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Is there Injustice with God? (Romans 9:14-29)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“Is there Injustice with God?”

(Romans 9:14-29)

Series: Romans – United in the Gospel [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

July 10, 2022

Introductory Comments:

Well, here we are back in our study of Romans 9. Today, we are looking at verses 14-29. Last week, we started our journey into this challenging, yet fascinating, chapter of the Bible. 

In today’s passage, Paul seems to anticipate that many of the readers of the book of Romans will want to question what God is doing when it comes to His sovereign work from Heaven that He is carrying out among His people. 

In fact, Paul begins the passage with these words, “What should we say then? Is there injustice with God?” That is the title of today’s sermon, “Is there Injustice with God?” [on screen] That’s a pretty serious question.

Just a couple of weeks ago, while we were working in Appalachian Kentucky, we were building a house for a missionary there. The house sat on a hill so as we cut metal sheeting for the bottom of the house we had to cut some at an angle. As I worked with a couple of young men I tried to teach them a bit about building things. I taught them that if your cut is at an angle your measurement could be off by just a bit at one side of the cut but by the time you get to the other side of that cut the measurement is way off. You have to get that measurement right or everything is really messed up. So also, understanding God’s sovereignty in the world is extremely important. If we misunderstand who God is, it messes up everything else in our lives. 

Indeed, this is an important passage of Scripture. So, let’s pray together and ask God to speak to us as we study His Word. 


So, just a bit of review: we were introduced last week to this idea of election. This idea that God chooses someone to be part of His promise. Paul mentioned Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

Paul also mentioned that God’s children are not necessarily those who are physically descended from Abraham but those who are “children of the promise.” 

These children of the promise are not chosen based on anything that they have done. Rather, Paul points out that they are chosen by God. 

We’re going to see in today’s passage that Paul will continue to pursue this idea and answer some objections that some of us may have regarding what He’s already said. 

First, let us see that . . . 

I. It is God’s choice (14-16) [on screen]

Again, we’re talking about God choosing certain people to be children of the promise, starting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and continuing on from there. 

So, let’s see what Paul says about this. Look at verses 14-16:

14 What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! 15 For he tells Moses, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then, it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy.

Based on all that Paul has already said, this question arises: “Is there injustice with God?”

Since God is choosing Jacob over Esau, is that unfair? Since some people are children of the promise and some are not, is injustice happening? Is God unjust?

As Paul often does, he answers the question emphatically and then he gives an explanation to the answer. Paul says, “Absolutely not!” God is not unjust or unfair in any way!

In his explanation to his declaration, Paul references God’s showing of mercy to the people of Israel in the Old Testament. 

God showed great forgiveness to the people of Israel after they sinned greatly while Moses was leading them. Shortly after this moment, God met with Moses and He revealed Himself as the God who shows mercy to whomever He decides to show mercy. 

Listen, church: the people of Israel did not deserve God’s mercy. They had just made a false deity in the form of an idol and they were worshiping that manmade item (you can read about this in Exodus 32-33). They had done nothing to deserve mercy. 

Jacob did not deserve the mercy of God. You and I do not deserve God’s mercy. Remember, Paul said in last week’s passage that the decision for Jacob and Esau was made before they were born and not based at all on what they had done good or bad. 

Again, here Paul says in verse 16, “So then, it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy.”

Church, according to the apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and according to God Himself as He spoke to Moses, the decision to whom God will show mercy is God’s choice. 

Second, . . .

II. It is God’s reason (17-18) [on screen]

God not only is able to make a sovereign choice about showing mercy to people but God does so for His own reasons. 

At times, God gives us a peek behind the curtain to see why He makes the choice that He makes, but most of the time He doesn’t because that is His business. 

One such moment where God reveals a reason for His choice is in verses 17 and 18 of our passage. Listen to what Paul says:

17 For the Scripture tells Pharaoh, “I raised you up for this reason so that I may display my power in you and that my name may be proclaimed in the whole earth.” 18 So then, he has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Paul recounts what the Lord says to Pharaoh through Moses. God tells Pharaoh that He is using him to show His greatness, not only to the Israelites but to the whole earth. You see, God worked miracles to deliver the people of Israel, and all the people who surrounded Egypt would have front row seats to witness the greatness of God through what God did with the Exodus of His people. 

Pharaoh deserved death because of the great evil he was committing in the land and against God’s people. However, God didn’t simply kill him; God worked through the evil of Pharaoh to accomplish something great. God does stuff for His own reasons. 

In verse 18, Paul goes back to what God has already said of Himself but Paul adds to it: “He has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”

God may choose to show mercy to someone, as He did to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, David, Paul, and you and me. Likewise, God may choose to work through someone’s evil and even harden them as He did with Pharaoh, King Saul, King Nebuchadnezzar, Judas, and others. 

Why does God do what He does and why does He do it the way that He does it? Listen, church: it’s God’s choice and it’s for God’s reasons.

Third, . . .

III. It is God’s prerogative (19-24) [on screen]

Have you ever said these words to a child; or perhaps an employee, a student, or someone else under your authority: “Because I said so.” Most of us understand that there’s a certain right that should be given to the person who is in authority to do what they choose to do. 

So also, and so much greater, it is God’s prerogative to show mercy to whomever He chooses to show mercy and to not show mercy to whomever He chooses to not show mercy. 

By the way, prerogative means, “a right or privilege exclusive to a particular individual.” God alone has the right and privilege to work His plan and purpose among His people. 

Listen to what Paul says about this in verses 19-24:

19 You will say to me, therefore, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” 21 Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? 22 And what if God, wanting to display his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory— 24 on us, the ones he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Paul asks another question here that he anticipates some of us may wonder about. Here’s the question, “If God is the one who chooses to show mercy and if He does so for His own reason, why are we still held accountable for how we respond to God?”

Paul acknowledges that God is all-powerful and His will cannot be resisted. In other words, if God purposes for something to happen it will happen. So, Paul asks, “Why then does he still find fault?”

Well, what’s the answer, church? Don’t just lean on me, look for yourself. Look at verse 20. Here’s the answer to the question Paul asks: “Who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God?” How do you like that? Does that answer satisfy you? Perhaps your level of satisfaction with that answer is tied to your understanding of who God is. 

This sort of reminds me of the child who screams at his or her parents that they are unfair and they just don’t understand how life works. Or the employee who tells the founder of the company that they don’t know how to run a successful business. Or the uncommitted church member who tells a dedicated pastor with 40 years of ministry experience that they don’t think they’re leading the church correctly (that’s not me, of course). In these situations, you sort of want to respond, “How dare you even think for a second that you know what you’re talking about. You know nothing about parenting, or nothing about running a company, or nothing about leading a church.” Similarly and on a much grander level, Paul says, “Who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God?”

I don’t know about you all, but this reminds me a lot of the book of Job. Do you remember the book of Job? How did God answer Job when God finally decided to answer him after all of his questioning? Listen to Job 38 (read Job 38:1-11)

To help us understand this reality, Paul also provides the illustration of a potter and clay. If the potter wants to use one chunk of clay to make a beautiful sculpture and another to make a bowl to hold scraps from the table, that is his or her prerogative to do so. The clay has no right to complain to the potter.

Folks, it is God’s prerogative to work amongst His creation however He chooses to do so. If God has chosen us, called us, led us to repentance, led us to a love for Him, led us to choose to follow Him, adopted us, saved us, and sanctified us that is His choice, for His reason, by His prerogative. 

Finally, . . . 

IV. It is God’s masterpiece (25-29) [on screen]

Church, God has all the wisdom, knowledge, power, glory, and sovereignty needed to make all the choices that He needs to make, for His reason, and by His prerogative. As He is working His plan, God is painting an absolute masterpiece!

God is doing something wonderful and beautiful in Creation! God is working miracles among His people! God is expanding and deepening His kingdom by saving sinners and showing mercy to people from every tribe, people, and tongue, from generation to generation!

God is a wonderful artist. He is a skilled potter and His people are His masterpiece. 

Our VBS verse this year is Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” Church, we are His workmanship; we are His masterpiece. 

Listen to what Paul says in verses 25-29, but let’s jump to verse 23 and take it from there:

23 And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory—24 on us, the ones he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As it also says in Hosea,

I will call Not My People, My People,
and she who is Unloved, Beloved.

26 And it will be in the place where they were told,
you are not my people, 

there they will be called sons of the living God.

27 But Isaiah cries out concerning Israel,

Though the number of Israelites
is like the sand of the sea,
only the remnant will be saved;

28 since the Lord will execute his sentence
completely and decisively on the earth.

29 And just as Isaiah predicted:

If the Lord of Armies had not left us offspring,
we would have become like Sodom,
and we would have been made like Gomorrah.

We’re going to conclude here soon but I wanted to introduce these verses which we will revisit again next time. 

Recall from last week what Paul said in verse 6 of chapter 9. Paul said, “Now it is not as though the word of God has failed.” You see, if God’s people (the Israelites) rejected the Messiah (Jesus), then did God fail? That was last week’s sermon. 

Not only did God not fail but He is creating a beautiful masterpiece. 

You see, church: Paul points out that a remnant of Jewish people will turn back to God and accept their Messiah AND the promises of God will expand beyond the Jewish people to impact the entire non-Jewish (or Gentile) world! What a miraculous and beautiful masterpiece God is creating!

Paul says in verses 23 and 24: “And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory— on us, the ones he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”

Concluding Thoughts:

God is doing something wonderful in this world; He is doing something wonderful in His kingdom; and He is doing so by His choice, for His reasons, according to His prerogative; in a masterfully beautiful way, and He is doing so for His glory. 

Let this bottom line summarize this message this week:

Bottom Line: God is working out His own God-sizedplan in His own God-likeway[on screen]


Why does God do the things that He does in the way that He does it? Because He is God and we are not. We must take comfort in the fact that we are not God and He is. 

God is perfect in all of His ways and we must learn to trust God simply because He is God. 

Challenge yourself this week in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

1. Ask yourself what Godowesyou. [on screen]

Read some more of the book of Job, starting in chapter 38 and continuing on. 

Think about who God is and who you are. Then, ask yourself this question, “What does God owe me?”

2. Ask yourself what youoweGod. [on screen]

What has God done for you through creating you, pursuing you through the power of His spirit, and redeeming you by the blood of Jesus?

What do you owe God?

3. ThankGod. [on screen]

Take some time this week to thank God for all that He’s done for you. 

Thank Him even now as we prepare to close in a song of response. 


God is working a masterpiece in this world. Are you part of the masterpiece that God is painting? Will you join Him and His kingdom today? Will you become one of the children of the promise? 

Although God chooses to show mercy, we must still receive His mercy. He works out His choice to show us mercy through our choosing to receive His forgiveness and to receive Jesus as our Lord. 

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

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