It is enough to try and grasp just what this text is saying. No need for special attention to be given to implications and applications—if we just get what Paul is teaching here, it will more than suffice to send an earthquake through our lives. For this text reaches to the very foundations of reality. Paul starts by presenting us with a troubling question. Does what he has been saying about God's sovereign choosing for membership into his people imply some sort of unrighteousness on God's part? Is there something wrong how God does this? Is it a bad thing—an unjust thing? To better understand this question and the tension being raised, it serves us to note a couple other places where the Greek word behind “injustice” (or “unrighteousness”) is used in Romans. We learn from Romans 1:18 and 2:8 in particular that the sense is in essence a contradiction of the truth. And so the question Paul is asking is whether election unto salvation contradicts the truth? The answer, of course, is yes... if your worldview begins with man. If you are a humanist (and I fear many of us are, though we know it not), then certainly an individual's salvation depending upon God alone and not upon any effort or desire of the individual is...well... wrong . But then again Paul wasn't asking if God's election contradicts the “truth” presented in society, but rather whether it contradicts the Truth founded upon the LORD himself. And so Paul brings us back to God's self-revelation in the very name he has made himself known to us by—Yahweh, the LORD—that is, the “I am.” What does it mean? Exodus 33:19 tells us. There, God proclaims his name's meaning as the one who gives out grace and mercy on the basis of sovereign freedom alone. This is who God is. This is where Truth starts. God most certainly has not contradicted the truth with sovereign election—he has established it! Just as he did with Pharaoh, so he does with all. He has mercy upon some and hardens others, all in order to proclaim his name—the LORD—in all the earth. Breathtaking. Humbling. And perhaps scary. If this is not the “truth” you know, then I invite you to have your “truth” remade. Allow this text to send an earthquake through your life and establish it afresh upon the true foundation—the sovereign “I am.”
Main point summary
God's sovereign election is not unrighteous, for he is at the core sovereignly free with grace—the implication of which is that an individual's salvation ultimately depends on God alone.
What shall we say then?
Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν;
w Is there injustice on God’s part?
μὴ ἀδικία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ;
By no means!
For he says to Moses,
τῷ Μωϋσεῖ γὰρ λέγει•
x “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
ἐλεήσω ὃν ἂν ἐλεῶ
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
καὶ οἰκτιρήσω ὃν ἂν οἰκτίρω.
So then it depends not on human will or exertion, 1
ἄρα οὖν οὐ τοῦ θέλοντος οὐδὲ τοῦ τρέχοντος
but on God, who has mercy.
ἀλλὰ τοῦ ἐλεῶντος θεοῦ.
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,
λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφὴ τῷ Φαραὼ
y “For this very purpose I have raised you up,
ὅτι εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο ἐξήγειρά σε-
that I might show my power in you,
ὅπως ἐνδείξωμαι ἐν σοὶ τὴν δύναμίν μου
and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
καὶ ὅπως διαγγελῇ τὸ ὂνομά μου ἐν πάσῃ τῇ γῇ.
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills,
ἄρα οὖν ὃν θέλει ἐλεεῖ,
and he hardens whomever he wills.
ὃν δὲ θέλει σκληρύνει.