The Potter and the Clay: Romans 9:19-21
“19) You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20) On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21) Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? Romans 9:19-21
In verse 19, Paul raises an objection that is not uncommon among the critics of the doctrines of Divine Sovereignty and Election today? Let me try to paraphrase the question as it applies to Pharaoh in the preceding verses; “If God hardened Pharaohs heart, how could He hold Pharaoh accountable for his actions?” If Pharaoh could not resist Gods will, how can God assign fault to Pharaoh?” That is a profound line of reasoning. I have gone down that pathway of thinking many times.
Unfortunately, Paul does not answer his own rhetorical question. Instead he raises the stakes and asks another question; “Who is man to answer back to God and put Him on trial?” God does not need to explain Himself to His creation. (Verse 20)
Simply put, many things in life are the way they are because God made them that way. I don’t know why mammals cannot breath under water or why fish cannot fly? I just accept the fact that the Creator made things that way. Paul infers that being “Creator” has certain privileges that go with the job!
Then in verse 21 Paul uses the illustration of the potter and clay to drive this point home. He asks; “Does the vessel made have the right to question the potter who made it?”The understandable response of the potter to the vessel is: “You are the way you are… because I made you that way!” Being the potter has certain privileges that go with the job!
But in verse 21, Paul infers another issue. The potter frequently makes vessels for honorable use and for dishonorable use from the same lump of clay. Why is that? Answer: Because both are needed!
The actual contrast inferred between the two vessels in the text is even more profound. It could translate; “fine dishes for serving meals to special guests and potty pots to carry human waste to the latrine.” Which is more important? Well, that depends on how desperate you are to find a restroom! Both are needed and both have roles to fill.
So why did God create both Moses and Pharaoh? You could say they both came from the same lump of clay, or at least grew up in the same palace together. Answer: “Because the Divine Potter decided to do it that way!” Some theological and philosophical questions do not have good answers. They are shrouded with mystery within the sovereign will of the Creator. Remember, there are certain privileges that go with that job!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global