by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2 February 4, 2018 Humble, Texas
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:
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. So Then...
A. The Logos Library System says the word translated "So" in the "So then" phrase (by both Authorized Version and NASB translators) is "an untranslatable interrogative particle implying anxiety or impatience" (for whatever reason). However, more detailed references say that it "infers" a conclusion; thus, a translation of it as "so".
B. Paul's use in Romans (in eleven texts) is pretty consistent in that it "points to a conclusion" from the previous statements of truth.
II. This "Conclusion" Eradicates Legalism.
A. Under legalism, relationships are founded upon the choices and actions of those involved in them.
B. But, under the biblical, relational principle of Promise/Faith, relationships are founded upon commitmentsmade (promises) and believed (faith) and all of them are undergirded by the "God" Who makes the initial commitment(s). Thus, before either of the children were born, before they had done anything good or evil, God committed to the elevation of the weaker over the stronger. This is absolutely required by the nature of divine commitments: God has never, and will never, rest His integrity upon the decisions and actions of another, less-than-god, person. Promises are only valid if they rest upon immutable integrity.
III. This "Conclusion" is Declared.
A. There is no "it is". The sentence has no "subject". It literally reads "...not of the one willing, nor of the one running, BUT of the mercy showing God...". Thus, the issue gets its "subject" from the immediately prior context where the issue is "who gets mercy?" Thus, we will use the term "outcomes" as our "subject" in the sense of "...outcomes are not of the one willing, nor of the one running, BUT of the mercy showing God...". Paul's quote of Exodus 33:19assumes the setting of the dominion of sin in the lives of all men so that none are "worthy", or "have merit", to expect good from God on the basis of their actions. Since all men have sinned and jettisoned any legitimate expectation of good from God and there is an abundance of good from God in the creation, the only real issue is "what is the basis of this good from God among sinners?".
B. Good outcomes under divine promises are "not of him that willeth".
1. The negative is the strongest single word denial in Greek.
2. The "willeth" is the weaker term for the pursuit of a given objective; it is not "determined choice", it is "desired choice".
a. This is the same term found in John's denial that men are "born (again) out of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man" (John 1:13).
b. That it is the weaker term is significant because, as the weaker term, it signifies nothing more than "desire" without consideration for how much strength is in it. I might "desire" to pick up a dime I see on the sidewalk, but the crush of pedestrian traffic might move me to simply "pass" on that desire because it might mean getting bumped by someone behind me. Likewise, I might desire to pick up a one hundred dollar bill I see on the sidewalk and actually risk the "bump" because my desire is stronger for $100 than for ten cents. In any case, God's outcomes are not resting upon the "desire" of men/man for the very reason that no men wish to fulfill the divine promise because the fulfillment asks more of them than they are interested in investing.
c. Paul's declaration in Romans 3:12 and Jesus' declaration in Matthew 19:17 both declare the fact that man's "willing" and "running", as their roots are in his own being, never seek the good will of God. This "never" is all-encompassing; there are no exceptions. Thus, if it were "of him that willeth", it would never come to pass for one simple reason: men despise the good outcomes of God.
B. Good outcomes under divine promises are "not of him that runneth".
1. The negative remains, wedded to another conjunction but undiminished in terms of negation.
2. The "runneth" steps up Paul's argument: the activity signals the reality that the "desire" has actually provided a significant level of motivation to "run after the goal". This is the same word that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 when addressing the level of commitment of the "runner" in a race that yield a significant prize to the winner and a "fight" that signals a strong commitment to "win".
C. Good outcomes under divine promises are "of the mercy-showing God".
1. The focus is upon "showing mercy"; a very positive thesis that is almost universally rejected by those who refuse the primacy of divine decisions. Their focus is upon how horrible God is because He does not show mercy to all. In their minds, He is "the unmerciful avenger", even if He shows mercy, because they will have nothing less than "total mercy" to everyone without exception.
2. "The Mercy-Showing God" is an extremely positive thesis given the Reality of "The Justice-Dispensing God". The problem for the wicked is that God is a justice-dispensing "Most High God" and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. As long as they fixate on the inescapable Justice for those who care nothing for righteousness, they will simply come to the legitimate and inevitable end of their arrogant wickedness. The blessing for the righteous is that they got their "righteousness" by divine grant because they believed that mercy was the preferred divine attitude (Matthew 9:13 and 12:7).