Romans 9:23
And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared to glory,
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9:14-24 Whatever God does, must be just. Wherein the holy, happy people of God differ from others, God's grace alone makes them differ. In this preventing, effectual, distinguishing grace, he acts as a benefactor, whose grace is his own. None have deserved it; so that those who are saved, must thank God only; and those who perish, must blame themselves only, Hos 13:9. God is bound no further than he has been pleased to bind himself by his own covenant and promise, which is his revealed will. And this is, that he will receive, and not cast out, those that come to Christ; but the drawing of souls in order to that coming, is an anticipating, distinguishing favour to whom he will. Why does he yet find fault? This is not an objection to be made by the creature against his Creator, by man against God. The truth, as it is in Jesus, abases man as nothing, as less than nothing, and advances God as sovereign Lord of all. Who art thou that art so foolish, so feeble, so unable to judge the Divine counsels? It becomes us to submit to him, not to reply against him. Would not men allow the infinite God the same sovereign right to manage the affairs of the creation, as the potter exercises in disposing of his clay, when of the same lump he makes one vessel to a more honourable, and one to a meaner use? God could do no wrong, however it might appear to men. God will make it appear that he hates sin. Also, he formed vessels filled with mercy. Sanctification is the preparation of the soul for glory. This is God's work. Sinners fit themselves for hell, but it is God who prepares saints for heaven; and all whom God designs for heaven hereafter, he fits for heaven now. Would we know who these vessels of mercy are? Those whom God has called; and these not of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles. Surely there can be no unrighteousness in any of these Divine dispensations. Nor in God's exercising long-suffering, patience, and forbearance towards sinners under increasing guilt, before he brings utter destruction upon them. The fault is in the hardened sinner himself. As to all who love and fear God, however such truths appear beyond their reason to fathom, yet they should keep silence before him. It is the Lord alone who made us to differ; we should adore his pardoning mercy and new-creating grace, and give diligence to make our calling and election sure.And that he might make known - That he might manifest or display. The apostle had shown (in Romans 9:22) that the dealings of God toward the wicked were not liable to the objection made in Romans 9:19. In this verse he proceeds to show that the objection could not lie against his dealings with the other class of people - the righteous. If his dealings toward neither were liable to the objection, then he has "met the whole case," and the divine government is vindicated. This he proves by showing that for God to show the riches of his glory toward those whom he has prepared for it, cannot be regarded as unjust.

The riches of his glory - This is a form of expression common among the Hebrews, meaning the same as his rich or "his abundant glory." The same expression occurs in Ephesians 1:18.

On the vessels of mercy - People toward whom his mercy was to be displayed (see Romans 9:22); that is, on those toward whom he has purposed to display his mercy.

Mercy - Favor, or pity shown to the miserable. Grace is favor to the undeserving; mercy, favor to those in distress. This distinction is not, however, always strictly observed by the sacred writers.

Which he had afore prepared - We are here brought to a remarkable difference between God's mode of dealing with them and with the wicked. Here it is expressly affirmed that God himself had prepared them for glory. In regard to the wicked, it is simply affirmed that they "were fitted" for destruction, without affirming anything of the agency by which it was done. That God prepares his people for glory - commences and continues the work of their redemption - is abundantly taught in the Scriptures; 1 Thessalonians 5:9, "God hath appointed us, to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Timothy 1:9, "who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." See also Ephesians 1:4-5, Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28-30; Acts 13:48; John 1:13. As the renewing of the heart and the sanctifying of the soul is an act of goodness, it is worthy of God, and of course no objection could lie against it. No man could complain of a course of dealings designed to make people better; and as this is the sole design of the electing love of God, his deal, ings with this class of people are easily vindicated. No Christian can complain that God has chosen him, renewed him, and made him pure and happy. And as this was an important part of the plan of God, it is easily defended from the objection in Romans 9:19.

Unto glory - To happiness; and especially to the happiness of heaven Hebrews 2:10, "It became him, in bringing many sons unto glory, etc." Romans 5:2, "we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." 2 Corinthians 4:17, "our light affliction worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 5:4. This eternal state is called "glory," because it blends together everything that constitutes honor, dignity, purity, love, and happiness. All these significations are in various places attached to this word, and all mingle in the eternal state of the righteous. We may remark here,

(1) That this word "glory" is not used in the Scriptures to denote any "external national privileges;" or to describe any external call of the gospel. No such instance is to be found. Of course the apostle here by vessels of mercy meant individuals destined to eternal life, and not nations externally called to the gospel. No instance can be found where God speaks of nations called to external privileges, and speaks of them as "prepared unto glory."

(2) as this word refers to the future state of individuals, it shows what is meant by the word "destruction" in Romans 9:22. That term stands contrasted with glory; and describes, therefore, the future condition of individual wicked people. This is also its uniform meaning in the New Testament.

On this vindication of the apostle we may observe:

(1) That all people will be treated as they ought to be treated. People will be dealt with according to their characters at the end of life.

(2) if people will suffer no injustice, then this is the same as saying that they will be treated justly. But what is this? That the wicked shall be treated as they deserve. What they deserve God has told us in the Scriptures. "These shall go away into everlasting punishment."

(3) God has a right to bestow his blessings as he chooses. Where all are undeserving, where none have any claim, he may confer his favors on whom he pleases.

(4) he actually does deal with people in this way. The apostle takes this for granted. He does not deny it. He most evidently believes it, and labors to show that it is right to do so. If he did not believe it, and meant to teach it, he would have said so. It would have met the objection at once, and saved all argument. He reasons as if he did believe it; and this settles the question that the doctrine is true.

23. And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy—that "glorious exuberance of Divine mercy" which "was manifested in choosing and eternally arranging for the salvation of sinners." q.d. Again, on the other side, what hast thou to say, if he proceed more mercifully with others? Seeing:

1. He thereby manifesteth the riches of his glory, or his glorious grace; and seeing:

2. They are vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory; i.e. he had done it by election from eternity, and by regeneration and sanctification of the Spirit in time. He speaks here of two sorts of vessels, some of wrath, and some of mercy, as he had before spoken of vessels of honour, and of dishonour. Concerning the latter, he speaks passively, that they are fitted to destruction: see Romans 9:22. Concerning the former, he speaks actively, that God hath prepared them unto glory. And that he might make known the riches of his glory,.... That is, his glorious riches, the perfections of his nature, his love, grace, and mercy, his wisdom, power, faithfulness, justice, and holiness; all which are most evidently displayed in the salvation of his people, here called

vessels of mercy, which he hath afore prepared unto glory. They are said to be vessels, and so considered as creatures, made and brought into being; "vessels of mercy", and so fallen creatures, and by sin become miserable, for only such are objects of mercy: they are not called so, because deserving of mercy more than others, they are in no wise better than others, and are by nature children of wrath, even as others; but because God of his infinite goodness fills them with his mercy, displays it in them, in the redemption of them by his Son, in the regeneration of them by his Spirit, and in their eternal salvation: and these are by him "afore prepared unto glory"; to everlasting happiness, which he has chosen them to before time, and calls them to in time; to this glory he does not take them, until he has prepared them for it; which act of preparation does not regard the eternal predestination of them to eternal life, but an act of his grace towards them in time; and which lies in putting upon them the righteousness of his Son, and in putting his grace in them; or in other words, in justifying them by the imputation and application of the righteousness of his Son unto them, and by the regeneration, renovation, and sanctification of their hearts, by his Spirit. Now what if God willing to make known his glorious perfections, by displaying his mercy to such sinners, and by preparing them for heaven in a way consistent with his holiness and justice, what can any man that has the exercise of his reason object to this? The whole of his conduct is free from blame and censure; the vessels of wrath he shows his wrath upon, are such as fit themselves for destruction, and whom he endures with much longsuffering and patience, and therefore he cannot be chargeable with cruelty; the vessels of mercy he brings to glory, none of them are taken thither, until they are prepared for it, in a way of righteousness and holiness, and therefore he cannot be charged with acting contrary to the perfections of his nature.

And that he might make known the {z} riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

(z) The unmeasurable and marvellous greatness.

Romans 9:23 f. The sentence beginning with εἰ δὲ θέλων is not grammatically completed, but Romans 9:23 is an irregular parallel to Romans 9:22. God’s purpose is regarded as twofold. It is on the one hand to show His wrath and make known His power; it is on the other hand to make known the riches of His glory (cf. Ephesians 3:16). The first part of it is carried out on those who are σκεύη ὀργῆς, the latter on those who are σκεύη ἐλέους; but, in carrying out both parts alike, God acts in a way which is so far from giving man room to complain that it commands his wonder and adoration; for the σκεύη ὀργῆς there is much long-suffering, for the σκεύη ἐλέους a preparation and a calling in which God’s free unmerited mercy is conspicuous. καὶ ἵνα γνωρίσῃ: This is mentioned as a principal purpose of God. ἐπὶ σκεύη ἐλέους: the glory is conceived as something shed upon the persons concerned; they are irradiated with the Divine brightness. Cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:10. δόξα in such connections has usually a super-sensible eschatological meaning; its content was fixed for Paul by his vision of Christ as Lord of Glory. The end of God’s ways with the vessels of mercy is to conform them to the image of His exalted Son. ἃ προητοίμασεν εἰς δίξαν: Paul does not shrink from introducing God as subject here. The vessels of mercy, in whom the Divine glory is to be revealed, are such as God prepared before for that destiny. That Paul is not speaking here abstractly, as in his discussion of the relations of creature and Creator in Romans 9:21 f., but on the basis of experience, is shown by the words which immediately follow: οὒς καὶ ἐκάλεσεν ἡμᾶς = whom he also called in us. The σκεύη ἐλέους, in other words, are not a mere theological conception = “God’s elect”: they are the actual members of the Christian Church, Jew and Gentile; and it is not a deduction from the necessities of the Divine nature, but an account of real experiences of God’s goodness, which is given both in προητοίμασεν and in ἐκάλεσεν. How much is covered by προητοίμασεν is not clear, but the text presents no ground whatever for importing into it the idea of an unconditional eternal decree. Those who are called know that the antecedents of their calling, the processes which lead up to and prepare for it, are of God. They know that in all these processes, even in the remote initial stages of them, to the significance of which they were blind at the time, glory was in view. The fact that both Jews and Gentiles are called shows that this preparation is not limited to any one nation; the fact that the called are from among both Jews and Gentiles shows that no one can claim God’s mercy as a right in virtue of his birth in some particular race.23. and that he might] Some such clause as “so acted,” or better, “so had patience,” must be mentally supplied. The idea of the patience of God seems to attach here to both parts of the statement: so far from acting in haste, He bore both with the persistent rebellion of the lost, and with the once equal rebellion, and then frequent failures, of the saved.

the riches of his glory] Same word as Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 3:16; Colossians 1:27; (in the last two places, however, the reference is different from that here). For comment, see Romans 8:18. The “glory” of God here is the bliss and exaltation in eternity which He will give to His saints. In that better life His endless “riches” of blessing will be evermore “made known” among the glorified, by being evermore conferred on them. For similar phrases, see Romans 2:4, Romans 11:33; Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Php 4:19.

on] See on Romans 8:18, last note.

afore prepared] By the Divine process traced Romans 8:29-30. See also note above, Romans 9:22, on “fitted.”Romans 9:23. Ἵνα, that) Denotes more distinctly the end and aim, without excluding means.—γνωρίσῃ, might make known) This verb is applied to things not formerly known; it is therefore put both here and in the preceding verse, but ἐνδείκνυσθαι, to show, is only used in verse 22 concerning wrath; of which even the Gentiles have some knowledge.—ἐπὶ, upon) The sentence is thus quite consistent. But if God that He might make known the riches of His glory, supply, did this, or, in other words, made known the riches [of His glory] on the vessels of mercy; respecting the apodosis, see the beginning of the note, Romans 9:22.—τῆς δόξης) of His glory: of His goodness, grace, mercy, wisdom, omnipotence, Ephesians 1:6.—ἐλέους) of mercy, Romans 9:15-16; Romans 9:18; Romans 9:25, which presupposes the former misery of those, styled vessels.—προητοίμασεν, previously prepared) antecedently to works, Romans 9:11, by the arrangement of all the external and internal circumstances, which he, who is called, finds tending to his salvation, at the first moment of his call. This is implied by the preposition in προητοίμασεν. So a vessel unto honour, prepared, 2 Timothy 2:21.And that He might make known

The connection is variously explained. Some make and that dependent on He endured: "If, willing to show His wrath.... God endured... and also that." Others make that dependent on fitted: "Vessels fitted to destruction and also that He might make known," etc. Godet supplies He called from Romans 9:24 : "And called that He might make known," etc. The difficulty is resolved by the omission of καὶ and. So Westcott and Hort, on the single authority of B. See Rev., in margin.

His glory

See on Romans 3:23. Godet thinks the phrase was suggested by Moses' request, "Show me thy glory," Exodus 33:18.

Afore prepared (προητοίμασεν)

Only here and Ephesians 2:10. The studied difference in the use of this term instead of καταρτίζω to fit (Romans 9:22), cannot be overlooked. The verb is not equivalent to foreordained (προορίζω). Fitted, by the adjustment of parts, emphasizes the concurrence of all the elements of the case to the final result. Prepared is more general. In the former case the result is indicated; in the latter, the previousness. Note before prepared, while before is wanting in Romans 9:22. In this passage the direct agency of God is distinctly stated; in the other the agency is left indefinite. Here a single act is indicated; there a process. The simple verb ἑτοιμάζω often indicates, as Meyer remarks, to constitute qualitatively; i.e., to arrange with reference to the reciprocal quality of the thing prepared, and that for which it is prepared. See Luke 1:17; John 14:2; 1 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Timothy 2:21. "Ah, truly," says Reuss, "if the last word of the christian revelation is contained in the image of the potter and the clay, it is a bitter derision of all the deep needs and legitimate desires of a soul aspiring toward its God. This would be at once a satire of reason upon herself and the suicide of revelation. But it is neither the last word nor the only word; nor has it any immediate observable bearing on the concrete development of our lives. It is not the only word, because, in nine-tenths of Scripture, it is as wholly excluded from the sphere of revelation as though it had been never revealed at all; and it is not the last word, because, throughout the whole of Scripture, and nowhere more than in the writings of the very apostle who has faced this problem with the most heroic inflexibility, we see bright glimpses of something beyond. How little we were intended to draw logical conclusions from the metaphor, is shown by the fact that we are living souls, not dead clay; and St. Paul elsewhere recognized a power, both within and without our beings, by which, as by an omnipotent alchemy, mean vessels can become precious, and vessels of earthenware be transmuted into vessels of gold" (Farrar). See note at end of ch. 11.

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