Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"
Does God "harden" some people's hearts so they cannot believe? Does He "fit" some people for "destruction"? Did He "harden Pharaoh's heart"? There is a text in Romans that some think says so; and unless we understand it, we have a little nagging doubt hidden away in our hearts that is certain to confuse us and discourage us in some sudden moment of temptation.
Speaking of Pharaoh, Paul seems to say that he is an example of people God has "raised up" for the one purpose of destroying them. Our English Bible has misunderstood the Greek that Paul actually wrote: "Hath not the potter power over the clay ... to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? ... God ... endured ... the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction" (Rom. 9:21, 22). Surely sounds like He has "fitted" some people "for destruction"! Some read that and think of themselves as toys in God's hands that He purposes to break and throw away.
They must not think that way. The key word in the Greek in verse 22 which is translated as "fitted" is a word that grammatically can be understood two different ways: either as a perfect passive (as in our English translation) or as a middle participle which means they "fitted themselves for destruction." According to everything else the Bible says about God's character, that is the proper translation.
Paul says that God has "endured with much longsuffering" this wearisome process that people put themselves through of fitting themselves for destruction. God created them and fitted them for eternal salvation, and He redeemed them; but by unbelief (disbelief) they have resisted His grace and perverted it. Like Pharaoh, the prime example, the more light God shed upon their pathway, the more they hardened their own heart.
There are ten Bible texts that say Pharaoh "hardened his own heart." And there are ten that say "God hardened his heart." Contradiction? No; it's the metaphor of the clay again: the more sunlight shines upon it, the harder it gets. Until we "let" the Holy Spirit give us a "new heart," the more light the Lord shines upon us, the more we harden these poor sinful, selfish hearts.
The Good News? You can pray the prayer that is 100 percent sure to be answered: ask for a tender, melted, broken heart (Psalm 51:10, 17). The answer will come through understanding, appreciating, what happened on Christ's cross.
--Robert J. Wieland
From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: October 28,1999.
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