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Romans 9:19-29 - Homilies By T.f. Lockyer

The rebuke of presumption.

The objectors might say—If God overrules all the conduct of men by such sovereign power, why does he reprobate any? Is not the very idea of the reprobation inconsistent with itself? He sets himself against some that he may glorify his Name; but if this tends to the working of his will, and they cannot resist, why does he set himself against them? The apostle, in reply, will indeed vindicate to them the reasons which enter into the working of the all-righteous God; but, first, he will question their competency to object to the working of such a One as God. They ask in a spirit of self-complacent Pharisaism; he will ask them how they dare presume to sit in judgment on their Maker. He shows, then, the unreasonableness and the unscripturalness of such presumptuous questioning of the ways of God.

I. AS UNREASONABLE PRESUMPTION . If it be regarded on the ground of mere right, has not God a right to do what he will with his own? It is certain that his will is wise, righteous, and merciful; but the question now is one of prerogative. And God, the Absolute One of the universe, is surely not to come to the tribunal of creaturely judgment? It is even as though the clay were to judge the action of the man that fashions it, and say, "Why didst thou make me thus?" The potter has a right over the clay; he may do as he will. He may make the vessels, some for meaner use, some for nobler; and the clay cannot question his deeds. So cannot man question God. He deals with mankind for historical purposes as the potter with the clay. God takes clay, begins to fashion it for purposes of honour, casts it aside, takes other clay and puts it to the use for which the former portion was first it)tended: are we in a position to say, "Why?" God knows best! The race of mankind is dealt with by God according to his own wisdom, and there are vessels of mercy unto glory, and vessels of wrath unto destruction. Egypt was a vessel of wrath, while Israel was taken for fashioning into a vessel of mercy; by-and-by Israel, as a nation, becomes a vessel of wrath, and a new people, of Jews and Gentiles, is the vessel unto honour. God knows what he is doing best. But all shall subserve his glory. Just as Pharaoh's stubbornness was made by God the occasion for a greater display of delivering power, so the stubbornness of the Jews, and their wickedness even unto the crucifixion of their Lord, were made subservient to the world's salvation. And while the wrath towards some was for mercy towards others, yet towards the children of wrath long-suffering was shown, not merely that the purpose of mercy towards others might be more conspicuously and effectually fulfilled, but that they, had they repented, might have mercy shown them. The very wrath is in love.

II. AN UNSCRIPTURAL PRESUMPTION . The presumption was not only unreasonable in itself, but according to their own Scriptures it was altogether unwarranted. Hosea ( Hosea 2:23 ; Hosea 1:10 ) had spoken words of prophecy concerning the ten scattered tribes, which involved the same principle as that on which God was acting now—the right to reprobate for idolatry, and the right to restore. And, as they had lapsed into idolatry, and as they were furthermore so intermingled with the Gentiles that a definite separation might be impossible, theirs was not only a new election, as of Gentiles themselves, but actually involved the election of Gentiles also. Isaiah, too ( Isaiah 10:22 , Isaiah 10:23 ), speaking of Israel, sets forth the other principle, or another aspect of the same, on which God was dealing with the world now—his right, while reprobating Israel from the great work of the world's salvation, to spare a remnant, with whom the Gentiles should be joined, and who with the Gentiles should form the new Church for the extension of the kingdom of God. So, then, their Scriptures pointed to this very selfsame, twofold principle for the formation of the new society. And all their history, as recorded in the Scriptures, had been one repeated manifestation of the same. Yes, God had the right, and he had already used it from the beginning, to take or set aside, as he would, nations or individuals, in the great economy of the redemption of the world. The apostle goes on to show (verse 30- Romans 10:21 ) that there were reasons for God's dealings in all cases, and what, in the main, these reasons were; also ( Isaiah 11:1-16 .) that the very reprobation of Israel now, in accordance with such reasons, should ultimately redound to the good of the world.

Let us remember this for ourselves as a nation. We may think, " God hath not so dealt with any people." But—he does not pledge himself rigidly to deal so with us to the end. Our earnest question must be—not captiously, or he would not answer, but devoutly, and he will answer—Why are we now exalted? and how may we secure a continuance of his blessing which maketh rich? And so for ourselves, as individuals, we can ask no more important question than—How may I become "a chosen vessel," "a vessel unto honour, meet for the Master's use" ( Acts 9:15 ; 2 Timothy 2:21 )?—T.F.L.

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