God’s Plan For Israel
(d) Vessels of Wrath and Mercy
In expounding the purpose of God in relation to the Jewish people, Paul pauses to explain the doctrine of Predestination. This relates to the Gentiles in the New Testament as much as it related to the Hebrews of the Old Testament. The Apostle continues to expound his theme by anticipating the arguments of those who would oppose the teachings of God’s Word. From v14-18 Paul dealt with the criticism of those who claimed that God was unjust in choosing some to everlasting life and in passing others by. In this passage he anticipates still further criticism not so much of his doctrinal position but of God himself for behaving in this way; electing some to everlasting life and passing others by. In responding to these arguments Paul once again highlights the glory of God revealed in all men whether they are vessels of wrath or vessels of mercy.
1: The Charges Against God v19
Predestination is challenged in this text by way of two questions:
“Why doth he yet find fault?” – If God has determined the destiny of men and women sin is not therefore the fault of individuals. The real problem is God because ultimately he has made the choice. Therefore he is unjust to judge people for their sin.
“For who hath resisted his will.” – This argument states that if salvation begins with the choice of God in election the choices that man makes are meaningless. It is not the fault of men and women that their souls are lost because no-one can resist the purposes of God.
These are difficult yet important questions because their sentiment has been repeated on many occasions. They challenge the relationship between the sovereignty of God and free will. We know from our studies of Scripture that God allowed sin, yet he was not not the author of it. One of reasons why he was not the author of sin was that he created Lucifer and our first parents with the power to choose. This ability to make choices was an important aspect of their perfection. They were moral agents and were not robotic in their behaviour. The Scripture also teaches that while it is the grace of God alone that saves sinners those who are lost suffer God’s judgement as those who are morally responsible for their own actions (Revelation 21:8). Therefore although God is sovereign man remains a moral agent with a will and desires for which he is held accountable. These are issues which call upon us to accept the plain teaching of Scripture rather than engage in debate and discussion which leads to a questioning of God.
2: The Contrasts Illustrating God v20-21
Paul introduces three contrasts to illustrates the absolute sovereignty of God over man:
Man and God (v20). To challenge God is absurd (Isaiah 55:8).
The Created and the Creator (v20). All of our lives, knowledge and wisdom comes from God. We ought not to use our God Given abilities to challenge the Creator.
The Clay and the Potter (v21). This is based on Old Testament Theology and calls us to repent and accept this God’s power over us (Isaiah 29:16, 45:9, 64:8, Jeremiah 18:1-11).
3: The Characteristic of God v22-24
Paul now proceeds to teach that God deals with all men according to his attributes of longsuffering and mercy.
In relation to those who are vessels of wrath, he does not take pleasure in their destruction. He endures their wickedness with “much longsuffering.” In Romans 2:4 he has already said that the longsuffering of God leads the wicked to repentance. Even Peter said that this aspect of Paul’s teachings were difficult to grasp (2nd Peter 3:15-16). We must bear in mind that as Peter focused a lot on God’s suffering in in 2nd Peter 3 it is most likely that Romans 9 was the passage he had in mind. The encouraging aspect of this teaching, however, is that God’s goodness in manifest in even the most wicked and corrupt of people because of his patience. Ultimately God is patient with a wicked world because he is process of of calling a people out that morally corruption for the honour of his name. All of God’s elect were vessels of wrath fitted for destruction which experienced grace.
Where the vessels of mercy are concerned, they are prepared for glory beforehand. The Glory of God shines through them because of the grace of God which has made them what they are.
V24 reminds us that the vessels of mercy are inclusive of both Jews and Gentiles indicating that in the Christian Church as new order has been created, the “new man” of Ephesians 2:15).