Isaiah 42:8 tells us that God will share His inherent divine glory with no creature, and we have seen that His refusal to share His glory is particularly evident in His work of salvation. The context of Isaiah 42:8 makes that clear, for verses 1–7 speak of God’s work of redemption, His freeing of captives and giving sight to the spiritually blind. God alone will receive the glory in our salvation, for salvation is a manifestation of His glory. His omnipotence, His mercy, His love, and His holiness are in a sense all summed up in His glory, and all of these attributes are on display in His work of salvation.
Today’s passage helps us understand this point more deeply. In presenting the doctrine of divine predestination, Paul explains that God redeems some sinners and hardens others in order to put on full display “the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy” (Rom. 9:22–23). Our Lord’s chief end is to reveal and magnify His own glory, and God’s glory is seen in both His mercy and His justice. First, with respect to the elect, God shows His glory through His mercy. By saving us from sin and death, our Creator reveals Himself as our Savior, and He is glorified for His saving work. And because we are redeemed solely on account of His kindness and not for anything in us, the credit and glory for salvation goes only to Him, not to us. His power, His mercy—these and other divine attributes are shown to us when He saves us.
But Romans 9:22–24 also demonstrates that God’s patience with the reprobate, those whom He has not chosen for salvation, also shows us the riches of the divine glory. How is this possible? In the first instance, God’s treatment of the “vessels of wrath” shows us divine glory because this treatment manifests His justice. The elect will see the Lord justly condemn the impenitent, and so they will more clearly see His attributes of justice and righteousness, thereby receiving a fuller revelation of His character and thus His glory.
Second, the contrast between the Lord’s dealing with the elect and His dealing with the reprobate shows the riches of divine glory by giving a fuller picture of divine mercy. When we understand that we deserve salvation no more than the reprobate do, we will be in awe that God has redeemed us. John Calvin comments, “The greatness of divine mercy towards the elect is hereby more clearly made known; for how do they differ from [the reprobate] except that they are delivered by the Lord from the same gulf of destruction? And this by no merit of their own, but through his gratuitous kindness.”