A while ago I wrote about how we should approach teaching on Election in Romans 9 with heartbreak and hallelujahs. Sorrowful over those who do not share in an inseparable relationship with Jesus, soaring in joy over the wonders of the salvation we have received by grace.
You may not agree with my conclusions on Romans 9v1-18 and you may be eqally humbled by your own understanding of this passage or this doctrine. Nonetheless, I want to share the way this affects me. In 9v1-18 we see that God has revealed himself much to the Jews yet many don't believe. Why not? Not because God's word has failed but because God never promised to save everyone. Rather he saves by his choice before birth, independent of human desire or effort. Salvation then is by God's free choice in a way that brings most glory to himself. He makes it evident that hardening the Egyptian king would make him famous as would saving his own idolatrous people. There is wisdom far beyond us in this matter.
We may protest that this seems unfair of God to make us responsible for our sin. It is this that occupies him in v19-29. The opening question is a protest from a non-Christian saying : how can God blame me, if I'm hardened because of nothing in me but only because of his choice for his reputation.
The reply floors us. We're likened to clay in a potters hands. We're mud. We have thoughts far above our station when we come to protest in the courts of divine wisdom. Who are we to protest our rights?
The second response is striking. The anguished apostle says that it is God's purpose to harden some to show his wrath and power so that he can show his mercy and glory to those he saves. One must exist for the other to. If he never shows his wrath his mercy is less glorious. We accept that God would judge responsively but this makes his wrath much more active and a deliberate part of his plan to show how glorious he is.
The third response is mostly a word for the saved, those who have received mercy. Firstly from Hosea - we're the Spiritual Adulterers reconciled to God. Though we should be classes as not God's people we are counted as sons of the living God. Isaiah follows this reminding us that God only saves a remnant - and he does save a remnant though he could sweep us all away. And furthermore, if it were not for God's mercy all the saved would be like Sodom & Gomorrah. We should be a byword for evil yet we receive mercy.
One might argue how it seems harsh for the hardened to be judged, but rather we're to conclude: how humbled the saved should be. What mercy to rescue a rebel like me! My heartbreaks for those not saved yet this is for God's glory. And what motivation to go and proclaim Christ that they might believe. The wisdom that knows who will be saved is not entrusted to me, all I can see is that there is nothing in people to excuse them from belief - not family background, not behaviour, not desire or effort. None of those are a reason why God saves. Only his free and abounding mercy.