Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
November 4, 2008
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
1901 ASV Translation:
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth.
18 So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will be hardeneth.
- I. The Question of "Unrighteousness".
- A. It is standard fare in the realm of divine sovereignty for men and angels to rage against the "unfairness" of God. For men who have been brainwashed into thinking that having the prerogatives of divinity are human "rights", it is a knee-jerk reaction against being told that God is the One Who decides all of the issues of life to cry out, "That's not fair".
- B. For this cause, Paul determined to address the issue head-on.
- 1. First, he set the stage...
- a. By declaring in multiple ways that he was telling the truth when he said that he had such an open emotional wound regarding the condition of Israel that he was willing to perish forever as a vicarious redeemer if that would solve the problem, Paul openly revealed the painfulness of a universe in which there is an entrenched conflict.
- 1) This drew stark boundaries around the definition of "love": it has no hesitation, nor fear, of enduring unimaginable pain with no end in sight if there is real benefit to someone else in the mix.
- a) In defining "real benefit", it is clear from what Paul wrote that life without the horrors of the conflict is "beneficial".
- b) However, Paul produces a kind of confusion by means of his own example: surely "real benefit" consists of coming to the ability to "love" as God loves. If this is so, how can a willingness to enter into unending pain, as the ultimate expression of "the love of God", not be "beneficial"? And if it is beneficial, how can "real benefit" be defined in terms that eliminate that very reality?
- c) At the very heart of this issue is the heart of the person who loves, or not. Love focuses upon others. Any focus upon the self is not love. Thus, the impetus to provide a pain-free experience for others will produce a pain-free experience for the self if the others get the pain-free experience. Pain is an inescapable reality of any focus upon others who are rebels. The problem is this: the "others" will not get the pain free experience if they also have not come to "love". It is the absence of love that creates the entrenched conflict that introduces the pain.
- d) And, finally, love is the willingness to endure for the sake of others, not necessarily the actual enduring. If a person is willing and the circumstances provide the necessity, the person will enter into the enduring without complaint. But, if a person is willing and the circumstances are developed by others who are likewise willing, those circumstances will never include the necessity. This is the ideal. However, we are beyond the ideal. We moved beyond it as soon as sin entered the universe for the first time. So, now there is no escape from real loss by both those who love and those who do not. Even God cannot spare us the pain of loving a rebel. But, if we are genuinely loving, we do not need to be spared. And, since all experience is quantified by the number of elements that are involved, the amount of pain is proportional to the number of elements that produce it in relation to the number of elements that produce pure joy. For example, if one loves 10 "rebels" and 100 "servants of righteousness", the pain will be 1/10th the level of the joy. If one loves 100 "rebels" and 10,000 "servants of love", the pain will be 1/100th the level of the joy. And, then, there is the issue of whether human minds will ever be capable of omni-focus. If we, in our glorified state, can still only focus as we do now, being surrounded by 10,000 joyful servants of love will do serious damage to the ability of love for a few rebels to inflict pain. The bottom line is that those who love are willing, but God is also interested in making those who are willing as exempt from pain as is possible ... and it is His interest that finally determines what we will experience.
- 2) This also provided a "human" mirror of the real truth about God's own love.
- a) The difficulty in this text is that it follows hard upon the heels of the declaration "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." If Paul's "love" was a mirror of God's, why did he bring his last paragraph (9:6-13) to a conclusion with a stark reference to the "hatred of God" for Esau? Esau was "of Israel" but he was not "Israel" in the sense of 9:6-8.
- b) In the character of God, there is a very real divine "hatred" and it does its part in providing the fullness of His character. As there is a balance between Justice and Mercy, so there is a balance between Love and Hate.
- c) The particular truth that seems to lay a foundation for understanding the Love/Hate reality is the particularization of Love. What I mean by this is that "purposes" in a context of antagonism invariably mean "selective choices". "Selective choices" is a part of the very heart of "Love". When one is "chosen" to be a participant in a "blessed purpose", it is called "love". When one is left "unchosen", or, more potently described, "rejected" in light of the blessed purpose, it is called "hate". This is understood by everyone who has ever been "in love". However, there is another issue that is just as critical as the particularization: the multiplicity of involved persons. I can justly say that I "love" someone whom I intend to destroy if the following issues are in place. First, I "love" any/every one for whom I would sacrifice myself. Second, I "hate" any/every one whom I intend to destroy. Third, my reasons for the destruction of the hated come into play. If my reasons have to do with any reluctance on my part to sacrifice, I cannot say I "love". But, if my reasons have to do with protecting another "beloved" one from the predations of the one I "hate", I can legitimately "love" the very one I am going to destroy out of "hate". In other words, if I am willing to sacrifice myself, I "love" even if I refuse to sacrifice someone else. It is "hatred" for the wickedness that will be imposed upon others that creates the destruction and that "hatred" does not deny my personal willingness to be destroyed for the sake of the one whom I intend to destroy. I "love" if I am willing to die for you in spite of your treatment of me, but I "hate" if I am willing to kill you to keep you from doing harm to someone else I hold to be more valuable than you. So Love and Hate can exist simultaneously in one heart toward one individual.
- 3) This also throws a severe challenge into the faces of those who cry "unfair" at the very time in their lives when they are failing to "love". When a man loves like God loves, he might be qualified to investigate "the righteousness of God". Those who cry "unfair" simply wish to "be loved" rather than to "love".
- b. By bringing up the inescapable reality that there can only be one determining will in a universe where commitments are sacrosanct, Paul deliberately made his case impossible to refute.
- 1) God exists and He has spoken.
- 2) As soon as speech occurred in declarative content, integrity came into play.
- 3) Integrity consists of declarations being fulfilled.
- 4) Even though the wisdom of God is able to manipulate many of the actions of men into the processes of fulfillment, there are some intentions of men that are impossible of permission without fulfillment being denied. In these cases, the intentions of men will be frustrated so that the actions they would have sponsored will never see the light of day.
- 5) Thus, though God permits a rather significant latitude of men's choices and actions because of the magnitude of His wisdom, the bottom line is that God makes the final decision in regard to every intention of man. This is the way it is: one will determines all. Integrity requires this.
- c. By maintaining the parallel inescapable reality that faith requires integrity, Paul made "salvation by faith" absolutely dependent upon the divine integrity.
- d. By appealing to the biblical records of Abraham/Sarah and Isaac/Rebecca, Paul clearly revealed that his case rests upon the meaning of divine speech.
- 2. Then he raised the very question that all who do not understand love or integrity invariably ask: is the universe a "righteous" affair? Has "righteousness" been sacrificed in order to salvage "love" and "integrity"? His answer is a legitimate denial in the most potent of terms.