Within the contentious issue of how much right God has to choose sinners for adoption, I want to tell you about some very comforting and encouraging phrases he uses to describe people like me (and you, if you are his child).
While I can’t speak for anyone else, and what this might mean to them, and all the debates about how God’s choice of children affects the children’s choice of Father, I simply want to speak of this as what applies to everyone who has been born again by the Spirit of the Living God.
Here is the Scripture, with a few thoughts to follow:
22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (Romans 9)
Here are the phrases within this passage that speak rich comfort to the children of grace.
1. “vessels of mercy” (23)
I have been meditating on what it means in the Beatitudes that, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” To find this beautiful phrase, “vessels of mercy,” gave a certain tearful affirmation to my heart this morning. Because Jesus has taken the wrath I deserve for my sin, I am not longer “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Instead of living in dread of the pouring out of God’s wrath, I am a vessel filled with mercy. I am no longer to live as though under judgment and condemnation, but as a beloved child who is filled and immersed in the mercies of God.
2. “to make known the riches of his glory” (23)
What God has made known in his mercy towards sinners is the incredible riches of his glory. His glory is glorified in both his judgment against sin in all who do not believe, and in the riches of mercy he shows to those who do believe. We are not to think of his mercy as some mediocre offering of a reluctant, half-hearted deity. Instead, we are vessels of mercy who receive the mercies of God to the degree of the riches of his glory, not to the degree of anything good in us.
If we do not sense how richly God’s glory is revealed in his mercies towards us, we may be holding on to either a works-based sense in which we are earning our own standing with God and so have no sense that we need mercy, or a works-based sense of condemnation in which we think we are too bad for God to love us. When we understand that we are vessels of mercy to whom God has been merciful to the measure of the riches of his glory, we will delight in the safety, and security, and comfort there is in the mercy he expresses to his children.
3. “which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (23)
On one side, God wanted to show the vessels of mercy the riches of his glory, and, on the other side, he wants to show us that he has already prepared us ahead of time for glory. This ties back to the golden chain of redemption in which God has foreknown his children, predestined us to adoption as sons, called us into the salvation by which this adoption is secured, justified us as righteous in his sight by grace through faith, and secured our glorification as such a settled deal that it is already as good as done.
Every child of God should feel the wondering comfort of being a vessel of mercy now, and on our way to glory in due time. God cannot fail to do this (which is the point of Paul’s references to these things in Romans), so we are to live in the moment as though enjoying the greatest confidence ever, that our coming glory in the Lord Jesus Christ, fully restored to his image and likeness as never before, was already prepared beforehand, therefore God has done everything necessary to make it so.
4. “us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles” (24)
The vessels of glory are those whom the Lord has called from among both Jews and Gentiles. As Paul gloriously testifies at the beginning of this letter:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
No one can claim secure standing with God on the basis of their ancestry, but we can live secure in our calling when we know that God has made his gospel known to both Jew and Gentile alike, and all who have faith in Jesus Christ are the ones who are called, justified, and glorified.
5. “Those who are not my people I will call ‘my people’” (25)
Now we get into some hugely comforting expressions that magnify the contrast between what we were apart from Christ, and what we are in Christ. There is no need to deny the experiences of life in which we have come to understand that we were not the people of God. We Gentiles were not the people of God in any kind of ties to the ancestry of the Jews. We may also have personal testimonies of how we became very aware that we were not considered the people of God by other so-called people of God.
In fact, it doesn’t matter how much any of us have ever felt this stinging experience that we were not God’s people. It doesn’t even matter how much we have felt unworthy to think of ourselves as God’s people. The issue is that God takes people such as this and calls them his people. He takes sinners, in love with wickedness, and delivers us out of the domain of darkness and transfers us into the kingdom of his beloved Son in whom there is redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Those who were not his people, become the children of God.
6. “her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved’” (25)
In the imagery of a discarded woman who was not loved, the people who make up the church were once “not beloved”. Apart from Christ we had no sense of being loved by God. We have so many experiences of people not loving us, and churches not loving us, and family members not loving us, that we know very well what it feels like to be the “not beloved” God speaks about here.
However, in another divine contrast in the mercies of God, those who know that they were not the beloved of anyone, particularly of the holy God of heaven, come to be called “beloved”. We are now able to “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
As strange as it may feel, God wants his children, his “vessels of mercy”, to feel beloved because we are beloved. We are to enjoy being the beloved of God because God chose to love us, and he set his love on us before the beginning of time, and secured the whole work of redemption from foreknowing us all the way through to glorifying us. Every child of God was once a sinner under the wrath of God, but now called the beloved of God forever.
7. “’You are not my people’… “will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (26)
Jesus told a story that is often referred to as the parable of “the Prodigal Son”. In this story, a young man demands his inheritance, goes to a faraway country, squanders everything on reckless living, and ends up in such poverty that he is feeding pigs and wishing he could eat their food to satisfy his hunger. This is a picture of the “sinners” in Israel who were condemned by the religious elite who did not understand that they, too, were sinners under the judgment of God.
As the story continues, Jesus describes how this young man came to his senses, realized how wrong he had been, and how he imagines that, if he would just go home and plead with his Father to take him in as a servant, he would be way better off than what he was experiencing right then.
However, as the young man approached home, his Father came running out to meet him, welcomed him with open arms, ignored his sad request to please let him be a servant, and reinstated him with the full rights of his sonship.
The point is that, the sinners who were coming to faith in Jesus Christ were the ones who were “called ‘sons of the living God’”, while the religious elite were missing out on this sonship because they would not admit that they had failed to become God’s people through their good works. Those who know they are not the people of God by religious works are then open to receive the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in which they become the very sons of God forever.
The message to me in all of this is an increased awareness of the grace of God towards vessels of mercy like myself. The more I see that I am what I am by the mercy and grace of God, not by any sense of being a good Christian, the more I grow in my wonder and worship of God’s free gift of grace through faith.
No wonder the apostle John would write,
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
God has prepared his chosen ones beforehand for glory, and he will fulfil this plan at the return of Jesus Christ when we become like him forever. There is no greater glory than this, that a creature made of dust could live eternally in the image and likeness of the eternal Son of God. God who began this good work in us will not fail to bring it to completion at the day of Christ’s return.
© 2017 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~ email@example.com
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)
 Matthew 5:7
 What the Bible refers to as “propitiation”, see: https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=propitiation&qs_version=ESV&limit=500
 Ephesians 2:3
 See Romans 8:1-2
 Romans 8:28-30
 Romans 1:16-17
 Colossians 1:13-14
 Cf John 1:12-13; I John 3:1-2
 Ephesians 5:1-2
 See Luke 15:11-32
 I John 3:1-2
 Philippians 1:6