(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 12/7/08 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 9. I'll read verses 6 through 24:
Romans 9: (6) Not, however, that God's Word has failed. For not all those of Israel [are] Israel, (7) nor because they are Abraham's seed [are] all children, but in Isaac a Seed shall be called to you. (8) That is: Not the children of flesh [are] children of God, but the children of the promise [are] counted for a seed. (9) For the Word of promise [is] this, According to this time I will come, and a son will be to Sarah. (10) And not only so, but also Rebekah conceiving of one, our father Isaac, (11) for [the children] not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of the [One] calling, (12) it was said to her, The greater shall serve the lesser; (13) even as it has been written, I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau. (14) What then shall we say? [Is there] not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be! (15) For He said to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will pity whomever I will pity. (16) So, then, [it is] not of the [one] willing, nor of the [one] running, but of the [One] showing mercy, of God. (17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very thing I raised you up, so that I might display My power in you, and so that My name might be publicized in all the earth. (18) So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens. (19) You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? (20) Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the [One] forming [it], Why did You make me like this? (21) Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor? (22) But if God, desiring to demonstrate His wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction, (23) and that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before prepared for glory, (24) whom He also called, not only us, of Jews, but also out of nations.
I spent the last three sermons on verses 9 through 13. Now let's look at verse 14:
Romans 9: (14) What then shall we say? [Is there] not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be!
Paul uses the question, "What then shall we say?" to introduce an objection. The word "then" is a connector word that shows that the upcoming objection is tied to what was just said. And what was just said? Well, we went over it last time, didn't we? It was just said that before Jacob and Esau had done any good or evil, God loved Jacob and hated Esau. In light of this, what then would be the objection? What would people not like about this?
Think about it: Before Jacob had done anything good, God loved Jacob. And before Esau had done anything bad, God hated Esau. What would be the objection that some people would make when they hear this truth? It's that God is being UNFAIR or UNJUST. People who want a god who is like them, who is in their own image, want a god who will love and hate people based on what these people DO. They want their god to love Mother Theresa because of all the good things she did for the poor, and they want their god to hate Adolph Hitler because of all the bad things he did to the Jews. They don't want their god to love or hate anyone until those people did something good or something bad, or at least until their god looked down through time and saw that those people did something good or something bad. To just arbitrarily love one person and hate another person not based on anything good or bad these people did is, to them, unfair and unjust. This is the "unrighteousness" that God is being accused of in the objection. The Greek word for "unrighteousness" is ah-dee-KEE-ah, which is made up of the prefix "ah," which is a negation, and DEE-kay, which means "justice." Ah-dee-KEE-ah means "injustice." So the question, "Is there not unrighteousness with God?" means, "Is God unjust?" Is God unjust for loving and hating people not based on anything they do?
Now I want you to do some supposing. I want you to think of some hypothetical situations. "Hypothetical" just means "what if." Okay? This will show you what the only correct interpretation of verses 9 through 13 is. Okay, here's the first "what if":
Suppose Paul had said that God loved Jacob because God knew that Jacob would believe in Him and would be a good person who did good things, and God hated Esau because He knew Esau would not believe in Him and would be a bad person who would do bad things. Okay? Do we have that in our minds? Let me say it again: God loved Jacob because God knew that Jacob would believe in Him and would be a good person who did good things, and God hated Esau because He knew Esau would not believe in Him and would be a bad person who would do bad things. Okay, now think of the objection in verse 14. Would there be an objection that God was not being fair or was not being just? Would God be charged with unrighteousness by the objectors? Of course not. In their minds, God was loving Jacob because Jacob deserved to be loved, and God was hating Esau because Esau deserved to be hated. There would be no objection. So if that's what Paul meant in verses 9 through 13, the objection would be totally meaningless. If God looked down through time and saw who would believe in Christ and predestinated them to go to heaven, and God looked down through time and saw who would reject Christ and predestined them to go to hell, the objection that God is unjust or unrighteous would have absolutely no meaning. Thus, since we know that verse 14 actually has meaning, then we know for sure that this is NOT what God is saying through the Apostle Paul in verses 9 through 13. Do you get the logic? Well, what I just described to you is the typical Arminian view. It has been exposed as foolishness.
But let's keep going. Suppose Paul said that God did not know from before the foundation of the world what Jacob or Esau were going to do, but, in time, when God saw that Jacob believed in Him and was a good person who did good things, then God loved Jacob. And, in time, when God saw that Esau did not believe in Him and was a bad person who did bad things, then God hated Esau. This is sort of an open-theist kind of view, although there are many people who say they believe in some sort of divine being who rewards good and punishes evil who would say things along this line. But think of the objection of verse 14 again. Would there be an objection that God was not being fair or was not being just? Would God be charged with unrighteousness by the objectors? Of course not. In their minds, God was loving Jacob because Jacob deserved to be loved, and God was hating Esau because Esau deserved to be hated. There would be no objection. So if that's what Paul meant in verses 9 through 13, the objection would be totally meaningless. So we know that this is NOT what God is saying in verses 9 through 13.
Okay, on to the next hypothetical. Suppose that Paul had said that verses 9 through 13 are not talking about individuals at all but are talking about nations, with Jacob being a picture of the Jews and Esau being a picture of the Gentiles. Now suppose Paul said that God knew ahead of time that the Jews would believe and the Gentiles would not believe, and he loved the Jews and hated the Gentiles. This is a view that some Arminians take. Would there be an objection that God was not being fair or was not being just? Would God be charged with unrighteousness by the objectors? Of course not. In their minds, God loved the Jews because He saw beforehand that they would love Him, and God hated the Gentiles because He saw beforehand that they would hate Him. There would be no objection. So if that's what Paul meant in verses 9 through 13, the objection would again be totally meaningless. So we know that this is NOT what God is saying in verses 9 through 13.
Okay, here's the last hypothetical. Pay very close attention. Suppose Romans 9:9-13 means this: God loved Jacob because of His sovereign grace, not because of anything in Jacob. Because God is infinitely gracious and sovereign in His dispensation of this grace, He chose Jacob as the object of His love. It was simply on the footing of His free grace that He chose Jacob. God hated Esau for the same reason He hates any man -- because Esau deserved it. God does not arbitrarily create any man, including Esau, for the purpose of damning him. God has nothing to do with a person's condemnation, except as the judge condemns the criminal. If you look at Esau's character, he deserved that God should cast him away. Esau did not lose his birthright by decree, and God did not influence Esau to sell his birthright. Jacob got it by decree, but Esau lost it of his own free will. No man is saved by his own free-will, but every man who goes to hell is damned by his free will. No one constrains him.
Now in light of this, think of the objection in verse 14: "What then shall we say? [Is there] not unrighteousness with God?" If verses 9 through 13 meant that God loved Jacob because of His sovereign grace but hated Esau because Esau was wicked and deserved to be damned because of what he did of his own free will, then would there be an objection that God is being unfair or unjust or unrighteous? ABSOLUTELY NOT! In their minds, God loved Jacob because He is a God of grace and wanted to show grace to Jacob, and God hated Esau because Esau deserved to be hated. God didn't hate Esau unconditionally from before the foundation of the world and did not cause or even influence Esau to sin; instead, God's hatred of Esau was because Esau was a sinner. Where's the objection that God is unfair? What, that He chose to have grace on Jacob and not on Esau? But why did He choose not to have grace on Esau? Because Esau deserved not to have grace shown to him! So everything is nice and fair, and we can't charge God with arbitrarily choosing to hate and damn people before they're born, and we can't charge God with causing or influencing people to sin. In this scheme, there is NO OBJECTION that God is being unfair or unjust. This scheme would render the objection in verse 14 totally meaningless. And since we know that none of God's Word is meaningless, we know that this is NOT what God is saying in verses 9 through 13. I'm sure by now, if you remember the last sermon, you would know who puts forth this heretical scheme. Yes, it's the arch-heretic, Charles Spurgeon, the fashionable Calvinist, the prince of the preachers for the prince of darkness. But it's important to remember that it's not only him. Why am I using Charles Spurgeon? Am I just picking on Mr. Spurgeon? The reason I'm doing this is because this is what almost everyone who calls himself a "Calvinist" or "Reformed" or "Sovereign-gracer" believes. Spurgeon is a representation of them. This is NOT just a fringe part of Calvinism. This is MAINSTREAM Calvinism.
And you know what? It is the mainstream Calvinists, along with their prince, Charles Spurgeon, who would ACTUALLY BE THE OBJECTORS in verse 14! Did you realize that? Paul puts forth the objection that the heretics would bring - and Spurgeon with his minions of Calvinists who were before and after him, along with the Arminians and the open-theists and even the agnostics and atheists, are heading the charge against the true and living God. Listen to Spurgeon again, and see how he shows himself to be the heretical objector of verse 14: "Why does God hate any man? I defy anyone to give any answer but this, because that man deserves it; no reply but that can ever be true. There are some who answer, divine sovereignty; but I challenge them to look that doctrine in the face. Do you believe that God created man and arbitrarily, sovereignly--it is the same thing--created that man, with no other intention, than that of damning him? Made him, and yet, for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you, that is all I can say: you deserve pity, that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever. You are quite right when you say the reason why God loves a man, is because God does do so; there is no reason in the man. But do not give the same answer as to why God hates a man. ... Justice is that which damns a man; it is mercy, it is free grace, that saves; sovereignty holds the scale of love; it is justice holds the other scale. Who can put that into the hand of sovereignty? That were to libel God and to dishonour him."
There you go. If you say that God hated Esau, unconditionally reprobated Esau before Esau had done anything bad, then this would be to think meanly of God, to libel God, and to dishonor God. Why? Because it would make God to be UNFAIR, UNJUST, UNRIGHTEOUS. Spurgeon and his ilk would say to us, "If you're right, then there is unrighteousness with God!" And that's exactly what the objectors were saying to Paul. They were saying, "Paul, if this is true that God loved Jacob and hated Esau before they had been born, not yet having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of the One calling, then God is unrighteous! Your God is unjust, because you put a man's damnation into the hand of God's sovereignty! As Spurgeon said, God's sovereignty is just on the side of love; His sovereignty is not on the side of hatred. So Spurgeon's god is sovereign in His love but not in His hatred. A partially sovereign god is not sovereign at all. Either you have God who sovereignly loves and hates, or you do not have God. The objectors do not have God. They say that a God who sovereignly loves and hates is unjust and unrighteous. They say that to say that God sovereignly loves and hates is to think meanly of God and to libel and dishonor Him. On the contrary, we who believe in the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone, which necessarily includes the absolute sovereignty of God, are the only ones who think highly of God and honor and worship Him.
The end of verse 14 says, "Let it not be!" This is the phrase MAY zhin-o-MA-hee that we have seen seven previous times in the book of Romans and that we will see two more times after this in the book of Romans, the Lord willing. It is the strongest possible negation in the Greek language. MAY means none, never, not, nor, neither, and so on. Zhin-o-MA-hee means to be, to be caused to be, to come to pass, to happen, to be performed. So MAY zhin-o-MA-hee means "it will never be" or "it will not be" or "may it never be" or "may it not be" or "let it never be" or "let it not be." Any of these is acceptable. What is NOT acceptable is the phrase "God forbid" that is used in the King James Version. And I'd like to go into this again because it's so serious and because it's the most egregious and wicked error in the KJV. As we saw, the phrase is made up of the word MAY and the word zhin-o-MA-hee. NEITHER of these words is the Greek word for "God." They're not even CLOSE to the Greek word for "God." And then there's the Greek word KHAH-ee-ro that means "rejoice" that is translated twice in the KJV as "God speed." KHAH-ee-ro is not even CLOSE to the Greek word for "God." And in the Old Testament, where the Hebrew word khaw-LEE-law is used, they did the same thing. Khaw-LEE-law means "far be it from." It is not even CLOSE to any of the Hebrew words for "God," yet they translated it "God forbid." And also in the Old Testament, there's the Hebrew word khaw-YAW, which means "to let live." When used with the Hebrew word MEH-lek, it means"may the king live" or "let the king live" that the KJV translates into "God save the king" or "God save king so-and-so." Again, the Hebrew is not even CLOSE to any of the Hebrew words for God. The King James translators inserted the word "God" where the Holy Spirit did not inspire the original authors to write God's name, and they did it 26 times in the New Testament and 15 times in the Old Testament that I know of. This shows the hypocrisy of the KJV-Only advocates who say people should use the King James Version exclusively because the KJV uses a literal, word-for-word translation, while the modern versions use a "dynamic equivalence" or "thought-for-thought" translation. They rightly say that those who employ the"dynamic equivalence" method do not believe in the verbal inspiration of the actual Hebrew and Greek words and thus do not think that the actual Hebrew and Greek words behind these translations are of utmost importance. Yet this is EXACTLY what the King James Version does in these passages. The translators did NOT use a literal, word-for-word translation method, which means that they DID NOT believe in the verbal inspiration of the actual Hebrew and Greek words and thus DID NOT think that the actual Hebrew and Greek words behind these translations were of utmost importance. They DID NOT believe in the verbal inspiration of MAY zhin-o-MA-hee, KHAH-ee-ro, khaw-LEE-law, or khaw-YAW. Instead of a verbal equivalence method, they employed a dynamic equivalence, "thought-for-thought" translation. And in their dynamic equivalence, the translators used colloquialism and idiom. They translated the Hebrew and Greek words into the colloquial, idiomatic language of the day, with no regard for the original. "God forbid" and "God speed" and "God save the king" were common expressions of the day; "God forbid" was a common expression of strong negation, "God speed" was a common salutation, and "God save the king" was a common expression of honor to the king. So instead of translating word-for-word, they used a common expression of strong negation to express the SAME IDEA as "may it never be" and used a common salutation to express the SAME IDEA as "rejoice" and used a common expression of honor to the king as something to express the SAME IDEA as "may the king live" without regard to the actual inspired words of the Hebrew and Greek. "God forbid" and "God speed" and "God save the king" are as repulsive as anything the wicked Living Bible or New International Version has come up with. The KJV-Only advocates talk much of the colloquial, idomatic language in decrying the "modern versions" and claim that the KJV does not stoop so low. Another deplorable thing about these translations is that they deceive the reader into thinking that these words are in the original. The KJV translators claimed that whenever they added words that were not in the original, they italicized them. This claim is echoed by the KJV-Only advocates. Yet in these passages, there are no italics. Not only were the translators using dynamic equivalence to insert colloquial, idiomatic phrases of the day, they were engaged in deception, leading the readers believe that "God forbid" and "God speed" and "God save the king" are biblical phrases that come from the original texts. This is heinous and insidious. And finally, the KJV translators took God's name in vain. The translators inserted God's holy name where the Holy Spirit DID NOT put God's name, and that is serious business. God says in Exodus 20:7, "You shall not take the name of Jehovah your God in vain; for Jehovah will not leave unpunished the [one] who takes His name in vain." This includes inserting the holy name of God into a passage of His Word where He did not put it, and it includes using the holy name of God in common, vulgar colloquialisms. And because there is no italicization, this taking of God's name in vain is seen as biblical adherence to the original Hebrew and Greek, and people are taking God's name in vain thinking that they are speaking the Word of God. The KJV-Only advocates will go after the "modern versions" regarding the deity of Christ and other passages about God, but they will not repudiate the passages in their own version that take God's name in vain. I REPUDIATE and CONDEMN the KJV translation of these words and phrases with all my being. They are evil and repugnant. They have no place in God's Holy Word. This is not something just to lightly pass off.
Okay, now to what the phrase really means in this context. Let it not be - may it never be - that there is any unrighteousness with God! God is the very essence of righteousness! God is the very essence of justice and fairness and equity! So for anyone to level the accusation that God is unrighteous and is not fair and just is to blaspheme. The objector will say, "You say that your God predestined everything from before the foundation of the world and even unconditionally chose to save and damn people from before the foundation of the world. So even though you say that God is just, your God is really unfair." And my answer to that is this: First of all, it is not I who said this but GOD who said this. So your argument is not with me; it is with God. And secondly, God is ABSOLUTELY just and fair and equitable. But it is not according to NATURAL MAN'S view of justice and fairness and equity. GOD makes the rules. He does not ask puny man if it's okay with him. He does not ask man to vote on what man thinks is the most just or fair or equitable. He's not asking for input. He's not weighing man's opinions. God is the I AM - the supreme controller of the universe, who is all-knowing, everywhere present, unchangeable, and not able to be limited. He existed before time began and will exist forever. Because of His infinite holiness, He is infinite in justice, righteousness, love, mercy, and grace. His infinite glory is manifested in these attributes. He created the universe in six days and continues to sovereignly and actively uphold, control, and sustain it. He absolutely controls all actions and events; nothing at all happens by chance or merely by His permission. All actions and events happen because of His sovereign decree, including the sins of men and angels. Because God sovereignly orders all things, He is able to keep all His promises. If God were not absolutely sovereign, He would not be able to keep all His promises, including His promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. There would be no gospel promise. And Because God is the God of truth, He is faithful to keep all His promises. We can be absolutely certain that everything He promises will surely come to pass, because He is absolutely sovereign. This is why we can boldly preach the gospel and call sinners to repentance. This is why we know that our work is not in vain. This is why we have great comfort and hope.
When God damns people to hell, He JUSTLY damns them to hell. There is no injustice with God! There will not be a single person in hell who truly wanted to believe in the true God and the true gospel. There will not be a single person in hell who is not totally depraved and wicked. There will not be a single person in hell who doesn't deserve to be there. God will not send the righteous to hell. God will not send believers to hell. God will not send those who truly seek Him to hell. Jesus said in John 6:37, "All the Father gives to Me shall come to Me, and the [one] coming to Me I will in no way cast out." God said in Isaiah 55:1-3, "Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the water; and he who [has] no silver, come buy grain and eat. Yes, come buy grain, wine and milk without silver and with no price. Why do you weigh out silver for [that which] is not bread, and your labor for what never satisfies? Listen carefully to Me and eat the good; and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Bend your ear and come to Me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will cut an everlasting covenant with you, the faithful mercies of David." Jesus said in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And He also said these words in John 5:40 about those who did not believe: "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Every single person who comes to Jesus Christ, believing the truth of His person and His work, will have everlasting life. Not one reprobate will say that he tried to come to Christ but Christ wouldn't let him come because he was a reprobate. All wicked people will go to hell. All righteous people will go to heaven. Make no mistake about it.
I'll close with Isaiah 52:7, which perfectly brings together the sovereignty of God and the gospel:
Isaiah 52: (7) How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him proclaiming good news, making peace heard, bearing tidings of good, making heard salvation, saying to Zion, Your God reigns.