Could we evidence this kind of self-centered sovereignty? Why did you give me this husband or this wife? Why did you not give me a husband or a wife? Why did you give me these children? Why did you not give me children? Why did you give me my parents? Why was I born into this family, in this city, in this state, in this country? Why did you place me here now? Why did you place me in this generation, in this culture?
Why did you make me like this? So Paul begins by rebuking the human heart. Students sometimes think about and even worry about the end of the world. They wonder when and how such a thing might happen. At one point in time, the loudest voices proclaiming the end of the world were street preachers who wore billboards over their shoulders and screamed at passersby. But nowadays, that message is also being proclaimed on the lips of secular scientists, scholars and media personnel. It's no longer taboo to talk about the end of the world. The only question that still remains is, what will our exit strategy be? This is Wisdom for the Heart and Stephen called this message, Exit Strategy. We have been swimming in deep waters here these weeks as it relates to the doctrine of election and God's sovereignty.
And we're going to exercise again all 48 ounces, right? And studying the nature and character of God. I am encouraged by St. Augustine who said this, it is God we are studying and we do not understand Him. For if we could understand Him, He would not be God. So we begin there.
So let's apply our quarter pound with cheese and see how far we can go, all right? Verses 14 to 18 is where we began and we read some of the most difficult verses in the New Testament, such as verse 17, where Paul writes for the scripture says to Pharaoh, for this very purpose, I raised you up. I raised you up to demonstrate my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth. Verse 18 is no easier. So then he has mercy on whom he desires and he hardens whom he desires. You remember Jonathan Edwards, his definition of God's sovereignty is this, it is God's absolute independent right of disposing of his creatures according to his own pleasure. That means that God has the right and will choose to save some and condemn others. God can show mercy to some and show judgment to others. He can raise up those who sin glorifies his justice and also raise up those whose salvation glorifies his mercy. And Paul, as we began to study last Lord's day begins to answer objections to those kinds of things I just said.
The kind of objections that would naturally flow out of the human heart. Verse 14, there is no injustice in God is there. In other words, the objection is you're not saying that that would make God unfair. God isn't unfair, is he? See anticipated the human response to the doctrine of election to be God isn't fair. And he answers in effect by saying that mankind is already sinful. God doesn't have to do anything for mankind to be judged. They're already condemned. God does not make men disbelieve.
They do that all by themselves very well. He does nothing for them to disbelieve, but he has to intervene for somebody to believe. That's why the doctrine as we talked about it, it evaluates or it entirely elevates our perspective of God. It completely encourages true worship of God.
It totally energizes our service for God and it wonderfully exalts the mercy and grace of God. Everybody's under condemnation. Everybody is a sinner.
Everyone suppresses and represses the truth. No one seeks after God. No one desires to please God.
That's the condition of depraved humanity. Divine election is the doctrine that magnifies the glory of God who in his mercy and by his grace chooses those upon which he will show mercy and grace. Now, Paul anticipates the next objection and he just simply records them for us under the movement of spirits guiding verse 19. You will say to me then, I know you're going to say this, why does God still find fault for who then resists his will?
That's the next objection. In other words, if God has chosen the elect according to his own will before man's will ever cooperated, that is God's will moved man's will to believe in him, then why does God hold the believer accountable? That doesn't seem fair since disbelieving man didn't really have a choice or a chance. Now, before I get into his answer, let me say this. These objections that Paul is raising irrefutably prove that Paul is teaching as we have been teaching the doctrine of divine election because of objections he's raising. He says exactly what we would say if we heard the truth of the doctrine. Wait, God doesn't seem fair. Wait, how can he hold sinful, disbelieving man accountable?
It's interesting. I think that Romans 9 wouldn't be all that necessary if he wasn't teaching what we believe he is teaching. There are many who believe in prescience. They simply say the foreknowledge of God has no intention.
It has no purpose. God just simply sees down the corridor of history. He sees those who will believe in him and then he says, well, I'm going to call you my elect.
I'm going to call you the ones I predestined. Well, if that's true, Paul would never have to deal with these objections. God is unfair and man doesn't have a chance without divine election. We don't need this. We don't need these verses.
We don't need this response. If man simply chooses God, God could never be accused of being unfair. If God simply predestined those whom he knew ahead of time would believe, then no one will ever complain they couldn't resist the will of God because it wasn't his will. It was his will. We could just go from chapter 8 right into chapter 12.
We don't need chapters 9, 10, and 11. The fact, however, that Paul's readers are complaining that God is unfair and now here in verse 19 that mankind doesn't seem to have a chance is proof that Paul views God as entirely sovereign in election. God's sovereignty seems perfectly fair if we define it to where the human mind is sovereign. If the human mind chooses God first rather than last, if the human mind determines eternal destiny, then God seems very fair, doesn't he?
We would never raise the objection. Be careful with the way you use the word fair. Fair has to deal or do with a philosophy of justice. You never want to say to God, I want justice from you. No, you don't want to do that. You say I want mercy. Police officer pulls me over.
I'm speaking hypothetically for the sake of illustration. Let me see your driver's license. I give it to him. He goes back to his car.
I had this happen long, long time ago. And he came back to me and said, Mr. Davey, you've got a perfect driving record. I felt like saying, no, I got a good attorney.
You got a perfect driving record. I don't want to mess it up here. Be careful. Slow down. I did not say to him, listen, man, do your job. Give me justice. Come back here.
I said, really? You never ask God for justice. You ask him for mercy.
Well, what about this question? Verse 19. Why does God then still find fault? Let me paraphrase the objection and amplify it by saying this. Listen, since the unbeliever doesn't have a chance to believe, since the will of God is not chosen to grant him the gift of faith whereby he can believe, how can God then hold the unbeliever accountable?
That's what he's saying. And that is the objection that comes to our mind when we hear the truth of divine election. It's a great question. And I want to warn you now for the second Sunday in a row, you're going to struggle with his response. We would never come up with his answer. We'd never come up with it on our own, which is another proof of divine inspiration to begin with. Paul in this paragraph delivers a rebuke, a rebuke in three phrases.
He basically says the same thing only a little differently with each one. Number one, basically, who are you to challenge God? Look at verse 20. Who are you? Oh, man, who answers back to God. Paul is saying in effect that the objection rises out of the rebellion of the human heart against the sovereignty of God. It just speaks to our desire to be sovereign. So before he even begins to address the issue, he says, Who are you? Oh, man, to even challenge God. The truth is, we do want the last word, don't we? And so we exercise this pagan self-centered self-serving attitude very early in life. We are going to have the final word.
In fact, we're going to have the first word. I mean, if I'm going into heaven, it's going to be me and my choosing. We so easily talk back to God. And Paul says, you know, who do you think you are? Basically, who are you to challenge God? And I've had a few people over the years actually tell me, you know, I'm going to tell God a few things. I got a few things to tell them.
Oh, God does not answer to us. I was in the grocery store last week. Great place to see the demonstration of human nature and the lives of people. Just go in there and keep your eyes open.
Fascinating place. I was standing in line with my nutmeg and eggs and bread. And standing next to me in line, to my right was a gentleman and a little girl. And she looked to be about the age of four, maybe three or four. And she was sitting up in the buggy seat.
And from there, she was ruling the universe. You know, he weighed about 250 pounds. She weighed about 30, but it didn't take long to know who the real heavyweight was. You know, one point he told her, you know, put that down. She looked up at him, studied his face for a minute and then said, no. He kind of shook his head, you know, turned away, but she wasn't finished with him. She reached up and she took his face and her hands so that he had to look down at her. And she looked at him and she said, no, I was ready to help him.
I mean, all he had to do was tag me and I would have jumped into the ring and bailed him out. I was leaning over the rope ready to help him. I know what it's like.
I've got a little girl. Sir, you're not going to make it out of the store alive. You need help. And he didn't. He didn't make it.
The ambulance came and took him away and she drove. I saw the whole thing. Human nature, you know, just asserts its desire for sovereignty early in life. We will choose. We will decide. And we grow up to be big people and we look at God and we say we will choose.
We will decide. Paul is saying here, how dare you, little man? Oh, puny man. Talk back to God. Wow.
What an answer so far. All right. Secondly, he basically says, who are you to question the creator? Notice the middle part of verse 20.
The thing molded will not say to the molder, why did you make me like this? In other words, the creature is now going to presume to speak to the creator and question his sovereign choice on what he has made out of his creatures. This presumes that the unbeliever has the right to question the authority of God over their eternal destiny.
The opposite is actually true. The word of God is already declared in Romans 3, verse 19. Every mouth shall be closed and all the world shall be accountable to him. Now, last Lord's Day, I mentioned a little bit about Jonathan Edwards, remember? He also wrote a sermon entitled The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners. How's that for a title? The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners.
That's not going to be a bestseller today. Jonathan Edwards challenged the world of his generation, who, like our generation and in every generation, tend to join the church. And in his sermon, his first point was, as he talked about the sovereign right of God, he also attempted to explain that mankind is responsible. And we'll deal with that, by the way, in Romans chapter 10, as we talk about the responsibility of man and what seems to be, from our perspective, then the choosing of man in salvation, as Paul balances this whole study.
But Edwards said, basically, you're going to get what you deserve. He preached, you do not think often of God. In fact, you think of him hardly at all, except to blame him when things do not go as you would like. You do not want to be with God. You do not spend time in prayer or Bible study. You have slighted God in thousands of ways throughout your entire life.
Everything you are and have comes from God, but you have not been thankful for it. You have refused to hear him, even though you have heard his gospel preached, even though you may have read the good news, you possess a Bible. Has God then not spoken?
Have you never felt your heart moved? Have you not felt your will challenged? Some in some parts of the world have not received this, but you have received it again and again, and still you turn a deaf ear in God's direction.
You will not hear him. Why then should he hear you, even if you cry out to him in desperation at the last day? Is God obliged to seek your welfare when you yourself will not seek him and, in fact, pursue your own destruction willingly? That kind of preaching is rarely heard today. This is where the thing molded says to the molder, why did you make me like this? And let me just stop here for a moment and address the believer in the way that we often have this same attitude in our own hearts as we talk back to God.
Could we evidence this kind of self-centered sovereignty? Why God did you make me with these strengths and these weaknesses? Why did you give me this husband or this wife? Why did you not give me a husband or a wife? Why did you give me these children? Why did you not give me children? Why did you give me my parents? Why was I born into this family, in this city, in this state, in this country? Why did you place me here now? Why did you give me God, this personality and not another? Why did you make me carry these diseases?
Why did you give me these gifts and not others? Why did you place me in this generation, in this culture, with these conditions? Is that not like the pagan who would say, who would presume the molded thing saying to the molder, why did you make me like this?
So Paul begins by rebuking the human heart. Why do you challenge God first? Second, who are you to question the Creator?
And then third, who are you to direct the potter? Look at verse 21. Does the potter have a right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? In other words, doesn't the potter have all the authority? Does he confer with the clay? Does he ask the clay what the clay wants his sovereign hands to do?
Or does he have authority? Does he have the right to take from that lump one that he will show mercy and the other he will allow to remain, as it were, senseless clay? Paul is assuming or implying then that the authority rests not in the clay, but in the potter. And the reason the human heart doesn't really pander to this kind of analogy is because we don't really think of ourselves as all that common. We don't view ourselves as a wet lump of clay. We're not senseless clay. Ladies and gentlemen, this analogy simply validates the huge gap between the mind of clay and the mind of the Creator. And we spend more time on the mind of clay. And as a result, we have lost sight of the mind, as it were, of the Creator. Now in verse 22, Paul begins to answer a little further by just asking more questions.
Doesn't that irritate you when somebody answers the question with a question? What if God, although willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? Think about that.
Verse 23, and he did so in order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory. Now again, he turns our thinking upside down. The world tends to think of sin and so do believers as some sort of thing that God allows to happen. But if he just had more power, he'd stop it.
Evil wouldn't happen in the world. So evil happens and people say, why did God let that happen? But Paul says that sin and sinful humanity actually give God opportunity to reveal his glory.
We don't think like that. Even God's anger, vengeance, his retribution poured out on sinners. He indicates in this answer, that will be worthy of our worship for his holiness will be displayed. And we will say with satisfaction, justice has been rendered. Have you ever watched a television show where they're chronicling some criminal who's been caught and he's a serial killer and he's been brutal and his defense comes up with some sort of weird concoction of a defense and it doesn't work. And after deliberation, the jury comes in and they read the verdict guilty. And in your heart, you say, good justice has been served.
And you watch the television crew as they get around, perhaps the parents of the murdered victim. And they say, what did you think about the fact that they condemn that man to die? And they say, we know justice has been served. People are sinning against God.
They offend his character and his nature. And God is saying that his wrath and retribution will be worthy of our worship because it will demonstrate his holy righteousness. And we, as terrifying as it may sound now, will say, justice has been rightly done. Think of the closing chapters of the end of human history as we know it. Think of God's wrath upon the world. Think of the plagues, the fiery judgment, the curses of the apocalypse.
You just read the end of the story. Christ comes with his sword upon his white stallion. His power originally displayed in creation will be equally glorious in destruction. And ultimately, he will burn this planet in a fiery ball.
It is reserved for judgment. And we will do nothing less than sing holy, holy, holy. His glory is demonstrated in his wrath. And then he says in verse 23, all that's going to do as well is highlight the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory.
Listen, ladies and gentlemen, the primary purpose for your salvation is not the benefit that it may bring you. It is the honor that it brings God. It is the demonstration of his mercy upon we who were condemned.
It simply highlights his glory. Believers are not saved on their own merit, anything they could possibly do. But in order that God, by the means of his mercy, will display his glory and his grace, we are saved by and through Christ alone. You hand him your baptism and you rob from his glory. You hand him your membership or your good deeds, your philanthropy or whatever, and you offend the demonstration of his mercy. You can hand him nothing. He will not share his redemptive glory and mercy. By the way, you ought to know something that isn't easily seen in the English language. Look at verse 22, the last line Paul writes, vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.
We have to be careful we're on air here. This doesn't mean that God is preparing people for hell. It means people are preparing themselves for hell. In fact, the Greek verb translated prepared here uses the middle voice. You could translate it the vessels of wrath prepare themselves for destruction. In other words, God doesn't make sinful men for hell. He simply leaves them in their sin, which they willingly embrace, and they prepare themselves for destruction or ruin.
You can translate the word. The perfect tense indicates that this ruin is not some act of annihilation. This is an ongoing perpetual state of ruin. But now notice the contrast, verse 23, vessels of mercy, which catch this, he prepared beforehand for glory. The vessels of mercy cannot prepare themselves for glory. God must do that. So in other words, what he's saying is that if you today are going to hell, you're doing that all by yourself. And if you're going to heaven, God is doing that all by himself. And in either case, his glory is demonstrated and his justice on the one hand is served and on the other hand is mercy is given. So you come away and you have the same thought that you have every time you enter this doctrine. Oh, puny little me and oh great sovereign God.
Let me just say a word to the believer, the vessel of mercy. I don't know if you've ever heard Garrison Keillor, that storyteller. Fascinating man. Sometimes I got to turn him off.
Sometimes I can listen to a whole story. But he recalls the childhood drama of being chosen last for the baseball teams. Many of you guys could maybe remember that, you know, you choose up teams and you're hoping you get chosen early.
And the fact that you don't is not too impressive. He wrote, the captains are down to their last grudging choices. You know, that slow kid for catcher, somebody to stick out in right field where nobody ever hits the ball. They choose the last ones two at a time because they really hardly matter. I'll take you and you.
It really doesn't make much difference. Sometimes I will be chosen as high as the sixth person chosen, but usually much lower. But just once I would have liked Darryl to have picked me first and said, him, I want him, the skinny kid with the glasses and the black shoes.
You, come on. But I have never been chosen with that kind of enthusiasm. Well, I want to tell you something, you vessels of mercy that you were chosen early and with great enthusiasm. Paul wrote, he chose us in him before the creation of the world. In order that the kind intention of his will would lead us to the praise of the glory of his grace.
You know something? You can do nothing but leave here with gratitude because he chose you early and by his mercy and it had nothing to do with you. Again, you might ask, well, how can I know I'm a vessel of his mercy? Well, the wonderful thing is the clay in the Potter's hand that asks for mercy receives mercy from the Potter's hand.
It's amazing how that works. Have you asked for mercy? If you have, you are a vessel of mercy proven by your request for it, where you have come to God and you have said, I bring nothing in my hands.
I have nothing to offer you. I simply throw myself upon the mercy of God. And Jesus said, all that the father has given to me, they're going to come to me.
And the one who comes to me, I will never cast out. We're glad you joined us today here on Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. If you'd like to know more about the gospel and how you can respond in faith to the salvation God offers, we have a resource to help you. We call it God's Wisdom for Your Heart. You'll find it at wisdomonline.org forward slash gospel. It's also on the Wisdom International smartphone app. Read through that resource today and respond to the truth. If you do that, we'd like to hear about it. Give us a call today at 866-48-BIBLE. Then join us next time here on Wisdom for the Heart.
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