Main point summary
God is certainly not unrighteous when He shows mercy to whom He wills. Nor will the Creator be found guilty by His creatures. All people would perish without the mercy of God.
What shall we say then?
Is there unrighteousness with God?
For He says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”
So then it is not of him who wills,
nor of him who runs,
but of God who shows mercy.
For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh,
“For this very purpose I have raised you up,
that I may show My power in you,
and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills,
and whom He wills He hardens.
You will say to me then,
“Why does He still find fault?
For who has resisted His will?”
But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?
Will the thing formed say to him who formed it ,
“Why have you made me like this?”
Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known,
endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy,
which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
even us whom He called,
not of the Jews only,
but also of the Gentiles?
As He says also in Hosea:
“I will call them My people,
who were not My people,
And her beloved,
who was not beloved.”
“And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea,
The remnant will be saved.
For He will finish the work
and cut it short in righteousness,
Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”
And as Isaiah said before:
“Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed,
We would have become like Sodom,
And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”
Justice and Mercy If God, in grace, loved Jacob and hated Esau because of Esau's evil deeds(9:13), is God unrighteous? Mercy is shown to a person at fault. God is not unrighteous when He doesn't show mercy to someone at fault. God loved Jacob, not because Jacob was better than Esau, but because of His great mercy and compassion (9:16) . Was God unjust in hating Esau? No, Esau's deeds deserved to be hated. God hates evil and remains sovereignly just. He hates evil and loves people so much that He gave Jesus Christ to save people from evil and the righteous consequences that is on every self-seeking and self-righteous sinner. Unfortunately, many reject His mercy and compassion and will reap judgment for what they sow. God raised the Pharaoh up, i.e. He showed mercy to him, so that God would show His power in the Pharaoh (9:17). The Pharaoh hardened his heart against the Israel and oppressed them wickedly for quite some time. God did not became unrighteous in hardening the Pharaoh. God simply gave him over to his desires which became his destruction (1:28). God is not unjust when he withholds His mercy because no one deserves mercy. Mercy is always granted. ( Hate and Love A number of times I heard the question of how God could hate anything if He claims to be love. The answer is that God hates evil because He is love. It is impossible to love Jews and not hate the holocaust, to love black people and not hate slavery, to love family and not hate divorce, to love babies and not hate abortion.) Verses 19-29 deal with a reply or an accusation to God: If God shows mercy and hardens whom He wills, then He shouldn't find fault, because no one can resist His will. Paul answers first by putting things in the right perspective and then he gives the reasons for why and how God does what He does. Peoples credibility to accuse God of wrong (9:20) First, how can finite created beings reply or accuse the infinite Creator God? Finite beings have no ground to do that. All the knowledge and ground they base their lives on comes in mercy from God. It seems wrong to assume that we have the right place to accuse God on the ground of our limited view of deeply complex things. Vessels of wrath (9:21-22) Paul uses the analogy of the potter and the clay to illustrate God's action and purpose with creation (9:21). God created people with honor, dignity and value to reflect His glory (Gen 1:27). We ruined it when we turned to our self and rebelt against God (2:5-11). All of us fall short of the glory of God (3:23). We became vessels of wrath that needed to be delivered through the redemption in Christ Jesus. God endures with much patience the people who reject His offer of forgiveness in Christ but finally will show His power in wrath on those who remain in their stubborn self-deceived ways (9:22). Who prepared the vessels of wrath for destruction? It does not say directly who it is. It would be wrong to think that it is God alone who prepares them for destruction. In context with chapter 1, we individually are responsible for what we worship. God endures sinners with much patience and desires all to be saved (1Tim 2:4). But He can give those who worship themselves over to their own self-exulting desires (1:28), which becomes their preparation for destruction (9:22). These are the vessels of dishonor on which God desires to show His wrath to make His power known. It will be a terrible day. All created beings will be in awe at the power He will show on the vessels of wrath. Some will be awefully horrified of what awaits them (Rev 6:16), others will be in adoration of the power of God when He finally executes justice on earth (Rev 6:10). Vessels of mercy (9:23-29) God makes His glory known in those whom He called to belong to Christ. Not only of the Jews but also of all other nations. God has prepared these people beforehand for glory. Nobody can boast of anything of what they have done. All Christians of all nations are a result of God's promise to call them His people. God also promised to save a remnant of Israel. Paul, and every Jew that comes to saving knowledge in Christ, is part of that remnant (11:1). All of the nation Israel would perish if God had not preserved some of them. ’Twas sov’reign mercy called me And taught my op’ning mind; The world had else enthralled me, To heav’nly glories blind. My heart owns none before Thee, For Thy rich grace I thirst; This knowing, if I love Thee, Thou must have loved me first. 'Tis not that I did choose Thee' by Josiah Conder