Romans 9:14-18 NASB
14 a What shall we say then? b There is no injustice with God, is there? c May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “ a I will have mercy on whom I have mercy , and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion .” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who a runs, but on b God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “ a For this very purpose I raised you up , to demonstrate My power in you , and that My name might be proclaimed 1 throughout the whole earth .” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He a hardens whom He desires.
Main point summary
God is perfectly just and righteous in willing mercy (and therefore, hardness) without condition, because of his purpose - his glory, the proclamation of his name in all the earth.
Context and References
Malachi 1:1-5 Exodus 33:18-19 Exodus 3:13-15 Exodus 9:14-17 What happens soon after Exodus 33: Cf. Exodus 34:5-7; 20:5 Note the supremacy of God's mercy, and the supremacy of God's justice - those who repent are pardoned, but those who hate God will deal with the consequences. A hardening of heart: Cf. Exodus 4:21; 7:3, 13, 22; 8:15, 19; 9:12; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 17 Also, cf. Deuteronomy 2:30; Joshua 11:20 God's purpose for his glory to be made known: Cf. Habakkuk 2:14, Romans 3:21-26
What is my reliance on God, who is? Are praises found on my lips as I realise that my will and running can never constrain God, his mercy and his purpose? How real and valuable is God's mercy to me? How real and valuable is God's glory to me? How is that evident in the way I live? When I regard the justice of God, what is my confidence? Is it my exertion or his incredible mercy? What bearing does that have on the way I live?
As Paul finishes his defence of God's unfailing word (especially regarding the Israelites), Paul's imaginary detractor seems rather appalled by the sovereignty of God displayed in Romans 9:6-13 - "it makes God unjust", he claims. And so, Paul sets out to defend the justice of God, expressing how appalled he is by the question – “ Is there injustice on God's part?” (ESV) “ May it never be!” By no means! And then he explains why from v15: Paul begins by quoting from Exodus 33:19 – God’s answer to Moses when asked to show his glory. And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness (glory, LXX) pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” YHWH was the name that was to be proclaimed. I am. God’s sovereign, unchanging, solely-objective, infinite reality. Cf. Exodus 3:13-15 What is interesting is that this objective, unchanging, God wills to be gracious and compassionate. This self-determining is seen in “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” It must also be noted that God’s name – and nature of mercy in Exodus 33:19 – follow soon after Israel’s gross idolatry. This is God’s glory – his merciful nature, name, his truly free will – H im. Therefore, Romans 9:16 is fact and is rooted in God’s nature (to show mercy to many who do not deserve it), name and glory that is referenced in Romans 9:15 (and Exodus 33:19) So then, it, i.e. God’s merciful purpose, is not dependent on man’s will, or man’s (exert-ive and exhausting) actions. God’s purpose is dependent on God alone – his will to show mercy. And God, seen in Exodus 33-34, is gracious and compassionate – merciful – and this mercy rests in God’s sovereign will. How beautiful this is – that God’s sovereignty implies his mercy! The explanation for this is further seen in the verses to come. Since God’s word has not failed (v6), Scripture (i.e. God) says to Pharaoh : Exodus 9:16 But for this purpose I have raised you (caused you to remain standing – after 6 plagues too/appointed you) up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. Here again, we see God’s nature of mercy displaying God’s power, for the proclamation of God’s name, Pharaoh being the object. W e, therefore, see that God’s name and therefore, God’s glory is the basis for the mercy and power shown to and through Pharaoh. So, it is not Pharaoh's power/will, or Israel's power/will, but God's power/will that saves Israel through the appointment of Pharaoh. God, not man (Pharaoh or Isreal) determines God's merciful purpose. o Romans 9:15-17 implies God’s sovereign purpose and determination for the sake of his glory, and us seeing and knowing his glory. But Paul states it differently in v18: § So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. § The language makes this seem like a parallel to Romans 9:13 § So why does God love Jacob and hate Esau (unconditionally)? Why does he harden Pharaoh's heart? From texts outside the passage, h e is just in doing so because Esau, being in Adam (a child of the flesh), was dead (1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5 :12-19) in sin and was deserving of God's just hatred. He was just in hardening Pharaoh's heart because Pharaoh deserved it as well (explained further). § But from Romans 9:17, it is seen that God does so because of his sovereign purpose working for his glory – the proclamation of his name (implying his nature of mercy). § It is interesting that Paul uses the idea of hardening soon after using the example of God’s mercy to Pharaoh. Pharaoh was a classic case of God’s hardening of the heart. § Cf. Exodus 9:12-17, 33-35 along with the other passages listed in the context. So, God hardens whomever he wills, and if this is a parallel to his unconditional mercy, it means the hardening is unconditional too, rather, dependent only on God alone and his purpose. While seen also in Romans 9:10-13, this aspect is also seen in the Old Testament passages, where most instances of Pharaoh’s hardening have a fulfilment clause – “as the Lord had said” . It must be noted also that “Pharaoh sinned” and any condemnation he got was totally deserved, implying justice. It must also be noted that God’s mercy toward Jacob was totally undeserved – without condition (Romans 9:10-13), implying mercy. What is this hardening? If parallel to God's showing mercy, and in the light of Pharaoh's sinning and God's justice, 'hardening' seems to imply a display of God's justice, i.e., a deserved withholding of his mercy and a 'giving over' of Pharaoh to his desires, passions and depravity (cf. Romans 1:22-28). And so, both mercy and hardening are God’s unconditional work for the explicit reason of the proclamation of his name – his glory – throughout the earth. What does this have to do with the Jews and Gentiles? God's word has not failed (Romans 9:6-12) and so, not all descendants of Jacob are real Israelites - only those called by God are. Does that mean God is unjust to show mercy to some Israelites and Gentiles, and not all? Impossible - for the sake of the proclamation of his name, he hardens some in his sovereign will (and so, displays his perfect, justice) - like Pharaoh; for the same reason, he shows (totally unconditional and undeserved) mercy on those whom he wills, be it Jew or Gentile, in perfect justice. Therefore, God cannot be unjust (unless we say that God's purpose for his glory to be made known is unjust, which a study on Romans 3:21-26 should resolve). Thomas Schreiner (Romans, p. 507): “No human being deserves his mercy. The choice of Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau must be construed as a merciful one. In other words, the stunning thing for Paul was not that God rejected Ishmael and Esau but that he chose Isaac and Jacob, for they did not deserve to be included in his merciful and gracious purposes. Human beings are apt to criticize God for excluding anyone, but this betrays a theology that views salvation as something God “ought” to bestow on all equally…. What is fundamental for God is the revelation of his glory and the proclamation of his name, and he accomplishes this by showing mercy and by withholding it. God’s righteousness is upheld because he manifests it by revealing his glory both in saving and in judging.”
But it is not as though a the word of God has failed. b For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children a because they are Abraham’s 1 descendants, but: “ 2 b through Isaac your 1 descendants will be named .” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are a children of God, but the b children of the promise are regarded as 1 descendants. For this is the word of promise: “ a At this time I will come , and Sarah shall have a son .” a And not only this, but there was b Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that a God’s purpose according to His choice would 1 stand, not 2 because of works but 2 because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “ a The older will serve the younger .” Just as it is written, “ a Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated .”
a What shall we say then?
What else is left to say?
b There is no injustice with God, is there?
Is there injustice with God?
c May it never be!
By no means! It is impossible!
For He says to Moses, “ a I will have mercy on whom I have mercy ,
There is no injustice with God, because of what he told Moses (by his unfailing word) - he wills (undeserved) mercy on those he has mercy.
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion .”
And he wills (undeserved) compassion on those whom he has compassion to.
So then it does not depend on the man who wills
And so, God's merciful purpose does not depend on any man's will
or the man who a runs,
Nor depend on any man who does/exerts himself
but on God who has mercy.
But God's mercy depends solely on God, who has mercy.
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “ a For this very purpose I raised you up ,
For this very purpose I caused you to remain standing (I prefer remain because of the context of Exodus 9:15)
to demonstrate My power in you ,
to prove my power in you/to you
and that My name might be proclaimed 1 throughout the whole earth .”
and so that my name and glory might be easily heard throughout the whole earth.
So then He has mercy on whom He desires,
For this reason, then, God has mercy on whom he wishes
and He a hardens whom He desires.
And for the same reason he hardens those whom he wishes
Cf. Exodus 33:18-19. My name, my glory, my will: I am who I am. I do what I do and what I do will come to pass.
Contrast with God who has (does) mercy/compassion
Cf. Exodus 33:18-19 again. My name, my glory, my will.