There is a change of theme today in Paul’s letter to the Romans. In chapters 9 to 11 his thoughts are on Israel: once he was proud of being an Israelite, the chosen nation, but as he shows in these chapters he now sees that everything depends on God’s mercy. Israel, although the chosen nation, is to experience God’s wrath. The gospel message has gone to the Gentiles and God is now calling individuals and each one depends on God’s “mercy”.
This has always been the foundation principle in God’s calling; Paul writes, “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 depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy” (9:15,16).
No one can earn salvation. Our lives are a training period, just as it was even for Jesus! This is shown in Hebrews, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (5:8). We follow in his footsteps. We also, as we read recently, should “walk in the footsteps of the faith that … Abraham had …” (Romans 4:12).
We must take note of Paul’s point and his question, “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, in order to make known …” (verses 22,23). To make known what?
Before we quote his answer, let us appreciate the patience of God in not yet acting to punish the world for its ungodliness. One of the hidden sevens in the book of Revelation is that the word ‘patience’ occurs seven times. And what does God’s patience make known? Verse 23 continues, “… to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory – even us whom he has called”.
Let us respond to His calling. These are the only “riches” in our lives worth having – indeed, it is essential that we have them, otherwise we will not be among those who experience the wondrous “riches of his glory”.