What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! For He tells Moses:
I will show mercy
to whom I will show mercy,
and I will have compassion
on whom I will have compassion.
So then it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy. For the Scripture tells Pharaoh:
I raised you up for this reason
so that I may display My power in you
and that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth.
So then, He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden.
You will say to me, therefore, “Why then does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?” But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction? And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory — on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As He also says in Hosea:
I will call Not My People, My People,
and she who is Unloved, Beloved.
And it will be in the place where they were told,
you are not My people,
there they will be called sons of the living God.
But Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
Though the number of Israel’s sons
is like the sand of the sea,
only the remnant will be saved;
for the Lord will execute His sentence
completely and decisively on the earth.
And just as Isaiah predicted:
If the Lord of Hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have become like Sodom,
and we would have been made like Gomorrah.
Romans 9 is dear to my heart. It is the portion of Scripture which convinced me of the truth of predestination and election. It convinced me of Calvinism. It convinced me of the absolute sovereign rule and reign of God over everything, including the redemption of man. I would not say that I was opposed to it before reading Romans 9, only that this portion of Scripture cemented these ideas for me.
It would be easy to say after reading Romans 9 that there is injustice with God. I mean, if God choose to set his love on Jacob before he was even born; and he choose to set his anger against Esau as well before he was born. And if God is sovereign over his creation so much so that no person can resist the will of God; then why does he still fault humans who do not repent of their sin and trust in Christ for their salvation? They ultimately had no choice in the matter. Verse 16 says “So then it does not depend on human will or effort, but on God who shows mercy.” And verse 18 “So then, He shows mercy to whom He wills, and He hardens whom He wills.”
There are many people who argue for the doctrine of predestination and election based upon all sorts of fancy and complicated arguments, but Paul gives us the right biblical response. We want to get God off the hook. We want to say all sorts of things on God’s behalf so that he does not appear unjust. But Paul simply says, “But who are you — anyone who talks back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘why did you make me like this?’ Or has the potter no right over His clay to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor?” This must be our response to the world as well. God does not want us to get him off the horns of this dilemma. He is perfectly comfortable standing on the horns and declaring “who are you to talk back to God?”
A piece of insight which helped me was found after I understood the doctrine of the depravity of man. Once I understood that all of humanity was running away from God and not toward him, it makes a bit more sense. “No one seeks God, no not one.” Remember that verse? With that understanding, picture each and every human ever born running as fast as they can toward hell. Jesus has his arms open to them yet they all are running in the other direction. Then out of love God chooses to stop this one and that one, one over here and one over there. Is this loving of God? Oh yes! He did not need to stop any of them, but yet he does. If you are a Christian today, it is only because God freely chose to resist you from running the other direction. He chose to turn you around to see Jesus calling you to come. Did you chose to come? Why do you think you did?