Roaming Through Romans: Just Who Do You Think You Are? Romans 9:19-20
The narrative continues to affirm and exalt the sovereignty of God. The age-old question of the justice of God is dealt with head-on in this section of Romans. The question is raised in verse 14: “Is there unrighteousness with God?” Paul answers in the negative.
Yet the passages he quotes and the example of Pharaoh, which is given, are often interpreted in a manner which appears to lend credence to the charge of unrighteousness or injustice. I have attempted to deal with these misinterpretations in the preceding installment. Now another question is raised and responded to by the apostle.
Who Are You To Argue With God?
“You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?'” (Rom. 9: 19).
There is some diversity of thought on just what the passage is referring to in the first of two questions. Bryan Vinson argues and Whiteside suggests the possibility that Paul means that if God elected Isaac and his descendants, then why does He find fault with the Jews now?
Most commentators, however, understand the question to be: If God is sovereign and all obey His will, then how can He find fault? For example, if it were God's will that the Jewish nation reject Jesus and crucify Him (Acts 2:23), how could He fault them for doing it? If man's destiny is in God's hands; if He hardens us; why should He blame us for being hardened? It seems to me that the latter view harmonizes better with this context.
The argument, of course, implies a misunderstanding of God's predestined purpose and man's free will. This is still widely misunderstood. But Paul's initial reaction is to set forth the most basic point: who is man to argue with God?
This question should be pondered when we are moved to ask, “If God is good and if He is omnipotent, why is there so much sorrow and evil? Why do the innocent suffer while scoundrels often prosper?” I am not suggesting that it is evil and sinful to ask why. But, hey, who do we think we are anyway?
The fact is that God does not find fault with anyone because of something God Himself has caused. He did not find fault with Jacob or Esau; Ishmael or Isaac because of any choice He, Himself, made. If He finds fault it is precisely because man has resisted His will. This is shown in the last part of the chapter, as well as implied in verse 22.
“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' ” (Rom. 9:20).
This question should be settled first. “Who art thou that are so foolish, so feeble, so shortsighted, so incompetent, a judge of the divine counsels?” (Matthew Henry)
We are just not in a position to debate with God. That He is good and just is a basic fact that must be accepted (Heb. 11:6). He is the Creator and we are the creatures. We do not have sufficient wisdom to judge the Almighty. We are made in His image; therefore, any concept of justice that we have, we received from Him.
“Shall Ishmael, who was rejected, say to God, why did you reject me?... Shall Esau say, why did you reject me? as though God had done him wrong ... Shall rejected Israel reply to God, why have you treated me thus?” (Lard)
The question regarding “the thing formed” and “He who formed it” was also raised by Isaiah in 29:15,16 and 45:9. Paul now continues with the same illustration that that prophet used which we will comment on next time. –Ken Green