Sunday, December 04, 2005

Weighing the Word: Romans 9:17 and Hardening

Weighing the Word: Romans 9:17 and Hardening

Link to audio version of sermon

What is the "Weighing the Word Series?"

Lloyd-Jones says of God’s hardening sinners: “There is nothing, I imagine, in the whole range of the scriptural teaching which causes such offence to the natural man and to many uninstructed Christians...”

God is infinitely committed to sovereign election as one means of the display of His glory. He is equally committed to sovereign hardening.

All men are born sinners and stand guilty before God. If God were only “just” we would all be in hell! But God is able to make a way to Himself that does not contradict His justice.

Hardening is an action by God that renders a person insensitive to God and His Word. It is theology, not philosophy, and this is proven by Paul always quoting Scripture (OT) to prove the point.

Pharaoh is the proof of God’s hardening work and Paul brings him into his discussion in order to argue from the greater to the lesser.

God does not say to Pharaoh, “For this purpose I created you...” but “For this purpose I raised you up,” that is, installed you in the office of Pharaoh.

This was God’s action (hardening), prophesied in advance to Pharaoh, yet in total agreement with Pharaoh’s own choice. God pro-actively hardened Pharaoh in order to display His Name and His glory. He did this in a manner which removes all guilt from God and maintains all responsibility for Pharaoh. God cannot be tempted nor does He tempt anyone to sin (James 1:13).

The right question to ask in response to this is not, “Am I hardened?” but, “How can I be saved?”

[Edit: 12/5 Added link to audio version of sermon and link to series explanation. Thanks to Running Well (Darrin Brooker) for the suggestion to link to audio. Audio version should be available some time today or tomorrow. I will fix link to go directly to that sermon then. I finally beat the amazing Dorin!]

[Edit: 12/6 Link to audio version of sermon updated.]


  1. I like this feature. Hopefully it flies.

    It is interesting, as we discussed after the service to see how God works with our wills individually, never against them. God's giving us over to our sin as his active wrath (Rom 1) is simply him giving us over to what we desire.

    With election, he is also giving us over to what we desire. The all-important distinction there is that God has changed our will, which once delightfully lived in sin (Rom 3) so that we would be joyful, willing servants of righteousness (Rom 6).

    I find it interesting that those who have a hard time with 'hardening' object because for God to harden would be intrusive on their freedom.

    On the contrary, however, it seems that a bilical understanding of anthropology and the nature of grace (God's changing our hearts so that we can delight in him above all else) is far more intrusive... far more. And praise him for it! 'Except a man be born again...'

  2. Romans 9 is getting my brain working and challenging some of my preconceived notions about how God works. Hardening the hearts of men is something that I have never really thought of God doing(so thanks for preaching through Romans, Paul!!) Here is a portion of a Jonathan Edward sermon on Romans 9:18 that I also found helpful:

    And we also know that it often said about Pharaoh, that “God hardened his heart.” And Paul seems to have focused on this fact in the latter part of the text; “and He hardens whom He wants to harden.” Now, from all of this we can observe two basic facts:

    1. God's deals differently with men-He has mercy on some, and He hardens others.

    When God is spoken of as hardening the hearts of some men, it is not to be understood that God was, in any way, the agent or direct cause of the hardening any man's heart. There is no positive act by God in the hardening process. To suppose any such thing would be to make God the immediate author of sin.

    God is said to harden men in two ways:

    A. First, by withholding the powerful influences of His Spirit, without which their hearts will remain hardened, and grow harder and harder-in this sense God hardens them, as He leaves them in their hardness.

    B. Secondly, God hardens men, by providentially ordering things which, by the continued sin of man, becomes the reason for their hardening. Thus God sends His word and commands to men and women which, they then ignore, thereby, confirming their hardening. So the apostle Paul said, that the gospel message he preached was to some people “the smell of death."

    2. The second fact that can be seen in our text is the basic truth that when God deals with mankind, He does so according to His sovereign will and pleasure: “God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.”

    This implies that God never shows mercy or denies it against His will, and that He is always willing to do it when He does it. A willing subject or servant, when he obeys his lord's commands, may never do any thing against his will, and yet it cannot be said that the servant does what he wills in the sense of the text, that is, according to his own will and pleasure. But in the case of God, it is His mere will and sovereign pleasure, which supremely orders the affairs of mankind. It is the divine will without any restraint, or constraint, or obligation.

    The rest of the sermon can be found here:

    I will also post it on our blog

  3. Is this sermon available for download (mp3) anywhere?


  4. Hey Darrin,
    Always nice to hear from you and will look forward to your comments!
    I have edited the post above to include a link to the audio version of the sermon. It should be up today or tomorrow. Our usual routine is to get Sunday morning sermons posted by Sunday or Monday evening. Sunday night messages are a week later.
    By the by, I really like your blog! Just thought I would include a link here for anyone who has not been over there yet!

  5. Can you point out some other Scriptural examples of hardening?

    Are there any contemporary examples that we could see in the world around us?

  6. Consider these three texts...

    Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

    1 Peter 2:7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
    “The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”
    8 and
    “A stone of stumbling,
    and a rock of offense.”
    They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
    9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

    Romans 9:5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
    7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,
    “God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that would not see
    and ears that would not hear,
    down to this very day.”

  7. Thanks for posting this column, Paul! I haven't had a chance to post a comment (buried in schoolwork), but I really appreciate your willingness to do this.



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