Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
The rightness of God’s choice
God's right to choose the objects of His mercy and His wrath (19-23)
Paul replies with a parable about the potter, borrowed from Jer. 18:1–6. God is the Potter, and the nations of the world (and their leaders) are the vessels. Some are vessels of wrath that God patiently endures until their time of destruction.
Ge 15:15 "Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 "But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."). Others are vessels of mercy that reveal His glory. Paul then quotes Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 to show that God promised to call a “people” from among the Gentiles, a people to be called “children of the living God.” This is the church (see 1 Peter 2:9–10). He also quotes Isa. 10:22–23, showing that a remnant of Jews would also be saved (see Isa. 1:9). In other words, God’s purpose in election makes it possible for both Jews and Gentiles to be saved by grace. Neither Jew nor Gentile could be saved any way other than by the grace of God.
19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"
Paul posed the question in this verse and then answered it in the verses that follow.
John 6:37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.
20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?"
In other words, it is blasphemous even to question, not to mention deny, God’s right to hold men accountable when they are captives of His sovereign will.
In the first place, it is presumptuous for human beings, the objects of divine judgment, to sit in judgment on their Judge. Judging is God's prerogative, not ours. Creatures have no right to complain about their Creator's behavior.
It is obvious from Paul’s wording that the ones who might be asking such questions would not be seeking God’s truth but rather self- justification. Attempting to excuse their own unbelief, sinfulness, ignorance, and spiritual rebellion, they would be apt to accuse God of injustice.
But because human understanding is so limited, even sincere questions about God’s sovereign election and predestination ultimately must go unanswered. As already noted, it is one of the many truths about God that we must accept by faith, simply because He has revealed it in His Word.
- Man and God. The first contrast is more apparent in the Greek text than in English, for the verse begins with the words “O man” and ends with the words “the God.” Yet it is apparent enough in English. You and I are mere men and women set over against the God who made not only us but all things. It is ludicrous for creatures as small, ignorant, impotent, and sinful as we are to question the propriety of God’s moral acts. We may not understand what God is doing in any particular case. In fact, most of the time we will not, because ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). We can ask God to explain what He is doing, if He will. But for us to suggest that he is wrong in what he does is patently absurd.
- What is formed and he who formed it. The contrast between man and God, the first, stresses the insignificance of one and the greatness of the other. This second contrast brings in another matter, namely, that we are mere creatures—God is the Creator—and therefore everything we are and have comes from him, including even our ability to ask such questions.
Robert Haldane is particularly wise in the way he deals with this matter. “Any wisdom the creature possesses must have been received from the Creator; and if the Creator has the power of forming rational beings, must he not himself be infinite in wisdom? And does it not insult the Creator to pretend to find imperfection in his proceedings? … The reason and discernment between right and wrong which he [man] possesses is the gift of God; it must, then, be the greatest abuse of these faculties to employ them to question the conduct of him who gave them.”
Once again, we must stress that “Paul does not here speak of the right of God over his creatures as creatures, but as sinful creatures, as he himself clearly intimates in the next verses.”
Men are not lost because they are hardened; they are hardened because they are lost; they are lost because they are sinners.
21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
Who are we to argue with God? This is a logical argument. God is the Potter and we are the clay. God is wiser than we are and we are foolish to question His will or to resist it. (The reference here is to Isa. 45:9.) To be sure, the clay has no life and is passive in the potter’s hand. We have feelings, intellect, and willpower, and we can resist Him if we choose. (See Jer. 18 where this thought is developed.)
But it is God who determines whether a man will be a Moses or a Pharaoh. Neither Moses, nor Pharaoh, nor anyone else, could choose his parents, his genetic structure, or his time and place of birth. We have to believe that these matters are in the hands of God.
However, this does not excuse us from responsibility. Pharaoh had great opportunities to learn about the true God and trust Him, and yet he chose to rebel. Paul did not develop this aspect of truth because his theme was divine sovereignty, not human responsibility. The one does not deny the other, even though our finite minds may not fully grasp them both.
The illustration in this verse clarifies the inappropriateness of this critical attitude. Clearly Israel is in view as the vessel in the illustration (cf. Isa. 29:16; Jer. 18:6). Israel had no right to criticize God for shaping her for a particular purpose of His own choosing. Really, Israel had nothing to complain about since God had formed her for an honorable use. Obviously, the same is true of individuals.
The Reason for God’s choice
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
God has every right to act gloriously in such judgment, but He has, by His mercy, endured with much patience a world of sinners. He has endured their unbelief, rejection, hatred, blasphemy, and iniquity, while patiently allowing time for repentance (cf. Ps 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
Ex 34:6-7; Nu 14:18; De 5:10; Ne 9:17; Ps 86:15; Jer 32:18; 2 Pet. 3:9).
Ezekiel 18:1-6 deal with the nation Israel as do all the other passages related to this verse
Isa 29:16 Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, "He did not make me"? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"?
Isa 45:9 "Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?
Isa 64:8 But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand. 9 Do not be furious, O LORD, Nor remember iniquity forever; Indeed, please look-we all are Your people!
Eze 18:23 "Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?
People prepare themselves for destruction by pursuing sin (ch. 1; cf. Matt. 7:13; 1 Thess. 2:15-16; 2 Thess. 2:3;
Php 3:18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame--who set their mind on earthly things.).
Passive verb in 22 and active in verse 23 which means God does the action on salvation but not the lostness in verse 22
Paul had in mind those in Israel who had opposed the gospel in his day. God was patient and merciful with them (cf. 2:3-4; Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 2 Pet. 3:9).
God has His purposes (vv. 22–24). We must never think that God enjoyed watching a tyrant like Pharaoh. He endured it. God said to Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people … and have heard their cry … for I know their sorrows” (Ex. 3:7).
The fact that God was long-suffering indicates that He gave Pharaoh opportunities to be saved. The word “fitted” in Romans 9:22 does not suggest that God made Pharaoh a “vessel of wrath.” So, it should read: “fitted himself for destruction.” God prepares men for glory (Rom. 9:23), but sinners prepare themselves for judgment. In Moses and Israel God revealed the riches of His mercy; in Pharaoh and Egypt He revealed His power and wrath. Since neither deserved any mercy, God cannot be charged with injustice.
Ultimately, of course, God’s purpose was to form His church from both Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 9:24). Believers today are, by God’s grace, “vessels of mercy” which He is preparing for glory, a truth that reminds us of Romans 8:29–30.
The Results from God’s Sovereign choice
23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
Ex 14:31 Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses.
Those who believe the gospel are those in whom God will display the riches of His glory, not His wrath.
These vessels include both Jews and Gentiles (cf. 1:16; 2:10-11; 3:22).
God allowed sin to enter the world not only to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known but also to demonstrate the riches of His glory by bestowing His grace upon vessels of mercy (cf. Eph 2:6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,).
These are people, which He prepared beforehand for glory. In this instance, the Greek verb rendered prepared is in the active voice, and the subject doing the action is specifically God (He). The great work God did in saving us puts His glory on display before all angels and all men (cf. Rev. 5:9–14).
Believers are saved without any merit or work of their own, in order that God may have a means of displaying His glory, which is seen in the grace, the mercy, the compassion, and the forgiveness that He alone grants to those who come to Christ.
Men fit themselves for hell; but it is God that fits men for heaven."
2 Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
- Do we have a right to question God’s ways?
- Habakkuk is the doubting Thomas of the OT and asks God so many questions
- Is the question sincere or insincere? Insincere questions are sin
- Is man truly free if God still sovereign?
- What is the process whereby someone develops a hard heart?
- Sin is the reason we harden our hearts
Rule and reign of Christ in 1Th 2:10-12 God sends a deluding influence