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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 9 - Verse 22
Verses 22,23. What if God, etc. If God does what the apostle supposes, what then? Is it not right? This is the second point in the answer to the objection in Rom 9:19. The answer has respect to the two classes of men which actually exist on the earth—the righteous and the wicked. And the question is, whether in regard to these two classes God does In Fact do wrong? If he does not, then the doctrine of the apostle is established, and the objection is not valid. It is assumed here, as it must be, that the world is in fact divided into two classes—saints and sinners. The apostle considers the case of sinners in Ro 9:22.
Willing. Being disposed; having an inclination to. It denotes an inclination of mind towards the thing proposed. If the thing itself was right; if it was proper to "show his wrath," then it was proper to be WILLING to do it. If it is right to do a thing, it is right to purpose or intend to do it.
His wrath, (thn orghn) This word occurs thirty-five times in the New Testament. Its meaning is derived from the idea of earnestly desiring or reaching for an object, and properly denotes, in its general sense, a vehement desire of attaining anything. Hence it comes to denote an earnest desire of revenge, or of inflicting suffering on those who have injured us, Eph 4:31, "Let all bitterness and wrath," etc.; Col 3:8; 1 Ti 2:8. Hence it denotes indignation in general, which is not joined with a desire of revenge, Mr 3:5, "He looked round about on them with anger." It also denotes punishment for sin—the anger or displeasure of God against transgression. See Barnes "Ro 1:18"; See Barnes "Lu 3:7; See Barnes "Lu 21:23, etc. In this place it is evidently used to denote severe displeasure against sin. As sin is an evil of so great magnitude, it is right for God to be willing to evince his displeasure against it; and just in proportion to the extent of the evil. This displeasure, or wrath, it is proper that God should always be willing to show; nay, it would not be right for him not to show it, for that would be the same thing as to be indifferent to it, or to approve it. In this place, however, it is not affirmed,
(1.) that God has any pleasure in sin, or its punishment; nor
(2.) that he exerted any agency to compel man to sin. It affirms only that God is willing to show his hatred of incorrigible and long-continued wickedness when it actually exists.
To make his power known. This language is the same as that which was used in relation to Pharaoh, ro 9:17; Ex 9:16. But it is not probable that the apostle intended to confine it to the Egyptians only. In the following verse he speaks of "the vessels of mercy prepared unto glory;" which cannot be supposed to be language adapted to the temporal deliverance of the Jews. The case of Pharaoh was one instance, or illustration, of the general principle on which God would deal with men. His government is conducted on great and uniform principles; and the case of Pharaoh was a development of the great laws on which he governs the universe.
"Shall not God avenge his own elect, though he bear long with them?"
With much long-suffering. With much patience. He suffered them to live, while they deserved to die. God bears with all sinners with much patience; he spares them amid all their provocations, to give them opportunity of repentance; and though they are fitted for destruction, yet he prolongs their lives, and offers them pardon, and loads them with benefits. This fact is a complete vindication of the government of God from the aspersions of all his enemies.
Vessels of wrath. The word vessel means a cup, etc., made of earth. As the human body is frail, easily broken and destroyed, it comes to signify also the body. 2 Co 4:7: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." 1 Th 4:4, "That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour" that every one should keep his body from the indulgence of unlawful passions. Comp. Ro 9:3. Hence also it means the man himself. Ac 9:15, "He is a chosen vessel unto me," etc. Comp. Isa 13:3. In this place there is, doubtless, allusion to what he had just said of clay in the hands of the potter. The phrase "vessels of wrath" denotes wicked men against whom it is fit or proper that wrath should be shown; as Judas is called "the son of perdition." See Barnes "Joh 17:12".
This does not mean that men by their very creation, or their physical nature, are thus denominated; but men who, from long continuance in iniquity, deserve to experience wrath; as Judas was not called "son of perdition" by any arbitrary appointment, or as an original designation, but because, in consequence of his avarice and treason, this was the name which in fact actually described him, or fitted his case.
Fitted, (kathrtismena). This word properly means to restore; to place in order; to render complete; to supply a defect; to fit to, or adapt to, or prepare for. See Mt 4:21, "Were mending theft nets." Ga 6:1, "Restore such an one," etc. In this place it is a participle, and means those who are fitted for or adapted to destruction—those whose characters are such as to deserve destruction, or as to make destruction proper. See the same use of the word in Heb 11:3, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed"—-beautifully fitted up in proper proportions, one part adapted to another—" by the word of God." Heb 10:5, "A body hast thou prepared for me;" fitted, or adapted to me. Comp. Ps 68:10; 74:16. In this place there is not the semblance of a declaration that God had PREPARED them, or FITTED them for destruction. It is a simple declaration that they were IN FACT fitted for it, without making an affirmation about the manner in which they became so. A reader of the English Bible may, perhaps, sometimes draw the impression that God had fitted them for this. But this is not affirmed; and there is an evident design in not affirming it, and a distinction made between them and the vessels of mercy which ought to be regarded. In relation to the latter it is expressly affirmed that God fitted or prepared them for glory. See Ro 9:23, "Which HE had afore prepared unto glory." The same distinction is remarkably striking in the account of the last judgment in Mt 25:34-41. To the righteous, Christ will say, "Come, ye blessed of my rather, inherit the kingdom prepared FOR YOU," etc. To the wicked, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS;" not said to have been originally prepared for them. It is clear, therefore, that God intends to keep the great truth in view, that he prepares his people by direct agency for heaven; but that he exerts no such agency in preparing the wicked for destruction.
For destruction, (eiv apwleian). This word occurs in the New Testament no less than twenty times. Mt 7:13, "Which leadeth to destruction." Joh 17:12, "Son of perdition." Ac 8:20, "Thy money perish with thee;" Greek, be for destruction with thee; Ac 25:16. Php 1:28, "Token of perdition;" Php 3:19, "Whose end is destruction:" 2 Th 2:3, "The son of perdition." 1 Ti 6:9, "Which drown men in destruction and perdition." Heb 10:39, "Who draw back unto perdition." See also 2 Pe 2:1,3; 3:7,16, etc. In these places it is clear that the reference is to the future punishment of wicked men, and in no instance to national calamities. No such use of the word is to be found in the New Testament; and this is further clear from the contrast with the word "glory" in the next verse. We may remark here, that if men are fitted or prepared for destruction; if future torment is adapted to them, and they to it; if it is fit that they should be subjected to it; then God will do what is fit or right to be done, and, unless they repent, they must perish. Nor would it be right for God to take them to heaven as they are; to a place for which they are not fitted, and which is not adapted to their feelings, their character, or their conduct.
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