Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
January 28, 2018
14 What shall we say then? [Is there
] unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then [it is
] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy
], and whom he will he hardeneth.
1901 ASV Translation
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses,
I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh,
For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth.
18 So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will be hardeneth.
- I. The Questions.
- A. What shall we conclude?
- 1. Paul, once again, calls for a "determinative conclusion" [see notes].
- 2. Paul is presenting a most fundamental issue in light of his declaration that God's integrity and grace compel the primacy of His decisions rather than those of men.
- B. There is not unrighteousness with The God is there?
- 1. On the face of it, Paul seems to be responding to the gut reaction of those who resist His grace. These typically begin immediately to complain that the primacy of God's decisions makes Him arbitrary and, thus, "unfair".
- 2. But the logic of his answer(s) implies something a bit deeper than "fair". What does it mean to be "unrighteous"?
- a. At the most fundamental level, it means to treat others contrary to the standards of "what ought to guide treatment". "Righteousness, at the roots, is doing to/for others what "ought" to guide "doing to/for ...".
- 1) Since we are forbidden to seek vengeance against those who have harmed us, it should be clear that "righteousness" is primarily treating others as they ought to be treated without a setting of their faulty behavior toward us. Thus, to do "righteousness" does not include the dark side of how a person should be treated. We are to leave that to God.
- 2) Given that Paul's quote is set in the context of the boys having done neither good or evil, God's treatment of them is neither "righteous", nor "unrighteous". His treatment of them is outside the scope of "oughtness".
- b. Unrighteousness, then, has to mean "doing to/for" in a way that violates the "oughtness" of the guidelines.
- c. It must be admitted that, in one sense, "grace" does violate the insistences of "righteousness" simply because the essence of "grace" is to do someone a "better" turn than they deserve, or what is "right" in light of their lack of godly behavior.
- d. But, in another sense, to claim that "being gracious" is "unrighteous" in the sense that it ought to never come into play denies everything about the Gospel wherein Christ was treated "ungraciously" in order to free God up to treat sinners with "grace".
- e. The bottom line of the "grace"/"unrighteousness" issue: Grace does violate "righteousness" in that it gives someone better than what "righteousness" says they deserve, but it is not "unrighteous" to do that. "Righteousness" does not forbid "better" treatment; it simply forbids "worse than is deserved" treatment. Jesus is recorded by Matthew as making this very point (Matthew 9:13 and 12:7). The unmerciful detest seeing a deserving sinner being given better than he/she has coming, but in so doing they mark themselves out of "benefit" because they will be treated according to what they deserve (and the selfrighteous do deserve the eternal pangs of Hell for their arrogance and lack of humility).
- f. But what about the "injustice" of giving someone better than he/she deserves? If a man murders someone, and the judge does not visit wrath upon him, is not the judge being "unjust" to those directly affected in a negative way by the murder? The answer to that depends entirely upon whether, or not, a provision has been made in the "justice system" for the extension of "mercy". This is the essence of the Gospel: a proclamation that God has made a provision so that "mercy" is not "unjust" (Romans 3:26). Additionally, the insistence by those affected by the injustice of a crime committed may well be nothing more than the expression of a kind of self-righteousness that is at the root of all absence of mercy.
- II. The Answers.
- A. God forbid.
- B. He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion'. The question here is how this text answers the question of whether there is "unrighteousness" with The God.
- 1. As noted above, "unrighteousness" assumes the treatment of a person in a way that is worse than he/she deserves to be treated.
- 2. Unless it can be established that God has done something to someone that is less than what he/she actually deserves in terms of "good", the charge is vacuous.
- 3. The major, preliminary thesis is: Has God's Word failed? Absolutely not.
- 4. The portion of that Word at stake: what has God "said" (revealed as to His own character and actions)? "I will have mercy ... I will have compassion ...".
- a. Both of these issues (mercy and compassion) are actions that treat people better than they should be treated which, even in human terms, is not generally considered "unrighteous" except in settings where the better treatment actually undercuts what is required by "righteousness" (a judge allowing a guilty person to go free as opposed to a judge making it possible for a guilty person to serve his/her time in a prison/jail that is a better environment than many other prisons/jails).
- b. God is not "unrighteous" unless the requirements of "oughtness" go unmet. The whole point of Romans 3:25-26 is that the horror of the death of Jesus Christ as a substitute for sinners met the requirements of "oughtness" and, thus, permitted God to justify sinners.