God’s Glory is His Motive – History & Theology, Part 74

In the past several BLOGS we have been looking at the motives of God in saving sinners. The purpose again is to see the Gospel of grace alone and how it is connected with historical Augustinian theology and not Arminianism. Historical Augustinian theology stresses the will and choice of God while Arminian theology stresses that man must make a choice of his free-will. A will that is truly free is a will that is free from grace and that shows that the Arminian position denies (at least by implication) in reality the teaching of grace alone. The motive of God in saving sinners must be from Himself if salvation is to be all of grace.

Romans 9:17ff – For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISEDYOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 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? 21 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? 22 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? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

While it is hard on human pride and self-sufficiency, the Scripture declares without apology or shame that God raised and then hardened Pharaoh according to His will and pleasure. We can see that people would argue that the fault is with God and that God made them sin (v. 19). But Paul simply tells them (so to speak) to shut up and look to who they are and who God is. Human beings are nothing but clay and God has the right to mold them as He pleases. Will we as bits of clay argue with the Potter and tell Him that He is unjust in what He does with us? Who do we think we are to argue with God? Surely, then, the motives of God can be seen in this picture. It is not looking at one piece of clay over another because of what is in the clay itself, but according to His own will and pleasure He will do what He will with the clay. Who are we to argue with what the infinite God will do with us especially since He does so according to perfect justice. God’s motive in making one lump of clay into a holy vessel is from Himself and not of the will of the lump of clay. His glory is of a far greater reason than anything found in the creature. This text is driving that point home to us. The glory of God is the standard by which all things are to be judged.

The next verses (vv. 22-24) are indeed very hard to swallow for all who believe in Democracy of any kind. In the United States we believe, at least that is what people state, that the only fair thing is for each person to have equal opportunity and equal rights. But that is not what these verses tell us about God and His dealings with human beings. Underneath the Arminian view of free-will is that of fairness. It is said that it is only fair if God leaves it up to the human will to decide. But of course underneath that view is a denial of the teaching of Scripture that all human beings are born dead in their sins and trespasses. No one will choose God because down deep they hate Him and are opposed to Him in reality. What if God endures with much patience vessels of wrath prepared (fully trained, equipped, fitted) for destruction? What if God does that? Are we going to charge Him with wrong for doing that? Can we charge Him with wrong with doing what He wants with vessels of clay? Paul is driving this point home to us. We must not turn our heads and run from this, but instead deal with Scripture honestly.

Why did God do this? “To make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.” There is a lot to be said at this point, but let us focus in on our main point in this discussion. What is God’s motive in saving sinners and showing them mercy from this text? We don’t have to guess at His motive as the text sets it out for us. God shows mercy in order to make known the riches of His glory. Why did Paul use the phrase “vessels of mercy” here? It is the same word he uses in verse 21 where the potter has a right over the clay, to make one vessel for honorable use and another for common use. It is also the same word used for vessels of wrath in verse 22. God’s motive cannot be said to be moved or influenced in any way by the free-will of a human being. His motive is to make known the riches of His glory. In this way salvation is by grace alone.

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