V1919You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”. Do you know what so often hinders us? Our human logic, our natural and darkened mind! We reason within ourselves saying, ‘Out of all human beings, God has elected a certain number to bless them. All others won’t be blessed, so therefore they have been appointed by God to be lost. Who could resist His will? Isn’t everything fixed at our birth? Can anyone change this in any way?’
This kind of reasoning shows we are judging God. But the first thing we must keep in mind is that God is sovereign in all He does. He determines everything without having to answer to man. God judges and condemns man, not the other way around. The competence to judge is with God alone.
V20-2120On 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?21Or 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?. Paul wants to bring home to us the idea that God has the power to do all things without anyone having a right to say anything about it. God possesses absolute power and the absolute right to execute His will. What right do we have to call God to account by asking why He made us this way and not different? God’s sovereignty is compared with a potter’s sovereignty. A potter clearly has the power to make either an ugly vessel or a beautiful one out of the same lump of clay. Once more God’s sovereignty is stressed here, which doesn’t mean God acted in a similar way.
V22-2322What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?23And [He did so] to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,. The way God acts is demonstrated by Paul in the following verses. To understand this, you must compare verse 2222What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? and verse 2323And [He did so] to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,. You see two kinds of vessels here, vessels of wrath (verse 2222What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?) and vessels of mercy (verse 2323And [He did so] to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,). Notice the way these vessels are spoken of.
Of the vessels of wrath the following is said:
1. God wanted to show His wrath and to make His power known;
2. He has endured them with much longsuffering;
3. They were prepared for destruction.
The greatest difficulty is given by the last point. Who prepared these vessels for destruction? Did God do that? If you say this, you declare God to be a maker of evil as if He really urges man to do deeds that will bring destruction upon himself. But it is God’s longsuffering we are reading about here. What sense would it make to speak about God’s longsuffering if He was preparing these vessels for destruction? 2 Peter 3 tells us it is because of God’s longsuffering that the judgment hasn’t yet come (2Pet 3:99The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.).
No, these vessels prepare themselves for destruction. You understand that “vessels” refer to people (see e.g. Acts 9:1515But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;). As you have seen in verse 1717For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”, Pharaoh is an example of such a vessel preparing himself for destruction.
Then of the vessels of mercy, the following is said:
1. God wanted to make known the riches of His glory on them and
2. God had prepared them beforehand for glory.
Here the big difference between the vessels of wrath and mercy becomes clear. God, not the vessels themselves, has prepared them for glory. And God has done this beforehand. He has not made it dependent on their behavior in this life.
So in these two vessels the following is presented – on the one hand man’s responsibility and on the other hand the counsels, the plans and the intentions of God.
You will find these two truths throughout the Bible. We as human beings are not able to connect them. Only God can do that. They have been compared to two rails of a railroad track that always run parallel. If you look far away, it seems as if the two meet. In a similar way, the lines of man’s responsibility and God’s counsels run parallel through the Bible.
At the cross, you see the two lines meet, as it were. In Acts 2 you can read about this (Acts 2:22-2322“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—23this [Man], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put [Him] to death.). It says the Lord Jesus was:
1. given up by the counsel and foreknowledge of God (God wanted it to be that way) and
2. crucified and slain by the Jews, by the hands of lawless men (that is what man did, for which he is responsible).
Apart from God, who can connect these two sides of the cross?
Don’t try to comprehend the incomprehensible. This comprehension hasn’t been given to us human beings. Thank Him that you can see both sides of the truth. It is important for you to gain insight into your responsibilities as a creature in regard to God. In your practical life you will take this into account, and the new insights into His counsels and plans will not fail to have their effects in your life. In this way, your life will be a very rich life. The things God asks from you may be difficult, but if you see what His plans and intentions are, it will motivate you to honor Him in your life.
Now read Romans 9:19-23 again.
Reflection: Think of God’s greatness.