30 April, 2016

Romans 9:22—“God … [enduring] with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”


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 (Rom. 9:22 KJV).


COMMON GRACE ARGUMENT:
This text of Scripture is often explained in the following way:

“Paul here affirms that God shows the common grace kindness of longsuffering [patience] to the reprobate, even though he describes them as ‘vessels of wrath fitted for destruction’ and affirms that ‘God is willing to shew His wrath and to make His power known’ against them. It is in spite of His anger toward them and His desire to destroy them that God “with much longsuffering [patience]” endures these vessels of wrath …”

In other words, so it is asserted, God’s basic attitude toward the reprobate is one of wrath, yet He withholds His wrath for a time out of lovingkindness and favour towards them, enduring their insults with great patience. God’s great goodness is manifested in postponing the fearsome wrath that daily grows more intense against them. God, in doing this, is said to be treating them lovingly, just as He commands us to do when He says that we must likewise love our enemies. Others use this passage to support the idea of a well-meant offer of salvation on the part of God to the reprobate: the notion that God earnestly desires them to be saved, and is giving them a real chance to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.



(I)

Rev. Herman Hoeksema

[Source: God’s Goodness Always Particular (RFPA, 2015), pp. 203-204, 205]

My interpretation [is] that God endured the vessels of wrath with much long-suffering over the vessels of mercy.

My grounds for this interpretation are as follows:

First, in the New Testament long-suffering usually signifies restrained love toward the church as she must suffer in the world and is oppressed by that world.

Second, both forbearance and long-suffering occur in the text, but the vessels of wrath are the direct objects of forbearance, while long-suffering is presented as accompanying this forbearance.

Third, the context mentions Pharaoh as the representative of the vessels of wrath. Israel in Egypt suffered much and was sorely oppressed by Pharaoh’s ungodliness. Thus it is always in the world. The wicked always set themselves against the righteous; the wicked hate and persecute the righteous.

Fourth, when God does not immediately destroy the vessels of wrath and forbears them, that is, he is long of wrath and represses his anger until the judgment day, the result is that the children of God must suffer and be persecuted. For this reason God’s forbearance toward the vessels of wrath is always accompanied by long-suffering toward his people.

Fifth, I arrived at this meaning of the text: What if God willing to show his wrath and to make his power known, endured the vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction with much long-suffering over his people, who must suffer much on account of the vessels of wrath.

[…]

Of God’s granting an opportunity to repent there is certainly no mention. The text also teaches that God endures the vessels of wrath with much long-suffering to show his wrath and make his power known.

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For more on “Longsuffering” and “Forbearance,” check out the following articles from Rev. Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics:





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(II)

Rev. Robert Harbach

[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 60, issue 4 (Nov. 15th 1983)]

According to Romans 9:22, God endures "with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction." It would be easy, but wrong, to interpret this to mean that longsuffering here denotes an attitude of God's favor toward the reprobate wicked. What the text says is that He endures the vessels of wrath (and their wickedness), doing so with much longsuffering; or while He endures the wicked (the tares), He experiences and reveals longsuffering to His people. It is like a loving father witnessing His children being beaten by muggers. He for a time endures their being painfully afflicted (that they through a measure of suffering may learn to endure hardness). Those wicked oppressors (cp. the Egyptians) He endures and endures, until He must finally say, Enough is enough! and rescue His own (cp. the Israelites) from their frightening beatings. Of course, all the while He endured those violent enemies He was longsuffering over His children! (See also Reformed Dogmatics, Herman Hoeksema, first two paragraphs, p. 121). God's waiting out the wicked is in order "that He might be gracious" (Isa. 30:18) to His people. Grace is both revealed only in Christ and only to those in Christ. This then of necessity goes for His longsuffering and patience (aspects of His grace). Jesus Christ, our faithful Savior, fully satisfied for all our sins to lay down the ground for manifestations of His longsuffering. Then this mercy is not common, showered also on the wicked, but is particular, experienced only by the righteous. For "the longsuffering of God is (not merely has a tendency to) salvation" (II Pet. 3:15). Then no comfort is there for the wicked that God endures them until He cannot stand them any more.


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(III)

Prof. Herman C. Hanko


It would seem, on the surface of it, that the objects of God’s longsuffering are the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. And yet, a closer look at the passage surely indicates that this cannot be. We call attention to the following objections:

1) We have, first of all, the broader context of Scripture itself in the light of which this verse must be considered. We have noticed that, with the exception of these two passages in Romans (2:4 and 9:22), every use of this term in the New Testament, as it is applied to God, indicates that God’s longsuffering is particular, i.e., only for the elect. And we ought not to forget Peter’s strong statement that God’s longsuffering is salvation (II Pet. 3:15). We must be careful to interpret Scripture in the light of Scripture. It would be strange to find that most of Scripture teaches that God’s longsuffering is only towards His people, then suddenly to find a passage where this is not true. This is all the more the case when we remember that longsuffering is salvation. No one would want to maintain the position that the vessels of wrath, objects of God’s longsuffering, are in fact saved.

2) The immediate context in verse 23 makes sharp distinction between the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction and the vessels of mercy through whom God is pleased to make known the riches of His glory, and who are, in fact, afore prepared unto glory. Verse 23 is the continuation of the thought in verse 22, and verse 22 must take verse 23 into account.

3) The relation between verses 22 and 23 is all the more important when we consider that the word “longsuffering” in verse 22 is in the Greek in the form of a prepositional phrase: ν πολλ μακροθυμία (en pollē makrothumia). The text can, therefore, be translated: “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured, in abundant longsuffering (or, perhaps even better, while being abundant in longsuffering), the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” The text, translated in this way, would not necessarily teach that God’s longsuffering is towards the vessels of wrath.

In keeping, therefore, with the rest of Scripture, it is better to refer the phrase concerning God’s longsuffering to His attitude towards the elect while He was enduring the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. This interpretation is certainly plausible if we consider that the apostle uses the word νεγκεν (ēnenken) to indicate God’s attitude towards the vessels of wrath. Although this idea is not very common in Scripture, it apparently refers to the very opposite of God’s longsuffering. God endures the vessels of wrath, in contrast to His longsuffering towards His people. This endurance is for the sake of His people. As the wickedness of the world increases and evil is increasingly rampant, one often wonders why God does not come in judgment upon the workers of iniquity who transgress God’s law, openly mock His precepts, and trample His commandments under foot. The only answer is that God endures their sin for a time. He does this, not to give them a chance to repent, which is an old Arminian interpretation; but He endures their sin because the elect must still be gathered. And until these are gathered, God cannot destroy the world.

4) Finally, the entire context is opposed to the interpretation that would make longsuffering apply to all men. When Israel was rejected, this was not because the Word of God had taken none effect (v. 6). God was accomplishing His purpose, for they are not all Israel which are of Israel. That purpose of God is to be found in election and reprobation. The elder (Esau) in the family of Isaac is to serve the younger (Jacob). And this is because God loves Jacob and hates Esau. Can Esau, whom God hates, be the object of God’s longsuffering?

And so it is throughout time. God has mercy on whom He will have mercy. Pharaoh was raised up and hardened that God might show His power in him (vv. 11-18). How can longsuffering be shown to those whom God hardens? Is hardening an indication of longsuffering? How can that be? God, willing to show His wrath, endures the vessels of wrath who are fitted to destruction. But He is longsuffering to the vessels of mercy. After all, they live in the world surrounded by the hatred of the vessels of wrath. They suffer greatly. They are led as sheep to the slaughter. God longs to deliver them, and, indeed, suffers with them. God also is impatient to pour out His wrath upon the wicked. But all must wait until the last elect is born and saved so that the riches of God’s glory might be revealed in them whom He had afore prepared to glory.


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(IV)

Rev. Matthew Winzer

[Source: “Murray on the Free Offer: A Review,” in The Blue Banner newsletter, vol. 9, issue 10–12, (October/December 2000)]

[The] reprobate are not considered merely as creatures when God dispenses temporal benefits to them. They are “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” and God is said to endure them “with much longsuffering” (Rom. 9:22). And this long-suffering is not presented as being in any sense for their benefit, as if He were patiently waiting for them to turn to Him that He might be favourable to them. No, it is so that “he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory” (verse 23). Thus, God’s wrathful enduring of the reprobate is for the purpose of mercifully manifesting His glory to the elect. Every temporal benefit, therefore, which comes to the reprobate is not without purpose, but is made effectual to them for their inuring and making meet for damnation.

… [It is alleged] that Romans 9:22 “presents a clear instance where it has in view an attitude of God towards the reprobate; he ‘endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath.’”51 True, but the enduring is of them, not towards them. Verse 23 states that the enduring with the reprobate is for the purpose “that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy.”


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FOOTNOTE:

51. Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 4 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), pp. 127.


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(V)

Rev. Angus Stewart

[Source: The Longsuffering of God—a survey of God’s longsuffering throughout Scripture]

Here we are taught that Jehovah “endured … the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction [i.e., the reprobate].” He puts up with them for a while because He shall display His glory through His holy “wrath” and awesome “power” in His “destruction” of them as “vessels of wrath” for all their sin and rebellion. This is what God desires, wishes and wants: “God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known.” Reprobation (22) serves God’s election of both Jews and Gentiles, whereby he “make[s] known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory” (23).

We need carefully to distinguish between God’s enduring or putting up with the reprobate (cf. Matt. 17:17; Mark 9:19; Luke 9:41) and His being longsuffering towards His elect (Luke 18:7). The Almighty “endured ... the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction [i.e., the reprobate]” (Rom. 9:22). How did He do this? The answer is found in the subordinate clause: “with much longsuffering” towards His elect (22). Remember that “the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (II Pet. 3:15).

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N.B. to see this article in its entirety, click here:


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(VI)

Rev. Herman Veldman

[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 25, no. 21—September 1st 1949—pp. 491-492]

Another passage which we would treat somewhat in detail is Romans 9:22. There we read: “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.” Also this passage of the word of God has been quoted in support of a general longsuffering of the Lord toward the ungodly. This is easily understandable. Do we not read that the “Lord endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”? Is it not plain, therefore, that the Lord is longsuffering toward these vessels of wrath, the ungodly?

However, how different must be (and is) the interpretation of this text when considered in the light of its context! In the preceding verse, verse 21, the apostle declares that the potter makes not only vessels unto honour, but also vessels unto dishonour. Then, in verse 22, the apostle declares that they are vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction, and this means that God made them in His wrath, and fitted them for destruction, and therefore not to save them. Moreover, in verse 23, we read that God makes His glory known upon the vessels of mercy which He had from the foundation of the world prepared unto glory; hence, these are the vessels of mercy, made in His mercy, and they have been eternally prepared unto eternal glory. And, in addition to all this, the apostle tells us in verse 22 that God endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction because He was willing to shew His wrath and make His power known. How is it possible, in the light of all this, to maintain that the Lord, shows favour or grace to these vessels of wrath, fitted unto destruction, concerning whom we read that the Lord willed to show His wrath and make His power known?

Finally, is all this not corroborated by the example of the ungodly Pharaoh? Concerning this Pharaoh we read in verse 17: “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” Mind you, the Lord had raised up Pharaoh, and that with the Divine purpose to show His power in him. This does not mean that the Lord simply put Pharaoh upon the Egyptian throne, and that He raised him up in that sense of the word. But the apostle refers to the ungodly Pharaoh. It is exactly as the ungodly Pharaoh that he was raised up by the Lord. The Lord sovereignly willed and “raised up” this ungodly monarch to reveal His power in him. This is surely in harmony with the rest of this chapter, and particularly with that portion which tells us that God is the Potter, and that as such He produces vessels of honour and of dishonour, producing the former by His mercy and the latter by His wrath. This also enables us to understand Romans 9:22. It is true that we are told in this passage that “God endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction.” However, this does not necessarily mean that the Lord’s longsuffering had these vessels of wrath for its objects. The text does not purpose to inform us that the Lord was longsuffering toward these ungodly. But this is what the word of God would teach in this particular text: God endured with much longsuffering toward His people the vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction. In His love toward His own He endured these vessels of wrath. The ungodly are the objects here of the Lord’s forbearance, and the godly are the objects of His longsuffering. And this is surely corroborated by the example of Pharaoh and the ungodly throughout the history of the church of God in the midst of this world. He endures the wicked throughout the history of His church because He is longsuffering toward His own, would save them and save them unto the uttermost. The most glorious example (or terrible example, if you will) is the example of the Christ Himself. God surely endured, or “put up” with, the wicked as they laid their vile hands upon the Son of His love, nailed Him to the accursed tree, not because He loved them and would give them additional time to repent, but only because He loved His Christ and His people, and would save them through the blood of His Son. And this characterizes the position and affliction of the people of God throughout the ages, particularly at the end of time. The only reason why He tolerates the wicked world is not because He loves that world, but is only because their cup of iniquity must be filled and all the elect saved, even unto the last child of the living God.


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(VII)

More to come! (DV)


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