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”.
Here is M’Cheyne preaching on the Romans verse. In my opinion, it’s brilliant. The full sermon is here.
The Vessels of Wrath Fitted to Destruction
by Robert Murray M’Cheyne
I come now to the third point–the reason given why believers are saved. Verse 23 – “And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.” One reason why there are vessels of wrath fitted to destruction is, that God may show by contrast the riches of his grace on the vessels of mercy. You know, brethren, we learn many things best by contrast: for example, the rainbow is never seen so bright as in the bosom of a dark cloud. So, brethren, we shall never see the love and com passion of God in them that are saved so gloriously displayed as when we see his wrath poured out on the vessels of wrath. This, then, is one reason why there are vessels of wrath.
I believe that the “riches of glory” here spoken of are the whole rainbow of the divine attributes displayed in the salvation of souls. It was for this reason that God provided that there should be vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. This may appear to you very awful: it is so to myself. I could not and dare not speak of it if it were not here in God’s own Word.
I would just show you one or two of his attributes that will be brilliantly illustrated in the salvation of souls. One is, the sovereignty of God. I have often told you of this. Many of you do not believe it; but there is a day coming when God will put it beyond a doubt. There are whole churches – whole bodies of professing Christians – that deny it; but there is a day coming when there will be none in heaven, or earth, or hell, that will deny it. Suppose that day were come, and this congregation divided, some on the left hand, some on the right, will you not see then God’s sovereignty in the contrast? You were once all the same. You were under the same condemnation. Some of you came out of the same womb – were nursed at the same mother’s breast; yet it will be seen that some will be taken and some left. What made the difference? Every creature will see that God made the difference, that he had “mercy on whom he would have mercy.”
Another is, the pardoning attribute of God. At present this is denied; but, brethren, in that day it will be made known. God will make known the riches of his glorious mercy on the vessels of mercy. O brethren, when one vessel is cleansed and taken up to glory, and another is left to perish, and when you see that they were equally sinful, then you will see that it was blood that made the difference. God will make known the riches of his mercy in the vessels of mercy, as well as his wrath in the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
Let us learn a few lessons from this subject. And –
1st. All will not be saved. It is a fearful delusion among you – I do not say you avow it, but you practically say, you believe – that there will be no hell. It was God’s plan that there should be vessels of wrath as well as vessels of mercy. Brethren, it is better it should be so. O do not dream! All will not be saved. There are vessels of wrath as well as vessels of mercy. Some of you, I think, are going to hell, and some, I trust, are going to heaven; and doubtless it is best it should be so, though I cannot explain the reason of it. The net has good and bad fishes: some will be taken into the vessel, and some will be cast away.
2nd. Every one of you will be to the glory of God. You will be made to glorify him in one way or another. You will either do it willingly or unwillingly. You must form a step to his throne. Ah, brethren! I believe each of you will yet be a beacon or a monument – either a beacon of wrath or a monument of mercy, “He hath made all things form himself; even the wicked for the day of evil.” Yes, wicked man, you would rob God of his glory if you could, but you cannot. If you come to Christ, you will show forth his glory in saving you; but if you do not, God will show forth his power in destroying a vessel of his wrath.
3rd. There is a third lesson we may learn. It is, the chief end of God in the world to manifest his glory. Many think, especially infidel men, that God’s chief end is the happiness of his creatures; but, from deep study of the Word of God for years, I see that it is not so. If that were his chief end, all would be happy. His chief end is diverse – it is self-manifestation. Had it not been for this, God would have remained alone in awful solitude. I would desire to speak with deep reverence on such a subject. This seems to be the reason why there are vessels of wrath as well as of mercy – that they might be mirrors to reflect his attributes. And I believe, brethren, when creation is done, and when redemption is done, that there will then be a complete manifestation of the glory of God.
4th. Another lesson we may learn is, God is longsuffering to the vessels of wrath. I remember a person who once argued with me that she must needs be a child of God on account of his goodness to her. She enumerated many blessings she had received – how God had protected her in a foreign country, how many trials she had been delivered out of, and how many domestic comforts she had enjoyed. My only answer to her was, “The goodness of god leadeth thee to repentance.” It is no proof that you are a child of God that God has borne long with you. There would be many children of God here, if this were the case. Ah, brethren! Strange though it may seem, he does not want any to perish – he does bear long with you.
Last of all, the destruction of the vessels of wrath will be no grief to the vessels of mercy. I once spoke to you of this before; but I would again remind you of it. The redeemed will have no tears to shed; and here is the reason – the very destruction of the wicked makes known the riches of divine grace. O my believing brethren, it will be an awful day when we shall not weep to see them perish. The day is hastening on – the day when no more rivers of waters will run down our eyes because they keep not God’s law. But, O brethren, till that day come let us weep on; for, although God will be glorified in the destruction of the vessels of his wrath, he will be more glorified in making them vessels of mercy. The Lord bless his own Word. Amen.