(c) Is There Unrighteousness with God?
Having commenced his great thesis upon the Jewish people, past, present and future Paul enters into a discussion upon the doctrine of Predestination. This has relevance to the Jew and Gentile alike. The Jew belongs to a race chosen by God in ancient times for peculiar blessings. The Jews, however, are not alone in being the children of promise. Abraham has other children who are not of his natural lineage, the Gentile members of Christ’s Church. To demonstrate this Paul showed the Romans that not all those born of Abraham received the promise (Ishmael was excluded) and not all born of Isaac were blessed (because Esau was exempt). He stops with Esau and declares why he was rejected and Jacob received the covenant blessing, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated”. In precisely the same way God rejected the Jewish people, his ancient people and favoured the Gentile peoples in this New Testament age. The choice and decision are his. In the same manner there are those who are saved and there are those who tragically die unsaved. God has decided to pass by some and elect others. Paul anticipates a reaction to this doctrine. Therefore he introduces the question, “Is there unrighteousness with God?”
For the sake of clarity; Paul is not teaching double predestination, which is the belief that God actually chooses some people for damnation. That he does not have to do. Sinners are going to Hell on account of their own nature and rebellion. Therefore God must choose a people to everlasting life. In so doing he passes others by. Yet this remains a mystery? Is God being fair and is he right so to do? Is there unrighteousness with God? Paul responds to this charge by making four appeals. These are powerful arguments in favour of the doctrine of Predestination.
1: The Appeal to the Righteous Nature of God v14
His first argument is as powerful as it is simple; “God forbid.” It is quite wrong to say such a thing because God is always righteous. Any question relating to God must consider who God is. He cannot be unrighteous or he would not be God. Therefore the case is taken out of our understanding and into the arena of Holy Scripture.
2: The Appeal to the Mercy of God v15
The Apostle’s second argument appeals to the mercy of God. The words of v15 are a direct quotation from Exodus 33:19. In the aftermath of the people’s sin in following after the golden calves God explained why he was kind and merciful towards Israel. He was a God of mercy. The crux of the question relating to Predestination is not concerning damnation, that is not mystery. At the heart of the mystery is the salvation of rebellious sinners. The only answer to this question is the mercy of God. In order that some might be saved God must exercise himself in love and mercy. Predestination rather than being unkind and unjust is merciful and compassionate.
3: The Appeal to the Grace of God v16
This text teaches us that God must decide to be merciful in order that men and women might be saved. If there is no predestination then the choice of man becomes the important factor. Salvation is not dependent upon those who will or run but upon the God who shows mercy. The grace of God teaches us that we do nothing and that our total dependence is thrust upon him.
4: The Appeal to the Sovereignty of God v17-18
The final argument offered by Paul is the most unpalatable of all. God is sovereign. Therefore he decides to do with men and women as he sees fit.
Whatever happens to people in eternity God is glorified. His justice is vindicated in hell and his mercy is vindicated in heaven.
The illustration used is Pharaoh. God was not the author of Pharaoh’s sin. This man chose to rebel against the word of God in Moses’ lips. Nevertheless as Pharaoh resisted God hardened his heart and sealed his doom. As Egypt was decimated with those fearful plagues and as the Egyptian armies drowned in the Red Sea God was exalted. Therefore God passes over some sinners, he hardens others and he saves some and he is exalted in each one. What God does is right!
As Christians we should humbled because God’s grace has reached into our lives.
In our evangelism we must confess our need of God to work his saving grace in the hearts of the unconverted.