Paul continues, “You will say to me then, Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His purpose? But, O man, who are you that replies against God?” We all have to realize who we are. We are God’s creatures, and He is our Creator. As His creatures we should not say anything to Him, the Creator. So, Paul asks, “Shall the thing formed say to him who formed it, Why did you make me thus? Or has not the potter authority over the clay, out of the same lump to make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor?” (vv. 19-21). God is the potter, and we are pieces of clay. As the potter, God has authority over the clay. If He wills, He can make one vessel to honor and another vessel to dishonor. It does not depend on our choice—it depends on His sovereignty.
Romans 9:21 discloses God’s purpose in creating man. This verse is unique in its revelation of God’s purpose in the creation of man. Without this verse it would be difficult for us to realize that God’s purpose in creating man was to make him His vessel to contain Him. We all must thoroughly understand that we are God’s containers and that God is our content. Second Corinthians 4:7 says that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” We are earthen vessels, and God is the treasure and the content. God has sovereignly created us to be His containers according to His predestination.
Second Timothy 2:20-21 conveys the same thought, saying that we are vessels unto honor. So, we need to purge ourselves from dishonorable things that we may be sanctified and suitable for the Lord’s use. However, being vessels unto honor is not the result of our choice; it originates with God’s sovereignty. It is of God’s sovereignty that He make His glory known by creating vessels of mercy to contain Himself. This is a deep word. God’s sovereignty is the basis of His selection. His selection depends upon His sovereignty.
“What if God, willing to show forth His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much long suffering vessels of wrath fitted for destruction?” (v. 22). What should we say about this? We have nothing to say. He is the potter and He has the authority. Human beings are simply clay.
“And what if He should make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He had before prepared unto glory, even us, whom He has also called, not only from among the Jews, but also from among the nations?” (vv. 23-24). All depends upon God’s authority. God has the authority to make us, whom He has selected and called, not only from among the Jews, but also from among the Gentiles, vessels of mercy to contain Him, that the riches of His glory may be made known, that is, manifested. According to His sovereign authority, He before prepared us unto this glory. We were predestinated by His sovereignty to be His containers, vessels of honor to express what He is in glory. That is not only a matter of His mercy, but also of His sovereignty.
God’s selection has a goal—to have many vessels to contain God and to express Him eternally. So many of us have missed the mark of God’s goal, thinking that it was simply to show His love in saving us. Yes, He loves us. However, His love is not only shown to save us, but to make us His vessels. God created us in such a way that we are able to take Him into us and contain Him as our life and life supply, to the end that we be one with Him to express what He is and that He be glorified in us and with us. This is the eternal goal of God’s selection. It is also our eternal destiny.
This portion of the Word also unfolds the climax of our usefulness to God, which is not to be used by Him as servants, priests, and kings, but as vessels to contain Him and express Him. If we are to be used as God’s vessels, surely He has to be one with us. We are His container and His expression; He is our content and our life. He lives in us that we may live by Him. He and we, we and He, eventually will be one both in life and in nature. This is the goal of His selection according to His sovereignty. It is also our destiny according to His selection, a destiny which will be fully revealed in the New Jerusalem.
Verses 25 and 26 are quotations from Hosea which confirm the fact that some Gentiles have been selected and called by God to be His people.
Verses 27 through 29 are quotations from Isaiah which confirm the fact that not all Israel was selected, but that only a remnant of them, a seed kept by the Lord, was saved.
God’s selection is also by the righteousness of faith. “What shall we say then? That the nations who did not pursue righteousness have attained righteousness, but righteousness which is out of faith” (v. 30). The nations, meaning the Gentiles, have obtained righteousness, although they did not pursue it. This righteousness is not the righteousness of the law, but that which is out of faith. The nations have shared in God’s selection by the righteousness of God which is out of faith.
“But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because it was not out of faith, but as it were out of works; they stumbled at the Stone of stumbling, as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a Stone of stumbling, a Rock of offense, and he who believes on Him shall not be put to shame” (vv. 31-33). We can never arrive at righteousness by pursuing the law of righteousness. The Israelites sought to establish their own righteousness, but stumbled at the “Stone of stumbling,” which is Christ, the “Rock of offense.” Nevertheless, “he who believes on Him shall not be put to shame.”
In this connection we also need to read the first three verses of chapter ten. “Brothers, the delight of my heart and my supplication to God for them is for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to full knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, did not submit to the righteousness of God.” It is possible to be exceedingly zealous for God while lacking the proper knowledge of His way. The Jews have missed and continue to miss the mark of God’s selection because they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, have attempted to establish their own righteousness by trying to keep the law and have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God, which is Christ Himself. Hence, they have missed God’s salvation. Any attempt to keep the law or to do good to please God, being man’s efforts to establish his own righteousness, will cause people to miss the way of God’s salvation.
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