Thesis:Now is the time of the preparation of the vessels of mercy for their entrance into glory.
Introduction:As we have worked our way into Romans 9, we have seen what most people consider a massive contradiction: a "kickoff" on a heavy "love" thesis (Paul's willingness to be accursed for the sake of his kinsmen according to the flesh as the outworking of the very love of God revealed in the Christ who was not only "willing", but actually was accursed for the sake of His kinsmen) that immediately runs into the reality of a divine selectivity that excludes the majority of the "beloved". For most folks, any declaration of "love" that is actually defeated by the choices and actions of the "lover" is simply hypocrisy. But, in Paul's theology, hypocrisy is absolutely defeated and love remains standing for one reason: the love of God is complex without being selfish. The bottom line in the love of God is His demonstrated willingness to absorb all of the consequences of the behavior of all sinners. He did this. That there are other considerations beyond "love" is inescapably true (there is a richness to the glory) and these other considerations do complicate the scenario to, perhaps, a massive degree, but this fact stands: God requires nothing of anyone else that He was not first willing to do Himself. It is beyond arrogance and completely worthy of condemnation for anyone to fault God who has not demonstrated His level of love.
Now, as we continue in our pursuit of the knowledge of God as Paul unveils it in Romans 9, we come to another "particular" in the unveiling of God's Plan: the reality of His international application of the principles of "the preparation of human beings for the coming glory".
I. Our First Consideration: God Making Known.
A. This is an "old" thesis that we have covered.
B. The "object" is not as old.
1. In the prior verse (9:22) Paul focused upon the wrath and power.
2. In our current text (9:23-24) he focuses upon the riches of His glory.
a. The "riches" exist because there is far more to God than Love, Wrath, and Power.
b. The "glory" is the comprehensive "far more".
II. Our Second Consideration: the Vessels of Mercy.
A. In respect to these "vessels", there are several important factors.
1. First, there is the Hosea 6:6/Matthew 9:13/12:7 reality.
a. This clearly sets up a "this-rather-than-that" situation where the distinction exists between what is done and why it is done.
1) Legalists are masters at covering their behinds by making sure they live up to the letter of the law.
2) But covering one's behind is so clearly unloving as to be a total contradiction of it.
b. This also clearly establishes a "preference in God" in the direction of "mercy" as opposed to the direction of "wrath".
1) This means something crucial: there is a preferential imbalance in the glory of God between wrath and mercy.
2) This also means that, though the demonstration of wrath is a necessity to the larger Plan, it is more of a "necessity" than a "desire".
2. Second, there is the "Israel within Israel" reality.
a. Israel, as a name, had a dual implication (Exodus 32:27).
1) "He who strives with God" actually characterized Jacob all of his life in the sense that he seemed never to be able to simply "accept": he seemed to be compelled to resist.
2) But "he who strives with God" also became a positive attribute when the focus upon the "prize" shifted from his own agenda to God's.
b. Just as Jacob spent a large part of his life "fighting God", so there is a large group called "Israel", but, just as Jacob fought for a blessing in his later years, so there is a group within the larger group that is the true "Israel of God".
c. This group within the larger group was a unit of "vessels of mercy".
3. Third, there is the breakout from "Israel" to the Gentiles in the later stages of the Plan.
a. The "Israel within Israel" was a form that God developed with the "Church within the world" as He took yet another step in the development of the Larger Plan of the International Kingdom of Servants.
b. Paul claims that the "vessels of mercy" group was expanded by God through "calling".
B. The preparation of the vessels of mercy "afore".
1. The issue of preparation is preparation (acting ahead of the time so that the results in the time can be what they are supposed to be).
2. The biblical concept of preparation of vessels of mercy for the glory that is to come is the use of the circumstances of the pre-time as a set of formative tools in order to get the "vessels" ready for their inheritance.
3. The issue of "calling" is one of the preparatory elements.
a. In the Scriptures there is a distinction within "calling" much as there is a distinction within "Israel".
1) Jesus said, "Many are called, but few chosen" (Matthew 20:16 and 22:14) and the overcomers of Revelation 17:14 are identified as both "called" and "chosen".
2) Paul, himself, said in Romans 10:18 that there are none who have not heard: the difference is in the clarity of what is heard (just as those who heard the parables "heard", but they did not hear with clarity).
b. But Paul sees the Vast Plan as having a plethora of details and he sees the Life in the Plan as being related to our grasp of those details.