Difficult Truth (Romans 9:14-18)

Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” (Romans 9:18, KJV 1900)

Many years ago, someone challenged me to understand what the reformers taught regarding the theology of salvation. More than this, I wanted to see what the Bible said about these things. I began an exhaustive investigation, reading many books and studying the Bible.

Paul continues to deal with this difficult topic. This truth is that God is sovereign over the call of people to salvation, extending mercy to whom He chooses. God calls people according to the purpose of His own will, apart from the will or merit of man. Paul wrote, “So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16, ESV)

Do not feel bad if you find this a difficult thing to grasp. Some of the greatest theologians came to the same conclusion. It is impossible to figure out why God moves in the hearts of some and not others. In my quest, I read a treatise compiled by Martin Luther called, “The Bondage of the Will.” In this book, I found the answer to my dilemma. See the following quote from Luther.

So it is right to say: ‘If God does not desire our death, it must be laid to the charge of our own will if we perish’; this, I repeat, is right if you spoke of God preached. For He desires that all men should be saved, in that He comes to all by the word of salvation, and the fault is in the will which does not receive Him . . . But why the Majesty does not remove or change the fault of will in every man (for it is not in the power of man to do it), or why He lays this fault to the charge of the will, when man cannot avoid it, it is not lawful to ask; and though you would ask much, you would never find out; (Luther, “The Bondage of the Will,” p. 171)

Luther indicated that the man that did not choose God had a problem of a corrupted will. This is because the will is a function of man’s nature and all men are born with a corrupted nature. He also indicated that only God can change the will of man. God does this through the Spirit’s work of regeneration. So here is the perplexing question. Why does God not change the fault of the will in every man? Luther’s response to this question opened my eyes and released me from my perplexity. He indicated that we could search our entire lives and never find out the answer to that question.

My conclusion was that there are still certain things of God that are higher than our ability to understand. He is Sovereign and omniscient and we are not. We must just trust the teachings of Scripture. We must obey its teachings and give glory to God, who has extended mercy to us.

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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