Thesis:The bottom line in man's relationship to God, on the human side, is humility.
Introduction:There are perfectly reasonable explanations for every issue that contains within itself the ability to drive a wedge between God and His creation. However, those reasonable explanations may well be beyond the reach of man for one simple reason: the "facts" that permit understanding may be so "out there" in the far reaches of infinity that man, being limited to the "facts" that exist within the realm of his own intellectual grasp, may never have access to them.
This does not have to be a "problem". Not only does Love transcend intelligence, there are enough "facts" available to man to preserve him from major blunders if he is willing to embrace them. One of those "facts" is before us this evening as we come to Romans 9:20-21. It is this: the bottom line on the human side of the God/man relationship issue is humility.
We are going to consider this very "accessible" truth in our study.
I. Paul's "Cut to the Chase".
A. As soon as Paul leads his readers to the indisputable reality of an irresistible will of God, he demands some humility.
1. On the one hand, he challenges arrogance by means of a "known" (as well as a fundamental) reality: creatures have no hope of success in taking on God.
2. On the other hand, he challenges arrogance by means of a universally recognized system of "rights": the potter is universally understood to have the right to do with his "clay" whatever he chooses to do.
B. This demand for humility is not made because Paul does not have "answers" but because "answers" do not do any good when the attitude of the questioner(s) is already evil.
II. Assuming Humility, We Have Good Reason.
A. The major problem with an "irresistible will" is not its conflict with a different "irresistible" will.
1. This is a problem: the only "conflict" that will exist with a "will" is another "will" that is set upon a different objective ["not my will, but Thine be done"].
2. For anyone to "object" to the idea of an "irresistible" will involves the impossible scenario of opposing wills which each get their "way".
B. The major problem with an "irresistible will" is a concurrent absence of "Love".
1. These are the facts.
a. God cannot create "God"; infinity of attributes is unique to the uncreated God.
b. In this "can't" of creation, man comes into the picture as a lesser person.
1) God created the angels as an order of persons that are "higher" than man and He did this prior to man.
2) The angelic rebellion occurred before the human rebellion occurred (thus the coming of the serpent into the Garden).
3) Man is, thus, not the highest order of person, nor is he the most valuable.
a) God's condescension to man was not a small step.
b) God's use of man to educate the angels makes man a tool in a larger scenario.
c. In man's identity as a lesser person, there are two major dangers.
1) On the one hand, he does not know "enough" to protect himself and is, therefore, dependent upon God for protection.
2) On the other hand, he does not love "enough" to understand that he has no need to protect himself.
d. The creation of man included a deeply ingrained sense of self-preservation as a necessary precursor to the production of "Love".
1) When Love is not fully formed, something has to be "in place" to preserve the person until it can grow sufficiently to handle whatever comes.
2) The biblical "interim solution" is "fear".
3) But "fear" requires the presence of a potent commitment to self-preservation (without the commitment to self-preservation, fear cannot exist).
4) God revealed the presence of this pre-commitment as a kind of built-in auto-response when He uttered His warning regarding the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (without this already-present autoresponse, the warning of "death" would have meant nothing).
5) The serpent capitalized upon the presence of this pre-commitment by means of his frank contradiction of God's words and character.
2. The conclusion to these facts is that the "problem" with man is not his ignorance but his deep commitment to self-preservation -- an undeveloped love.
a. Because man had a sufficient background with God and an easily grasped basis for action in words from God, his "undeveloped love" did not have to be a problem.
b. But, because faith was rejected as the only method for developing into what God had in mind for man, the undeveloped love became the problem.
III. Coming Full Circle.
A. Paul's unflinching demand for humility is as clear as it can be in the words of his text.
B. Paul's adamant insistence in Romans upon faith as the method for development explains this unflinching demand: the absence of humility destroys the human capacity for faith.