Thesis:Paul's approach to the question of God's "integrity" is to present "election" as a function of Grace and "judgment" as a function of Justice so that believers do not fall into the trap of "excess".
Introduction:Last week we looked into the first part of Romans 11:7 where Paul calls for some kind of theological conclusion concerning his doctrine of salvation by grace. We saw that it was his conclusion that the larger "Israel" was seeking to acquire a right standing before God and, having applied the wrong methodological approach to that desire, failed. But the lesser "Israel", known as "the elect", having accepted the approach of "grace through faith" actually acquired the right standing before God that is fundamental to the experience of "Life". We got no further and did not consider the rest of Paul's conclusion: that "the rest were hardened".
This evening we are going to at least begin to look into that issue: the "hardening" of the non-elect or, as Paul identifies them, "the rest". In order to do this, we need to carefully consider Paul's argument. It is his claim that the hardening of "the rest" was "an answer to prayer" (11:9-10). Because Jesus commanded His disciples to "pray for those who despitefully use them" (Matthew 5:44), it is a problem for some to read inspired Scriptural accounts of the saints praying for the destruction of those who despitefully use them. But, as always, it is our task to understand the Scriptures, not bend them to suit our own preferences.
Thus, this evening we are going to consider Paul's argument that the hardening of Israel is a legitimate "T"heological activity.
I. The Facts Involved.
A. First, the translation.
1. The underlying Greek text is the same for both the AV and the NASB.
2. The verb in question was originally coined to identify a process in which a malleable substance is turned into a stone-like substance (like water being turned into ice by the manipulation of the temperature).
3. The translators of the AV apparently decided that the notion of "blinding" would carry this concept into the minds of their readers, but the translators of the NASB rejected that notion.
4. John 12:40 is a key text regarding this difference of opinion in that it uses both the word in our current text as well as one that actually addresses the question of whether one can "see".
a. Since the translators of the Authorized Version had no "escape" from the demands of John 12:40, they correctly rendered the word found in our text as "hardened".
b. This strongly suggests that they should have been consistent with John's text when they came to Paul's.
B. Second, the meaning.
1. Paul's claim is that "hardening" means "giving a spirit of slumber" so that neither the eyes, nor the ears, function as they were initially designed.
2. This means that the two of the body's components that have primarily to do with obtaining information so that understanding can occur have been frustrated.
a. This frustration is caused by the "spirit" that was given.
b. Since the issue of "spirit" is the issue of "function", if the spirit is one of "slumber" (the only place in the New Testament where this word is found), neither eyes nor ears will be able to get past the problem in order to do their job.
1) If they cannot do their job, understanding will not happen.
2) They cannot do their job, Paul says, because of the problem the translators call "slumber" or "stupor".
a) The problem the translators insert here is significant: they imply that the eyes and ears cannot function because the underlying "spirit" is "zoned out".
b) This is in keeping with the only two references in the Septuagint where there is a "wine of astonishment" (Psalm 59:5 in the Septuagint; Psalm 60:3 in the AV), but the issue is not "slumber" but "a piercing pain" that so fixates those in pain that they simply cannot give any attention to things the eyes see or the ears hear and the conclusions they are drawing are entirely wrong.
3. The point, then, is that Paul declares that it is God's treatment of them in terms of some form of shocking pain that makes their normal abilities to be overcome.
C. Third, the setting.
1. In both of Paul's "quotes", the "setting" is in the form of a "divine response to human actions".
a. God is not being presented as "proactive", initiating the overall process, but as "reactionary", acting because of the actions of others.
b. God is being presented as "legitimately responding".
2. The primary text in Paul's appeal to what "stands written" is David's Psalm 69.
a. A most crucial observation: Psalm 69:21 is both "Davidic" and "Christological", but the two respond in opposite ways.
1) When David was mistreated in the form of Psalm 69:21, he reacted with a prayer of vengeance.
2) When Jesus was mistreated in the same form, He reacted with a prayer of mercy (Luke 23:34).
b. These "opposite" responses are not "contradictory": they, rather, represent two vastly different attributes of the God to whom the prayers are being directed.
1) According to Revelation 6:10 and the whole of chapter 19, it simply cannot be wrong to pray for the exercise of vengeance.
2) But, according to Matthew 5:44, neither can it be wrong to pray for mercy upon those who deserve the opposite.
D. Fourth, the point.
1. Paul consistently presents God as a both/and Person Whose personal attributes run in opposite directions unto infinity.
2. Paul consistently presents our participation in the Life of God as a direct consequence of legitimate understanding and not illegitimate exclusion.
3. Paul's doctrine of "election" and "the rest" is, actually, the inevitable outcome of the reality of God's character: Justice and Mercy are both adequately expressed so that no man has any legitimate basis for rejecting Him or His Life.
4. Paul's doctrine of the impact of the fall upon man is such that men, when they are subjected to suffering, invariably take the blow as evidence that God is rightly regarded as an enemy and it takes a special action of God to counter that "invariability".
5. Paul's use of David's appeal for Justice does not mean that he accepts the inherent selfishness of the "fallen"; rather, it means that there is an unselfish satisfaction to be found in Justice.