What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”
Starting at a young age, when one person gets a gift that we do not receive, something in us cries out, “that’s not fair!”. To be sure, there are times when unfairness is injustice.
For example, when I was a kid I knew a smart girl who studied really hard for a test, finished early, and left her test on her desk while she went to use the restroom. The boy next to her who did not study for the test erased her name at the top and replaced it with his own before turning it in to the teacher. He then wrote her name in on the top of his test. After the teacher graded everyone’s tests and returned them, the girl realized what had happened and I will never forget her yelling in class, “that’s not fair!” She was right. She suffered an injustice caused by wrongdoing. Some unfairness is like that: it’s wrong.
On another occasion, I remember as a kid going to my friend’s birthday party. Like me, he was the oldest child and had numerous younger brothers and sisters. When the time came for him to open all his gifts, his youngest sibling did not understand what was happening and was upset he got all the gifts and none were for them. Eventually, the frustrated youngest child tried to grab their brother’s gifts to steal them until they were stopped and corrected by the mom. The youngest child then cried out, “that’s not fair!”. The child was wrong. They had not suffered any injustice or wrongdoing.
When it comes to damnation, people who go to hell cannot cry, “that’s not fair!”. People in hell get exactly what they deserve. There is nothing unjust about it.
When it comes to salvation, is the gift of eternal life given through Jesus Christ to some but not all people unfair? These are the questions and objections that Paul anticipates we will have as he unpacks predestination in detail.
This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s Romans 8-9 commentary Duck Duck Doom. You can get a free e-book copy on our store here.
To find the new, free Romans 6-11 digital study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit realfaith.com or download the Real Faith app.