18So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
19You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20On the contrary, who are you, you foolish person, who answers back to God? …
18Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall …
Who is responsible for a hard heart? Is it something one does or something God does to them? In this sermon on Romans 9:18–24 titled “Who Art Thou, O Man?” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones introduces the challenging subject of God’s sovereignty and humanity’s responsibility. Scripture speaks of God’s sovereign choice first of the nation of Israel and then of individuals within that nation such as Jacob over Esau. Yet a person’s decision to reject God is also seen. How can God allow such rebellion to exist? Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains that in many cases, it is so that God’s power may be seen in how He handles evil. Yet some may ask, how can God find fault with people since He is sovereign? The question is valid since even Paul incorporates it in this passage, yet before it can be addressed, Dr. Lloyd-Jones encourages examination of motive so that one does not question God from a place of arrogance or indignation. A person’s spirit must be contrite, knowing that their understanding is limited. He encourages careful consideration of who one is and to follow the pathway of Moses before he walked on holy ground or of Isaiah who cautiously and humbly responded to God’s glory.
The apostle begins by rebuking the questioner for replying against God in a contentious spirit. He emphasizes the contrast between man and God - "who art thou, o man?"
The apostle asserts God's absolute freedom and sovereignty. God has mercy on whom he will have mercy and hardens whom he will harden.
The apostle uses the analogy of the potter and the clay to illustrate God's sovereignty over man. Man is like clay, and God is the potter who has power over the clay.
The apostle explains that he has been quoting Scripture, not just giving his own opinion. Therefore, to object is to object to God's own teaching about himself.
The apostle says we must approach this subject, and all of Scripture, with the right spirit - humble, reverent, and willing to listen. We must realize our smallness before God.
Examples of the right spirit are seen in Moses, Joshua, Job, and Isaiah. They humbled themselves when confronted with God's glory and majesty.
The apostle rebukes the "fleshy mind" that intrudes into things it has not seen and is puffed up with its own opinions.
God hides truth from the wise and prudent but reveals it to "babes" - those with a childlike, humble spirit.
We must confess we have often expressed arrogant opinions about God's truth. We need forgiveness and grace.
We need God's Spirit to give us a humble, teachable spirit as we study His Word. We must become "fools" to worldly wisdom to gain true wisdom.
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.