On Romans 9:14-20
In Romans 9:14-20 Paul writes, "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?"
What does Paul say? He says that salvation is based on God's choice, and it is not man's will that is ultimate in this matter. He then says that He raised up Pharaoh to smash him, as a witness to the world. Next Paul says "hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." Paul is speaking of God working with and in men. To some He shows mercy and others He hardens.
This is a repugnant thought to most of us, and Paul knows how you, me and nearly everyone else, when we first see these things in Scripture, will react negatively to them. He knows we will recoil in horror from these hard things he is saying. They are anathema to us; we don't like it. Has God made us robots? If this is true than we wish to ask as he says the Romans and ask "Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?"
Now look at Pauls answer "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, 'Why hast thou made me thus?'"
Notice Paul didn't even answer the question that he asked for us. Instead he says that we are completely out of bounds to even ask such a question. Paul, in these verses, has personally taken on the robot/puppet/fatalism arguments that are so often thrown out by those that dislike these teachings, and tells us that we creatures are out of line to ask this question. We are God's creation and He does as He will with us.
Paul is not yet finished with his line of thought. He then asks "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" Folks, we are the clay. God according to His will has made some for honor and some for dishonor. HARD STUFF, but Paul is not yet through. He now says "What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory..."
Those are more difficult words. Paul says that God "willing shew His wrath, and make His power known, endured with long suffering vessels of wrath fitted for destruction." The word "fitted" means prepared. After quoting the Greek sentence, Thayer’s in his Greek Lexicon, gives this rendition "of men whose soulds God has so constituted that they cannot escape destruction." Those of us who receive mercy were "prepared afore," which simply means ordained before hand. Some folks are ordained for mercy and some are not.
It should not seem odd that Paul should make such strong statement about God's sovereignty over the salvation of men. I am sure you recall his dramatic conversion. After that Ananias came to Paul and said to him "The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth."
So Paul was chosen by God. Notice God chose Paul (of course Paul responds in faith, but it is the Lord who initiated things). But you will say, Paul is special; he is different from the rest of us. I don't think you will find Paul making such a claim. Let's see what he says in his epistles.
"Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine." (Rom 16:13)
Rufus too was chosen by God, so it is not only Paul.
"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:" (Eph. 1:4)
The "us" here is speaking of Christians; we were chosen before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him. We are all by nature sinners, fallen in Adam, at enmity with God, spiritually dead. But God, before he created anything chose us to be holy. He makes us holy in this life by the imputation of Christ righteousness. It is His choosing and it is he that makes us blameless in Christ.
Not only that, but He predestinated (ugly word indeed and it means the same as foreordain) the same group "us," who were chosen in eternity, unto adoption. Ok, but it is still because of my will. Right? No. It is according to God's will.
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Eph. 1:5)
Of course Paul says the same thing about WHO's will is the deciding factor in Romans 9:15-16 and there too he makes clear that it's God's will and not man's.
This stuff, at first , rubbed me the wrong way. I literally hated these things. When studying this subject many years ago I threw a book promoting the biblical doctrine of predestination across my bed room as hard as I could and cried out "I'm not going to believe that garbage." I prayed that God would show me that it was a lie, instead He showed me that these things are indeed true. He then gave me the grace to bow before His Holy Word and accept even this hard doctrine that rubs our "self" and our desire for autonomy the wrong way.
Today, I love these things, because they give God all glory, honor and praise. All things were made for His glory not ours.
Soli Deo Gloria,