Monthly Archives: April 2017

Romans 9:22-29 – Corporate Purpose of Election




Paul’s main point thus far in Romans 9 is:

  • God’s purpose of election explains why God’s chosen rejected their Messiah.


This means a main objective of Paul…

  • Is to zero in on the Jews who have rejected their Messiah – the vessel for dishonorable use.
  • And to tell us exactly what God’s purpose-of-election-use is for them.


So what is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable vessel?

  • Last week we finally answered this question.


And Paul’s answer was quite jarring.

  • desiring to show his wrath…
  • “…to make known his power…
  • “…to make known the riches of his glory…”


We saw two really important things in his answer.

  • (1) God’s-Action=God-Knowing.
  • (2) And the basics of God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable “the vessels of wrath”.


In short –

  • (1) God gives redemptive knowledge of Himself through His action in history.
  • (2) God’s purpose of election is a giving of such knowledge in specific ways, to specific corporate groups of people, for specific reasons.


The peoples are the “vessels of wrath”, “vessels of mercy” and Gentiles.

  • The purpose is to “show his wrath”, “…to make known his power…”, “…to make known the riches of his glory…”.


Last week we drilled down into the God’s-Action=God-Knowing principal – number 1.

  • Both in the OT generally…
  • And then specifically in the coming destruction of the Temple in 70.


Today we dig into the details of God’s purpose of election – number 2.

  • In other words, the specifics of the peoples and the purposes.



People and Purpose – Show Wrath to the Dishonorable Vessel:

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” (verse 22).




The Jews who rejected the Messiah from their own flesh…

  • Are the Jews God chose to tear off of the lump and make into “vessels of wrath”.


We learned way back in Romans 3 how to understand God’s wrath.

  • God’s wrath is best understood as His “judging righteousness.”
  • This is in contrast to God’s “saving righteousness”.


This means then, that “vessels of wrath” are:

  • The corporate group of Messiah rejecting Jews…
  • That will come under God’s judging righteousness.


This is huge.

  • Paul is now completing his argument.


The Jewish rejection of the Messiah was part of God’s purpose of election.

  • It did not catch God by surprise.
  • And it doesn’t compromise the legitimacy of Jesus as Messiah.


And about this wrath…

  • We saw last week that this judging righteousness was the destruction of the Temple.
  • And the resulting fragmentation of the Jewish people.


The historian Josephus described the events that accompanied the destruction of the Temple.

  • Speaking about the Jewish rebels, “…so they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city”.
  • And about the crucifixions, “…the soldiers out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.”


Judaism would never be the same again.


Paul wants us to see, however, that God “endured with much patience” Jewish unbelief (vs. 22).

  • The idea here with “endured” is that God literally “put up with” them (BDAG).
  • Meaning that God choose to withhold His wrath (show them mercy) until the time (70 AD) of His choosing.




And what was the purpose for this judging righteousness upon the Jews who rejected their Messiah?

  • make known His power” (vs. 22)
  • make known His glory” (vs. 23)


Make known to whom?

  • the vessels of mercy” (vs. 23)
  • the Gentiles” (vs. 24)


Paul already hinted at all of this with his allusion to Malachi’s handling of Jacob and Esau.

  • Malachi 1:3–4 (ESV) — 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’ Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!” – Malachi 1:5.


And we he referenced Pharaoh.

  • “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16.


So God used His judging action against unbelieving Jews for the benefit of two other peoples.

  • And to them we now turn.



People and Purpose – Make Known Power and Glory to Remnant Jews and the Gentiles:

…even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (vs. 24)


This is a remarkable text.

  • Paul says there are a people on a different purpose-trajectory than that of the Messiah-Rejecting Jews…
  • And these are a people Paul calls “us”.


The “us” Paul speaks of are:

  • Messiah believing Jews – “a remnant” (vs. 27).
  • And “Gentiles” (vs. 24).


It is these – the remnant and the believing Gentiles –

  • Who are the beneficiaries of the God’s purpose-of-election-use of the unbelieving Jews.
  • It is they who know God’s power and glory as a result of this use.


Paul cites a number of OT texts to make this point.

  • We will deal with those shortly.



The Us:

Before we do, we need to emphasize something that will help us solve a puzzle later.

  • When Paul says, “even us whom he has called”…
  • He is being controversial!


Paul is not making a distinction between believing Jews and Gentiles.

  • Paul is not making a distinction between the Church and believing Israel.


He is doing the opposite.

  • Paul is deliberately redefining believing Israel!
  • And its definition has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion.


Believing Israel is now anyone – Jew or Gentile who submits to Jesus the Messiah.

  • Specifically, in context of Romans 9…
  • Believing Israel is anyone who is called by God through His purpose-of-election-use of the non-believing Jews.


Here is why this is so controversial.

  • Paul has added the Gentiles to the lump of clay that is Israel.


And even more controversial:

  • Paul says they are part of the lump of clay that God worked into “vessels of mercy” – not “vessels of wrath”.


Perriman and Bird help punctuate this point:

  • “God choosesnow to destroy and disgrace the larger part of the lump of the descendants of Abraham and to preserve and glorify a smaller part, to which Gentiles have been addedin order that his name and power might be made known to the nations” – Andrew Perriman.
  • “God is not replacing Israel with the church. Instead, God is preserving a remnant within Israel and then expanding it to include Gentiles as well” – Michael Bird.


Knowing this hugely important fact…

  • We can continue.



OT Allusions – Believing Gentiles:

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”


Here Paul seeks to reinforce his point about Gentile inclusion in God’s purpose of election.

  • Believing Gentiles are to be God’s people – “sons of the living God” (vs. 26).
  • And this was something God had always planned.


We need to see how Paul uses Hosea to reinforce this point.

  • Hosea is speaking of a time when God will bring remedy to a rebellious Israel (as opposed to Judah).
  • An Israel that God says is “not my people”.


The remedy (Hosea 2) comes from the “God’s-Action=God-Knowing” principal we hit on last week.

  • I will remove…
  • I will make…
  • I will abolish…
  • I will betroth…


The result of these actions:

  • And you shall know the Lord


Specifically, the results of these actions as cited by Paul are:

  • They were “not my people” and are now called “my people”.
  • They were “not beloved” and are now called “beloved”.
  • And, from Hosea 1:9, they are now “called ‘sons of the living God.’


So Paul’s point is that Gentiles, like Israel in Hosea, had a certain status.

  • They were “not my people”.


And by God’s action through the Messiah-Rejecting Jews, the believing Gentiles are now…

  • my people”.
  • beloved”.
  • called ‘sons of the living God.’


The oddity with this allusion to Hosea is this:

  • Hosea’s text has nothing to do with Gentiles.


So how does Paul’s interpretation here actually work?

  • It appears the solution must have something to do with the “us” we just discussed.


In other words, the “us” is so fundamental to God’s “purpose of election”…

  • Paul recognizes its existence within God’s purposes even though not explicitly stated in Hosea.


Also, Paul knows his OT – where there are many OT texts that do speak to this:

  • Genesis 12:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • Isaiah 2:2–3 (ESV) — 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.


Not to mention Paul knows this first hand!


Paul’s own ministry was part of God’s purpose of election for the Gentiles.

  • Acts 13:46–47 (ESV) — 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you [Jews]. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”


So given what Paul has been teaching in Romans 9…

  • And the OT teaching on God’s desire to include the nations…
  • Paul seems to be, under inspiration, showing us just how deep the “us” thread runs.


OT Allusions – Believing Jews:

Then after alluding to the OT to emphasize how the believing Gentiles were part of God’s purpose of election.

  • He does the same for the believing Jews – the remnant.


He does this by quoting Isaiah 10:22-23 and Isaiah 1:9.

  • “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.


These allusions are straightforward.

  • God always purposed to pull off from the lump that is Israel a believing remnant.
  • A remnant that would be known by its belief in God’s Messiah.
  • This remnant is the “vessel of mercy”.


Paul, through Isaiah, refers to them as:

  • a remnant” who “will be saved
  • And an “offspring” that would not have existed if God had not purposed it.
  • Paul is such a “remnant” and “offspring”.


The remnant, like the believing Gentiles…

  • Were always part of God’s purpose of election.


So there was never a time when the entirety of Israel was in jeopardy.

  • God’s purpose of election took care of that.




So with this we have concluded Paul’s main thought in Romans 9.

  • We now understand how the Jews who rejected the Messiah were part of God’s purpose of election.
  • We now understand what this purpose of election was.


God had always purposed to:

  • Include believing Gentiles with believing Jews.


God had always purposed to:

  • Preserve a remnant of believing Jews to which the believing Gentiles would be joined.
  • And mold them into “vessels of mercy”.


God had always purposed to:

  • Use his judging righteousness against the unbelieving Jews to facilitate Gentile inclusion.


Romans 9:21-24 – God’s Action Equals Our Knowing


Last week we unpacked verses 19-21.

  • In these verses, Paul was answering the charge that God’s “purpose of election” was unfair.
  • If God is doing all the choosing, how is anybody responsible?


Paul gave a two-pronged answer to this charge.

  • (1) The Jobian Beatdown.
  • (2) An Answer to a Better Question.


See last week for the details of the above.

  • For now, we need to know that an important element of Paul’s answer was this:
  • The lumps aren’t individuals – they are corporate Israel.


With that in mind, we need to dive deeper into verse 19.



Honorable and Dishonorable Use:

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?


As with Paul’s previous arguments in Romans 9…

  • Here too, he alludes to the OT.


One allusion is to the prophet Jeremiah.

  • Jeremiah 18:3–6 (ESV) — 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.


God has always reserved the right to mold Israel, as He sees fit.

  • And Paul is telling us that this is happening right now – as he writes.


In fact, Paul makes a shocking claim.

  • One lump would be for honorable use.
  • One lump would be for dishonorable use.


Michael Bird says this of Paul’s claim:

“God has decided to create from one ‘lump of clay,’ that is, from ‘Israel,’ one group for special purposes like a wine decanter (i.e., a remnant of Christ-believing Jews) and another group selected for lesser ends like a chamber pot (i.e., the remainder of ethnic Jews). The choice is rooted in divine purposes and in the freedom of the divine prerogative” – Michael Bird.


So what exactly are these two uses, honorable use and dishonorable use?

  • How do they relate to or reveal God’s “purpose of election”?


We noted last week that answering these questions…

  • Would finally lead us to Paul’s explanation of how to understand God’s “purpose of election”.
  • Which would, in turn, explain why God’s chosen people rejected the Messiah.


Michael Bird already provided some clues for their meaning.

  • A special use, “like a wine decanter”
  • An ordinary use, “like a chamber pot”.


His phrases capture how the Israelites may have taken Paul’s words.

  • They convey how scandalous and shocking Paul’s words are.
  • A lump of Israel would be molded into something akin to a chamber pot!
  • But they don’t really tell us what Paul means.


Greek Lexicons will help steer us toward the answer.

  • The BDAG says these words concern, “the use to which [the lumps] are put”.
  • Similarly, the TDNT says they concern, “the use for which [the lumps] are destined”.


So from this we can see where Paul is headed.

  • Each lump has always been destined for a specific use in God’s “purpose of election”.
  • Something Jeremiah tells us has always been God’s prerogative.


So the meaning of what Paul means by “honorable” and “dishonorable”…

  • Is tied directly to the specific use of each lump.




So what is the destined use of the Israelite lumps for God’s purpose of election?


Paul’s introduction to the answer is found in verses 22-24.

  • Before we unpack it, we need to remind ourselves of Paul’s main point thus far in Romans 9.


Paul’s main point thus far is:

  • God’s purpose of election explains why God’s chosen rejected their Messiah.


With this in mind, we need to be aware that:

  • Paul’s aim is to zero in on the Jews who have rejected their Messiah.
  • The lump made for dishonorable use.
  • And to tell us exactly what God’s purpose-of-election-use is for this dishonorable lump.


So what is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump?

  • 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?


His answer is pretty jarring.

  • desiring to show his wrath…
  • “…to make known his power…
  • “…to make known the riches of his glory…”


There are two really important things going on here.

  • (1) An incredibly important principal on how knowledge of God is obtained – God’s-Action=God-Knowing.
  • (2) The details of the purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump – “the vessels of wrath”.


For the remainder of this lesson…

  • We will contend with the first.
  • Next week, we will contend with the second.


But, we do need to appreciate that Paul has finally given us the answer to our question.

  • What is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump?


His answer is that this lump – the lump that has rejected their Messiah…

  • Has done so in order that God’s power and glory are made known via their judgment.
  • Again, we will unpack this next week.


For now, lets wrestle with the important principal on how knowledge of God is obtained.



God’s-Action = God-Knowing:

So why does what Paul just told us make any sense at all?

  • How is it that His wrath upon “vessels of wrath” leads to knowledge of Him, His power, and His glory?


We need to be aware that, as usual, this is nothing new.

  • Israel’s knowledge of God has always been experiential, not just propositional.


And interestingly:

  • In the OT we find actions that were beneficial and detrimental to Israel.
  • Both of which served to make Him known.


Let’s look at some beneficial actions of God that made Him known:

  • Exodus 6:7 (ESV) — 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
  • Joshua 3:10 (ESV) — 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
  • 1 Kings 20:13 (ESV) — 13 And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Isaiah 49:26 (ESV) — 26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”


Let’s look at some detrimental actions of God that made Him known:

  • Exodus 7:5 (ESV) — 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”
  • Exodus 14:18 (ESV) — 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
  • Ezekiel 6:14 (ESV) — 14 And I will stretch out my hand against them and make the land desolate and waste, in all their dwelling places, from the wilderness to Riblah. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 7:4 (ESV) — 4 And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
  • Ezekiel 15:7 (ESV) — 7 And I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them.


So God’s merciful action toward Israel made God known.

  • And God’s judgment upon the wicked of Israel made God known.


How so?


It appears that in the ancient Near East a particular mindset was in operation.

  • The history and destiny of peoples and nations was in control of the gods.
  • This was obviously true of Israel as well – they were Yahweh’s inheritance, His people.


This dynamic meant that when Yahweh exercised control over the fate of other nations – in real time history…

  • He demonstrated His unique and superior “Godness” for all to see – Israel and the Nations.


Likewise, when Yahweh judged his own people for their wickedness…

  • He demonstrated his holiness and justice for all to see – Israel and the Nations.
  • He was not a capricious god like the gods of the nations who could be bribed.


To put another way:

  • Yahweh’s actions within the history of Israel and the Nations brought order to chaos.
  • The wicked oppression of Israel by Egypt was chaos.
  • The sin of His very own inheritance, Israel, was chaos.


Both, God’s historical actions of deliverance, and judgment were restoring order.

  • So, His universal actions on all these fronts demonstrated to all that He was God over all.


Now we can come back to Paul in Romans 9.

  • The same God’s-Action=God-Knowing principal applies.


Andrew Perriman gets at the details for us.

“There is a crucial premise to grasp here, which is that Paul believed that the God of Israel was about to reveal himself to the Greek-Roman world, about to demonstrate his power, concretely, historically, and imminently, through the judgment and restoration of his people. To this end, he has chosento destroy the ‘vessels of wrath’, with which his patience has run out, and to glorify the ‘vessels of mercy’”.


In other words, what we need to get here is that Paul isn’t talking theology.

  • Paul is talking history – imminent history.
  • God is about to act through the dishonorable lump, at their expense, and make Himself known.
  • Just as He had done in the past.


What action was God about to bring upon the dishonorable lump of Israel to make Himself known?

  • Mark 13:1–2 (ESV) — 1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”


And this action in history by God is evident today!