In our last study we looked at the first verse of 1 John 5 which I said teaches us something very important about the doctrine of soteriology.
Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 1 John 5:1 ESV
This verse is telling us that if someone believes that Yeshua is the Christ, they do so because they have been born from above. The new birth precedes a person’s believing because dead people can’t believe. This means that Yahweh is absolutely sovereign in salvation.
The response that you commonly get from this is that it is not fair for God to choose some individuals and not choose others. There are those who don’t think it is right for God to violate the free will of man. But as I say over and over, the Bible teaches the absolute sovereignty of God. To say that God is sovereign is to say that He does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases: that whatever takes place in time is but the outworking of that which He decreed from eternity.
I am God, … declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ Isaiah 46:10 ESV
This means that everything that happens including your salvation is according to the eternal plan of God. The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way in paragraph 1 of chapter 3: "God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass." I am so glad for this truth. What if God had left the future—individually and ultimately—to the will of fallen men? What if your salvation was up to you?
This idea that God is absolutely sovereign over man’s salvation is not only taught by John, Paul teaches this over and over in his writings. Paul demonstrates God's absolute sovereignty to us in Romans 9. In this chapter he deals with the objection of Yahweh not being fair in His sovereign choice of some individuals for salvation.
Romans 9-11 are a theodicy. A theodicy is a vindication, or defense of God. To vindicate means to clear from criticism, suspicion, and blame or to defend against opposition. It is to say that what God is doing is absolutely just and righteous.
Paul gives us the principle of sovereign election in verse 6.
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, Romans 9:6 ESV
Paul tells us here that there are TWO Israels. We have here physical Israel, those who descended from Jacob, and then we have true Israel. So, we have physical Israel and true Israel.
Paul is saying that God's promises haven't failed because God never promised covenant blessings unconditionally to each offspring of Abraham. God never intended that all of the nation Israel would be redeemed. Within national Israel is "True Israel" or "spiritual Israel." Therefore, one could be an Israelite without truly being an Israelite. The promises were to "true Israel" and not to national Israel.
So who is true Israel? Is it the Church? Yes, but what is the Church? It is the Body of Christ! And what I want us to understand is that Yeshua is the true Israel! It is in Him and Him alone that the promises of God are fulfilled. We could say that "they are not all 'in Christ' who are physical descendants of Jacob."
Then in verses 7-13 Paul illustrates the principle. God decides who will believe and undeservingly be saved and who will rebel and deservingly perish.
… and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son." And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." Romans 9:7-13 ESV
Before they were born or had done anything good or evil, he loved Jacob and gave Esau over to wickedness and destruction (9:11-13). This raises the question of whether God is, then, guilty of injustice.
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! Romans 9:14 ESV
The question arises whether God is being unfair in choosing one person over another? In verses 15-18 Paul shows that God is just and righteous to give mercy to whomever he wishes and to withhold it from whomever he wishes.
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." Romans 9:15-17 ESV
God is sovereign in the exercise of His mercy and his love. He is free and unconstrained from influences outside himself when he decrees who will receive mercy and who will not.
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:18 ESV
You might be thinking, "Boy this is not what I have been taught." It might not be, but it is clearly what the Bible teaches. Please be a Berean and study it out for yourself.
This raises another question. If God saves whom he wills and hardens whom he wills, what is the obvious dilemma? How can he hold me responsible for his choice? And that is exactly the question that Paul anticipates:
You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" Romans 9:19 ESV
I can't resist his will, so how can I be blamed for my unbelief? He hardened Pharaoh, and Pharaoh did just what God wanted him to do. He could not resist God's will—no man can. So, why does He find fault with and punish sinners?
Listen carefully! There would be no room for this objection or that of verse 14 if Paul had been teaching that God chose those whom he foresaw would believe or that the ground of distinction was in the different conduct of men. It is very evident, therefore, that he was teaching no such doctrine.
How easy it would have been to answer the charge of injustice by saying that "God chooses one and rejects another according to their works or faith." The only reason that this question arises is because Paul is teaching so clearly that God chooses one and rejects another based solely on his own will and that the destiny of men is determined by his sovereign pleasure alone.
Have you ever asked yourself: "If God is sovereign and has decreed from all eternity whatsoever takes place, how can I be held responsible for what I do? Who can resist His will?" If you have ever asked those questions, it is only because you understand what the Bible is teaching about the absolute sovereignty of God. I've heard the following question raised many times.
You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" Romans 9:19 ESV
The Greek word for "fault" is memphomai. It means to blame. It has the idea of holding responsible. This question is reinforced by the consideration that no one can frustrate or resist God's will. The Greek word for "will" is boulema. It means resolve or purpose.
When talking about the will of God, we must differentiate between what is called His moral will and His sovereign will. Look at "will" in these two passages.
You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" Romans 9:19 ESV
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV
Does the term "will" mean the same in both of these passages? No. Romans 9 uses the term "will" to speak of God's sovereign decree. And 1 Thessalonians 4 uses the term "will" to speak of God's revealed will of precept.
The term "will" is ambiguous and must be determined by the context. The Ten Commandments are God's perceptive will. They command men to do this and to refrain from that. They state what ought to be done, but they neither state nor cause what is done. God's decretive will, however, causes every event.
For clarification, it might be helpful if the term "will" were not applied to the precepts. Call them requirements of morality, commands, precepts, or laws and reserve the term "will" for the divine decree.
God's sovereign will is secret until it happens. Our concern is to be obedient to the moral commands of God, the Scriptures. The Scripture commands all men to believe on the Lord Yeshua the Christ, but in His sovereign will, he has chosen some to believe and He has chosen to harden the rest.
How can God blame people for not believing when he has decreed that they be hardened? No one can resist His will. This is a hard question. How can God pour out His wrath on people for not believing when he has hardened them in unbelief? Paul answers the anticipated objection by quoting what God said in response to a similar complaint made by Israel in Isaiah's prophecy.
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?" Romans 9:20 ESV
Clearly Israel is in view as the "molded" in the illustration as Paul quotes from Isaiah 29.
You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, "He did not make me"; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"? Isaiah 29:16 ESV
Israel had no right to criticize God for shaping her for a particular purpose of His own choosing. In reality, Israel had nothing to complain about because God had formed her for an honorable use. Obviously the same is true of individuals. Again in Isaiah we read:
"Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’" Isaiah 45:9-10 ESV
The passage is Israel's response on hearing that Cyrus had been raised up to serve Yahweh's purposes. We cannot separate the quoted text in Romans from its original context of Israel's complaint to God about decisions He had made.
Does the clay ask the potter questions? That is absurd! Man is as far from comprehending the mind of an omniscient God as clay is from comprehending the mind of the potter. We must realize the limits of our thinking:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8 ESV
These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. Psalms 50:21 ESV
Martin Luther said this to Erasmus:
Mere human reason can never comprehend how God is good and merciful; and therefore you make to yourself a god of your own fancy, who hardens nobody, condemns nobody, pities everybody. You cannot comprehend how a just God can condemn those who are born in sin, and cannot help themselves, but must, by a necessity of their natural constitution, continue in sin, and remain children of wrath. The answer is God is incomprehensible throughout, and therefore His justice, as well as His other attributes, must be incomprehensible.
It is on this very ground that Paul exclaims:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33 ESV
Now, His judgments could not be past finding out, if we could always perceive them to be just. Look with me at Jeremiah 18:1-11.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words." So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, everyone from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ Jeremiah 18:1-11 ESV
The analogy is obvious. The potter makes choices and the clay has no part in the choice.
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?" Romans 9:20 ESV
Paul doesn't answer the question but appeals to a reverential silence which the majesty of God demands of us. Note the contrast, "O man—God." How can man question God?
The words "answer back" come from the Greek word antapokrinomai. It is a compound word from "anti" meaning opposite, contrast, or against and "apokrinomai," to conclude for oneself, to begin to speak, to contradict or dispute. Antapokrinomai, denotes disputation and resistance, not merely an attempt to procure an answer to a difficult question.
How can man with his infantile puny pea brain speak against the Almighty God? The emphasis falls on "you." Who are you? Or who do you think you are? If you find yourself questioning God, you have played the fool because you have indicated that there is something wrong with God because you can’t figure this out. Paul says, "Shut your mouth and admit that you know very little." God is omniscient and we are ignorant. How can we speak against Him?
Have you ever been in the presence of a really great mind and felt totally unworthy to question or contradict him? How can we ever question or contradict God? Paul gives us the following absurd analogy from the Hebrew Scriptures.
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? Romans 9:21 ESV
Notice that all the clay comes from the "same lump." This is not the lump of innocent and deserving individuals but is rather the lump of fallen man, dead in sin and under the wrath of God. Each of us deserves the wrath of God, but God has poured out His wrath on His Son for the sake of the elect. And so the elect get mercy.
The word "right" is from the Greek word exousia which means authority or right. What gives God the absolute authority over man? I'm looking for a one word answer. What is it? Creation!
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 ESV
In the great expanse of eternity which stretches behind Genesis 1:1, the universe was unborn and creation existed only in the mind of God. In His sovereign majesty, God dwelt with His divine family, the divine counsel.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 ESV
Men are a direct creation of God. Over and over in the text of Genesis 1 it says "God said, and it was so." This is creation ex nihilo, out of nothing. After God created something, the thing had no authority to complain "Why have you made me this way?" A wren has no right to complain that it is not an elephant. God had decided to create a world and a world by definition includes differences. The different things have no right to hold God responsible for the qualities they have or the qualities they lack. God is responsible to no one. He distributed wings, horns, legs and minds just as it suited Him. No one has any claim on God. Out of His own free choice, he created gods, angels, stars, planets, the earth, mountains, deserts, rivers, lakes, insects, and elephants and everything in between. He gave elephants four legs, thick ones, and wrens two legs, thin ones. Why? Because He wanted to!
Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Psalms 135:6 ESV
To understand the Bible, you must realize that God is the sovereign Creator. There is no law superior to Him that commands "Thou shalt not make elephants with four legs, or thou shalt not hate Esau, or harden Pharaoh's heart." The ultimate answer to all objections is the relative positions of Creator and creature. All objections presuppose that man is, in some way or other, independent of God and has obtained from somewhere or achieved by his own efforts some right over against Him. Many folks suppose that once a being is created, he can claim that God is obliged to treat him as he wants to be treated, rather than as God decides to treat him. Some contend that Man has rights that God must respect. On the contrary, man has no rights in opposition to God. Whatever rights a man has are those God decides to give him. God, as Creator, can give, withhold, or retake any rights as He pleases. Whatever rights he gives to man are a gift and not a debt. No one has any claims over the Creator.
Remember in the book of Job when Job began to question God? Job wanted a legal hearing to prove God's injustices against him. God didn't explain his ways to Job, He exhibited them, showing that the sovereign Creator and sustainer of the universe does not owe puny man an explanation. Since God is God, who dares to challenge His prerogative?
Paul concludes with three verses to apply his analogy.
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? Romans 9:22-24 ESV
The grand object of God, both in the election and the reprobation of man, is that which is paramount to all else in the creation of the universe; namely, His own glory.
What if God, exercising His sovereign right of choice, makes some vessels of mercy while others are made vessels of wrath? Does God have a right to display his wrath? Does He have a right to display His Justice? Yes! Wrath and Justice are as much a part of His character as are mercy and grace.
"Desiring to show his wrath"—this speaks of will of purpose, sovereign will. God wants to show His wrath because He wants to reveal Himself, and He is a God of wrath.
For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Deuteronomy 4:24 ESV
Therefore, the entrance of sin into the world was necessary so that God could manifest His wrath, His judgment, and His holy anger because these are part of His character.
Listen carefully. For ages, theologians have argued and debated over the origin of evil. Let me tell you plainly that it was God's will that sin should enter the world; He decreed it. Now if that shocks you, it is far more shocking to insist that sin has invaded the world against God's will. For if sin has invaded the world against God's will, He would not be omnipotent, would he? Some folks say that God just permitted sin to enter the world. Permission is not a word to use with God. Nothing in the universe can be independent of the omnipotent Creator for in Him we live and move and have our being. Therefore, the idea of permission makes no sense when applied to God.
In his book "Reason to Believe," R.C. Sproul examines all the best and most credible arguments for the origin of evil. After he considered some of the different theodicies, he concluded by saying this:
These theodicies are but a few of the more popular of the multitude of theories that have been offered as possible solutions to the enigma of sin. I am not satisfied with any of them. It is not my intent to be the devil's advocate or to lend assistance to those who reject Christianity because of these objections. I am not trying to give the skeptic more ammunition than he may already have. I am trying to make it clear that the problem is a severe one and one for which I have no adequate solution. I do not know how evil could originate with a good God. I am baffled by it, and it remains a troublesome mystery to me. (Reason to Believe, pg 126)
Sproul is unable to address why there is a world full of evil. He has no explanation for it because he believes God is PASSIVE over evil, simply permitting it. How terrifying! As we look out into a world where evil is rampant, it would be terrifying to think that all this stuff is being ALLOWED to happen. What most Christians believe about God and evil is just plain old deism (the belief that God created the world and then left it to itself to operate). God is no idle spectator who looks on from a distant world at the happenings on our earth. On the contrary, He Himself shapes everything to the ultimate promotion of His own glory.
Although R.C. Sproul Sr. cannot answer the question of the origin of evil, his son can. Chapter three of R.C. Sproul Jr.’s book, "Almighty Over All," is entitled "Who Dunit?" Sproul opens the chapter by introducing the problem like a mystery story. His conclusion is that of the supralapsarian position—God was the one who caused the sin of man in the Garden by changing the inclination of Adam and Eve towards that which is evil. Sproul writes:
"Every Bible-believing Christian must conclude at least that God in some sense desired that man would fall into sin, God wills all things that come to pass. It is in His power to stop whatever might come to pass. It is within His omniscience to imagine every possible turn of events and to choose that chain of events which most pleases Him. But wait a minute. Isn't it impossible for God to do evil? He can't sin. I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that He created sin." [R.C. Sproul, Jr., Almighty Over All, Baker, p. 53-54]
Sproul Jr. is a supralapsarian, as am I. But his father is infralapsarian and does not believe that God created evil. The primary difference in the lapsarian viewpoints is the order of the decrees. The order implies different origins of sin.
Edwin H. Palmer writes:
"To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God. It is even biblical to say that God has foreordained sin. If sin was outside the plan of God, then not a single important affair of life would be ruled by God. For what action of man is perfectly good? Thus, once again, we confess with full force the absolute sovereignty of God. He predestines, elects, and foreordains." (Edwin H. Palmer, "The Five Points of Calvinism", p.82-83)
A.W. Pink writes,
"Clearly it was the divine will that sin should enter this world, or it would not have done so. God had the power to prevent it. Nothing ever comes to pass except what He decreed. God's decree that sin should enter this world was a secret hid in Himself." (A.W. Pink, "Gleanings from the Scriptures", Moody, p. 207)
It should be obvious that sinful human nature is much more apt to deny or to circumscribe God's authority in favor of human independence than it is to exaggerate the power of God. God brings to pass in time what he has decreed in eternity. There is evil in our world because God decreed it, and then created it for His own glory.
"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." Revelation 4:11 ESV
All things, including sin, were created by God.
I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:7 ESV
The word translated here as "calamity" is better translated as "evil." But when anyone says that God causes evil, most Christians go into paroxysms. Yet, the whole Bible is filled with this idea. Evil is something that most Christians would associate with Satan, not with God.
One commentator remarks on the word "evil" in this text by saying that "The Hebrew 'ra'' is translated: 'sorrow, wretchedness, adversity, afflictions, calamities,' but is never translated: 'sin.' God created evil only in the sense that he made sorrow, wretchedness and so forth, to be the sure fruits of sin."
How could he have made such a statement? He must have examined every instance of "ra" in the Hebrew text and have determined that in no case is it translated sin. If he, in fact, did study every use of "ra'" in the Hebrew text, he would have noticed that "ra'" in Genesis 6:5 and in a number of other places is translated as "wickedness." In fact, "ra'" is translated "wickedness" some 50 times in the Tanakh. Let's look at several places in Scripture where "ra'" is translated as "evil".
And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9 ESV
The word "evil" in this verse is "ra." Is this a knowledge of sorrow and calamity? No, it is primarily a knowledge of disobedience in sin.
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5 ESV
God didn't see adversity or calamity in their hearts—he saw sinful thoughts. In this context, "Ra'" clearly means "sin." The same is true of the following:
And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. Genesis 8:21 ESV
Toward the end of Genesis, "ra'" refers to an alleged thief, to the many sins from which the angel had redeemed Jacob, and to the brothers’ sin against Joseph (three times). You can study the whole Tanakh for yourself, and you will see that "ra'" often means "sin as distinct from its punishment."
Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it? Amos 3:6 ESV
The word "disaster" here is "ra." God is in absolute control of everything that happens, both good and evil. God is sovereign. Nothing happens outside God's will.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, Ephesians 1:11 ESV
God works all things, not some things, after the counsel of His will. Now I know that people don't like it when you say that God decreed sin, and I hesitate to say it; but it is clearly what the Bible teaches. Is murder a sin? Was crucifying Yeshua a sin? Yes, it was. Was Yeshua's murder decreed by God? Yes!
For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!" Luke 22:22 ESV
Who determined it? God, of course. Just in case you question that, I can prove it. Consider Acts 2.
… this Yeshua, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Acts 2:23 ESV
… for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Yeshua, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. Acts 4:27-28 ESV
People have a problem when you say that it was God's will for someone to be murdered. But what was the worst crime of murder ever committed? Who was the only innocent person ever murdered? Yeshua! You might say, "Well that's a special case that had to do with our redemption." Really? What will you do with the case of Absalom? Absalom polluted his father's bed by an incestuous union, committing a detestable crime.
So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof. And Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel. 2 Samuel 16:22 ESV
God declares this to be caused by Him. Look at what God said to David:
Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’" 2 Samuel 12:11-12 ESV
We must realize that even before men sin, God has decreed that they should perform their sinful acts. Nevertheless, they become guilty when carrying out their deeds because of their evil purposes. Men are responsible for their sins.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20 ESV
The jealous brothers had considered murdering Joseph, but they changed their minds and sold him into slavery. Their intentions were evil, but God had controlled their wills. They could not have killed Joseph because God had decreed to send Joseph to Egypt for the purpose of later saving that family from starvation. The brothers decided to sell Joseph because God controlled their decision. They were not free to will his death or to let him go either.
Augustine said, "That men sin proceeds from themselves; that in sinning they perform this or that action, is from the power of God."
The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:1 ESV
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9 ESV
God is holy and sin is contrary to His holy nature, yet the existence and operations of it are according to His will. His eternal counsels determine sin's course. It is clear that this is what the Bible teaches; nonetheless, my humanness makes me very uncomfortable with it.
Why did God decree sin?
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, Romans 9:22 ESV
Paul focuses on the great patience of God, who keeps back his wrath from those who deserve judgment. His argument emphasizes that the only thing that is not fair or just is that God has acted in mercy.
"Desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power"—how does God make His power known? By the judgment of sin. Sin provides a means for God to be glorified. "Vessels of wrath prepared for destruction"—the verb translated "prepared" in this verse is probably a passive rather than a middle voice, though the form of the passive and middle tenses is identical in the Greek. The passive is much more common in the New Testament. Paul probably meant that God prepares some people for destruction.
Reprobation includes two acts. 1. Passing by those who are not elected, leaving them in their natural state of alienation from God. 2. The act of condemning, on account of their sin, those who have been passed by.
in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— Romans 9:23 ESV
How are people prepared for glory? Earlier, Paul discussed the redemption that is in Christ Yeshua (Rom 3:21ff.) and his role in undoing the work of Adam (Rom 5:12ff.). The mercy that was extended to Israel has now been extended to nations that she considered to be "vessels of destruction." It is believers from these Gentile people groups who, along with believing Jews, have been rescued from exile and brought into the kingdom of God (Col 1:13-14).
Why did God save you? God saved you to display His mercy and grace. God prepared beforehand our glory.
even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? Romans 9:24 ESV
The "vessels of mercy" are "us," Paul and the first century believers. It is the "us" whom He also called. The word "called" takes us back to 8:30. Believers are the called of all nations. God's covenant promise finds its fulfillment not in Abraham's physical seed but in the called, the elect of all nations.
God extended His mercy in order to bring about a single covenant community made up of believing Jews and believing Gentiles.
Had sin never entered the world, how could the justice of God have been displayed in punishing it? How could the wisdom of God have been manifested in so wondrously overruling it? How could the grace of God have been exhibited in pardoning it? How could the power of God have been exercised in subduing it?
How can we be responsible for sin when we cannot resist God's will? Man is responsible because God calls him to account; man is responsible because God can punish him for his disobedience. God, on the contrary, cannot be held responsible because there is no power superior to His. No greater being can hold Him accountable, and no one can punish him. There is no one to whom God is responsible and there are no laws which he could disobey.
The sinner is responsible for his own sin and he will be held accountable by the sovereign Creator of the universe. People often contend that if we cannot respond, how are we responsible?" Well, our inability to respond is something we have acquired by virtue of our sin and, therefore, we are responsible.