26, 2020 12:01 am
Does God create some people simply so that He can pass eternal judgment on them? Today, R.C. Sproul teaches on a passage he considered to be one of the most difficult texts in all of Scripture.
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RC Sproul and Keith Matheson our toll-free number is 1-800-435-4343 that's 1-800-435-4343. In chapter 9 of Romans, the apostle Paul says that God prepares some vessels fit for destruction.
This is probably one of the most scary passages that we run up against.
Because the text certainly seems to suggest that God creates people for his own purpose, who are already wicked and then punishes them for acting out the state in which they were made manifest the proper interpretation of that passage certainly in spirit today are Renewing Your Mind, Dr. RC Spruill continues his series on the hard sayings of the Bible and this one has been a source of anxiety for any Christians over the years. So let's find out what Paul meant we come to the conclusion that all of our brief series on the hard sayings of the Bible and I think what I've done here to save the worst for last.
That is passage that I want to look out today I think is one of the most difficult texts in all of Scripture to deal with if not the most difficult and it's found in Paul's letter to the Romans in chapter 9 we remember that in chapter 9 Paul deals with the election of Jacob passing over of Esau in verse 14 of this chapter he raises this question. What shall we say then is there unrighteousness with God. Certainly not for he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion. So then it is not of him who will snore of him who runs of God who shows mercy when the Scripture says to the Pharaoh for this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show my power in you and that my name may be declared in all the earth. Therefore, he has mercy on whom he wills, and whom he wills.
He hardens now. We've already examined the problem of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart in an earlier message I read this portion of the text as background for the very difficult part that follows in verse 19, Paul says, anticipating objections to the doctrine of election you will say to me then why does he still find fault for who has resisted his will, but indeed all man. Who are you to reply against God, will the thing formed say to him who formed it, why have you made me like this does not the potter have power over the clay from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor. What if God wanted to show his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had prepared before hand for glory even asked whom he called, not of the Jews only, but also the Gentiles as he says also in Hosea I will call them my people, who were not my people, and her beloved, who was not beloved and it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, you are not my people there they shall be called sons of the living God.
Now what is so problematic about this text is Paul's reference to the metaphor of the potter who makes clay and who uses the clay to prepare vessels fit for destruction and he races the question will anyone say to God, why have you made me thus now the problem that this passage poses is this is the apostle saying that God creates human beings, evil, and then punishes them for the deeds that they perform according to their nature. Does God like the potter take a piece of clay, but from the very beginning, is destined to destruction, and he shakes it and molted. According to that end, and for that purpose, and after he makes it he condemns it to judgment and this is probably one of the most scary passages that we run up against. Because the text certainly seems to suggest that God creates people for his own purpose, who are already wicked and then punishes them for acting out the state in which they were made of. There are those who take this text to mean exactly that. Though they are few in number in church history. The normal understanding of this text is a reference to the broader context of the chapter, which deals with the election of Jacob rather than Esau, by which God shows mercy to one sinner and passes over the other sinner, but that both Jacob and Esau are considered in divine election as fallen sinners. One receives mercy the other receives justice and no one receives injustice and that's the problem that were going to deal with. Let me first of all, make a reference to the thinking of Martin Luther on this text. In his famous book the bondage of the Will. Luther makes this comment mere human reason can never comprehend how God is good and merciful and therefore you make to yourself a God of your own fancy who hardens nobody condemns nobody and pities everybody that's an interesting statement that Luther makes. There he speaking of course to a Rasmussen and talking about the propensity of the human heart to fashion God in man's own image and to create an idol in our understanding of God, the God that we want to believe in is a God who not only is sometimes merciful God who is always merciful and who never condemns anybody and never hardens anybody. Luther goes on to say you cannot comprehend how I just God can condemn those who are born in sin and cannot help themselves, but must buy a necessity of their natural Constitution continue in sin and remain children of wrath me say it again, you cannot comprehend how it just God can condemn those who are born in sin and cannot help themselves, but must buy a necessity of their natural Constitution continue in sin and remain children of wrath, Luther is saying we cannot see how God can be just in this manner, to have people who were born in a state of sin and the such a degree of sin that they are rendered morally incapable of turning themselves away from their sin and inclining themselves to righteousness and how can these people then be held accountable by a just God if they're only doing what comes naturally. If they're only working out what is their constituents of nature do. And Luther is saying that we cannot comprehend how a just God can condemn people who are born in sin.
Not before I finish this quote from Luther may just make the problem even more, exacerbating. I don't think there's any doubt that the New Testament and the Old Testament teach formally that we are indeed born in sin and that we are born with a fallen nature.
And then we sin according to that corrupt nature, and that God indeed expresses his wrath and judgment upon us even as we work out this sinful nature now. Luther's answer, which I find less than satisfactory, but nevertheless somewhat insightful. The answer is, says Luther God is incomprehensible throughout, and therefore his justice as well as his other attributes must be incomprehensible. It is on this very ground that St. Paul exclaims, oh, the depths and the riches of the knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out now, says Luther, his judgments would not be past finding out if we could always perceive them to be just now in a flip way we could say that Luther runs for cover here and hides under the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God and the incomprehensibility of God is really the first article of systematic theology by which we recognize that though we know God in part, we do not know him exhaustively and totally or comprehensively. It doesn't mean that we are completely ignorant of the character of God, but that his ways are not our ways and his ways are past finding out, and that there is a depth dimension to the very perfection of God that eludes our grasp and our ability to understand in every circumstance.
And so what Luther is doing here is reminding a Rasmussen and through a Rasmussen, reminding all who would read his work that God is incomprehensible not only in his grace not only in his being not only in his love, not only in his mercy, but also in his justice now in simple terms, that means we don't always understand the justness of God. But the Bible makes it abundantly clear that he is altogether. Just, and we assume his justice even when we cannot penetrate it and cannot understand it in its fullest measure and so I don't think that Luther is simply copping out here, but he is saying this remains a mystery to us how God can be just and still hold people responsible for their fallen nature and then judge them accordingly. Now again I want to back up a little bit and say we can understand this text into different ways.
One way is to say that we are born in sin because of Adam's sin, and that the fall of the human race in Adam involves a judgment upon the entire human race. Which human race was represented by Adam and Eve in the fall, not earlier in this epistle Paul in chapter 5 makes it clear that we in fact all did fall in Adam and that the situation or the condition that we call Original Sin is the judgment of God upon Adam and his seed for the first transgression that was made. Now that's one way of looking at this text, namely that Adam represented all of the human race, and had he passed his probation with flying colors. God would've rewarded him and all of his descendents and nobody would ever be complaining about injustice. However, the problem is that Adam fell, and with Adam we fell and we are born under the judgment for this representation that took place in the past. I don't have the time today to work through the whole doctrine of the fall we've done that in the past.
I'm sure will do it again in the future, but this is not nearly as difficult to deal with as the idea that God created Adam himself wicked as a vessel fit for destruction and then visited his judgment upon Adam when Adam sinned, as a say there are very few people who would go that far to suggest that there is that due in church history that some even some contemporary thinkers maintain that the inclination to evil by which Adam sinned in the first place was given to him by his creator and that God not only ordained that Adam sin he created him for that purpose and Adam, nevertheless, is somehow responsible for sending and he cannot say to God, why have you made me thus now there are two great theological questions that we encounter when we look at the origin of human sin. One question is this. If God created Adam and fallen good in every respect which the Bible seems to teach clearly. How could he have sent.
How could he have sinned without a prior inclination to sin, and if he had a prior inclination to sin. Where did he get it. If God made him inclined to sin, then the answer would be, God gave him the inclination to sin. So if God gave him the inclination to sin.
That would seem to suggest that God is the author of evil, and that God has done something wicked himself by creating Adam to sin with a propensity for sin with an inclination for sin, and so on.
Now the question ultimately is where we put the mystery. Those who argue that God did create Adam with some inclination to sin. Nevertheless, say that God is not unjust. In so doing, that's mysterious to them how God could create a person with a disposition to sin and then punish that person for exercising that disposition and still be just and doing it is how that can be remains a mystery to them the advantage of that position is that it retains clearly the sovereignty of God. There is no lack of God's sovereignty in that what it does raise a question about the goodness of God. On the other hand, if we say that God created Adam without any disposition to sin, then it remains an insoluble problem to answer the question. How then could he have sent and a host of theologians and church history of usually chosen to put the mystery at that point saying we don't know how Adam could have sinned. We only know that he did sin and that God didn't make him sin.
In that regard God's goodness is preserved, but it raises a question about his sovereignty and so were on the horns of a dilemma here which view we take is going to raise a significant question about the character of God, either with respect to his justice or with respect to his sovereignty. Most people don't feel the weight of the dilemma and simply say well it was man's free will that they haven't really wrestled with how free will is exercised Luther in his own work on Romans quotes Augustine from Augustine's in Caribbean, where he says this lesson. Augustine writes quote the whole human race was condemned in its apostate root by a divine judgment. So just that. Not even if a single man were saved from it. No one could possibly rail against God's justice and those that are saved had to be saved on such terms, that it would show, by contrast with the greater number of those not saved but abandoned to their holy just damnation what the whole mass deserved and to what end God's merited judgment would have brought them had not God's unmerited mercy intervene when Augustine is saying that clearly here is that this judgment is a judgment given to the whole human race after the fall, and that after the fall. Once the world is fallen, God is under no obligation, according to his justice. To save a single person and if every person perished after Adam.
God would be perfectly just in condemning them and so we see that Augustine takes the position here that this being made sinful is itself a judgment on the fall of Adam. The question is which of these views is Paul teaching I think he's teaching the latter rather than the form because the context in which he is writing here is emphasizing the mercy of God on sinners and that is the general concept here in the text. We know that Pharaoh was judged for his sin after he was pardoned that he was a sinner before he was pardoned and he is responding to the statement he has mercy on whom he wills, and whom he wills. He hardens and you will say to me. Why then does he still find fault for who has resisted his will and Paul answers but indeed a man who are you to reply against God, and so on. In verse 22. What if God wanted to show his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction that there is a certain patience and long-suffering that God is manifesting to people who are manifestly wicked but he says he prepared them for destruction. The one thing I want us to notice.
In closing, is that Paul contrasts those who were prepared for destruction with those who were prepared for mercy. The voice of the verb is used here to prepare is passive with respect to those vessels fit for destruction and active with respect to those vessels fit for mercy. And there's something in that distinction that I think is important. It's one thing to say that God actively prepared a vessel fit for destruction. It's another thing that he did it passively. The fact it is passive in a certain sense absolves God from being the author of the well that is a difficult passage is that if that were grateful for the fact that Dr. RC Sproul never shied away from difficult passages like that and I think we could easily see they're not just his mastery of theology, but his mastery of the English language as he explained it to us blessing. We just heard is from RC series hard sayings of the Bible and needed several of these series, including hard sayings of the apostles.
Hard sayings of the prophets and the hard sayings of Jesus and were offering all 30 lessons to you on a single USB drive for your gift of any amount. The leader ministries will be glad to send this to you. You can reach us by phone at 800-435-4343 but that you can also go online and give your firstname.lastname@example.org today is the last day were offering this resource. We hope you'll contact us soon again. The web address is Renewing Your Mind.org and her phone number 800-435-4343. Our mobile app gives you the opportunity to hear these programs on the go. There's an archive of past Renewing Your Mind episodes. There you can stream them for free at any time and if you're listening on the app today. Look for the button in your player that says view today's resource offer will be able to request this USB drive. There will before we go today. Here's RC with a final thought as we've wrestled with this text we remember again that in this text, in the broader context of Romans nine Paul appeals to the Old Testament book of Hosea, where God promises to make a people who were no people, and the analogy that he uses there again refers to the salvation of people who were fallen and he also uses the term old man but indeed a man who are you to reply against God. Our natural tendency is to interpret that question to mean all men universally. But if we look carefully at the book of Romans we will see that the expression old man, but Paul uses on several occasions in this epistle is a term that he uses to describe Israel and again the broader context of Romans nine has to do with God's being merciful to some within Israel and judging the rest, but the basis for that judgment is that those who were of Israel who were supposedly the holy people of God were nevertheless wicked and some of Israel were not to receive God's saving grace.
Next week we have a special guest Dr. John MacArthur will be here and we hope you will be as well for Renewing Your Mind. Beginning month see them