From: Jim Beale (
Date: Mon Jun 02 1997 - 08:00:41 EDT

At 8:30 AM -0400 6/2/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:

>I would be interested in hearing your views if they support a
>different interpretation. I'm not comfortable with my understanding
>of this passage yet.

Obviously this is not directed to me, but I'll respond anyway!


The perfect participle does relate the completedness of the action
which brought the subject to the present state to the current state.
As such, what is in view is the vessels of wrath which are now fit
for destruction. Their state is permanent because God has not chosen
to make them vessels of mercy. That is his sovereign choice.

In favor of the passive understanding is the contextual analogy
of the Potter and the clay. The clay does not actively participate
in the end product. The Potter makes of the clay what He wishes
to make. Since all the vessels are from the same lump, there is
no distinction other than the will of the potter.

In favor of the middle is the general consideration that free agents
are not _just_ like clay. In the hands of the sovereign One, by
comparison, we may be like to clay, but, in reality, our destiny is
bound up with our choices all along the way.

So, as I understand the passive/middle dilemma here, God, as the
Potter, sovereignly molds us to the end He has chosen for us through
the instrumentality of our own choices. The predestinarian context
here cannot be plausibly denied, though it is not to be taken in a
hyper-calvinistic sense, in which ends and means are separated.

Murray's comments are (as usual!) quite excellent:

   The vessels of wrath are "fitted unto destruction." The
   question disputed is whether they ae represented as fitted
   or prepared by God for destruction or whether they are
   viewed as fitting themselves for destruction. It is true
   that Paul does not say that God prepared them for destruction
   as he does in the corresponding words respecting the vessels
   of mercy the "he afore prepared" them unto glory. It may be
   that he purposely refrained from making God the subject.
   However, we may not insist that God is not viewed as fitting
   them for destruction. In verse 18 there is the agency of
   God in hardening. In verses 22,23 the analogy of verse 21
   is being applied and the vessels of wrath correspond to the
   potter's vessel unto dishonour which he prepares for this
   purpose. They are also vessels of wrath and, therefore, as
   observed above, vessels for wrath, and wrath corresponds to
   destruction. At the same time, we may not dogmatize that
   the apostle intended to convey this notion in this case.
   The main thought is that the destruction meted out to the
   vessels of wrath is something for which their preceding
   condition suits them. There is an exact correspondence
   between what they were in this life and the perdition to
   which they are consigned . . .
   (The Epistle to the Romans, II, 36)

In Christ,
Jim Beale

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