A section of Romans caught my attention during a recent Bible study. As a quick reminder of the context, Paul spends quite a bit of Romans explaining the righteousness of God. Partway through an analysis of Israelite history, he inserts a sort of question-and-answer section to make a few points clear.
"What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires" (Romans 9:14-18).
We cannot accuse God of being unjust. God can distribute both mercy and punishment as He sees fit.
"You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?" (Romans 9:19-21).
We cannot find fault in our Creator's choices any more than a pot could with the potter.
What hooked me was the next few words: "What if God". After establishing that God is in complete control, Paul asks us to change perspectives and think about the way God sees things. He invites the reader to play along with a what-if.
"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory" (Romans 9:22-23).
Let us dissect that first sentence. Paul did not say, "What if God was willing to demonstrate His wrath?" God is willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known. Paul asks us to consider what it means when God is willing and able to make a display of punishing those prepared for destruction, but He doesn't.
Why? Notice the next sentence. This isn't about not punishing the wicked. God is going to make known the riches of His glory upon His people. God is making a public display, not of punishment, but of mercy that everyone can see. And that mercy is incredibly glorious.
God has chosen to demonstrate something more impressive than power. We need to recognize the opportunity He has extended. "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Romans 2:4-5). He is showing this glory to us so that we can spread the news, "that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me" (Colossians 1:26-29).
"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." (II Peter 3:9)
When we go out to spread the message, what do we show them? Do we reflect God's mercy and patience in our approach? Do we show them how amazing the opportunity is?