23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
1901 ASV Translation:
23 and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory,
24 even us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?
I. Paul's "Argument".
A. God may well have a "purpose" that has not yet been considered [see notes of December 9, 2008 (458)].
B. God's "purpose" includes "enduring with much longsuffering" [see notes of December 16, 2008 (460) and of January 6, 2009 (462)].
C. God's "purpose" includes "making known the riches of His glory".
1. A fundamental issue of "riches" is its contrast to "poverty".
a. In Romans 2:4 Paul raised the question of whether his reader(s) "despised the riches of God's 'goodness', 'forbearance', and 'longsuffering'." According to his words, he considered these three characteristics of God to be conducive to bringing a man to 'repentance', without which no man dwells in the blessing of God. But that was not going to happen if a man despised those attributes. So, on the one hand, there is the question of ignorance (to be resolved by the 'making known') and, on the other hand, there is the question of values embraced (despising simply means 'counting as completely worthless'). Two of the three attributes are related to the issue of man's moral failure (forebearance and longsuffering are unnecessary to an environment in which there is no moral failure).
b. In Romans 9:23 (our current text) the issue is more generalized in that "glory" is a big tent concept under which dwell the particulars, but it is in contrast with 9:22's "wrath" and "power". This implies that there is a preference toward mercy in the attitude of God. Jesus raised this issue in Matthew 9:13 and 12:7 as a reference to Hosea 6:6. This raises a pertinent question: are the attributes of God "unbalanced"? What I mean is, is there some level of "the good side of God" (goodness, mercy, love, grace, etc.) that is greater than "the judgmental side" (wrath, justice, hate, etc.)? It appears to be so else there would seem to be no meaning to "I desire" one over another. If this appearance is genuine, it explains how God could have created "person" without an initial "necessity" for sin. We have argued that all sin is an "imbalance" in attributes wherein "love" becomes "enabling" rather than "edifiying" and "grace" becomes "unbounded tolerance" rather than "empowering". But, if this is true, would not there have to be an immediate "balance" at the point of creation if sin was to be excluded from the act of creating? It would appear to be so. Thus, to discover that there is a preponderance in the divine nature in one direction and not in its opposite makes it possible for created persons to function immediately in loving obedience without imbalance. It would only be afterwards, when those persons moved beyond the boundaries of the preponderance that sin irrupted by imbalance.
c. In Romans 11:12 the question is raised as to how God's treatment of Israel in respect to moving them out of God's "focus for favor" has resulted in bringing the Gentiles into that focus, and how, when God returns them to favor, the Gentiles will be further enriched. This implies that there is a continuum in the entire issue of how God's dealings with men "make known" more and more of the Reality that is God so that the experience of Life moves further and further into the "wealth".
d. Then, in Romans 11:33 Paul brings this thesis of "riches" to a climax by exclaiming about how far they go beyond human capacity. This illuminates the issue of the contrast between wealth and poverty. The one is unbounded in resources and the other is insufficient. If "Life" is the treasure, unbounded resources are infinitely preferable.
2. A fundamental issue in "making known" is the impact that "knowing" has upon those who "know".
a. Here we return to the "old" thesis that God only "needs" to make known if He has a beneficial impact in mind.
b. If a "person" uses "knowledge" to advantage and does not refuse to employ it in his/her decision-making, it can only help. Ignorance is not "bliss" except in the short term. Sooner, or later, ignorance will result in disaster.
c. When Paul declares that God is committed to making his glory known, he is simply telling us in other words that God is interested in imparting Life to any who are "ignorant".
D. The "preparation" beforehand of "vessels of mercy" for the glory that is to come.
1. This "afore preparation" is essential to the experience of the glory.
a. The actual experience of glory may occur with a minimal level of "appreciation". If a person "experiences" pleasure at the physical level, he/she can only do so because there are built-in "appreciators" (if a person's nerve endings are destroyed, he/she may be subject to any manner of stimuli, but not be able to "appreciate" what is happening).
b. The greater the ability to "appreciate", the greater the experience.
c. The capacity for appreciation is a "prior" issue to the experience. With this as a "given" there can be no experience of glory without a pre-preparation (being "afore prepared"). How long "pre" is unstated, but it would have to be "long enough before" to actually make the experience possible. So, it is conceivable that certain aspects of "glory" might take a lot of preparation while others might take only a little.
2. It should, then, go without saying that the longer the "preparation" period, the greater the potential for an expanded appreciation of experience. In respect to "persons", the entire issue of preparation has to do with knowledge, love, faith, and immersion in an experience-based environment. Thus, the preparation for glory involves God's efforts in "making known" those fundamentals related to the appreciation factors.
E. The "calling" of Jews and Gentiles.
1. Involved in the "preparation" is this factor identified as "calling". Without it, there can be no preparation. "Calling" is an inter-personal reality (one person using "voice" and the other using "ears"). "Sound" is simply the medium of both calling and hearing.
2. Involved in the "not only of the Jews but also of the Gentiles" is the large purpose of God in bringing "many sons to glory" (Hebrews 2:10) and that also involves the greater "plan" for the structure of the Kingdom. The "Church" is presented in the New Testament as that portion of humanity who are being "prepared" for "rule" with Christ (a kind of sanctified bureaucracy of "under-lords" in a servant-kingdom). Thus, Paul expands his readers' grasp of the "riches of the glory" by exposing them to a greater understanding of God, His ways, and His Plan.