Vessels of Wrath
Updated: Aug 5
My father was a strict man until I was a junior in high school. To paint a brief picture of this, prior to that “coming of age”, he had designed and built a wooden paddle for punishment that was aerodynamic and had a nice handle on it to ensure he didn’t lose his grip. Essentially, he was the Howard Hughes of paddles when it came to this specific design. If you must know, he only used it once when I was in middle school, and when he used it, it was justified and…it hurt.
It is an understatement to say that I was a troublemaker growing up and in 98% of the cases where I was getting in trouble, I was never found out because I was strategic and this usually led to big problems down the road. In one instance, in high school, a few friends of mine and myself had found this spot in the woods near our school where we set up a spot with a mattress for naps, a cooking fire, a light pantry, a radio, and some cards. We would come to this spot in certain class periods when school was in session. Sometimes we would skip class individually for a nap but in most cases, we skipped in a group. We had it coordinated where we only skipped together when we had separate classes so that it wouldn’t be obvious that there was a connection (of course the pattern was obvious when attendance was placed side by side). Needless to say, we got too comfortable after half a year and we were found out.
I remember sitting in what felt like an interrogation room at the school while I waited for the wrath of my father. I thought about all the times that I had been punished and how my dad’s anger was a force to be reckoned with. My dad showed up to the interrogation room and asked me to explain myself, and he could tell that I expected his wrath and that I had been anticipating judgement. I’m sure I looked like a pale cup of pudding. Contrary to my expectations, though, he extended his mercy and I found myself in a state of great gratitude. I remember being so grateful for his mercy that I deemed to never skip class again, and learned a great lesson in the power of mercy. I say this story because it is a wonderful transition into this week’s Weird Verse Wednesday Text!
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patient vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Romans 9:22)
Romans 9 is a battleground of theology and we could spend a good amount of time discussing the nuances of this text, namely that Paul does not provide us with an intellectual or philosophical solution to the tension between human responsibility and God’s sovereignty, but Paul instead lays out the purposes of God.
What is the context?
Paul undoubtedly tells us that God has a plan and that those who are “prepared for destruction” serve a purpose and function for God’s glory. Verse 21 provides qualifying information, “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?” God is the potter who molds the clay and we are told that he takes from the same lump (mankind) of clay in order to make a vessel of honor (saved) and dishonor (unsaved), in verse 22 we read why this preparation of dishonor, or destruction, occurs. God desires to show his wrath and make his power known. Fortunately, Paul doesn’t leave us there, but gives us a purpose clause, “in order to” (v. 23). God has prepared vessels of wrath in order to “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (v. 23).
That’s all good, but what does that actually mean? It means that God’s patience with the wicked, ultimately, is not in vain, but rather has a purpose. Firstly, God makes known his wrath and power. Why is this good? This is good in that a good judge must enact judgement and a holy righteous anger shows the heart of God in the midst of this judgment. God opposes the wicked as they dishonor him, and his creation. Furthermore, God receives glory for his justice as it magnifies his nature. Secondly, God has vessels of wrath for destruction so that his riches would be magnified. Paul Washer puts it well, “it is only against the pitch blackness of the night that we see the glory of the stars and it is only against the pitch blackness of man’s radical depravity that we begin to see the glories of the gospel.” God’s wrath and power against these vessels of destruction highlights the beauty of his mercy, showing how beautiful mercy is when we all deserve the wrath of God.
What does this mean for us today?
The beauty of the Gospel is that mercy is given to those who deserve wrath because of the Son who took wrath on our behalf. Earlier in Romans, chapter 5, Paul expresses this, “Since, therefore we have not been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled shall we be saved by his life.” (v. 9-10). It is through God’s provision, his Son, that we receive mercy and it is in rejection of his Son that we receive justice, that is, God’s wrath. In God’s provision we can rejoice in the mercies of God as we look to the radical sacrifice of the Son on the behalf of repentant enemies of God.
Dingers, this Weird Verse Wednesday Blog was written by our friend Nick from Christ is the Cure. If you like what you read, make sure you check him out on Instagram @christ.is.the.cure and you can also listen to his podcast Christ is the Cure on ANY major podcast platform! He also has an incredible website with tons of resources at WWW.CHRISTISTHECURE.ORG!