Is God Unjust?
I love God, but there are things that my fallen, fallible and finite human nature dislikes about him. The number one thing that troubles me about God is that he allows hell to exist and that he allows any sentient creature to go there.
Our family has one dog and two cats: a Rat terrier named Hamilton who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a Siamese cat named Edgar and a huge, neurotic Polydactyl named Emilio—our sixteen year old, arthritic, totally deaf, partially blind, Boston terrier named Ralphie died in early December of 2004. We really like these three animals and have spent a fair amount of money with the veterinarian keeping them healthy. If they are in pain, we do our best to relieve them.
We care about most animals that way. If an animal were to be seriously injured, I would make a prima facie judgment. Could this animal make it to the veterinarian? What would be the quality of his life, were he to survive? If I determine that there is reasonable evidence that he can be saved, I will drop what I am doing and take him into town. If I conclude that he is hopelessly gone, I will fetch my .357 revolver and shoot the poor creature through the skull, thus putting him out of his misery. It would cause me psychological pain to do it—I know that because I’ve done it before—but I would relieve the suffering because I care about the feelings of an animal: “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel” (Proverbs 12:10).
If one of my animals persistently wandered off into traffic, and I knew about it and did nothing, I believe that I would be responsible for his suffering were he to get hit. Now if I feel that way about dogs, cats, raccoons and squirrels, what about other sentient creatures—what about the one species that was directly created by God and made in his image? Surely I must feel some compassion for the whole of humankind, from Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin to Ted Bundy and the neighborhood exhibitionist. That compassion has been tested, as, for example, some years ago when a man confessed in my office that he had raped a child. But even there, in spite of all that he had done, I felt compassion for him, for he was both victimizer and victim himself, having been gang raped as a new recruit in the United States Army by some of his fellow soldiers.
One of the things that troubles me most about God is that he has allowed this world with its endless cycles of sin and death to go on and on, human beings not only reproducing themselves biologically, but reproducing their patterns of sin generationally. And worse than anything that ever has taken place on our planet is what awaits people after life—eternal separation from God in a place of unending, conscious agony. God could prevent all this. Why doesn’t he?
Modern man has mastered the art of manipulating the wills of the masses so that they truly desire the ever changing images of beauty, success and fulfillment that are pitched at them through magazines, newspapers, television and the cinema. Free will is not destroyed, simply massaged, not unlike the way that a man wins the love of a woman—one of the things that caused Solomon to wonder (Proverbs 20:19). Do not successful parents benevolently manipulate the wills of their children so that their little ones desire to do that which pleases the parents? Can God not do the same? Can he not woo the whole human race to Christ without violating our wills? Is he less competent than Hollywood and Madison Avenue?
If God can prevent any sentient being from ending up in hell, why doesn’t he do it? “The eternal fire (was) prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). But what about even Satan himself and his poor minions, the pathetic fallen spirits that were primordially duped by him? I don’t even want the demons to burn in the unrelenting, eternal fires of Gehenna, in that place where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched, where the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever, once the inexorable sentence is passed (Mark 9:48; Revelation 14:11).
Even if one rejects classical theism and denies God’s complete omniscience, this still does not get God off at the bar of human justice. At any point, seeing that his creation had gotten into such a mess with masses of people raping, murdering and enslaving others, he could have stopped it in some fashion or other. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t I? Would you allow one soul to go to hell? Would you not do everything in your power to manipulate a person so that he would freely choose to comply with whatever conditions were consistent with your own moral character? The Arminian and the Pelagian have no easier task than the Calvinist or the Hyper-Calvinist defending such a being before the court of human justice.
Soon every man will join hands with Satan and all the demons in hell to damn such a God to the very hell he has allowed to exist. But I won’t, nor will any who have come to know his sweet grace. I will not sit in judgment of this high God. He is wholly beyond me. He is the dreadful Sovereign, God the All Terrible, the one from whom heaven and earth must flee away. I will bow my knees and worship him because it is my bounden duty. Nor will I question him. He is Yahweh God of Armies. “My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:1-2).
I do not question this God, because he is the God who is and there is no other. He can cast me into hell. He creates weal and woe (Isaiah 45:1ff.). It isn’t that I don’t have all these feelings, but I choose not to indulge them, remembering that I am dust—fallen, fallible and finite in the totality of my being, in the totality of my capacity to reason.
And truly—I take an oath—as God is my witness—as I have lived in this world, wandering in the mad labyrinth of the human mind—my own and others—I have concluded that I deserve no less fate than to burn in hell forever. Over the years I have counseled several hundred people with sexual problems—I have heard the damnedest things, the most bizarre things—sadly, I discover in all of this putrefying business that the seeds of the most unspeakable evil are in me, too. I have come to discover the real problem with the Pharisee’s prayer, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11). His real trouble was that he was like other men and didn’t know it.
In one of the imprecatory sections of the Law, Deuteronomy 28:53-57, we discover what is in the most gentle and sensitive man and woman—your mother and mine—you and me—they will kill and eat their own children and not share so much as a piece of afterbirth with the rest of the family. The longer I live, the more I study World History, the more I see the hidden side of human nature, the more I confess that man is evil—that I am evil—yet, paradoxically and by grace, I am a saint, too. Whatever else the Bible teaches about God and hell, it teaches that everyone who ends up in hell is suffering the consequences of his own behavior. The longer I live, the more I see this as true.
Several passages come to one’s mind in thinking about the destiny of those who have never heard the gospel.
The first is Romans 1:18-20: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
Here we learn that every human being has a basic, latent knowledge of the true God. This knowledge exists not only in the glaring, compelling and conclusive evidence of the existence of a Supreme Being, Prime Mover, or First Cause in the very structure of reality outwardly, but is confirmed inwardly according to verse 19: “because that which is known about God is evident within them.” In other words, this knowledge is not only a posteriori, but a priori as well. And it is very comprehensive knowledge according to verse 20, including the true nature of God’s character, which according to Romans 2:14-15, includes a basic sense of right and wrong: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”
This knowledge is part of the very nature of a human being; it is contained within the broken and twisted remains of the image of God. But factual, compelling proof never stops people from doing evil: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).
The problem is not a lack of conclusive evidence, but a deep-seated mental illness that has gripped every human being. Just as a grown woman may push back the memory of her mother’s boyfriend having molested her when she was a little girl, so all humans repress this painful truth out of the conscious mind. But that repressed memory of the true God, guilt and coming judgment is still there, just as all painful childhood memories are, and it haunts people in the dark night: “For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword” (Job 33:14-18).
The above truths have profound significance in how we deal with those whom we encounter outside the pale of the Church and means that so much of the proclamation is simply confirmation of truth that outsiders already know. It takes the work of the Holy Spirit to bring up this deeply buried knowledge, but he is pleased to honor the proclamation by doing so. What is not buried within and cannot be deduced from an analysis of the external evidence is God’s loving act of grace in Jesus Christ, even though the proclamation of the good news resonates as truth deeply within fallen man, plagued as he is by guilt and angst.
Such knowledge of God leaves people without excuse (Romans 1:20), but it cannot save them from hell, however, and most importantly, people are not in hell simply because they did not respond to the gospel. They are in hell justly suffering for their countless acts of rebellion against God and ungratefulness toward his kindness. That someone has heard the gospel and spurned it only adds to his condemnation. There is eternal equity in all God’s dealing with people: “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows” (Luke 12:47-48).
Someone asked me: “If people are sinful by nature, then they have no choice but to act sinfully (i.e. commit acts of rebellion against God). So the question is: how can you justly punish someone for acting in the only way they can? The ideas of personal responsibility and choice usually work their way into our definitions of justice.”
This is an ancient question, similar to the one with which Christ’s holy apostle dealt in Romans 9.** Paul, while recognizing the difficulties you raise, essentially responds by warning us that we cannot question God. This is not an answer that most of us modern folk, especially those of us in the West, are comfortable with. Our Weltanschauung, the distorting glasses through which we look at the world and whose vision we naively assume conforms to reality, is radically egalitarian and radically individualistic: we think that no one is superior or inferior to another, that no one can be affected by the actions of another. We live in the days of the final outworking of the bastardization of the Democratic Ideal, and we imagine that God himself must conform to our image.
Against such a view, the Scripture holds up a Despot (transliteration of a Greek word used of God and rulers with absolute power over others, e.g. Acts 4:24; Revelation 6:10), who is wholly righteous and all powerful. Sin is so very serious and so very evil, fundamentally, not because of its impact on other human beings, but because it is an offense against his Majesty. This is what David confessed, dripping with bloody murder of a trusting friend and sordid adultery with that friend’s wife: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4).
Because God is God, we must shut our mouths and await the consummation when we will understand and accept all God’s ways as holy and just. We must recapture the vision of the grandeur and greatness of God, as in the old Russian national anthem.
“God The All Terrible! King, who
Thunder Thy clarion, the lightning Thy sword;
Show forth Thy pity on high where Thou reignest:
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.
“God the All-merciful! earth hath
Thy ways all holy, and slighted Thy word;
Bid not Thy wrath in its terrors awaken:
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.
“God the All-righteous One! man hath
Yet to eternity standeth Thy word,
Falsehood and wrong shall not tarry beside Thee:
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.
“God the All-provident! earth by Thy
Yet shall to freedom and truth be restored;
Through the thick darkness Thy kingdom is hastening:
Thou wilt give peace in Thy time, O Lord.
Alexis F. Lvov
Justice is an interesting concept, and a key verse for understanding what the Bible means by it is Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
This passage is very rich, and several Hebrew words stand out, but the word I want to pursue is Mishpat, often translated by “justice.” Two passages throw light on the underlying connotation of this interesting Hebrew word, Exodus 26:30 and 1 Kings 6:38.
“Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to the plan (Mishpat) for it that you were shown on the mountain” (Exodus 26:30).
“And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications (Mishpat). He was seven years in building it” (1 Kings 6:38).
Here we see that an underlying meaning in Mishpat is conformity to specifications: in these two cases, following the building plans. As we flesh out the meaning of Mishpat inductively by studying the various contexts where it is found, a picture emerges: justice is conformity—in the case of morality, to the model of God’s own holy nature, his character as he has revealed it as the pattern for human conduct. God reveals his own moral nature in two fundamental directives: loving God with the whole of our being and loving others as we love ourselves. These two directives are fleshed out in many commands; indeed, just as a door hangs and swings on its hinges, the entire Old Testament hangs on these two commandments (Matthew 22:34-40).
The Ten Commandments are not independent of God, as if he were bound by some abstract moral principle that is above him and separate from his existence; rather they refract the very character of God himself, his own morality. In effect, they codify, within the ethos and milieu of Israel in the Second Millennium before Christ, God’s own moral character. A beautiful analogy to this is found in how a prism refracts light into its various colors. These commandments are right simply because they are consistent with who God is. In other words, murder, adultery and stealing would not be wrong if they were not contrary to God’s own nature; were there no God, there would be no right and no wrong. As Dostoevsky said, “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.”
This moral nature of God stamped on the human soul is part of what it means for us to be created in the image of God, an image that was radically marred, gnarled, broken and twisted in the fall, but not completely lost. In the fall man lost more than a gift of super added grace (donum superadditum); rather, the totality of his being, including his intellect, was radically affected by sin. Humankind is totally but not utterly depraved; man is not as bad as he can possibly be. There remains in fallen man the shattered image of God, including moral judgment because humankind is created in the image of God and thereby finitely mirrors God’s own knowledge, righteousness and holiness (Genesis 1:26; Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24). That is to say, even lost people have an innate, intuitive, instinctive sense of right and wrong, based not on experience, nor as an internalized parent—a Freudian superego—but as part of the very essence of what it is to be human.
This knowledge of the true God and of his character exhibits itself imperfectly in the human conscience: “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:14-15). This remnant of the image of God is why even non-Christian people struggle with a sense of indignation at the injustices all around them.
As odd as it may seem, the very reason why human beings recoil at some of the ways of God is because we are all created in his image. It is why humans not only fear hell, but we also experience revulsion by the very idea of the eternal, conscious suffering of sentient beings. Unregenerate humans act in defiance of God, judging him by their own independent, autonomous intellects and emotions. Nevertheless, behind that rebellion is a testimony to the remnant of God’s own moral character stamped on the soul of every human being, a divine sense of right and wrong, Mishpat, justice, conformity to the specifications of the Builder.
The Lord Jesus, as the Second Adam, is
pre-eminently Man in the Image of God, restoring what was lost to us by our
first father (1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:9-11). In
him, in the fullness of time, all believers will be fully restored to the image
of God. Then, and only then, will justice be fully understood. Then, and only
then, will justice truly be rendered:
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:3-5.)
Until that Day, all justice in this world
is at best a stab in the dark. For not truly knowing our own hearts (Jeremiah
17:9), we are incapable of rendering just judgment on others, not only humans,
but first and foremost, on him who is the very Archetype of Justice. To sit in
judgment of God is the most brazenly arrogant and naively foolish thing fallen
man can do.
Scripture tells us that God’s very nature is mercy and that while justice is part of God’s character, his delight is love and mercy. This is seen in one of the most important texts of the Old Testament, Exodus 34:5-7:
Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
Exodus 34:5-7 is a central passage of the Old Testament and is quoted repeatedly by other Old Testament writers: e.g. Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2. The quotation in Jonah is very revealing in terms of God’s disposition toward the heathen: ‘But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to Yahweh, “O Yahweh, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”’ Jonah hated these northerners, the Assyrians, and he wanted to see their capitol destroyed. His reason for not bringing the message of God’s offered mercy to them was that he knew God’s character; he knew that God is love, quick to forgive all who turn from their sin to him. And Jonah knew this because he knew the message of the Torah, for the Torah is Yahweh’s Direction, not only about how Israel ought to live under covenant with him, but also Direction pointing to him, who he is in his very essence, and that essence is loving kindness and delight in forgiveness. While it does not exclude judgment, even generational judgment, it focuses on mercy, kindness and forgiveness.
That is the message that we must take to
those who have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ. For those who have
never heard, whatever else may be true at the divine bar, they, too, will admit
that their punishment is wholly deserved. But at that bar also stands a Savior
who shed his blood for sin and the great Judge is one who is the God of Exodus
The God of mercy also rejects sin, disease, death and hell, and he demonstrates that in the Incarnation. In the face of Jesus of Nazareth, I see God.
I see that God is both one and three, fully transcendent, yet fully immanent, that the one “who works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11), also rejects sin, disease, death and hell by becoming part of his own creation.
In Jesus of Nazareth, God, the second person of the blessed Trinity, without ceasing to be God, becomes a human being. He hungers and thirsts, weeps and wrestles with temptation and fear, becomes impotent against evil and limited in knowledge, experiences the guilt and pain of humanity—his lot, too, is the loneliness, alienation and abandonment that characterize human experience. The damning God becomes damned, in his human nature, and dies on the cross.
I do not understand this God, his eternal, immutable decree, nor his stooping to my weakness in love. I cannot comprehend how the same God who has elected people to eternal salvation for reasons known only to himself and not based on anything good or commendable in them, sincerely, earnestly and passionately invites all people to come to him and vests mere mortals, the Church, with the task of proclaiming this good news.
There are simply so many things that the Bible never tells me about God, and so I defer my questions about who he is and why he has done what he has done to another time, a time when I will see him as he is, and when I will fully know, even as I am fully known, but until then I walk by faith, not by sight (1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 5:7).
After walking with him for almost fifty years, I have come to know the voice of the good Shepherd (John 10:4-5). He has demonstrated his love in countless ways over the years in my experience. I have seen him physically heal people, sometimes in a moment of time. Our congregation is filled with people who have come to the Lord Jesus bound in the chains of adultery, drunkenness, homosexuality and violent, hateful bitterness, and they have been set free, their bitterness and bondage gone, their sanity restored. I have seen him heal marriages, set people free from demons and provide for human needs in all kinds of ways, sometimes with huge sums of money, seemingly out of the blue, at just the right time.*
All of this demonstrates that God—whom I do not fully understand and whose ways sometimes trouble me—is a God of mercy, kindness, love and grace. His own character and disposition to the entire human family is mirrored in his command through Paul: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). He commands this because, he “is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10).
God’s gracious act of redemption in Jesus Christ is both universal and particular—being sufficient for every sin ever committed and making possible the sincere and true offer of salvation to every human being, while at the same time actually procuring the salvation of all those whom the Father has given to the Son, a multitude so great that no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people and language (1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; John 3:16; 10:11, 15, 16, 26-30; Titus 3:4-7; Revelation 7:9). The Sovereign Elector of Romans 9:10-24 extends his hands in mercy to people who are disobedient and obstinate in Romans 10:21. Based on the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘The Spirit and the bride (can now) say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life’ (Revelation 22:17).
Those who spurn God’s gracious offer justly go to hell, for while salvation is based entirely on grace, damnation is based entirely on works. And while no one who is in heaven deserves to be there, everyone who is in hell deserves to be there. One blessed and dreadful day, even Satan himself and every man and woman will bow their knees and acknowledge that God is just in all his ways (Isaiah 45:23-25; Romans 3:4ff.; 14:11; Philippians 2:10, 11).
I find my bitterness and fear go and my
sanity restored, when I, like the Psalmist (whose words I quoted earlier), “do
not concern myself with great matters or things too profound for me. But I have
stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned
child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:1-2). I don’t think that is partitioning
my thinking, but it is a choosing not to think too deeply with my fallen, finite
and fallible reason.
As I adore this God in worship, I find
myself changed. I receive him in the proclamation and in the breaking of bread,
and I praise him with my life and lips.
“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
“Bold shall I stand in Thy great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved from these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.”
Nicolaus L. von Zinzendorf
* Below are a few of the many answers to prayer that I have personally experienced.
More than fifteen years ago, my transmission
went out in our only vehicle; it was going to cost $900, and I simply did not
have the money. I told no one about it, but cried out to God on my knees, and
several days later I found an envelope that had been pushed under my door.
Inside were nine, one hundred dollar bills. I certainly praised the Lord, but I
didn’t understand just how special this gift was at the time. When I received
the anonymous gift, I had assumed that some brother had learned about my
transmission from the mechanic and had chosen to bless me in this way.
However, some years later a young man came to see me. He was a Baptist
from another parish (county) and hardly knew me. He asked me, “Several
years ago did you find an envelope with nine, one hundred dollar bills in it?”
“Yes,” I replied. Then he told me that he had been praying, and the Lord had told him to go to Alexandria and give this amount of money to me. Needless to say, I was stunned at such an example of one of God’s providentia extraordinaria.
I could go on and on about the strange and wonderful ways that God answers prayer, from couples conceiving children after having failed at fertility clinics to people on occasion being instantly healed of diseases, but I will add only one more:
On September 15, 1996, as I put a check in the morning offering for $110, God quickened me with what had happened to Isaac in Genesis 26:12. By faith—I had never been able to do this before, nor have I ever had the liberty to pray this way since—I prayed for a hundredfold blessing—we were really hurting financially at the time. I continued to press this home to my Father in prayer for weeks on end, and then, on November 16, 1996, out of the blue, I received 200 shares of Wachovia Bank stock from a relative on the East Coast. I got on the Internet and discovered that the stock had closed at $55.00 per share. Do the math: it comes out to the penny. Through God hearing our prayers, instead of living in a church owned parsonage, we now have a beautiful home of our own, on top of a hill overlooking a lake, and have been able to give away many thousands of dollars. All of this demonstrates that the God whom I do not fully understand is a God of mercy, kindness, love and grace.
** Romans 9:10-24:
And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 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. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 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 the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?