A STUDY IN ROMANS 9-11 (Part 5)

Chapter 9:14-23 – VESSELS OF WRATH AND VESSELS OF MERCY

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

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

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? ~ Romans 9:14-24 

Paul has shown in the previous verses how that not all within Israel are truly Israel, because God’s calling is based on election according to his grace and not based on ethnic status: Not the Calvinist doctrine of election, but God’s purpose which is mercy towards those who believe.

Ethnic Israel had failed to obtain that for which they were called, yet some within Israel (a remnant), had obtained the promises.  They are those with circumcised hearts among those who were circumcised in the flesh only.

Those who were circumcised in heart obtained the promises God made to Abraham, and are the “true Israel within Israel.” The rest were hardened, not serving God from the heart, but relying on their ethnic status and boasting in the law, though they did not keep it.

17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. ~ Romans 2:17-29 

In their hardened and uncircumcised hearts, ethnic Israel is the vessel of wrath fitted for destruction of whom Paul makes reference. Paul appeals to the historical account of God’s dealings with Pharaoh as a scriptural example of God’s sovereignty in hardening whom He wills.

Paul employs the scriptural account of Pharaoh to expound on his explanation of Israel and the remnant within Israel (the true Israel within Israel), for it is through faith, that God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled, and not through the flesh.

In contrast to the vessel of wrath which in the context is national Israel, the remnant of believing Jews along with believing Gentiles are the vessels of mercy whom God has called according to his grace.

What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? ~ Romans 9: 22-24 

Notice that God has called the vessels of mercy from among the Jews. This implies that not all Jews were called as vessels of mercy, even as all Gentiles are not called as vessels of mercy.

Throughout the Old Testament we see many accounts in which God’s wrath was carried out against Israelites who rebelled against him. In the New Testament we also have many examples.

For instance, John the Baptist warned the Pharisees to flee from the wrath to come, and in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 Paul refers to the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and who oppose the gospel as being under the wrath of God.

Paul continues in Romans 9 by saying the following:

As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. ~ Romans 9:25-29

It was because of the righteous seed within national Israel (the remnant with circumcised hearts) that Israel was not destroyed as a nation for breaking the covenant.
Otherwise they would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah when God’s wrath was revealed against them.

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. ~ Romans 9: 30-33

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