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Hebrews 6:9-12 – NT

04.26.2011

Romans 9:22-23

Paul gets his ‘Rob Bell’ on, eschewing his direct teaching method in favor of rhetorical, ‘What if…” questions.  What if God has been patient with us?  What if God’s a connoiseur of vessels?  What if God’s, like, really into clayworking and has a pottery wheel and listens to Ravi Shankar and burns incense?  What if…?

Obviously, I can poke fun only because I’ve taken the verses here out of context.  I urge you to read all of Rom 9, as it contains a great dialogue between Paul and someone struggling with understanding free will, sovereignty, culpability for sin, and justice.  But I zero in on these two verses for a few reasons:

Firstly, notice the idea here that God prepared the redemption of Creation long ago.  These vessels of wrath and mercy (more on them in a second), are prepared ‘beforehand’ and held patiently until the right time for God’s plan.

Secondly, the vessels themselves are (if I can flatter myself) essentially reworked versions of my box o’ sin illustration.  God has prepared vessels of wrath for destruction, and He waits patiently for all who are going to accept His help out of these doomed vessels to do so.

Lastly, notice the heavy theological lifting done by the word ‘endured’ in v. 22.  In order to make known His mercy, He has ‘endured’ His vessels of wrath.  This paints a picture of God’s patience as burdensome to Him.  In other words, He suffers in restraining His wrath, which is an action He does out of love for those in sin.  His holiness cries out for Him to destroy sin and pour out the vessels of wrath, but He waits patiently and painfully for us to exercise our free will with regards to sin before handing the sin over to destruction. 

I’ll take a step back here and emphasize that this is just a picture painted in my mind by the word ‘endured,’ and although it seems to make sense it’s not something I’ve ever read elsewhere.  Reach for your salt shakers…

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