A few days ago I’d posted an essay about predestination. This is the doctrine where the Bible teaches that God is completely sovereign over everything that happens, including individual salvations. He elects people to salvation, independently and apart from foreknowledge of any decision they make. It’s all His grace, and not our decision.
People dislike that doctrine and fight against it. One of the reasons people resist the plain truth of the doctrine is that people want to think that somewhere in their heart or mind, they chose God. However, we are dead in sins and trespasses and have no ability to choose God, or ‘make a decision’ about our salvation. It is granted to us. (Galatians 3:22). We have no part in it, except the resulting gratitude and service in His name.
The verse to consider today is from Romans 9:21-24
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 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, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
There are vessels of mercy, and there are vessels of wrath. Considering anything regarding God is weighty and should fill the saved and the non-saved with awe and humility. But to really consider His work of judgment should bring to mind the famous comment attributed to martyr John Bradford, “There but for the grace of God go I”.
The following sermon preached on the afternoon of March 12, 1843, was the author’s last in St. Peter’s. “It was observed, both then and on other occasions,” says Andrew Bonar, “that he spoke with peculiar strength upon the sovereignty of God.” The following evening McCheyne’s illness commenced and on Saturday, March 25, he went to the Saviour whose glory he lived to proclaim.
“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?” – Romans 9:22,23
In a former discourse, brethren, I attempted to show you that the reason why God will punish the wicked eternally is, because he loveth righteousness. It is said in the eleventh Psalm, “Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup, for the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” I then tried to show you, that God has created hell, and will maintain it for ever, not because He loves human pain – I believe it is not so, nor is it because He is subject to passion, as men speak of passion – but because the righteous Lord loveth righteousness.
And I showed you, as you will remember, what a certainty hell is to the wicked. If it had its origin in the love of human pain, then you might have hoped that it would have an end; or, if it proceeded from passionateness, then it might cool; but ah! when it proceeds from Jehovah’s love of righteousness, I see, brethren, in that a reason why “the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”
There is a second question which no doubt has occurred to you: why are there any left unpardoned at all? Why was Adam left to fall? Could God not have held him up? Or, if it was necessary that Adam should fall, in order that Christ might die, why are not all saved? Surely there is efficacy in the blood of Christ to pardon all – why, then, are not all saved? There are many answers to that question which we will know in a higher state of being; but here is one; “What if God, willing to show 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?” You will notice, brethren, that in these words the apostle Paul tries to give an answer to that question. He does not answer it directly, he employs a “what if”.
Let us enter into this subject a little more deeply. There are three reasons set down here why men are allowed to perish.
I. The first is, that God was willing to show His wrath. These words are terrible. We are told frequently in the Bible of the wrath of God. It is not like human wrath: it is calm, settled – it consists principally in a regard to what is right. This is the wrath of God. We are told a great deal about it in the Bible. It is revealed against all sin. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” – Romans 1:18 Observe the word “all” – it is against all sin. Then Colossians 3:6, “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.” We are told also, brethren, that this anger is constant. “God is angry with the wicked every day.” – Psalms 7:11. The bow of God’s justice is, as it were, already bent against the wicked, the arrow of God’s is already on the string against the wicked. And then we are told that His wrath is intolerable. In the Psalm which we were singing (Psalms 90:11), it is said, “Who knows the power of thy wrath?” And we are told in Revelation, “The great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?”
But we learn more by example than even by these declarations. We have many examples of God’s wrath and its consequences. The first example we have is, his casting the angels out of heaven. We are told by Jude, “That the angels which kept not their first estate, He hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.” And we are told by Peter, “That God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” Now, brethren, in several respects this was one of the greatest examples of divine wrath we have, for it seems to have happened in one day. One day these angels were in heaven – the next in hell. One day they were angels of light – the next fiends of darkness. And then this made it fearful, when the Lord left them no room for repentance. One thing the universe might have learned from this was, that God will certainly punish sin.
Another example of God’s punishing sin was not in heaven, but one earth, when He sent the deluge upon it. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.” And so it came to pass: “The flood came, and carried them all away;” and it has left traces on our world still, to show that God will not fail to punish sin.
Another example of divine vengeance was, when God destroyed Sodom. “Now, the men of Sodom were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” The cry of its wickedness went up to heaven, and God sent down two angels, to see if it was according to the cry that came up; and they found it even so; and, when they had taken out just Lot, God rained fire and brimstone upon the devoted city; and he has left traces of it there to this hour.
There was yet another exhibition of divine wrath on earth – it was the death of God’s dear Son. If ever there was a time when God could have said that he would forego his wrath it was surely this. It was this for two reasons. First, because the object of that wrath was dear to God. There never was on in the universe so dear to God as his Son. And another reason was, Christ had no sin of his own. Just as his robe was seamless, so was his soul sinless. Nay, brethren, that one act of his – laying down his life, was so glorious, as an exhibition of God’s justice, that the universe never saw its “marrow”. “Yet it pleased God to bruise him.” These words do not give the least shadow of his suffering from God on account of our sin. Brethren, if any thing in the world can show that God will punish sin, it was the death of his dear and sinless Son.
There is one exhibition of his wrath yet to come. Verse 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?” God is yet to destroy the souls that he has made–not the angels that fell, for he has done that already, when he cast them into hell, but the souls on which he has waited. There is to be a new exhibition of wrath that the world never saw the like of before. He is going to show what he will do to the despisers of his Son – to those who despise his gospel. it will be a new thing when “God will be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know him not, and that have not obeyed the gospel.” God waits to show his wrath. Ah, brethren! it will be fearful to feel it – it is fearful even to think of it. so I believe it will be with the wicked: they will be beacons, to show how God will punish sin.