Hath not the POTTER power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? Rom. 9:21
We are often told that we are like clay in a potter’s hand, as though we have no free will of our own but turn out exactly as the potter (God) wants us to turn out. IF that idea is true, then we can only blame GOD ALONE if we turn out as murderers and thieves. We would be poor victims in the hands of the evil potter since WE didn’t ask to become murderers and thieves, and we apparently have no say in the matter if the case is that the potter alone makes the decisions and also implements them. CLEARLY this is not the picture the Bible gives us, since all of us are expected to obey God’s commandments which are NOT too grievous for us to keep, and WE are responsible for each one of our transgressions. If God is the one who decides how we will turn out, why doesn’t he make us ALL vessels unto honor? What interest would he possibly have to purposely make some of us into bad vessels? Doesn’t God want us to be obedient and godly human beings? Of course he does. The vessels of mercy are “afore prepared“, and the vessels of wrath are “fitted/prepared” for destruction (two different Greek words), which means that the verse doesn’t tell us that God prepared beforehand to destroy a certain amount of people – unless of course they themselves sinned and caused their own demise. People who have chosen to be wicked are those who are fitted for destruction, and hell awaits them for their unfortunate choice to be wicked.
2 Tim. 2:21 tells us that MAN is expected to PURGE HIMSELF from the vessels of dishonor, and if he does he will be a vessel unto HONOR. Man is expected to recover himself out of the snare of the devil, and he can do this through obeying the instructions we can read about below:
2 Tim 2:20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore PURGES HIMSELF from these, he shall be a vessel unto HONOUR, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.22Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
So man is asked to 1) purge himself from the vessels of dishonour, 2) flee from youthful lusts, 3) follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, etc, 4) avoid foolish and unlearned questions, 5) instruct in meekness those who oppose themselves, 6) leading to that they will recover themselves out of the snare of the devil by doing so. Lots for us to DO.
Read also below in Jeremiah 18 that the vessel that the potter made of clay was MARRED in his hands. Is it likely that a potter wants the clay he is working with to be MARRED? Clearly not. A potter hopes the clay will cooperate and turn out as planned. If the clay doesn’t cooperate and refuses to turn out as hoped, then the only rightful place for the clay is on the scrap heap. All useless clay has fitted themselves for destruction, just like a murderer’s proper place is in jail (or in the electric chair). This however doesn’t mean we want clay to be useless or people to turn out as murderers. Read also the many IF:s involved in the text. God reacts depending on OUR actions:
1The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. 3Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. 4And the vessel that he made of clay WAS MARRED in the hand of the potter: so he made it again ANOTHER VESSEL, as seemed good to the potter to make it. 5Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 6O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. 7At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; 8IF that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I WILL REPENT of the evil that I thought to do unto them. 9And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; 10If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I WILL REPENT of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them. 11Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.12And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.
Below is more information about the clay and the potter, and we can read that men have “removed” their hearts from God. Bad choice on their part. They will have to take the consequences for their actions.
Is. 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: 14Therefore behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. 15Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? 16Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?
The rhetorical question asked of the prophet is not whether the clay can talk back to the potter, but whether it ought to talk back to him. Surely we must agree on that people HAVE spoken back to God numerous times in history? Both angels and men have even rebelled against God on several occasions, so we CAN indeed speak back against God. The point is that we shouldn’t and WE must then take the consequences for not conforming to God’s will. Romans 9 is about God’s right to bring about his plan of salvation in the way he wants, which means to open up also for gentiles to be saved, upon the condition of FAITH and not the ceremonial law. God therefore has his full right to reject those with no faith and/or bad fruit, and welcome those who have faith and show good fruit. That is his prerogative. We wouldn’t read words such as “endured with much longsuffering” in this text unless there is synergism involved.
Romans 9:20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?21Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?22What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,24Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?25As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
It doesn’t say in Rom. 9:22 that GOD is the one who “fitted” people for destruction. Some people are in fact heading for hell due to their destructive way of living, and they are then fitted (prepared) for destruction, and that’s their own doing. God hopes that they will repent for their sins and live, so he shows much long-suffering for such sinners, fitted for destruction, not wanting anyone to perish The verse should read: “What if God…who endured with much patience vessels of wrath which fitted themselves for destruction…
Ez. 18:31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
Ez.33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?