Christianity 201

September 30, 2014

The Challenge of Romans 9:22

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Although he took off in a different direction after this, Zach Hunt began a blog post at American Jesus this way…

My last year at Yale I was able to take Systematic Theology with Miroslav Volf.

It goes without saying that there are many things I will always remember from that class, but one that especially stuck out to me was the time Prof. Volf shared his least favorite verse in the Bible.

To be honest, the cynic in me was excepting to witness the cynic in Prof. Volf. I figured he would rattle off a string of cliché/misunderstood passages like Jeremiah 29:11 or that maybe he’d go old school and rant about the prayer of Jabez.

But he didn’t.

Being the great theologian he is, he took the issue seriously.

So what was Miroslav Volf’s least favorite verse in the Bible?

Romans 9:22.

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction?

By least favorite, he didn’t mean he just doesn’t like that verse, so he dismisses it out of hand. He doesn’t like Romans 9:22 because as a confessing Christian he has to deal with it no matter how loathsome he may be to do so or how clearly it seems to stand in stark contradiction to the gospel because, well, it’s in the Bible. So, he must wrestle with it…

We went searching some commentary on this online and found this one by Juli Camarin at JCBlog.  Click the title below to read at source:

Objects of His Wrath and Objects of His Mercy—Romans 9:22-23

“What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory” (Romans 9:22-23)

Mankind has free will and God will not override our choices in life. Throughout our entire life time we are presented with the opportunity to accept the gospel message, which has the power to save us, or we can reject it. The outcome of this choice is based solely upon us. God does not choose for us, nor does he predestine some to be saved and some to be damned. Predestination rests solely upon His foreknowledge of our acceptance of His grace ( Romans 8:29, I Peter 1:2 ). He knew who would accept his message and so he also chose them based upon that foreknowledge. In the same way, He knew who would reject him and so they were prepared for destruction based upon that foreknowledge of their free will and choice.

In today’s passage Paul writes to us that God endured with exceeding patience the objects of his wrath. These are the individuals that have rejected his salvation message and the payment for their sin. These individuals are destined for destruction of their own volition because they have chosen this path for their life and have rejected Jesus. It is easy to struggle over a statement such as this and focus on the wrath of God towards them, but what about his enduring patience concerning them? They are clearly enemies of cross and yet God is patient with them. He tolerates and endures those who have rejected his salvation and forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” ( Hebrews 10:26-27 ). Once we have heard the truth and know that the only way to be reconciled to God is through faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, we have to make a decision whether or not we accept this payment for our sins. If we do not, there is no other sacrifice or payment option left to us, only judgment. Hebrews goes on to say, “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ( Hebrews 10:28-31 ).

It is severe to reject Jesus and his incredible gift of salvation. God’s wrath was fully satisfied through his redemptive work on the cross. However, if we do not accept this payment for our sins, then eventually those accounts will be called overdue. Payment will have to be rendered and how do you thing that God will respond to someone who has blatantly rejected his very own Son. There will be no acceptable alternative payment and it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God when it is God’s very own precious Son that has been trampled and rejected in the process.

The amazing thing about a passage such as this, is that it shows an incredible facet of God’s nature when you fully understand it. God is not dealing unfairly with mankind, the opposite is actually true, He is showing incredible mercy and grace in tolerating their rejection of Jesus. He does this to demonstrate to believers His incredible wealth of mercy. It shows us the depth of his love and grace that has no bounds. It is important to get revelation of the this truth because this will change the way we look at life. If we can understand how patient and loving God is towards even those who reject him we will know how accepted and loved we are in Christ Jesus. God even uses his enemies to show his incredible love towards us. When we stand before Christ and see his majesty and splendor we will fully understand how offensive and awful it is to reject such a gift. We will understand the severity of it and the depths of the mercy displayed in patiently enduring His enemies.

Understanding this truth is pivotal in understanding the nature of God. He grace and mercy knows no end and his loving kindness extends to the ends of the earth. Today, it is my prayer that you recognize the awesomeness of Jesus and how he can saved you from destruction and hell. The good news for today is that he also saves us from so much more, he has come to give us eternal life which starts the moment you come to Him and accept his free gift of grace. May you understand how blessed you are in Christ Jesus, amen!

Go Deeper: Morgan Guyton has a commentary on this passage at the blog Mercy Not Sacrifice that is also a response to Greg Boyd’s teaching on it. This article was too long to run here but in the second last paragraph there’s an observation that I missed:

Regardless of how satisfactory this answer is, the two most important words in Romans 9:22-23 that almost everyone ignores are “What if.” Paul gives a very different level of force to what he is saying by framing it as two “What if” questions rather than making very direct, unequivocal statements which he does in plenty of other places. It is remarkable how many double-predestinarians have completely ignored these two critical words.

The bottom line is Paul was grieved that so many of his people are rejecting the gospel and persecuting him. He’s grappling for an answer and throwing out possible explanations. It seems like certain Christians want the Bible to be more distasteful than it is in order to give them an excuse to flex their theological muscles and show how tough they are. Paul didn’t write what he did to give us muscle-flexing opportunities. In fact, he would probably say that the reason people who do that haven’t been struck by lightning yet is because “God bears with great patience the objects of his wrath.”