Today's passage is a very controversial one - it is a point of contention for a lot of people. Sadly, I don't have time for a very lengthy post today, so hopefully we can backtrack a bit in chapters 10-11 to summarize and tie things together.
Today I'm going to borrow a post from Reclaiming the Mind Ministries to get you thinking about the major controversial topic. The big verse is 18: "So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills." So, just how far does God's sovereignty go? Here's the post:
"Where do you stand on God’s sovereignty?
2. Providential sovereignty : God is bringing about his will in everything (Eph 1:11). However, his will is not the instrumental cause of all that happens. God’s will plays a providential role in “causing” all things, using secondary causes as instruments. What God wills is not always what he would want in a perfect world, but all he has is sin to work with. Therefore, in this sense, even evil is the will of God.
3. Providential oversight : Here God’s sovereignty is expressed in active oversight. He has a general plan, but is not married to the details. God can and often does intervene in the affairs of humanity to bring about his purpose. In this case he never “wills” evil; he only uses it.
4. Influential oversight : Here God limits his own sovereignty. God could control things, but to preserve human freedom, he will not intervene in the affairs of men to the degree that human freedom is effected. He is hopeful that his influence will be persuasive to change a person’s heart or to guide them to his will. Here God never wills evil, but only allows it."