Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Is God Unfair?

Part 2 of Questioning God

Text: Romans 9:14-23

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy (v. 16). 


In Romans 9, we come face to face with the doctrine of divine election. What is divine election? The word “election” means “choosing.” [1] And the word “divine” indicates that this choosing belongs to God. Divine election is the doctrine that God has chosen before creation who will be saved.

The big issue with divine election is whether it’s conditional (i.e., based on God’s foreknowledge of people’s faith) or unconditional. I believe that divine election is unconditional. Wayne Grudem writes that election “is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure.” [2]

In verses 14-23, the apostle Paul brings up the two most common questions people ask about unconditional election.
  1. “Is there injustice on God’s part?” (v. 14). 
  2. “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” (v. 19). [3]
If unconditional election is true, is God unfair?


Admittedly, the questions that Paul raises aren’t easy questions to answer. Divine election is a difficult doctrine. It’s not something we can completely understand (like the Trinity).
  • Before creation God chose who would be saved. 
  • God’s word promises that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). [4]
The fact that the Bible contains many paradoxes (like divine election and human responsibility) could be seen as evidence that it’s not a merely human book. (Who would make this up?)


How does Paul answer these two questions?
  • Question: “Is there injustice [i.e., unfairness] on God’s part?” (v. 14). Paul’s answer: “[God] has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (v. 18). [5]
  • Question: “Why does he still find fault?” (v. 19). Paul’s answer: “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” (v. 20). 
Basically, Paul is saying that God has the right to do what he wants, and who are we to accuse him of being unfair? Perhaps those aren’t the answers we’re looking for, but we must remember two things.
  • God will never act in a way that is contrary to his nature. If God is good and just, he is good and just in all that he does. 
  • Some of the questions we ask have answers we can’t understand. 
Lest we think that God is cold-hearted toward the non-elect or that he prevents the non-elect from being saved, listen to what God says in Ezekiel 33:11: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”


Divine election isn’t in the Bible so that we can argue with one another about it. One reason why the Bible tells us about divine election is to produce humility in us.

Who am I that God would choose to save me? I am saved only because of his grace. Who am I that God would allow himself to be treated unfairly—betrayed, mocked, crucified—so that I could be saved?

And we are called to show this same kind of grace to others.


[1] To “elect” someone is to “choose” that person (e.g., electing a political candidate).
[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 670.
[3] The fact that Paul brings up these questions indicates that he’s talking about unconditional election, not conditional election (i.e., an election that is based on God’s foreknowledge of a person’s faith).
[4] The Bible doesn’t teach fatalism or that we’re like puppets/robots.
[5] Paul takes us back to the book of Exodus. In verse 15 he quotes Exodus 33:19. And in verse 17 he quotes Exodus 9:16. The book of Exodus tells us that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (4:21; 7:3) and that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (8:15, 32; 9:34; 13:15).

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