God’s Sovereignty: He Has Mercy on Whom He Chooses


Sermon Text: Romans 9:9-24
Sermon Series: “The Sovereignty of God”

Main Points:
I. God chose as the sovereign Moulder
II. God chose to show His goodness
III. Our response to God’s mercy on whom He chooses

This morning, we’re continuing with the topic of ‘God’s sovereignty.’ In previous two Lord’s Days, we’ve considered this theme, God’s sovereignty, on two perspectives – firstly, on the essence of His being and existence, that is, ‘He alone is God and none besides Him.’ Because He alone is God, He is sovereign and He must be sovereign – otherwise, He wouldn’t be God because being sovereign is the unique nature of God who alone is above all beings and things that exist. Secondly, God’s sovereignty on the nature of His work of creation and control of all things. Both of His works of creation and control prove the Lord’s absolute sovereignty.

Today’s message grows out of the previous two points, and we’ll see how the Creator’s choice further testifies to His sovereignty. Saying ‘choice,’ I mean the decision God made before the foundation of the world. ‘Election’ is another word for the choice He made. I believe this is the matter of the utmost concern to many Christians and non-Christians. But, assuredly, God’s choice or election as taught in the Bible proves His sovereignty.

There’s an expression used in the Bible that describes this choice God made. And this is found in vs. 15 and 18 of today’s passage which says simply, ‘God has mercy on whom He has mercy.’ It means, whomever God chose to show His mercy, He is merciful toward them. But showing mercy is not the only aspect of God’s election; the opposite is also a part of His choice. So, v. 18 says, “He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills.” So, God’s choice is for either mercy or disfavour.

This is, I believe, the shortest and simplest as well as most profound description of God’s choice, election, in the Scriptures. This statement has helped numerous believers comprehend and uphold the truth of God’s sovereignty. But, unfortunately, this has also been a great stumbling block to many people – I mean, some Christians, if not many, in addition to the unbelievers.

So, let us consider how God’s choice attests God’s sovereignty.

While Christians agree with the fact that God created this world according to His own design, not so with the teaching of God’s choice or election. When some people hear that God freely, sovereignly, chose some and not others, they raise their eyebrows and question whether that choice of God was just or fair. Their query is usually on what basis God picked some to save and not others.

Their question sounds quite appealing and logical to the natural man’s ears – and that’s why this argument point has been popular for many people over many generations. Even the people of the first century used it as evident in our text passage, especially in vs. 14 and following. On what basis, on what condition did God choose some to save while He decided not to save others? They are curious to know whether the condition God used in His choice would also sound fair to their ears. They doubt it, however.

But when people ask this, they do not really know what they ask and wish to know. As they question on ‘fairness’ of God’s choice, they’re in fact asking the matter of ‘God’s sovereignty,’ because God made His choice based on His sovereignty and that’s the only condition of His choice. I mean, He chose in His freedom to do whatever pleased Him, being not responsible to anyone else, nor under anyone else’s authority; rather, He alone holds the ultimate and supreme authority and power, and exercises His authority according to His goodness and justness. Simply put, He chose because He had power to do that; He chose and, according to His choice, He made all things. So, people’s question on fairness of God misses the mark completely. God chose not based on individual’s conditions or as God’s response to individual’s worthiness; rather, it’s the opposite – God chose in His sovereignty, and His choice was and is the basis of individual’s birth and existence as well as salvation for some. In this sense, people’s question on fairness of the ground of God’s choice is whether God was just when He made His own choice in His sovereignty.

Never does this mean that God’s choice could be unfair in any sense. The Bible is clear about fairness also. For example, 2 Chron. 19:7 tells us that “with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.” He is fully just in His choice; He is the Creator with full right and freedom to make things in His own design and choice.

The word of God tells us more about God’s sovereign choice. In addition to fairness, we’re informed with the purpose of His election, that is, God chose to show His goodness toward sinners. This is what the Apostle Paul deals with in vs. 22-24 of today’s passage. Not only in this section, but also in places like Rom. 2:4 and Eph. 3:16 is this purpose explained. In a word, God chose before the foundation of the world to show His goodness, to show His kindness toward all sinners – that means, both the elect and the non-elect.

Let me elaborate this purpose a bit further. The first and most important truth you need to understand with God’s choice is that, quite contrary to people’s conception, God did not pick ‘innocent’ some while abandoning ‘innocent’ others. That’s not the case. The people God chose were not ‘neutral’ morally or ethically; rather, all people were sinners who deserved an instant punishment for their sins, and that instant punishment is eternal damnation.

You need to understand God’s justice in terms of its concept rather than of how it is actually applied in the present world. I mean, the concept of God’s justice is instantaneous in its application. God’s justice recognises a sin and declares a corresponding punishment to that sin and exercises it instantly. This is because sin cannot coexist with the righteous God. Like the way darkness instantly disappears under the sunlight, God’s righteousness and goodness expels any sin before His just presence. So, anyone commits a sin, he is at once sinful before God, and with an instant divine verdict, expelled in a flash to hell. That’s justice, and if the execution of due punishment is delayed, then, that is injustice.

But, that is not the case we find in this world. God’s due punishment is often, if not always, delayed. Sinners are not instantly punished but they continue their life in this world God created and runs in His sovereign will and power. All of us are sinners; there’s none righteous. Even we who are saved through faith in Jesus and washed in His blood are not perfectly pure because we still commit various sins in words and deeds and thoughts. If God were not gracious toward us, thus, executed His divine justice, all of us and the whole population outside of these walls altogether would’ve been teleported to hell in a flash!

But that’s not the case; we’re here and numerous sinners on earth continue their life. So, the existence of both the elect – consisted of both the saved and the not-yet-saved – and the non-elect is pure evidence of God’s goodness toward sinners. He is delaying His punishment; He is withholding His divine justice on sinners. Why is God so kind to all sinners? Rom. 2:4 answers, “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance”! This kindness and forbearance and patience are ‘the riches of God’s glory’ as Eph. 3:16 points out.

This means, God’s choosing of some sinners to salvation is His pure grace and kindness toward all sinners, not just the elect. This is because the chosen are in the world with the non-elect sinners, the non-elect also benefit from the kindness of God. In other words, as both groups of the elect – that is, the saved and the not-yet-saved – are still in the midst of the non-elect, divine punishment on the non-elect is delayed. I believe you remember Jesus’ parable of the weeds as recorded in Mt. 13. Seeing weeds growing among the wheat, the servants asked their master whether they should pluck the weed out from the field. The master’s answer was to leave them until the harvest time, then, to be thrown into fire and burned. Until then, damnation is delayed, and God is patiently withholding His wrath. Meanwhile, all elect of God are given an opportunity to repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus!

So, God’s choice, His election was and is to show His goodness, His kindness toward sinners, leading all elect to repentance! He chose in His sovereign goodness.

Having said, let me lead you to focus on the question the Apostle Paul asks in vs. 22-24 of our passage for today which is a profoundly important question. It is about our response to God’s goodness. He asks in this sense: ‘You had no share in God’s blessing but was a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction, but God chose you and showed you the riches of His glory; then, what is your response to this glorious and rich goodness of God toward you?’

Let me suggest you three responses and each of these is a summary of what the Bible teaches us. Firstly, realise that your doubt concerning God’s fairness in His choice reflects sinfulness of man’s heart which is, in another word, sinner’s blatant impudence. So, never do you, never do any of us question God about His choice. He sovereignly chose some, including you and me, and we’re eternally blessed.

Secondly, you should thank God now and always, never ceasing to be thankful to your gracious Heavenly Father, because your faith in Jesus, thus, thanks to the Father is the evidence of your election which is the greatest gift in God’s unfathomable grace.

Then, the third and last response. Be always joyful and confident of the purpose of God’s sovereign election. By choosing you, God has shown you the riches of His goodness. Isn’t this why the Apostle Paul says in Rom. 8:32 that ‘God who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for you, will also with His Son Jesus graciously give you all things’?

As you and I have received the greatest gift from God, let us repent of our sin; let us thank the Father and the Son always; and let us rejoice always in the riches of God’s glory shown in His election of us through Jesus Christ! ***

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