Tuesday, February 09, 2010

It Depends Not on Human Will or Exertion, but on God, Who Has Mercy

14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:14-16. ESV.)


I was born in and of sin and the flesh. I did not "choose" God…I was lost, blind, self-absorbed in the dark. But I heard the Good Shepherd call, recognized His voice, and followed. While I was a sinner, Christ died for me. God "chose" me and sent His only begotten Son.

I cannot help but wonder, God can remove me from this earth tomorrow. I could die (in a great many different ways, I might add) and I would have no say in the matter…no "choice", no appeal, no debate, no rebuttal…nothing but obedience. So, with that in mind, what in the world would make me think I "choose" to accept God, His grace, and salvation? I did nothing to even deserve it.

I look to John Piper for his teaching on God's righteousness and God's will verses my will. He said,
"Paul grounds the righteousness of God by quoting Exodus 33:19: 'I will have mercy on whomever I have mercy and I will have compassion on whomever I have compassion.' To understand how this argues for God's righteousness in election we need to understand the Old Testament context of Exodus 33:19. Exodus 33:18, 19 say,

"'Then Moses said [to God], 'I pray thee, show me thy glory!' And He said, 'I myself will make my goodness pass before you and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.'

"In Exodus 34:6 when the theophany actually takes place we read, 'The Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious...' What emerges from these two texts is that the essential revelation of God is not what Moses saw but what God said. God's glory was revealed in what he said about himself. In both 33:19 and 34:6 the essential element of his glory revealed was his grace or compassion, and specifically in 33:19 his freedom to have compassion on whom he wills….

"God's words in Romans 9:15 mean that it is an essential part of his glory that he be unbound in choosing the beneficiaries of his mercy. That is, He would be less glorious, indeed He would not be fully God if he were under obligation to any particular human distinctive. He would be dethroned if his bestowal of mercy were dependent on anything outside of Himself. If he waited to see how men 'will' or 'run' (9:16) before he showed mercy, he would be limited by them and therefore not all glorious. As Exodus 33:19 shows, his glory is his freedom from all human claims.

"Therefore, since God's righteousness consists in his acting unswervingly for his own name's sake (=glory) and since his glory consists largely in his sovereign freedom in election, God is not unrighteous to disregard human deeds and distinctives in choosing whom he wills to bless. In fact he must pursue his purpose of election in this way in order to remain righteous, for only in his sovereign, free bestowal of mercy on whomever he wills is God acting out of a full delight in his own glory....

"...Verse 16 draws the obvious inference from verse 15. Whether a man receives mercy from God or not does not depend on a man's willing or his running (=efforts) but solely on God. In other words, God's merciful treatment of anyone is never initiated by or in any way ultimately influenced by the person's will. This is a necessary inference from verse 15: The all glorious God whose glory consists in his freedom to choose whomever He will cannot be determined by or obligated by anything outside himself.

"If free will were defined as the native power in a man to determine his own destiny, this text shows that there is no such thing in the entire world. It not only shows free will to be non-existent, it also shows that to demand free will is an offence against the righteousness of God. For in Paul's understanding the inability of man by his willing to elicit God's mercy (9:16) is a direct inference from the glorious freedom of God (9:15) which in turn is the ground of his righteousness. If God's righteousness consists in his maintaining the fullness of his glory, and if an essential side of that glory is his absolute freedom in election from human willing and running, then to insist that man's will ultimately determines his destiny is to offend the righteousness of God." (Piper, John. "The Argument of Romans 9:14-16". 1976. By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org)


Piper goes on to say,
"…Paul says in Galatians 5:1, 'For freedom Christ has set you free. Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.' So true freedom is being set free from the bondage where what we wanted to do destroyed us.

Now, after new birth, what we want to do is God's will. And in that freedom we act rationally according to what really exists. Thus God gets great glory both for the liberation that he performed on our behalf and for the praises that we now bring him, not as people who are enslaved to sin, but as free people who are seeing the world for what it really is.

God gets glory in being praised for being seen for who he really is. Previously we couldn't see him for who he really is because we hated it so much. And now we do see him for who he really is, and therefore our praises are rational and clear and good, and he gets maximum glory for our obedience, faith, and praise.

So I don't believe in free will if you define it as man's ultimate self-determination. I believe free will as, 'you can do whatever you please.' Before you're born again what you please is self destructive and sinful. After you're born again, what you please is the will of God. So in both cases you have free will in that definition.

But what most people who are sophisticated, theological, and philosophically-oriented mean by free will—over against what I believe—is 'man's ultimate self-determination.' And I don't think there is any such thing, especially since the Fall when our self-determination became always in bondage to sin and therefore self-destructive." (Piper, John. "Is God less glorious for choosing us rather than having us choose him?". 2008. By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org)
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