Answerable to No One, Available to All

Answerable to No One, Available to All

“Answerable to No One, Available to All”

(Romans 9:14-33)

Series: Not Guilty!

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

First Baptist Henderson, KY

(9-13-09) (AM)


  • Take your Bibles and open to Romans, chapter 9.


We’re making our way, verse-by-verse, through the wonderful book of Romans, arguably Paul’s greatest letter in the New Testament.  We left off last time in chapter 9 at verse 13 which means, of course, we will pick up this morningat in chapter 9, verse 14.  But we cannot understand verse 14 until we review what Paul has just said.


Paul has been teaching about God’s setting his heart upon those whom He will save.  This is called “foreknowledge.”  We studied this last time.  Salvation by grace means more than most think.  We could not repent of our sins and believe the Gospel and receive Jesus as our Lord because all mankind is dead in trespasses and sins.  Then God “turns the light on,” if you will.  He gives us the grace to repent and believe.  God makes this happen, but this does not happen to everyone.


Paul had been teaching this concerning Jacob and Esau.  He quotes from Malachi there in verse 13.  God says, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”  God does not “hate” in the way we often use it in contemporary English.  This is the language of election.  It’s God’s way of saying that He has set His special loving affection upon one person and not the other.  He has chosen some to salvation and passed over others.  Now that sets up the next verse, you see.  Paul says in verse 14, “What shall we say then?”—that is, in light of God’s choosing one and not another—“Is there unrighteousness with God?”

  • Stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.


14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!

15 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.”


  • Pray.




I want to teach this morning about the God who is “answerable to no one, and available to all.”  God’s Word reminds us that we serve a big, omnipotent, infinite God.  We, by comparison, are small, powerless, and finite.  Most Christians and most churches can be divided into two categories, either “Big God, little man” churches or “Big Man, little god” churches.


A “Big Man, little god” church is one that centers upon man’s wants and desires.  And that is reflected in worship and in prayer.  It is very man-centered.  Worship focuses on making man “feel better.”  Prayers use the personal pronoun frequently, “I need this, God.  Give me that.  I don’t like this.  I don’t like that.  Make me feel better.”  That’s a “Big Man, little god” church.


A “Big God, little man” church is one that centers upon God’s wants and desires.  And this, too, is reflected in worship and in prayer.  It is very God-centered.  Worship focuses not on making man “feel better,” but on glorifying God and being lost in the wonder of His greatness and majesty.  Prayers are not focused on the wants of man, but rather are filled with gratitude to God.  It is not, “I need this” or “Give me that” or “Bless me, bless me, bless me.”  It is, “God, thank you for waking me this morning.  Thanks for oxygen.  Why should You care?  I deserve nothing.  Help me glorify You today.”


A “Big Man, little god” church demands answers to man’s questions.  It demands to know “Why?!  Why, God, are You doing this?!  Why me?!”  A “Big God, little man” church, however, does not ask, “Why” so much as “What.”  It asks, “What, God?  What are You teaching me by this experience?” or, “How can I better glorify You in light of this situation?”  Do you see the shift in focus?


I want to continue leading us to become a “Big God, little man” church.  The God we serve is a Big God!  Everyone say, “Big God!”  He is answerable to no one.  I want to give you three things to do this morning in response to our text.  First:


I.  Rest in the Complete Perfection of God (14-23)


Remember the tension here between verses 13 and 14?  Paul has just finished talking about the fact that God chooses some to be saved and passes over others.  He knows that is likely to cause some to question God.  He knows some will say, “Well if God chooses some to be saved and not all to be saved then that is just unfair!  How unjust!  How unrighteous!”  Verse 14:


14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!

15 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.”

16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.


In one sense, Paul is actually saying, “Look, God does as He pleases.  He is answerable to no one.”  If God wants to choose Jacob over Esau, He can.  This is illustrated by the story of Moses there in verse 15.  Back in the book of Exodus, chapter 33, Moses asks God to show Him His glory.  God causes His goodness to pass before Moses and proclaims His name to Moses and then says, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”  God does as He pleases.  So Paul applies that to God’s choosing some to be saved.  Salvation has nothing to do with man’s effort or exertion (16).  Salvation is all of God’s mercy.”  Little man cries out to God, “This is all so unfair and unjust!”  But God is under no obligation to answer us.  He says, “I do as I please.  I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy.”


We’re all familiar with the illustration of God’s mercy demonstrated in the scenario of the self-centered, conceited woman who had had several pictures taken of herself by a local photographer.  She was not the most beautiful woman in the world and yet she thought she was.  And so she went into the studio to look at the proofs.  The photographer did the best he could to make those pictures look appealing.  He lay them against a purple, velvety background, and dimmed the lights.  She shook her head in disgust and said, “These pictures do not do me justice!”  The photographer replied, “Lady, you don’t need justice.  You need mercy!”


And this is where we must begin in our thinking.  We are sinners who deserve nothing.  Paul has been making this very clear from the beginning of the letter.  We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  We enter the world with a sin nature inherited from Adam.  And every time we willfully choose to sin we “cast our vote” with Adam.  We are sinners by nature and sinners by choice.  If we demand that God be just to us, then God would send us to hell.  If we cry, “God, give me what I deserve,” that is what we deserve.  But God in His compassion and mercy does not give us what we deserve.  He shows us mercy by saving us from our sin.  Verse 17:


17 For the Scripture says to 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.”

18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.


Paul illustrates that God does as He pleases by again taking us to the book of Exodus.  This time he uses Pharaoh.  You remember the story.  Moses asked Pharaoh to let his people go and Pharaoh refused repeatedly.  He refused because either he hardened his heart or God hardened his heart.  The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is mentioned nearly 40 times in Exodus.  Paul stresses here the times that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  God did this to demonstrate His power.  God did this so that the miraculous plagues and deliverance would highlight the awesome power of the one true God.  He “raised Pharaoh up” for this purpose.  That is, God allowed Pharaoh to become king for this very reason.  Paul anticipates, now, that some will conclude that Pharaoh was just a puppet in God’s hand.  Verse 19:


19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”


In other words, “God, if you allowed Pharaoh to become king so that you could harden his heart and demonstrate your power though him, then how can you find fault with Pharaoh—or with anyone else for that matter?  After all, you are pulling the strings and people are just doing what you will!”


Now Paul could have answered that question in a way that softened God’s sovereignty.  He could have said, “Well, look.  Remember that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, too.  I mean, God’s hardening Pharaoh’s heart was in perfect harmony with Pharaoh’s hardening his own heart.  Pharaoh was not a believer.  God gave Pharaoh opportunity to repent.  But Pharaoh hardened his heart against God.  Rather than allowing the warm rays of God’s grace to soften his heart, Pharaoh hardened his heart against God.  Just as the sun that melts ice is the same sun that hardens clay, so Pharaoh refused to soften his heart to God so God just gave Pharaoh what he deserved.”  All of this is true and Paul could have replied that way, but he replies more strongly:


20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?


Do you hear the implication there?  Paul does not want us to be “Big Man, little god” people.  He wants us to be “Big God, little man” people.  Who are you to reply against God?  He may as well have said, “Did you forget who created you?  Did you forget who is giving you the very air you are breathing at this moment?  Did you forget that God knows everything and you know only what He permits you to know?  Did you forget that, unlike you who must read, study, and go to school to learn—that God never “learns” anything?!  Who are you to reply against God?”


God knows what He is doing in your present situation.  He is working through your job, your health, your family, your school, your relationship problem, and your financial crisis.  And yes, He knows exactly what He is doing concerning the matter of salvation.  Who are we to reply against God?


Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”

21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

22 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,

23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,


This language is similar to Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12.  There, Paul talks about different people who make up the body of Christ, different members of the church.  The human body has some parts that are more “honorable” than others and some of us have spiritual gifts that are more “honorable” or more visible than others.  This is the same idea here.  God is the potter who does as He pleases.  Just as a potter creates some vessels or utensils for one honorable use and other vessels and utensils for less honorable uses, so God does as the Potter who works with the clay of sinful humanity.  God takes sinful humanity and He makes one vessel for honor and another for dishonor.  That is, God chooses from the mass of sinful persons some to salvation.  They are vessels for honor.  Those who refuse to follow God and refuse to receive Jesus Christ are vessels God uses for dishonor.


God does not create people for destruction.  That is not what this is teaching.  God created all people good.  He created them in His image.  God does not create some persons to go to heaven and create others to go to hell.  We’ll deal with that more this evening when we dig more deeply into this text.  God created everything and called it good.  He created man in His image.  The clay here is not mankind.   The clay here is sinful mankind.   The clay here is “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Paul is simply saying here, “If God wants to save some people from hell, He may do so.  He is under no obligation to save anyone.  It’s a miracle anyone is saved at all.”   That God saves anyone is a demonstration of “the riches of His glory.”


And this is really the key to understanding the doctrine of election, of God’s setting His loving affection upon anyone.  We are humbled to be chosen.  We do not ask, “Why did God not choose everyone?”  It is more, “Why would God choose me?” So says F.F. Bruce: “Men and women who have experienced the forgiving grace of God will always wonder why their eyes should have been opened while the eyes of others remained closed.”


This is what Charles Wesley had in mind in that great hymn:


And can it be that I should gain

An interest in the Savior’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain—

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be,


Rest in the complete perfection of God.  Here’s the second action:


II.  Recognize the Called People of God (24-29)


Here is a reminder that salvation is available for both Jews and Gentiles.  God’s called ones are not only Jews, but Gentiles, too.  Paul has just said in verse 23 that God chooses some to be saved “that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy (that is, believers), which He had prepared beforehand for glory.”  Who are they? Verse 24:


24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25 As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”

26 “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.”


Paul uses the Old Testament book of Hosea to make an application to the large numbers of Gentile believers in the churches of Rome.  We would expect the majority of church members to be ethnic Israel, but such is not the case.  Paul says God has filled the church with those called “not My people.”  These are Gentiles, non-Jews.  Then Paul mentions Isaiah:


27 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. (the idea is that only the remnant will be saved).

28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.” (this refers to God’s quick, decisive judgment).

29 And as Isaiah said before: “Unless the LORD of Sabaoth (hosts) had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”


One of the principles from our study last time was that, “Not all Israel are of Israel (v.6).”  There is a large circle of ethnic Israel and then a smaller circle inside.  The smaller circle represents those who are true believers.  That’s what Paul is talking about here in verses 27-29.  He is saying that not all believers are true believers.  There is a large group of people who say they follow God, but the true believers are known as the remnant.


And that is true today.  Not everyone who says he or she is a Christian is actually a believer.  Theologians sometimes refer to the distinction as the “visible church” and the “invisible church.”  There is the visible church.  We look around and say, “Well, here is the church.”  You know, “Here is the church, here is the steeple.  Open the doors and see all the people.”  The Bible says that not all the people in the church are actually saved.  Those of you memorizing the FAITH outline know that Jesus Himself says in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”  The “invisible” church is the actual persons who are saved.  This church is known only to God.  This church represents that true called people of God.


Now all of this leads rather logically to the last action.  We have said we are to rest in the complete perfection of God and recognize the called people of God.  Number three:


III.  Run the Correct Pathway to God (30-33)


That is, be sure that you are going in the right direction.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it, but narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”


Paul uses race imagery here in the last few verses to illustrate two things about salvation: it’s not what we do, but who we know.  First, it’s not what we do.  Verse 30:


30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;

31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.

32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.


See the race imagery there?  Verse 31, “Israel (or the Jews), pursuing the law of righteous did not attain it because they did not seek it by faith but by works.”  They are running the race to God.  They think they’re on the right path.  They are running hard.  But you see they are running the wrong way.  They think they can earn God’s favor.  They are trying to gain God’s approval by good deeds.  So they will not be saved.  But the Gentiles, verse 30, did not run with the Jews.  They are saved because of their faith.  We are saved by grace through faith, not of works.  It’s not what you do, it’s who you know.  Look at the second part of verse 32:


For they (the Jews) stumbled at that stumbling stone.

33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”


Paul applies prophecies in Isaiah about a “stumbling stone” to the Lord Jesus Christ.  He continues using this race imagery.  Israel is like a runner running incorrectly and then tripping over a stone.  And that stone is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.  That is, God’s purposes concerning Jesus Christ and our salvation in Him will be accomplished.  So the point is, run the correct pathway to God.  Make sure you are running to God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.


Michele and I watched an interesting documentary recently on the “Badwater Ultra-marathon.”  You know a marathon is 26 miles.  An ultra-marathon is more.  This one in particular is 135 miles. Selected runners run this ultra-marathon in July, with temperatures around 120 degrees.  Runners begin at 282 feet below sea level in the Badwater Basin, in California’s Death Valley, and end at an elevation of 8360 feet.  We watched these runners try to finish the race within 50 hours.  One woman ran 129 miles of the 135 miles and was forced to drop out.  Her body just could not go on any further.


Can you imagine running 129 miles of 135 miles, just six miles short of victory, and having to drop out?  Every one of us is running a spiritual race.  Every one of us is running with the hope of finishing, with the hope of attaining victory.  Listen: be sure you are running on the correct path.  Be sure your eyes are fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.


  • Stand for prayer.

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