Romans 9 seems to say I shouldn't ask this question. Anonymous
What Paul wrote in Romans 9, "who art thou that repliest against God?", has nothing to do with your desire to want to know what this means! If you follow the context of Romans (all the way through) you will discover that Paul presented many such questions. He followed them up with "God forbid" (or "By no means" depending on the version you're reading). Paul presented the gospel of Christ in a logical format ... which causes the human heart to react against the grace of God in favor of human merit. You and I understand this well, don't we? Here's what Paul was so sharply rebuking: (this is the American Standard Version ... I downloaded it from the web ... I'm more familiar with the New American Standard and like it better, but I haven't found that one yet)
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid ... Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus? Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? Romans 9:14, Romans 9:19-21
It is the reaction of the human heart in the attempt to say that God is wrong and I am right. Do you see it? My old mindset (which kicks in all the time) is not interested in discovering the real truth, but loves to mold facts in such a way as to make me look right. My "God-concept" was developed to appear kosher so that my views had the sense of being valid. The closer I could hold to a form of godliness the better. Accuracy becomes crucial in this mindset which is why we become so addicted to arguing our viewpoint; for if I'm wrong in ONE place then I could be wrong in everything. The alternative to this is to demand that no one really knows anything for sure. This way I could STILL hold to my viewpoint, but would (at least in my own mind) diffuse anyone's proof that my viewpoint was wrong. It's all bogus. Don't let it distract you from the obvious. The natural mindset will do ANYTHING to protect and defend itself. It's called JUSTIFICATION. When the reality of God's mercy is declared to the natural mindset it stands as a judgment against our own works and merit. Mercy is for losers. Grace is for those who can't make the grade. Here Paul was using the Jews' very history to declare the reality of God's mercy and it posed a threat to their whole system of self-justification. And so what is the natural reaction of the fallen human heart? BLAME GOD AND MAKE ME LOOK RIGHT. FOR IF ANYTHING IS WRONG WITH ME (according to the viewpoint that God controls who gets what) THEN IT MUST BE HIS FAULT AND NOT MINE. Pretty simple, huh? The natural mind doesn't believe this truth ...
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy. Romans 9:15-16
... it only uses it as an excuse to let Him take the blame for anything that's proven against me, so that my choices and works and merit can stand. It is only because the grace of God has continuously shown you the fallacy of your former mindset that you can get past the arrogance of demanding that God is wrong and you are right. When your God was molded to fit your mindset you had no problem with THAT god. I remember my old thoughts going something like this: "Well, if God is that way then He is a monster" and "I won't believe in a god like that!" etc, etc. MY god was nice, he wasn't pushy, he didn't make a big deal over things that I saw as unimportant, he didn't create conflicts to my viewpoints. In my mind I held my God as PERFECT. Well, guess who MY god really was? ME ... MY mindset ... that's who. Yours was YOU. But you have been made new ... and have been given the mind of Christ. This mind NEVER makes the assumption that God is wrong ... and it knows that it's righteousness is the very righteousness of God. Now, there are lots of questions about what this means and what that means that keeps us from understanding the simple stuff that people knew at the time of the writing. Paul didn't write his letters in such a way that they wouldn't understand them. We have to do a lot of study just to figure what in the heck he was saying. That's why we have a problem with knowing what it MEANS 'cause half the time we don't know what it SAYS. :)