God is Unveiling ALL His Glory (Romans 9:22-23)
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…” (Romans 9:22-23 ESV)
I heard a sermon recently which asks, “What if the God your nice little evangelical church of your past told you about isn’t the God of the Bible?” I think this is compelling and resonates with my own observation that much of evangelical Christianity reduces God to his love or his grace. In America, total pagans will sing Amazing Grace with bagpipes or stand for God Bless America in the 7th inning stretch. Everybody has a perspective on what God is like and assumes his desire is to bless everyone all the time. Is the real God of the Bible who you think he is?
Passages like this challenge our simplistic or politically correct definitions of God. How so? Here’s the challenge. Does your understanding of God include his desire to be glorified in all that he is? Yes, as long as he is glorifying attributes that work out well for me. While God is love and mercy and grace and other popular divine attributes to sinners, he is much more than love, mercy, and grace. God is also holy, righteous, and just. We sinners don’t prefer those attributes as much.
But we are clay. God is God. Paul poses a question which is really a statement of fact. God also desires to make known his power and wrath, not as information but as celebration. He “has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22).
Vessel keeps the pottery theme. Vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. Who is this describing? Back to Romans 1, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18). These are sinners who by their refusal to submit to their Creator and/or trust in Christ receive God’s wrath. Vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.
Prepared by whom? The Greek tense is passive. This could mean prepared by themselves or prepared by their own moral decisions for destruction. That’s debated. God endures them with patience. What’s that? A holy God would have every right to immediately sentence a sinner to eternal punishment. That sinners like Adam and Eve or Pharaoh or Judas or even Satan were not immediately in hell is because God has treated them with patience.
Why would God wait? Here is the answer our hearts long for in the question, why did God allow evil and Satan and even the cross? “In order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…” (Romans 9:23) These two sections run parallel. To make known his wrath and power, God punishes sinners and to make known the riches of his grace and mercy, God saves sinners. We naturally are more excited about the glory of his mercy than the glory of his wrath.
But here is where God is fundamentally different from us. We want to celebrate our strengths and successes and hide our failures and deficiencies. So, the pictures posted on social media are ones in which we look good. We use the best angle hiding our least favorite parts of our bodies. Or we post pictures of our children as cute as could be and NOT in hissy fit mode. We celebrate ourselves at our best, not our worst.
With God, there is no worst. God feels no shame about any part of who he is nor should he. All of him is perfect. All of God is beautiful and wonderful and worthy of praise and that includes his terrifying attributes as well—his holiness, power, and justice.
So, why would God the potter make a pot named Pharaoh? A jar named Ishmael? A trash bin named Satan? To unveil the glory of all he is.
Further, how would vessels of mercy realize they are vessels of mercy if everyone was a vessel of mercy? Doesn’t the reality of judgment make the reality of mercy even more wonderful? More praiseworthy?
What if the reason God didn’t send Satan immediately to hell was that an infinite God purposed to use Satan’s rebellion to unveil his glorious mercy? What if by waiting and allowing Satan to tempt Adam and Eve and orchestrate Jesus’ cross, God’s mercy and love are unveiled in ways that would never be known if there was no Satan? Or to quote Luther, “The devil is God’s devil.”
When we discipline our 6-year-old daughter, our four-year-old daughter is very quick to come to me and say, Dada, I love you. Dada, I love you. Why? Yes, she needs reassurance, etc., but at the root, is when she sees Daddy’s judgment, it causes her to treasure Daddy’s love.
Do you suppose one purpose for hell is that someday we will stare into that abyss of wrath and turn to God with tears and say, Daddy, I love you? Will not the terribleness of his wrath make the glory of his mercy even greater to us?
Today is our 7th wedding anniversary. Starting with my engagement ring, being married has meant more time in jewelry stores than the rest of my previous life. When you go to a jewelry store, they all do the same thing with their jewelry. They have lights mounted high on the ceiling shining down to make the jewelry sparkle. When you ask to see something, they always pull it out and place it on black velvet. They note beautiful aspects of the jewel. Let’s say it’s a diamond. Note the color. Note the clarity. Note the size. Look at this. Look at that. All of it against a dark background. Why?
You know why. The contrast to the black velvet shows the brilliance and beauty of the diamond even more. Is the diamond worth more with lights shining on it or without lights shining on it? Against the dark background or the white background? No. It’s worth the same. What does the light do? What does the black velvet do? It shows by contrast the beauty of the diamond. Things are seen and value is perceived that would not be seen if there was no black velvet.
Why is there a hell? Why is there a Satan? Why is there a Pharaoh? Why is there a Judas? Why is there a crucified Son of God? One reason is that mercy never looks more wonderful than against the backdrop of non-mercy. How much does it mean to us that God sovereignly chose to unveil not just his wrath, but his mercy as well? And what have we done to deserve it? Nothing! Which means all the glory for our salvation is God’s not ours. We deserved hell and wrath, but to unveil the mercy of God, we find ourselves forever in his grace.
What do we say? O the depths of the riches of the mercy of God. This whole thing has no human glory in it at all. It is entirely purposed by a God who unveils all the glory of who he is by seeking and saving the lost. It’s like a little girl who is lost, and Daddy finds her. What does she say? Daddy, I found you! That’s how salvation feels to us. We found God. But if you go deeper into the mysteries of the infinite God, he found us. He saved us. He did it all. This is yet another way to say, It’s all about him.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 See Donald Westblade, Still Sovereign, p. 86.
 Martin Luther, Source unknown.
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