Are you a vessel of wrath or a vessel of mercy?

Posted on September 16, 2009

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Romans chapter 9, verses 22-24, talks about vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. The language of this section of scripture is very important if we are to understand it correctly. For instance, did God create some people just so that He could damn them? is that what was meant by the reference to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart? What, precisely, are the vessels of wrath and mercy? Quite simply, they are people who receive wrath and people who receive mercy. Lets look at the passage.

Romans 9:22–24 (NKJV)

22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,

23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,

24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Notice in verse 22 that God did not create anyone for the purpose of wrath, but that they were “prepared for destruction.” That is, they were made ready for destruction. This is not what we were originally made for. It is a person’s own actions that invite the judgment of God. As to the reference of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, did God do it? Exodus 9:34-35 make it clear that Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

Exodus 9:34–35 (NKJV)

34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants.

35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the Lord had spoken by Moses.

From Exodus 3:19, we see that God already knew Pharaoh and the decisions that he would make. Because of this, God raised him up to be king, so that God’s power might be shown (Romans 9:17). God did not harden Pharaoh’s heart or create anyone for damnation, it is one’s own actions that bring judgment.

Exodus 3:19 (NKJV)

19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.

Romans 9:17 (NKJV)

17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”

As for the vessels of mercy, man was made, from the beginning, to reveal God’s glory (Romans 9:23). This was God’s purpose for creation, and is consistent with a loving God. This mercy, though, is not automatic. We must first give our life to Christ, that is, allow Him to be our savior. Then we must live a life obedient to Him. If we do this, God will bestow His grace on us. Thank God that we weren’t created to be vessels of wrath, and can choose to be vessels of mercy.

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