You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”
First, Paul says that we must be careful not to stand in the place of Pharaoh and judge God, because that is, in essence, to declare ourselves god. Such folly is akin to a potter making various things out of one lump of clay, and the finished products complaining that they do not like what they have been made to accomplish. Paul is saying that, rather than complaining that God is unjust for not saving everyone, we should rejoice that God is gracious and merciful in saving anyone. If you are a Christian, when you see unrepentant, lost sinners destined for hell, you should pursue them with the gospel and thank God that He changed your heart, because apart from His saving you, your condition would be equally pathetic. Furthermore, God could grab you, He can certainly grab them and so there is hope for anyone so long as they are alive.
As an aside, there is a debate among Bible teachers over whether this metaphor of potter and clay refers to individuals or to nations. The Old Testament uses the analogy in more than one place to refer to both individuals and nations so either interpretation is defensible. (Isa. 29:16; 45:9-11; Jer. 18:1-6)
Second, Paul quotes Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 to show that God, who is rich in mercy, used election to save some Gentiles who were not pursuing God in any way; apart from God’s predestination and pursuit they were without any hope. In this we see the love and mercy of God greatly displayed to ill-deserving sinners.
Third, Paul quotes Isaiah 10:22–23 to show that God had always promised only some of the Jews would be saved. Therefore, God had not failed by saving only some Jewish people; rather, his Word was perfectly implemented in history.
Fourth, Paul closes by quoting Isaiah 1:9 to show that, without God’s mercy and election, no one would be saved from His wrath. Practically, this means that everyone is a sinner who deserves wrath and hell, and anyone who is saved has received an ill-deserved gift from a loving God who is rich in mercy. Paul concludes his answer to this question by saying exactly that, illustrating the beauty of God’s grace to pursue some people who have not pursued Him when He has no obligation to do so, and they would often rather that He simply left them alone to do as they please.
Before we study the love of God in predestining us, it is important for you to consider the condition of your own heart. Is your heart, or any part of it, hard toward God? How can you invite the Holy Spirit to soften your heart? Lastly, since God can change hearts, who can you be praying for as their heart right now is not for God?
This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s Romans 8-9 commentary Duck Duck Doom. You can get a free e-book copy on our store here.
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