Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”
Why This Chapter Needs De-Calvinizing
I wanted to touch on this passage of Scripture which is often quoted by those who hold to the doctrines of Calvinism. They love to quote Romans 9:19-20, “Who has resisted His will?” and, “Who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to Him who formed it ‘Why have you made me like this?’”
Before I get into that I want to point out a few things. First, Calvinism is not a doctrine built upon and derived from Scripture, it is a gnostic doctrine built upon pagan philosophy that attempts to USE Scripture to validate it. However, whenever a Calvinist uses a proof text it is always disconnected from its context. Context and Calvinism are not friends. See, they can talk a good game about hermeneutics but they fail to actually apply any good hermeneutics. Instead, you will find verses out of context, and a redefining of terms. Calvinism defines biblical terms outside of and apart from Scripture, then impose those extra-biblical definitions into the text. They rely upon their own presuppositions to defend their error.
The reason I am not an Arminian is because while Arminius disagreed with Calvinism (and rightly so) he was first influenced by the false doctrines of Calvin. So, he rejected the doctrines but he held onto many of the flawed presuppositions which are not biblical. When you understand that not only is Calvinism heresy, but the presuppositions that their heresy is built upon are also error, you will soon discover that the answers to questions concerning biblical terms such as election, predestination, adoption, sovereignty, etc. are all MUCH more simple than the convoluted philosophies of man would have you believe! The Bible ACTUALLY says what it means and means what it says! ::::Gasp:::: Imagine that!
So, what is Romans 9 actually talking about? Should we just dive into to their proof texts or shall we take a minute to understand what we are looking at in context? First, we understand that Paul’s purpose in writing to those in Rome was to preach the gospel. He was outlining his gospel in the most clear and concise way!
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
To Everyone Who Believes - Jew & Greek
This Gospel, Paul declares, is the power of God to salvation for EVERYONE who believes, the Jew first (which we will be discussing in Chapter 9) and also for the Greek!
We are not going to overview the whole book of Romans but this gospel outline clearly begins in the first chapter with the problem of sin. He continues in chapters 2-3 to elaborate on the universal rebellion of all men, both the Jew and the Gentile, all without excuse, therefore, the righteous wrath of God was against them. Since, they all, both Jew and Gentile, were sinners both with and without the Law, Paul begins to lay out the truth of salvation by FAITH, and not by works (speaking of works of the Mosaic Law)! You should note that it is the works of the Law and faith that Paul continually contrasts. Calvinist would have you believe that faith is a work, and they accuse of you trying to have a part in your own salvation if you believe the Scriptures that clearly declare faith to be a prerequisite of salvation. We don’t have time to cover all that in one note, but it is clear that faith (which is in fact always demonstrated by acts of obedience – which the bible calls the works of faith) is in contrast to the works of the law, as Paul and the rest of the Scriptures teach!
So, then Paul goes on to talk about justification by faith and the life of faith in Chapters 4-6, the inability of the law to save and bondage to sin under the law in Chapter 7, and the life of the Spirit as one who has been filled with the Spirit in Chapter 8. As he closes off his thoughts about the glory that is to come for those of us who believe in Chapter 8, he then shifts for a minute and goes from speaking of the salvation through the gospel to the condition of Israel, his kinsmen, and how their rejection of the gospel burdened him! Now mind you, he is not addressing individual salvation here but the purpose of God in the NATION of Israel. Why? Because up until this point in history, the Jews believed salvation was for them alone! They misunderstood the purpose of their election, it is this purpose and God’s sovereign dealing with them as a nation that Paul is dealing with here. Paul’s desire and intention is that he “may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.”
Romans 11:13-15 13
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
This is Paul’s purpose in these three chapters 9-11. To discuss God’s purpose for their election as a Nation, and the means for their individual salvation which is by faith (just as it is for the Gentile).
So, What Does Romans 9 Say?
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 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, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
Spiritual Elitism of the Jews .... and Calvinist
Calvinist would have you believe that this is all speaking of God choosing to have mercy on some (the elect – according to their definition) and choosing not to have mercy on others (the non-elect – again, according to them). However, the only reason one would think any such thing is if they bring that preconceived extra-biblical doctrine TO the text, they certainly can’t derive it from the text with any sound hermeneutics! Paul is saying in verse 15 (quoting the OT) that God has always had mercy on whomever HE WANTS! Calvinist would have you believe that this means God wills to have mercy on the elect but wills not to have mercy on the non-elect! Their limited view of God’s grace is just as pompous, elitist, and WRONG as that of the Jews who thought salvation was for them exclusively! Paul, is setting up the exact opposite argument here! This will become clear if you are willing to do what Calvinist never do, which is KEEP READING AND VIEW THE ENTIRE POINT BEING MADE IN CONTEXT!
Paul is not saying God will have mercy on the elect and not have mercy on the non-elect at all, but speaking of God’s purpose for the election (which does not mean what Calvinist say it does- so don’t bring their extra-biblical definitions to the text!) of the Nation of Israel, Paul is saying that God will have mercy on whomever He will have mercy… and in context that means that it is on the Gentile and NOT THE JEW ALONE!
On Whom Does He Will to Have Mercy?
“I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”
32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
IF you continued to read Paul’s conclusion on the matter is clear here in Romans 11:32! So, when the Calvinist says God only desires to have mercy on the elect and not on ALL (everyone) Paul would say “who are you to reply against God?”
God said that His purpose in temporarily hardening of Israel was so that the gospel and salvation could be made available to all! Even this did not mean that Israel could not be saved. If you read on you will see that is Paul’s point, that their rejection was not total. That is Paul’s purpose in writing these chapters! He is saying they rejected the Messiah, and God allowed that for His purpose of making salvation available to all! Including but not limited to those Jews who believed.
So, could the Jews claim innocence in their rejection of their Messiah? Of course not. They also did not have to continue to reject Him! Paul then gives them some Old Testament examples of how God choses who to harden and who to give mercy to.
The Hardened Heart and Pharaoh
For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.
Could Pharaoh accuse God for hardening His heart? Calvinist point to this verse and God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart as if it somehow proves their idea of sovereignty and unconditional election. However, a verse that is quoted in the New Testament should first be understood for what that text taught in the Old Testament. What was the deal and the story of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart? If you read the actual account in Exodus that Paul is referencing you will see that Pharaoh defied God and hardened his own heart multiple times before God hardened it further, for God’s purpose. Was God choosing to make Pharaoh a vessel of dishonor against Pharaoh’s will? No. It was Pharaoh’s own desire to be rebellious and after choosing to disobey and rebel God then in His sovereignty said, if Pharaoh wont obey He will use that for His own glory to show His power. You see, God in His sovereignty gave us free will, and in His sovereignty, He can choose to receive glory in us as either vessels of honor or as vessels of dishonor. Yet, it is clearly laid out in the word of God, that we have a part to play in what God choses in His Sovereignty to do with us! So, we don’t get to blame God! Pharaoh couldn’t, the Jew’s couldn’t and YOU can’t!
But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the Lord had said.
But Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go
But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.
And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants.
Even after God hardened Pharaoh’s heart we see that Pharaoh still continued to sin and chose to hard his heart even further!
1 Samuel 6:6
Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He did mighty things among them, did they not let the people go, that they might depart?
We are not to harden our own hearts as the Pharaoh or the Egyptians did! If we do then we cannot complain that God makes us a vessel of dishonor! The hardening of our hearts is our own doing! God may at some point come along, for His own purpose and harden us further, but it is only because we did not will to yield to Him in the first place. When the scripture clearly tells us that we can and should!
Romans 2:5 5
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Here again, we see God sending a strong delusion! He doesn’t arbitrarily do so! It is those who love not the truth that will believe the lie and be condemned, who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness! So, they are not victims of some arbitrary secret will of God to not save them!
Romans 1:26-32 26
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
1 Timothy 4:1-3
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.
A seared conscience as we have seen in these biblical examples above, takes WORK! It is the result of a continual rejection of God and truth, and a willful decision to harden your heart against God.
Paul is clear in Romans 11:32 (his conclusion of the matter) that God willed to show mercy to ALL!
He is also clear, as is the rest of Scripture, that God has in accordance with HIS OWN SOVEREIGN WILL AND PURPOSE gave conditions for His grace and mercy! What are those conditions? And why does He even give such conditions if the election is unconditional? The entire system of Calvinism is trash.
God’s Conditions for Grace and Mercy
you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.
So, God gives mercy to all, and that is conditioned upon their loving Him, keeping His commandments, and humbling themselves. This is what God says not me! This is the plain and straightforward truth of Scripture. The problem is the Calvinist hate the word of God and go through all kinds of twisting and turning to make the Scripture say what they believe rather than simply believing what the Scriptures say!
For who has resisted His will?
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, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
So, now we get to verses 19-24
Does God just arbitrarily choose to make some a vessel of honor and others a vessel of dishonor? Is Paul really saying that is what God does and is His response to those who question that “who are you to complain?” Really? Or is Paul speaking to the Jews and of the Jews, using BIBLICAL analogies that the hearer understood and recognized to be from Jeremiah 18?
The Potter and the Clay
The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: 2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! 7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.
This is what Paul was referencing. So, what does this teach?
God is clearly saying that the Potter can be in the process of making the clay into one type of vessel and CHANGE HIS MIND, MAR THE CLAY, AND MAKE IT AGAIN INTO ANOTHER VESSEL!
What conditions does GOD give for whether or not He will relent from the disaster He thought to bring upon them? He clearly gives conditions! What? You mean the kind of vessel God choses to make us into is conditional upon something we do? YUP! Again, I am not making this stuff up! It is clear and plain Scripture. God said “if” they turned from their evil (i.e. repent) He would relent (change His mind) about the disaster He would bring. Likewise, “if” they did evil and not obey Him, He would then relent concerning the good He would have done.
What does all this have to do with Romans 9-11? Paul is saying Israel rebelled and did not obey so God cut off those natural branches, but if they would repent they would be saved. Their rejection of the Messiah was for the benefit of the Gentile world, but it was not something did apart from their own stubborn rebellion! God simply used their rebellion and rejection for His purpose as He used Pharaoh’s disobedience for His purpose. Does this mean God predestined Pharaoh to hell and that is why He hardened him? Not at all. The truth is simple when you are willing to submit to the word of God and allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Paul makes this same point in 2 Timothy.
2 Timothy 2:11-26
11 “Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.”’” 14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
There are vessels of honor and dishonor, verse 21 says if ANYONE CLEANSES HIMSELF (from the sins listed) he will be a vessel for honor. How? Because God will relent and mar the vessel of dishonor and remake them into a vessel of honor! THIS is how the Master Potter works! We know this because HE told us so!
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
My question here is why is God longsuffering? Why would He need to endure with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath, if it is He who sovereignly, at whatever time He determines, saves the vessels of mercy? The Scripture tells us He is longsuffering because He is not willing that any should perish but that ALL should come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
So, can we charge God when He makes one a vessel of honor and another a vessel of dishonor? No. It is His will to have mercy on all and it is His will to set for HIS conditions for receiving that mercy and grace. Now the Calvinist would say, if He has mercy or grace on all then all would be saved. Well, that line of thinking is only true IF you agree with the Calvinist that grace is irresistible. Since, we know the bible does not teach that grace is irresistible, we do not have to deny the truth of the Scripture that clearly teach grace has been made available to all who meet God’s conditions to receive it.
If you disagree I would like for you to show me in Scripture why these cross references I gave should be ignored! You show me, not some random out of context verse, but another place in the Word of God that speaks of God, the Potter, making a vessel of dishonor, that does not also include God’s call to repent and be made new! Unless you can show me THAT you have nothing!
Thank you for reading! I pray you found this helpful!
Loads of love and grace to you,
Excellent post! I couldn’t disagree with anything you wrote. My late father, Harry Conn, who taught these same truths to me since I was a young girl, would be thrilled that this message is continuing to be spread!
I appreciate your comment and encouragement! What a beautiful legacy your father has left behind. I had not heard of your father or men like Gordon Olson until recent years! I was thrilled to watch videos of these men preach the things I had heard God teach me! It’s been so refreshing and such a joy and treasure to watch some of your fathers videos! Just today my friend John Moore shared one of your fathers videos on Facebook about providential government. I watched it this evening! What a blessing!