“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, KJV 1900)
I had a man one time who struggled with the idea that God would save the vilest sinner, even waiting in some instances until his deathbed. His point was that it just did not seem right that God would be merciful on one who had never done anything good. Yet, the Scripture does state that God “has mercy on whomever he wills” (Rom 9:18, ESV). A prime example of this is the repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus (Luke 23:39-43). He deserved to die and yet, Jesus tells the man that he would be in paradise that day. The other thief was destined for wrath.
There are but two destinies for every person. There is wrath or paradise. The thing that separates the two is faith in Jesus Christ alone. Paul has been writing of the sovereignty of God over the calling of people and showing mercy. This is what my friend could not grasp, that God was sovereign and that He has the full right to choose whomever He will. Moreover, Paul stated that God’s mercy and compassion depends not on human will or works (Rom 9:16). Man cannot in anyway save himself.
Here, we see that God is patient with those who are destined for wrath, those that have been fitted for destruction. We must also note that all people are born dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1-2). Thus, all apart from faith in Christ will perish. Yet, in Ephesians Paul also wrote about us who have believed, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Ephesians 2:4–5, KJV 1900) Again we see that God is the one who “quickens,” that is makes us alive and this by His grace alone (Eph 2:8-9.
When God makes the vilest of sinners, and that includes all of us, alive by His grace and mercy, He does so to “make known the riches of his glory.” Moreover, we who received His grace and mercy understand that He has also prepared us for glory. We should rejoice and be grateful for our glorious salvation.
I plan to cover this in more depth when we get to Chapter 10, but I need to state this now. While we understand that God is Sovereign and determines to whom He will show mercy, this does not negate the need for us to witness to all. It is also in God’s sovereign plan for all believers to be vessels of the gospel message. So, be grateful that you have been saved, but also pray for those who have not and witness to them when you have opportunity.