…His Undeserved Mercy Intervened (Augustine)

In his commentary on Romans 9:21-26 Martin Luther began explaining these verses with a great quote from Augustine. But before I share that quote, here are some of the verses Luther was commenting on: Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Rom. 9:21-24 NIV). Here’s Luther’s opening comments:

Blessed Augustine writes in Chapter 99 of the Enchiridion: “The whole human race was condemned in its apostate root by a divine judgment so just that not even if a single man were saved from it, no one could possibly rail against God’s justice. And those that are saved had to be saved on such terms that it would show, by contrast with the greater number of those not saved but abandoned to their wholly just damnation, what the whole mass deserved and to what end God’s merited judgment would have brought them, had not this undeserved mercy intervened, so that ‘every mouth’ of those disposed to glory in their own merits ‘would be stopped’ (Rom. 3:19), and that ‘he that glories may glory in the Lord’ (I Cor. 1:31).”

The reminds me of how the Canons of Dort start out in I.1 – showing the sovereignty of God and the sinfulness of man.

As all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin, according to the words of the apostle: That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God (Rom. 3:19). And: For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). And: For the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

Indeed, we deserve God’s just judgment, but his “undeserved mercy intervened.” Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

(The above quote by Luther/Augustine is found on page 276 of Luther’s Lectures on Romans.)

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015