14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!Romans 9:14–20 (NASB 1995)
15 For He says 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 does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”
18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”
20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?
[The following commentary is offered with fear and trepidation.]
Every objection to what logically follows from this passage is offered up by Paul in the succeeding verses in Romans 9. Depending on your theological stripes your reaction will be “that’s what I’m talking about” or “that’s patently unfair.” In the end, you must concede to Paul’s argument because it says what it says. If I’ve been chosen I’ve been extended mercy by God, but if I look to my right and left and could know what God knows, there are those to whom it has not been extended, this all happening before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
But what if I share the gospel with these people? You will have been obedient, yes, but it will not change their eternal destiny if it’s already cast in stone it would appear. I say this not to equivocate, but to acknowledge my lack of omniscience and the conundrum we all face.
This truth will not be accepted by half of those who read this regardless the authority of God’s word and the consistency with which this doctrine is taught throughout its pages. They’d rather believe a person needs only to briefly travel the “Romans Road” to arrive at this mercy. It could happen like this, sure, but many never get near this off-ramp as they speed along the Road to Perdition. Someone who will receive mercy will be moved by God to the exact juncture at which this gift will be granted, possibly via someone who spent their Sunday afternoons dutifully taking a class on sharing your faith, and it will be accepted by faith.
But the total sovereignty of God has got to be total. If it’s hard to fathom how it works it’s hard to fathom because our minds can’t handle the cognitive dissonance it causes. God can’t be selective! How can we pray expectantly for heaven’s sakes? The truth is we will never resolve this issue, because God is sovereign and he is susceptible and responds to the effective prayers of the righteous (James 5:16). Two truths unresolvable unless allowed to peacefully coexist.
Nevertheless, there are many who just don’t want to go there, that is to contemplate and accept predestined salvation (Ephesians 1:3-6, 2:10). If you still can’t handle this truth, it will be best to review Paul’s example of the potter and the clay that follows (v. 21), and repeat as often as necessary. Then think about those down through time who seem to have never even got close enough, or better were not drawn to the gospel, or who refused it (e.g., Pharaoh). Could it be that they were not chosen by God?
Granted, all this is mind-boggling, and so it should be.