This chapter covers Romans 9:18-21, the similitude of the Potter which is used by some to bolster predestination.
- Romans 9:18-21 KJV Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy,
and whom he will he hardeneth. 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth
he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 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?
In this passage, the potter is a similitude comparing God as the creator of man to the potter as the creator of his vessels. As the potter can choose to make one vessel honorable and another dishonorable so God can create a man thus. The question is does this likeness teach that salvation is predestinated?
The similitude of the potter is first used in the Old Testament, so we must look at it in its original context and entirety in order to properly decipher God’s use of it and its biblical meaning.
- Jeremiah 18:1-10 The 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.
In the similitude of a potter presented in the above passage, it can be easily seen that it is not an attempt to teach predestination in any form, but rather just the opposite. God’s decisions are based on the choices made by man, whether to seek and obey God or to do evil. Paul did not, and neither can we, take a passage of Scripture out of its context, but must rightly divide the word of truth. The context, in Jeremiah as in Romans, is the sovereignty of God over his creation, to judge and deal with it according to his will. If we take the passage in Romans and keep it within its proper context we see that the similitude is given in answer to three particular questions.
- Is there unrighteousness with God?
- Why does he yet find fault?
- Who can resist his will?
If we will look closely we find that three questions are being asked by those who are complaining about God not accepting their self-righteousness, that is in keeping the law they have not obtained or earned the grace of God and the assurance of salvation. By their way of thinking, if salvation is solely based on the predetermination and/or caprice of God and not on a person’s works, how can he find fault? For who can resist his will? How is he just in this? Paul’s answer is simply to point out that God is our creator and he could just as easily have created us for damnation as not, therefore, there is no unrighteousness in God’s judgments, which is the question in verse 14 of Romans 9.
- Romans 9:14 KJV What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with
God? God forbid.
If we refuse to accept his salvation it is the same to God as if he had created us unto damnation; your predestinated end in such a case is the same, eternal wrath. The similitude is not a description of God’s plan of salvation, but rather an example of our relationship to him and his sovereignty. He made us and he can do as he pleases with us; there is no unrighteousness in whatever he does. It is for us to fear him and seek that which is pleasing unto him. It is not a picture of God’s plan, but of his prerogative as the creator to choose his own plan of salvation, one that pleases him and our duty to conform. The actual plan God has elected to institute is not mentioned until the last verse of the chapter, “whosoever believeth.”
- Romans 9:33 KJV As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone
and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be
This also answers the proverbial question that lost sinners ask in their attempt to make themselves more just than God; you mean that God would condemn a heathen in the jungle who has never heard of Jesus Christ? The answer is if God chooses to do so there is no unrighteousness with God, it is his prerogative, he made us, he can do whatever he wants to with us. What we, as those who have trusted in God’s word, have to worry about is the other side of the coin; God is going to hold us responsible for that heathen not hearing about Jesus Christ, whether he lives in a jungle or is our neighbor. We ought to be thankful that he is “not willing that any should perish,” but always remember God is our maker and as such is to be feared.
2 Peter 3:9 KJV The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men
count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that
any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
Hebrews 11:5 KJV By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see
death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before
his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Faith in God is the prerequisite for salvation, “he that cometh to God must believe that he is,” but saved or lost God judges our works in this life. He is our creator, and as such can do what he wants with anyone of us. He used Sodom as an example to us without giving them a chance to repent he condemned the whole city.
- Matthew 11:23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven,
shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have
been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained
until this day.
God is under no obligation to save anyone even though Christ died for the sins of the whole world. Until a point is reached where God decides to institute a final condemnation on an individual or until the final judgment, salvation is open to all men, to “whosoever believeth.”