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Divine Election - Part 8

Tom Pennington • Romans 9:6-29

  • 2018-12-02 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


As we begin our study of Romans 9 today, I need to take you back to a couple of weeks ago and remind you that I used in that message the concept of human pardon to illustrate divine election. When the governor of Texas decides to pardon a death row inmate, he goes into that, figuratively speaking, into that prison and all of the prisoners that are there on death row have earned death by their choices and their decisions. They are there because they ought to be there, because it is just and right for them to be there. But when out of that group of men and women who have earned death, the governor chooses to pardon someone, he essentially elects that prisoner to life. But at the same time, when he does that, he is choosing to allow the rest of the prisoners on death row to suffer the justice that their crimes deserve.

I used that illustration because that is exactly what happens in divine election. God's decision to pardon one criminal is an active choice. He deliberately selects the sinner that He is going to pardon. At the same time, His decision not to pardon others is a passive choice; He merely passes by them and allows them to receive the justice that they have earned and fully and completely deserve. The important thing to understand about election, if you have not been with us, is this, no one in this process is treated unfairly; most get justice, some get mercy, but no one gets injustice.

This morning, however, we come to the question of why, why has God chosen to act this way? Why hasn't God chosen to save everyone? And why has God chosen instead to save some and to pass by others? Well, back to the analogy of the governor pardoning a criminal, when the Texas governor pardons someone sentenced to die and he passes by others, he can justly decide to do so for a number of reasons, but here are a couple of key ones. He can do so, and often does, to show that he and the government are strong against crime; and because they are strong against crime, in other words committed to justice, they choose to give justice to all of those that he does not pardon. At the same time, to show that he and the government are also compassionate, he can choose to pardon one or more as well. So in other words, when human governments elect to pardon some criminals and not to pardon others, they are often acting to illustrate qualities that are true, both about the state and about his or her own character.

In the passage in Romans 9, that we come to today, we discover that those are the very same reasons that God has chosen to save some and to pass by the rest. Now, just to remind you of the flow of Paul's thought, this paragraph on election begins in verses 6 to 13 with divine election explained and illustrated, and we looked at that. He uses three successive generations of God's Old Testament people, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to show us how God chose those men to Himself and passed by others. In verses 14 to 23 we see divine election defended, Paul anticipates the objections that people always have to the issue of election and he answers them.

Objection number one is simply that God's will isn't fair, it is just not fair for God to act this way, and Paul addresses this objection in verses 14 to 18. The second objection comes in verses 19 to 23. In fact, look at verse 19, here is the second common objection to election, "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'" In other words, the objection is like this, if divine election is true and God chooses unconditionally, that is, not conditioned on anything in them, to save some, then man's will isn't free; that is the objection. Man must not have a free will if that is true. And so Paul then goes on to provide an answer regarding man's free will in verses 20 to 23.

Now before we got to the verses themselves, we sort of stepped back from this text and dealt with a couple of important issues. First of all, to make sure we even understand what we are talking about, to understand the question. The essence of the question is this, does man have a free will? But even a better way to say it is this, to what extent has man's will been affected by the fall and by sin? That led us then to step back and say, well, let's get an overarching perspective on man's free will, a biblical perspective on man's free will, and we discovered two basic points from Scripture.

One is man's will is free in the sense that he makes real choices based on his desires. You make choices based on your desires. I make choices based on my desires. Our will is free in that sense. We are not robots. But we discovered, secondly, that man's will is not free from his own depravity. I am not free to choose whatever I want because my nature decides what I desire. And so I will always choose based on where my nature leads me, and my nature is sinful, my nature is fallen as I am born into this world and as you were as well. And so I am free to make choices, to choose what I want, but I will never choose what I don't want, and what I will never want is God and His way because I am a rebel by nature. I am a sinner by birth and by choice. That is the problem.

Now that brings us to the text itself and in verses 20 to 23, having dealt with the question, having gotten an overarching biblical perspective, Paul really comes in this text to provide us a biblical apologetic, not for man's free will, but for God's free will. He defends God's rights, not ours. Now he begins his answer to this objection that, you know, man's will isn't free, he begins with his answer to a specific group. It is to those who sinfully question God's right to choose. You see this in verses 20 and 21, look at them with me. Here is how he speaks to those who say that is not God's right, He can't do that.

On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

Paul's point is, listen, you have no right to question the right of God to make this decision. That is what he is in essence saying. God has the right to decide who gets His wrath and who gets His mercy in the same way that a potter has the right to make pots for different uses from the same undeserving lump of clay. The point is this, God is not obligated to extend grace to anybody. He is not obligated to give you grace. He is not obligated to give me grace. He is not bound to do that because we are all sinners and we have all forfeited every claim to God's mercy and grace. We are all of the same fallen lump of clay and we all together deserve only justice. That is his point.

But that immediately invites a couple of questions and this is where I ended last time. It invites these two questions specifically, why did God decide to save anyone? I mean, He didn't have to, He was not obligated to show mercy and grace to anyone. Why did He decide to save anyone? And that invites another question, why didn't God decide to save everyone? Again, He could have done that, why didn't He? Well the closest we come to biblical answers to those questions is in the text that we come to this morning here in Romans 9, and it is verses 22 and 23.

Now just to give you context, in verses 20 and 21 where you have the illustration of the potter, Paul deals with God's rights in election. Here in verses 22 and 23 he deals with God's reasons for election. Paul addresses in these verses, he is no longer speaking to those who sinfully question God's right to elect, now, here in verses 22 and 23, he is speaking to those who humbly question God's reasons for election. Here is really Paul's application of the potter illustration. Let's read the text together, look at verse 22,

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory

Now let me give you the big picture, sort of the main point Paul is making, and then we will look at the details. The big point is this, God's reasons for election, that is for choosing some, and His reasons for reprobation, that is passing by others and giving them justice, has to do with putting His character on display. That is the big picture. That is what Paul is saying, to make Himself more fully known, His wrath in verse 22, His wrath and power, and His mercy in verse 23.

Now again, before we look at the details, let me make sure you understand the grammatical structure of these two verses because they can be confusing. In fact, commentators have spilled a lot of ink on this issue, so let me give you an overview. These two verses together form a rhetorical question, but here is the hard and tricky part, in which the question is left unsaid. Because notice, he starts in verse 22, "What if God," and yet there is never any sort of follow-up to that.

So we could paraphrase verses 22 and 23 like this, look at your text and let me read it,

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? To make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory

And then here is the rhetorical question, if that is what God did, and of course that is exactly what He did, would anyone have the right to question God? That is what Paul is asking. In other words, let me put it simpler for you, if God did A, verse 22, in order to do B, verse 23, would anyone have the right to question God? And the answer is, absolutely not.

But here in these verses, as Paul develops this, we discover God's reasons. God actually tells us His own thinking. Here are the reasons God had for choosing some for salvation and for passing by others, not specific individuals, but why God operates this way. Let's look at it together. In verse 22 we learn God's reasons for passing by some, "What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?"

Now just to be clear who we are talking about, I am going to do something unusual for me. We are going to start at the end of the verse, because I want to make sure you know who we are discussing here. So look at that expression, "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction," "vessels of wrath," again using the analogy of the potter, he is still in that context, a vessel is simply a pot, a jar, a clay pot is what we are talking about. So "vessels of wrath" are simply the clay pots that the Potter decided He would display His just wrath through. These are those people that God decides to pass by there on death row and to treat them with strict justice, to let them get what they deserve and earned.

Now again, remember as we talk about this what I told you last week. Paul is not saying here that God actually created some people in order to destroy them. That is a skewed view of this doctrine which a small number of those who believe in the sovereignty of God hold to. That is not what Paul is teaching here. Paul is not talking about creating some for wrath any more than a potter creates a pot to destroy it.

No, he is talking about what God chooses to do with that lump of clay sitting in front of Him. What is that lump of clay that we are all made of? It is sinful humanity. So this is man already a sinner, having inherited that sin through Adam, having chosen to sin, here we are, we are one big, sinful, undeserving lump of clay. And he says, listen, God has a right from that sinful humanity to decide who gets mercy and who gets justice, that is God's right. Those who receive justice and wrath, don't misunderstand, they never receive anything but what they have earned and deserved.

Now notice Paul adds, there at the end of verse 22, that these sinners who he calls clay pots that will demonstrate God's wrath, they were prepared for destruction. Literally, the text says in the original language, "having been prepared for destruction." But that invites the question, by whom? Who prepared them for destruction? Now there are some, again a small number, who say that God actively prepared these sinners for destruction in the same way that He actively prepares other sinners for glory, verse 23. But that is contrary to God's character, it is contrary to the vast majority of reformed theologians and scholars, and it is contrary, as we will see, to the context. That is not what Paul is teaching here.

He is not saying God creates these people, He decides to create them for destruction. He is saying, no, God decided to create mankind in His own image, in His glory, for good, as an expression of His own character, and then He allowed man to fall, and out of that lump of fallen humanity He decided to show justice to some and to show mercy to others.

In fact, here is what I want you to notice. Notice the obvious difference between how Paul says what he says in verse 22 and what he says in verse 23. In verse 22, as Paul describes the "vessels of wrath," notice he uses the passive participle without a subject, having been "prepared for destruction." He doesn't say by whom. In verse 23, when he is talking about "vessels of mercy," he uses the active participle with a subject, that is "He," that is God, "prepared them beforehand for glory." You see the difference? That is intentional. Paul could have said both phrases the same way, and if he had said them the same way, he would have meant God created some for destruction, but that is not what he says. He is very precise, as he always is.

So verse 22 then, when he says, having been "prepared for destruction," he means one of three things. He means either they prepared themselves for destruction, that is what some even reformed scholars say, by their sin, by their sinful choices. Or secondly, they prepared themselves in cooperation with Satan, that is what William Hendriksen, for example, in his commentary says. Or, I think most likely in light of the potter illustration in verses 20 and 21, it means they were prepared by God for destruction, but in a different way than He prepared vessels of mercy. In other words, God didn't create them to destroy them. He passed by them on His way to choose those He would pardon and in that sense they were prepared for destruction, in a passive sense rather than active sense.

And by the way, I am not alone in saying this, no less a name and scholar than Charles Hodge, one of the great commentators on the book of Romans, puts it this way, "God does not create men in order to destroy them." And he goes on to say, "Consider Pharaoh, the example in this passage of a non-elect man." He says, "God did not make Pharaoh wicked, but as a punishment for his sin, He so dealt with him that the evil of his nature revealed itself in a way which made him a fit object of the justice of God." In other words, God didn't create him to destroy him, but once Pharaoh had demonstrated his sinfulness, God decided to pass him by; He let Pharaoh so demonstrate his heart that he, in essence, became prepared for destruction.

So why, why did God choose to pass by these "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?" Well, in verse 22 Paul gives us three reasons. Reason number one, to demonstrate His wrath, "What if God," he says, "although willing to demonstrate His wrath." The word willing is a word which means to have a strong desire and to act in keeping with that desire. God willed or God desired or God wanted to demonstrate. The word demonstrate means to direct attention to or to cause something to become known, to show something. God willed for this to become known, specifically, His wrath.

Now that is not a topic that is a very common topic in most conversations in America today. It is not even a topic that is common in most churches today, but it is a biblical topic, and it is one you can't ignore. It is right here in the text in front of us, "His wrath." What is God's wrath? When you hear that word, it is not a word we use very often; you don't speak of my wrath. So what is that word? Let me define it for you, God's wrath is His anger and response against sin, especially in the future coming judgment. God's wrath is His anger or response against sin, and in this context, especially in the future judgment that is coming. Again, this is something Paul has talked about already in this book. Go back to chapter 2, chapter 2 and verse 5, he says, and he is talking here to unbelievers, he says, "because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Now that is an absolutely staggering, frightening thought.

If you are here this morning and you are not in Jesus Christ, you have never repented of your sins, you have never believed in Him, this is not me telling you this, this is not even Paul telling you this, this is God telling you this. He says, as you sit here this morning, every time you hear the gospel and you turn from that gospel, you reject it, every time you take one of God's good gifts and you misuse it, every time you fail to give Him thanks, every time you fail to glorify Him in your life, he says here, that stubbornness, that unrepentant heart means you are storing up. The idea is stockpiling, as if there were storage compartments in heaven and every time you refuse to leave your rebellion against God, you are storing up, you are stockpiling, in heaven, wrath for yourself. When is that coming? "In the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God."

And he goes on in verse 6 to say, "who will render to each person according to his deeds." Do you understand that as you sit here this morning, if you are not in Christ, every moment that goes by that you breathe God's air, every moment you use that body He gave you and that mind he gave you for something that is in rebellion against Him, God says you may think everything is fine, you are enjoying His good gifts, you are preparing to celebrate a traditional Christmas, you are enjoying your family, enjoying life, working hard, enjoying weekends, everything looks great.

God says at the very same time you are enjoying all of that, you are storing up, you are stockpiling wrath in a coming day when God will unleash it. That is what He is saying. Notice in verse 8 of chapter 2, he says, "to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness." In other words, all you do is obey your sin and your flesh and your sinful desires, there is going to be wrath and indignation; it is going to happen. It does not matter how peaceful things look right now. It is just like on Friday night, many of us were enjoying friends and enjoying the evening, a storm was coming. You can deny it, you can act like it is not coming, you can pretend it is not coming, but it is coming. That is exactly what Paul is saying here.

Go over to chapter 5, chapter 5 verse 9. He is talking to believers here and he says, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood," that is, having been declared right with God by the death of Jesus Christ, "we," that is, we who believe, "shall be saved," shall be rescued, "from the coming wrath of God through Jesus." It is coming. It is like that thunderstorm on the horizon. You may not see it right now, but it is coming.

It is described in 2 Thessalonians. Go to 2 Thessalonians 1. Exactly what is going to happen is described here. Second Thessalonians 1, the middle of verse 7, says,

when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, [and listen to what He's going to do] dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

What do you mean, "obey the gospel"? Well, the gospel says, repent and believe. You refuse to do that and this is coming, "dealing out retribution on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." And here is what it looks like, verse 9, "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power." That is what is coming; that is God's wrath, His just anger and response against human sin, especially in the judgment that is coming.

J. I. Packer writes, "God's wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is instead a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry when anger is called for." You see, God's wrath or anger is always connected to His justice. It is the response of God's justice to what sin earns.

You see, you and I get used to sin, We kind of overlook it. We become comfortable with it. God never does. In fact, God hates sin with everything in His being. He hates it and He must punish it. So when God displays His wrath, it is never unfair, it is never capricious. God is only angry when it is completely right to be angry, and listen to this, when the failure to be angry would be immoral. And that happens, we understand that even at a human level.

Perhaps you heard the news story this week about the sentencing of that man, who for years, abused a young girl in the home in which he lived. Now you tell me, what if the judge in that case had said he just loved that man too much to find him guilty. He just loved him too much to be angered by what he had done. He loved him too much to punish him. You would not think that was love. You would think that was a travesty of justice because the opposite of just wrath is not love, it is indifference and apathy toward evil, and God can't do that. He simply cannot be apathetic toward evil. It is part of God's holy character to find sin utterly repulsive and to act to ensure that it is rightly punished. Again, Charles Hodge writes, "The punishment of the wicked is not an arbitrary act. It is designed to manifest the displeasure of God against sin and to make known His true character."

Paul says in verse 22, God wills to demonstrate His wrath. Now you will notice in our English text, the word although appears, but that word is not in the original. The Greek text simply reads, "What if God, willing to demonstrate His wrath, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?" Now, the way it is worded in the original leaves two possibilities. It could be, because He was willing to demonstrate His wrath. If that is what Paul were saying here, then he would mean this, God allowed vessels of wrath to exist and to continue to live because He wanted His wrath to build up so that eventually He would show even greater wrath and greater power against man's sin. And God would be right to do that, but I don't think that is what Paul is saying here.

I think our translators are right in using the word although, "although willing to demonstrate His wrath," because I think what Paul means here, and the way this is worded, is that God endures the rebellion of sinners with great patience; He allows them to continue to live although He strongly desires to carry out His justice against their rebellion. And we will see why God endures it in just a moment. But there is the first reason, why God passes by some, it is to demonstrate His wrath.

There is a second reason God chose to pass by some, it is to demonstrate His power. Again, verse 22, "God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known." He was willing, He wanted to make His power known. In actively passing, or choosing some for mercy, but more the stress here is passing by others in justice, God wanted to make His power known. So how, how does God make His power known in passing by some? God's power is revealed in that He will justly condemn and punish sinners no matter how many of them there are or how much they may try to wage war against Him. In other words, God will eventually do exactly what He chooses to do regardless of how many He has to deal with or how powerful, at a human level, they may be, just like with Pharaoh. Pharaoh thought he was something. He thought he was powerful. And God acted and showed him he was nothing, he was nothing at all.

In fact, there are so many places in Scripture where this idea of God's power being illustrated in His wrath occurs, but one that stood out to me this week is Revelation 6. Turn there for just a moment. Revelation 6, you have the seals being unbroken as Jesus Christ breaks open the title deed of the earth and with the breaking of each seal God pours out judgment on this world in the future, in the future tribulation period.

In verse 12 of Revelation 6, when the sixth seal is broken, there is a great earthquake on earth, there are huge catastrophic disturbances in the heavens, and notice the response, verse 15, Revelation 6:15, "Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man." Now you tell me, anybody left out in that list? No, clearly that is everybody. But he is trying to make the point, there are no exceptions. All of humanity together, notice how they responded to God's wrath, verse 15,

they hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and [notice this] from the wrath of the Lamb."

Jesus Christ is humble, meek, and mild, but He is also prone to wrath, not capricious sinful anger, but the steady, just response to sin that reflects the holy character of God. Verse 17, "'for the great day of their wrath has come, and,'" notice this, "'who is able to stand?'" Every human being left on earth, at that moment, will have no response other than to try to hide. Why? Because the power of the Lamb is shown when His wrath comes.

So God justly chooses not to save all sinners, number one, to demonstrate His wrath; number two, to make His power known; and back in Romans 9:22 there is a third reason, to demonstrate His patience, "What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?" Again, here are these vessels of wrath, these jars of clay, these clay pots, that God has decided would display His justice, His wrath, but it says, "God endured them with much patience."

The word endured is not a pretty word. It actually means to put up with. God would be perfectly just to destroy all sinners and to do so immediately, but God endured or God put up with these sinners, permitting them to exist a moment longer than their first sin; He endured their rebellion and allowed them to live. You see, God isn't callous, God isn't uncaring toward the vessels of wrath. Even in the necessary and just punishment of their sin, God deals with them with great patience and long-suffering, because this is His nature. God does not respond immediately to those who rebel against Him as a severe callous judge. He is patient.

Many of you are familiar with Valley of Vision, which is a collection of Puritan prayers. If you are not familiar with it, you should be, you should get you one. It is a constant companion of mine. In one of the prayers that is one of my favorites in that little volume, this is one of the lines and I love this, the writer of the prayer says this, "I have acted," talking to God now, "I have acted as if I hated you although you are love itself. I have contrived to tempt you to the uttermost to wear out your patience. I have lived evilly in word and action." And here is the line I want you to hear, this line just jumps out at me, "Had I been a prince, I would long ago have crushed such a rebel." Isn't that true? If I were God and I had to deal with me, let alone you, let alone the worst people on this planet, I would do it now. "Had I been a prince, I would long ago have crushed such a rebel." But that is not who God is. God is by nature patient.

I remember the first time this just hit me in the face, and I have shared this with you before, but it was when I was in Hebrew exegesis in seminary. And like all good seminary students, I was sitting up late one night translating the passage I was supposed to translate. Beginning exegesis in my day you did the book of Jonah because it is one of the simplest books and it is short, mercifully short, for those who are still learning Hebrew. And so, I was sitting there translating Jonah, and I was in chapter 4, and it was late at night, and I was tired and, you know, surviving on coffee as seminary students and other students are prone to do.

And so I am translating and you know there Jonah says, "God, this is why I didn't want to come to Nineveh because I knew this was to be just like you," and then he quotes God's self-revelation from Exodus 34, "I knew that you were compassionate and gracious." and then he says, "slow to anger," but in my little translation, as I am working it out there on paper, it said, "God you are compassionate and gracious and long of nose." Like, wait a minute, oops, let me break out the dictionary again, I must have done something wrong. No, that is exactly what it says. When the Old Testament says, "God is slow to anger," it says, "He has a long nose." It means it takes Him a long time to get hot. God is so patient. Because if I were God, I would not tolerate so long what He tolerates.

So why does God patiently endure the rebellion of sinners that He has decided to pass by and not immediately demonstrate His wrath on them? Well it is interesting, when you consider how this word patience is used in the rest of the New Testament, it underscores that God is patient for this reason, because He genuinely desires for all, even the non-elect, to come to repentance. He genuinely loves them as Christ loved the rich young ruler who never came to faith. And He has compassion for them, and so God is patient to allow them the opportunity to repent.

And the other two times Paul uses this word patience, of God, in his writings, this is implied. Let me show them to you. Look at Romans 2 and look at the verse right before the one we looked at a moment ago. Romans 2:4, "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience," there is our word, "do you think lightly," do you take these things for granted, "not knowing," don't you know, "that the kindness," and the tolerance and the patience, "of God is intended to lead you to repentance?" Now in context here, he is talking about those who are probably the non-elect. I think that that is the implication here, that even for those God has not chosen, He does good to them; He showers them with goodness because He takes no delight in their destruction.

But God is also patient so that the elect will come to faith. Turn over to 1 Timothy. I think this is the implication here in 1 Timothy 1:15. Here Paul is talking about himself, his testimony, 1 Timothy 1:15, "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Messiah Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Listen, as you celebrate Christmas this year, don't you dare forget that that is the focus, He came into the world to rescue sinners. And Paul says, "among whom I am foremost of all." Paul says, I am the worst. Paul isn't just being falsely humble. A) He really was a terrible sinner before he came to Christ. He tortured Christians. He killed them. He imprisoned them. He fought against God, unwittingly and unknowingly. He was into coveting according to Romans 7. He was one of the Pharisees, just like the description of them in Matthew 23. He was a, and when he wrote this, still saw himself as a horrible sinner, though redeemed. Verse 16, so why did God save Paul? "Yet for this reason I found mercy," God extended mercy to me for this reason, what reason, "so that, in me as the worst, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life."

Listen, if you are here this morning, you want to know why God saved Paul? If you are not a Christian, you want to understand why God saved Paul? He saved Paul to show you that He can save you as well. However bad you are, you are not as bad as Paul was. And God was patient with Paul, with Saul, not destroying him when he was doing all those wicked things. Why? Because He wanted him to come to repentance, and He knew, in his case, he would.

Scripture is filled with God's patience with sinners. Listen to one more, Ezekiel 18:23, this is an important one. If you don't know it, jot it down. Ezekiel 18:23, here is God speaking, "'Do I have any pleasure,'" Any pleasure, "'in the death of the wicked,' declares the Lord," The implication is no, I have absolutely no joy, no pleasure, in destroying sinners, "'rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?'" That is what God wants.

That is what God wants of you if you are this morning without Christ. He does not look forward to the day when you experience His wrath. He does not look forward with some sort of joy or delight in destroying you, but He will. Right now He is being patient and it is His desire and will that you would turn from your ways, to Him, you would repent, believe in His Son, and live. That is the heart of God.

Now, you must never think that God condemns sinners solely in order to display His character. If there were no benefit to God in demonstrating His wrath and power, if His glory were not seen as a result of that, He would still be compelled, by His own character, to display His wrath against sin simply because it is right and it is just. Again, listen to Hodge, "The inherent ill dessert of sin," in other words, the inherent thing that sin deserves, "must always be regarded as the primary ground of the infliction of punishment, a ground which would remain in full force were no beneficial results anticipated from the misery of the wicked." In other words, God would have to do it if it did not put His character on display, because it is who He is.

"Yet," he goes on to say, "God has so ordered His government that the evils which sinners incur shall result in the manifestation of His character and the consequent promotion of the holiness and happiness of His intelligent creatures throughout eternity." In other words, God has to be just, He has to deal out punishment toward those who sin because it is His character and nature, but He has also acted in such a way as to put Himself on display. So those are the three reasons God passes by some.

But in verse 23 we learn God's single solitary reason for choosing others. Look at verse 23, "And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory." Again, let's make sure we know who we're talking about. Notice that expression, "vessels of mercy." Again, that is clay pots that God decided to display His mercy, those sinners God chose to show mercy to. Why? Why did God choose to show us mercy and not justice? There is only one reason listed here and that is "to make known the riches of His glorious mercy." Look at verse 23, "He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory."

Here is the greatest reason that God has withheld His wrath and endured the rebellion of sinners against Himself. It is because He wanted to make known, by contrast, the glorious riches of His mercy upon vessels of mercy. In other words, when you see the mercy that God has shown you, and you think about the justice that people just like you who deserve exactly what you deserve to get, it makes the riches of His mercy appear even more glorious.

You see, when God chooses to punish sinners, it is to manifest His character, His holiness, His justice, His wrath. On the other hand, when He chooses to save and to pardon, it is to manifest the riches of His mercy. God endured, He patiently put up with vessels of wrath, and He allows them to live, to receive His common grace, because that is His character. He is patient by nature, even with those who will never repent.

But verse 23 provides another reason. Notice how it begins, "And he did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory." God patiently put up with the vessels of His wrath in order "to make known the riches," or the wealth, "of His glory." What is God's glory? This is the sum of His perfections which show just how weighty His character is and specifically here it is to the attribute of His mercy. In fact, we could translate verse 23 like this, "He did this to make known the wealth of His glorious mercy upon vessels of mercy." So God saved you to display His character.

Now when you hear that, when you hear that God acted in salvation to make His glory known, you have to be very careful in your thinking, because you could be tempted to think of God as some kind of megalomaniac who is simply consumed with His own self-promotion because when we hear about humans promoting their glory, that is what we mean. That is not God. God acts to display His own glory because it is right that His glory be known; it is best for all of His creatures that His glory be known.

If there was a doctor, we have many doctors and nurses in our church, if there was a doctor who found himself in the middle of a crisis, an emergency, let's say there had been a terrible accident on the freeway and the doctor finds himself in the middle of that situation. If he hid, he or she hid their degrees and their skill and their experience from the people around them, you would not think, oh, there is a humble guy. No. The true expression of his humility would be to put his skills on display in order to serve others. And the same is true of God. He displays His glory because it is right that He be known, and He does so in order to serve us.

Now, back in Romans 9 I don't want you to miss the main focus of these verses. These two verses are not primarily about why God passes by vessels of wrath. They are primarily about why God actively chose to save us. If you are in Christ, it is here to tell you why God chose to save you.

I want you to think about this for moment. God profoundly desired to put the riches of His glorious mercy on display to you and in you. That is what God was doing. In fact, notice how Paul describes us at the end of verse 23. He says, "vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory." And then verse 24, "even us, whom He called." You see, God Himself prepared us, Christians, beforehand and then He called us through the gospel to Himself. We saw that back in chapter 8 verses 28 to 30, where, that golden chain of redemption, where God set His love upon us in eternity past, He decided to make us like His Son, then in time He called us to Himself through the gospel. He justified us; He declared us right with Him through the work of Jesus Christ, He is sanctifying us, and one day He will present us glorified in His presence. "He prepared us beforehand for glory." But why? God's ultimate purpose in election is to show the glory of His mercy and grace to us and in us, "to make known," to us, "the riches of His glorious mercy."

You see, God saved you to show you just how great He is. He did not have to. He could have left you as an object of His justice and been absolutely right to do so. But He wanted you to know just how amazing His grace really is. He wanted to put Himself on display to you, but he also wanted to put Himself on display through you, to all of the intelligent beings in the universe and to do so forever. Do you understand that forever the angels and every other intelligent being in this universe will point to you and to me as Christians and say, wow, look at the grace of God, look at the mercy of God.

In fact, let me show you one of my favorite verses in the Bible, look at Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2, he has just talked about God saving us, redeeming us, making us alive when we were dead. In verse 8 he says, He did this by grace, "you have been saved through faith; that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Why? Why did God do it? Look at verse 7, Ephesians 2:7, "so that," here is why He made us alive, "so that in the ages to come," I love that expression, it pictures eternity like a seashore and as wave after wave breaks, representing age after age upon the shoreline of eternity, "in the ages to come He might show," He might demonstrate, "the surpassing riches of His grace," how, how is God going to put His grace on display in eternity future, "in kindness toward us," because of our relationship to Him, "through Jesus Christ." Do you understand what that says? That says that forever you will be a trophy of God's grace. He will put His grace on display in a more profound way in the future than He has in the past. And for all eternity He will make His grace and mercy a display in you Christian, in you.

So how do we respond to these great truths? Well, let me put it to you very simply. If you are here this morning and you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, the truths that we have considered this morning should drive you to abandon your sin and yourself and to believe in Jesus Christ, because as you sit here this morning, you and God are not okay. You may think you are okay, but we have seen you are not okay, you are storing up God's wrath for yourself when that day comes.

God has a reason for being patient with you. The reason your heart is still beating, the reason you are still here, the reason you have not kicked over and gone is because God has a purpose, and that purpose is He desires for you to come to repentance. He desires for you to turn from your sin and to believe in His Son, or as we read earlier, "to obey the gospel of His son, our Lord Jesus Christ." He is being patient. He finds no joy, God finds absolutely no pleasure in the thought that one day He will destroy you. But if you don't repent He will and He is giving you time, and He is doing good to you, He is showering your life with good things in order to say, please come to Me. It is God's invitation, in fact, it is God's command to do so and I plead with you today to do exactly that.

If you are here this morning and you are a follower of Jesus, the truths that we have seen this morning should produce in you two responses. First of all, it should produce humility. Remember verses 22 and 23 are a rhetorical question, what if God acted this way, does anyone have a right to take God to task? The answer is, absolutely not. In other words, we don't have to understand everything that God knows about election, but we have to, in humility, accept what He has done; it is God's right. It also ought to produce praise, adoration, and worship.

As we close, look at Romans 11. As Paul concludes the first half of this letter, having talked about sin and justification and sanctification and election, notice what he says in Romans 11:33. This is his response. This should be our response. It is worship. It is praise. It is adoration.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments [judgments, His decisions, God's decisions about all of these things, they are unsearchable, you can't find them all out] and unfathomable His ways! [His methods, His means of carrying out His purposes; they can't be plumbed. The word is a nautical word which means, you just can't go deep enough down to get to the bottom of it.] For who has known the mind of the Lord?

Listen, you don't know what God thinks except as much as He has chosen to tell you. And then he adds, notice verse 34, "or who has become His counselor?"

Listen, how dare us try to give advice to God, well, you know God, let me talk to you little bit about this election thing. You know, this just really isn't fair. "Who has been God's counsellor?" "Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?" Listen, you gave nothing to God, I have given nothing to God, we have just gotten everything from Him. And then he concludes in verse 36, "For from Him," that is, God is the source of all things, "and through Him," that is, God is the sustainer of all things, "and to Him," that is, God is the end of all things. "To Him be the glory forever. Amen." That should be our response to election. This is our sovereign merciful gracious God. Let us pray together.

Our Father, we are humbled before You as we study this topic. We are reminded that You are God and we are not. Lord, oh the depth of the riches of Your knowledge and Your wisdom, truly Your judgments are unsearchable and Your ways can't be fathomed, the bottom can't be reached. Father, we only know as much of Your mind as You have chosen to tell us in Your Word and we could never give You advice or counsel. Instead, we acknowledge with Paul that all things, including election, including salvation, are from You and through You and ultimately to You, for Your glory. And our prayer is, to You be the glory forever. Father, help us to accept what You have said in humble adoring worship.

Father, I pray for those who here this morning who are not in Christ. O God, help them to see that Your patience will one day reach an end, that You are slow to anger, but right now in their stubbornness and rebellion, they are storing up for themselves wrath for the Day of Wrath. Father, may they run from that wrath to Jesus Christ, the only one who is able to save us from it, through His life and through His death and resurrection. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.