“Nay 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? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:20–21, KJV 1900)
I have always been intrigued by those who made clay vessels. They would put a raw lump of clay on a potter’s wheel and then with their hands and some water, shape the clay into a vessel. Some are masterful at this, making the most beautiful pots. The closest I ever came was to make an ashtray that looked, well, like an ashtray. The point is that the potter who uses this process is the sole executor of the finished product. Paul continues with the topic of God’s sovereignty using the metaphor of a potter.
In the previous verses, Paul indicated that God “has mercy on whoever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” (Romans 9:18, ESV) Reading this, people often ask questions. If this is the case, why does God still hold man accountable? How can this be? I know of people who even go on to say that this is wrong. To this, Paul writes, who are you to contradict God? (v19) Exactly! Who are we to contradict the will of God? He alone is sovereign. If we reply against God, we are replying against the word clearly presented in the Scripture. Conversely, if we reply against the clear teaching of Scripture, we reply against God.
We must learn the lesson of the potter. The clay never tells the potter, why did you make me this kind of pot. It is the potter who makes this determination. Some pots are made for noble purposes, to hold precious treasure and others to hold refuse. The potter may make some to hold the most fragrant perfume, or precious gold, while making others to hold garbage. The determination is at the sole discretion of the potter, not the vessel.
Scripture tells us that we who believe are jars of clay, crafted to hold all the precious treasure of the faith. (2 Cor 4:7) We are vessels for honorable use. Conversely, there are others for dishonorable use (v21). We must remember that God is the Master Potter and He has sole determination as to how He will mold us.