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Sermon #3220

Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart

A Sermon on Romans 9:17-18


Romans 9:17-18 ESV KJV
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (ESV)

Sermon Description

Does God purposefully harden people’s hearts? This statement causes great offense. In this sermon on Romans 9:17–18 titled “Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains the meaning behind Paul’s statements and the conclusions that can be drawn from it. Paul says that God raised up Pharaoh into this situation for His specific purposes and then God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God did this so that he could display His power through Pharaoh. Dr. Lloyd-Jones reminds that when one comes across a difficult passage, they should compare it with other similar passages. He then gives several examples in the Old and New Testaments that show God hardening people’s hearts. So how does God do this? Several factors that result in a hardening of the heart include God removing his restraining influence, by showing His mercy, by initiating desires that were already in a person, and by using Satan. God never creates sin or causes an evil position of the heart; He only aggravates what is already inside of a person. In this passage of Romans, Paul speaks of how God used Pharaoh to create the result of his plan. In this, Pharaoh chose to harden his own heart in addition to God also hardening his heart.

Sermon Breakdown

  1. The apostle Paul divides up his matter into two main difficulties or objections which could be brought with respect to the teaching that he has given from verse six to verse 13.
  2. The first objection was that it seems unjust and unrighteous in God to show his mercy to some and not to others, and particularly in view of the fact that he teaches that he does so even before they were born, quite irrespective of any action or any merit on their part.
  3. The second objection was that it seems equally unjust and unrighteous on the part of God in the words that we are given with regard to Esau, namely Esau. Have I hated Jacob have I loved Esau have I hated.
  4. In verses 15 and 16, the apostle took up the first aspect of the general case, or if you'd prefer it, the first subsidiary case. And he deals with it.
  5. In verse 17, we come to his handling of the second case, the second subsidiary case, or the second aspect of the general main case, this charge of unrighteousness in God in the light of this teaching.
  6. The scripture Saith unto Pharaoh, even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
  7. The meaning conveyed in the original term is allowing someone to appear or bringing someone forward onto the stage of events.
  8. A better translation would be this, I have caused thee to stand, rather than I have raised thee up. I have caused thee to stem.
  9. The whole idea is that he brought pharaoh into that particular position at that particular point for this purpose. We must get rid of any notion that he was made or created for this purpose.
  10. To harden means to render obstinate, to render stubborn. That's what it means. It doesn't merely mean to punish. It's more than that. It literally means to render obstinate and stubborn.
  11. The record in Exodus not only tells us that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, but it also tells us that Pharaoh hardened his own heart.
  12. God hardened Pharaoh's heart, but also we are told that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. How do we resolve this?
  13. The word used is an active word. It's not a permissive idea at all the statement is quite definitely that God rendered Pharaoh stubborn and obstinate. It wasn't merely that he permitted him to become thus, or allowed him to become.
  14. God doesn't do that. God cannot do that. We've got a statement by the apostle James that ought to put us right on this once and forever, where he says in the first chapter and verse 13, let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God. For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any men. God is not the author of evil. God cannot be tempted by evil, and he never tempts anyone?
  15. What God does is to aggravate what is already there. He doesn't create it. He doesn't put it there, but he aggravates what is there for his own great purpose. God never made pharaoh an unbeliever. But because he was an unbeliever, God aggravated his unbelief in order to bring to pass his own great purpose of showing his power and his glory.

The Book of Romans

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.