Romans (LXX)

ROMANS 9:15

(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 2/1/09 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)


Please turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 9. I'll read verses 6 through 24:

Romans 9: (6) Not, however, that God's Word has failed. For not all those of Israel [are] Israel, (7) nor because they are Abraham's seed [are] all children, but in Isaac a Seed shall be called to you. (8) That is: Not the children of flesh [are] children of God, but the children of the promise [are] counted for a seed. (9) For the Word of promise [is] this, According to this time I will come, and a son will be to Sarah. (10) And not only so, but also Rebekah conceiving of one, our father Isaac, (11) for [the children] not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of the [One] calling, (12) it was said to her, The greater shall serve the lesser; (13) even as it has been written, I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau. (14) What then shall we say? [Is there] not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be! (15) For He said to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will pity whomever I will pity. (16) So, then, [it is] not of the [one] willing, nor of the [one] running, but of the [One] showing mercy, of God. (17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very thing I raised you up, so that I might display My power in you, and so that My name might be publicized in all the earth. (18) So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens. (19) You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? (20) Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the [One] forming [it], Why did You make me like this? (21) Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor? (22) But if God, desiring to demonstrate His wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction, (23) and that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before prepared for glory, (24) whom He also called, not only us, of Jews, but also out of nations.

Last time, I spent a whole sermon on verse 14. The first part of the verse, which is made up of two questions, is an objection to what was just put forth. The objection that some people would make when they hear this truth is that God is being unfair or unjust. And the only way that the objection makes any sense is that what was just put forth was the truth that before Jacob had done anything good, God loved Jacob, and before Esau had done anything bad, God hated Esau. It is the truth of unconditional love and unconditional hatred - unconditional election and unconditional reprobation. False religionists, from those who do not profess to be Christians to liberals to Jehovah's Witnesses to open theists to Mormons to Roman Catholics to Arminians to Calvinists to conservatives, hate this truth. They are the objectors in verse 14. Now does this truth make us proud, as some of the God-haters would say? Of course not. It actually does the opposite - it humbles us in the dust before the Almighty God who does as He pleases. And it makes us thankful that He has chosen us, not because of anything we did or do, not because of anything He foresaw we would do, not because of anything done in us, but purely by His sovereign grace. And we'll get into that some more today, the Lord willing.

The first part of the answer to the objection is at the end of verse 14: "Let it not be!" It is the strongest of negations. There is NO WAY that God is unrighteous or unjust. God is the very essence of righteousness, justice, and equity. But He is NOT the essence of what natural MAN thinks is righteousness, justice, and equity.

That gets us into the next verse, which is a continuation of the answer to the objection. Let's read verse 15:

Romans 9: (15) For He said to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will pity whomever I will pity.

Paul uses something God said to Moses in the Old Testament to prove a point. Let's go back to the original passage, which is Exodus 33, verse 19:

Exodus 33: (19) And He said, I will cause all My goodness to pass before your face. And I will call out the name of Jehovah before your face. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.

What Paul quotes in Romans is the last part of Exodus 33:19.

I first want to answer the objection that Romans 9:15 and Exodus 33:19 say different things. Believe it or not, some who try to discredit the Bible use things like this to say that the Bible isn't infallible, since there's not an exact correspondence. So in this instance, they would say that Paul says in Romans 9:15 that God used the words "mercy" and "pity" when talking to Moses, while the original passage in Exodus 33:19 uses the words "gracious" and "mercy." Well, first of all, for anyone who knows anything about the Bible, NONE of these English words were used in Romans 9:15 and Exodus 33:19. Paul wrote in Greek, and Moses wrote in Hebrew. So we have to go back to the original languages to see if there is a discrepancy. In Exodus 33:19, the Hebrew word translated "gracious" is khaw-NAN. This word is used 32 times in the book of Psalms alone, and depending on what translation you're reading, it is translated as some form of the following words: "mercy,""grace," "favor," "pity," and "prayer" or "supplication." In the LITV, it is translated as some form of the word "mercy" 7 times, some form of the word "grace" 14 times, some form of the word "favor" 7 times, some form of the word "pity" 2 times, and some form of the word "pray" 2 times. So do you see what we have here? Let's keep going: The Hebrew word translated "mercy" in Exodus 33:19 is raw-KHAM. This word is used 4 times in the book of Psalms alone, and in the LITV, it is translated as some form of the word "love" 1 time, some form of the word "grace" 1 time, and some form of the word "pity" 2 times. In Romans 9:15, the Greek word translated "mercy" is usually translated "mercy" elsewhere in the LITV, and the Greek word translated "pity" is the only time this Greek word is used in the New Testament. So now let's put all of this together. In the original passage in Exodus, God first uses the Hebrew word that can be translated "mercy," and He then uses the Hebrew word that can be translated "pity." In our passage in Romans, Paul first uses the Greek word that can be translated "mercy," and he then uses the Greek word that can be translated "pity." There is absolutely no contradiction.

Now on to what God means in this passage. First, I want to define "mercy" and "pity." "Mercy" is not giving something someone deserves. In this case, we deserve the wrath of God, because we are sinners. When God shows mercy, He does not give us what we deserve. He does not give us wrath and punishment. "Pity" is having sympathy for or compassion for someone who is in a bad state. God had pity and compassion on us, who were in the chains of sin and death, and He rescued us from the prison of sin. God is truly a merciful and compassionate God.

Now what is God saying when He says that He will have mercy on whomever He will have mercy, and He will pity whomever He will pity? This isn't usually the way we speak, so I want to use an example. Just think if I said, "I will throw the ball to whomever I will throw the ball." What does that mean? It means that I will throw the ball to whomever I want, right? I have the ball, and I'm in charge, and I will choose to throw the ball to whomever I want. Now use this to think about what God means in this passage. Of course, I'm just a puny man with a ball, and all kinds of things could happen where I'm not able to throw the ball to whomever I want to throw the ball. But what about God? God is the all-sovereign, all-powerful creator and controller of the universe. And He says, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will pity whomever I will pity." God is saying, "I will have mercy on whomever I want, and I will pity whomever I want"! Now this is no puny man saying this. Does God accomplish everything He wants to accomplish? Let's turn to three passages that clearly show this. First, Job 23:13:

Job 23: (13) But He [is] in one [mind], and who can turn Him? Yea, His soul desires, and He does [it].

Next, Psalm 115:3:

Psalm 115: (3) But our God [is] in Heaven; He has done all that He has pleased.

And lastly, Isaiah 46:9-11:

Isaiah 46: (9) Remember former things from forever, for I [am] God, and no one else [is] God, even none like Me, (10) declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past those things which were not done, saying, My counsel shall rise; and, I will do all My desire; (11) calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My counsel from a far off land. Yes, I have spoken; yes, I will cause it to come; I have formed; yes, I will do it.

Is there any question that God accomplishes everything He wants to accomplish? So when God says that He will have mercy on whomever He wants, and He will pity whomever He wants, is there any question that He will do this? Of course not. God does whatever He wants.

But let's look at what else these words necessarily imply. Most religionists who come in the name of Christianity will say that God has mercy and pity on every single human being without exception. They could even use this verse out of context to say, "See, God has mercy on whomever He wants, and He pities whomever He wants, and He wants to have mercy and pity on everyone without exception, so He does have mercy and pity on everyone without exception." But do you see a big flaw here? It's easy to see when you read verse 15 in context. Let's read verses 11 through 15:

Romans 9: (11) for [the children] not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of the [One] calling, (12) it was said to her, The greater shall serve the lesser; (13) even as it has been written, I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau. (14) What then shall we say? [Is there] not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be! (15) For He said to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will pity whomever I will pity.

This is in the context of God's loving Jacob before he did anything good and hating Esau before he did anything bad, and the objection that God is unrighteous for doing so. So what sense would a statement about universal mercy and pity make here? Of course, it doesn't make any sense. God had mercy on and pitied Jacob, and he did not have mercy on and did not pity Esau. Thus, God says that He has mercy on whomever he wants, and He pities whomever He wants. This is necessarily implying that there are some who ARE objects of His mercy and pity, and there are some who are NOT objects of His mercy and pity. In other words, NOT EVERYONE is an object of God's mercy and pity. Who are the objects of God's mercy and pity? The ones to whom God WANTS to show mercy and pity. Who are NOT the objects of God's mercy and pity? The ones to whom God DOES NOT WANT to show mercy and pity. It's very simple. God chooses to show mercy and pity to certain people, and He chooses NOT to show mercy and pity to certain people. He loved Jacob and He hated Esau. And we have seen that God's love for Jacob and hatred for Esau were both unconditional - not based on any good or bad Jacob or Esau did. And further in this chapter, namely in verse 18, we see a contrast between God's showing mercy to whomever he wants and hardening whomever he wants, which shows even more clearly that there is no such thing as universal mercy. In a future sermon, the Lord willing, we will see that the difference between the elect and reprobate is not just one of showing mercy to one and withholding mercy from the other; God actually actively HARDENS the reprobate for destruction. But that is for another time, the Lord willing.

Some would say, "But what about Psalm 145:9?" Well, let's turn over there and read it:

Psalm 145: (9) Jehovah [is] good to all; and His tender mercies [are] over all His works.

This passage is used as a proof text for what is called "common mercy," which is the same thing as universal mercy. Some would even say that there is no such thing as common grace, but there is common mercy. The argument from Psalm 145:9 goes like this: Since God's tender mercies are over all His works, and His works include the reprobate, then God shows mercy to the reprobate. Let's see if this argument holds up.

Let's first read the entire Psalm 145 to get the context:

Psalm 145: (1) I will exalt you, my God, O King; and bless Your name forever and ever. (2) I will bless You every day; and I will praise Your name forever and ever. (3) Jehovah [is] great and to be greatly praised; and to His greatness there [is] no finding out. (4) Generation to generation shall praise Your works; and shall declare Your mighty acts. (5) I will muse on the glorious honor of Your majesty, and the things of Your wonderful works. (6) And they shall speak of the might of Your awesome works, and I will declare Your greatness. (7) They shall express the memory of Your great goodness, and they shall sing of Your righteousness. (8) Jehovah [is] gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great mercy; (9) Jehovah [is] good to all; and His tender mercies [are] over all His works. (10) All Your works shall thank You, O Jehovah; and Your saints shall bless You. (11) They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your might; (12) to make Your might known to the sons of men; yea, the glorious majesty of His kingdom. (13) Your kingdom [is] a kingdom to all eternities; and Your rule in all, generation and generation. (14) Jehovah upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down. (15) The eyes of all hope to You; and You give them their food in due time. (16) [You] open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (17) Jehovah [is] righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His works. (18) Jehovah [is] near to all who call on Him, to all those who call on Him in truth. (19) He will fulfill the desire of the ones who fear Him; and He will hear their cry and save them. (20) Jehovah watches over all who love Him; but He destroys all the wicked. (21) My mouth shall speak the praise of Jehovah; and all flesh shall bless His holy name forever and ever.

I think you can already see where we're going here just by seeing where verse 9 fits in with the rest of the Psalm. See how the context makes a difference?

Take a look at verse 8:

Psalm 145: (8) Jehovah [is] gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great mercy;

Grace and mercy are here tied together. If God is merciful to someone, He is gracious to someone. It also says that God is slow to anger. Is this talking about the reprobate? Psalm 7:11 says, "God is a righteous judge; and God is angry with evildoers every day." Is God slow to anger with the evildoers? Obviously not. Thus, verse 8 is not talking about every human being without exception.

Now take a look at verse 10:

Psalm 145: (10) All Your works shall thank You, O Jehovah; and Your saints shall bless You.

If "All Your works" includes the reprobate, then the reprobate will thank God. And you can see the parellelism in the second half of the verse where it talks about "Your saints." Thus, verse 10 is not talking bout every human being without exception.

Look further down at verses 14 to 20:

Psalm 145: (14) Jehovah upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down. (15) The eyes of all hope to You; and You give them their food in due time. (16) [You] open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (17) Jehovah [is] righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His works. (18) Jehovah [is] near to all who call on Him, to all those who call on Him in truth. (19) He will fulfill the desire of the ones who fear Him; and He will hear their cry and save them. (20) Jehovah watches over all who love Him; but He destroys all the wicked.

"Common mercy" and "common grace" advocates like to quote verses 14 to 16. But look at verse 19 and 20:

Psalm 145: (19) He will fulfill the desire of the ones who fear Him; and He will hear their cry and save them. (20) Jehovah watches over all who love Him; but He destroys all the wicked.

Common mercy? Common grace? Hardly! So, from all this, it is obvious that God's tender mercies that are over all his works do not include the reprobate.

Just as GRACE is tied to the gospel, so must MERCY be tied to the gospel. God does not show grace OR mercy apart from law and justice being satisfied for all to whom God shows grace and mercy. God's grace is His saving hell-deserving sinners based on the righteousness of His Son. God's mercy is His not sending some sinners to hell based on their character and conduct. Mercy and grace are inextricably linked. If you have uncommon grace, you must have uncommon mercy. If you have common mercy, you must have common grace.

Let us thank God for His grace and mercy that He shows to whomever He pleases, and thank God that He has been pleased to show grace and mercy to us, His people. Amen.


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