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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 9 - Verse 23
Verse 23. And that he might make known. That he might manifest or display. The apostle had shown (Ro 9:22) that the dealings of God towards the wicked were not liable to the objection made in Ro 9:19. In this verse he proceeds to show that the objection could not lie against his dealings with the other class of men—the righteous. If his dealings towards 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 towards 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 Eph 1:18.
On the vessels of mercy. Men towards whom his mercy was to be displayed, (Ro 9:22) that is, on those towards whom he has purposed to display his mercy.
Mercy. Favour, or pity shown to the miserable. Grace is favour to the undeserving; mercy, favour 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 Th 5:9, "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Ti 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 Eph 1:4,5,11; Ro 8:28,29,30; Ac 13:48; Joh 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 men better; and as this is the sole design of the electing love of God, his dealings with this class of men 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 Ro 9:19.
Unto glory. To happiness; and especially to the happiness of heaven. Heb 2:10, "It became him, in bringing many sons unto glory," etc. Ro 5:2, "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God." 2 Co 4:17, "Our light affliction worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." 2 Th 2:14; 2 Ti 2:10; 1 Pe 5:4.
This eternal state is called "glory," because it blends together everything that constitutes honour, 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 Ro 9:22. That term stands contrasted with glory; and describes, therefore, the future condition of individual wicked men. This is also its uniform meaning in the New Testament. On this vindication of the apostle we may observe,
(1.) that all men will be treated as they ought to be treated.
Men will be dealt with according to their characters at the end
(2.) If men 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 favours on whom he pleases.
(4.) He actually does deal with men in this way. The
apostle takes this for granted. He does not deny it, He
most evidently believes it, and labours 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.
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