You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”
Paul anticipated the questions from the Judaizers, which is part of his debater’s technique. What one does is anticipate a reaction during a debate and in anticipation asks a question before the opposition does so. And then answers the question using one’s own logical reasoning and demonstrates the fallacy of even thinking such a thing. This is what Paul did in this passage.
The tremendous logic and ability of Paul’s presentation of the facts in the previous verses begs the question as to why anyone would say no to the things he was teaching. The answer is because each time doctrine is resisted scar tissue is built up and results in increasing the person’s arrogance. Arrogance equals “non-teachable.”
The anticipated question assumed that God did not know what He was doing and that, furthermore, God was unfair in what He was doing. Paul anticipated the antagonism of the racial Jew (being one himself and easily putting himself in their place) against the true spiritual heritage of Israel. The racial Jew emphasized physical birth and natural descent from Abraham, while the spiritual Jew emphasized the new birth and spiritual descent from Abraham. The self-righteousness and legalism of the Jews resulted in distortion of doctrine. This was tantamount to denial of their spiritual heritage.
God alone has the right to find fault with mankind and to punish with strict justice all three categories of sin. The reality of judgment always brings the reaction, “How can God be fair and do that or let that happen?” As soon as people are in a situation where they know they are being disciplined or being judged then the sin nature instinctively screams out “Unfair!”
The Judaizers apparently would think that since God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that it was impossible to resist the will of God. This showed that they did not understand how the free will of man and the sovereignty of God coexisted. Pharaoh hardened his own heart and since God kept him alive for a prolonged period of time (so he could harden it to the maximum), it was said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
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?”
No one has the right to say to God, “Why have you made me this way?” Mankind has his own free will and is a free agent to self-determine his own path in life. So, the answer to the rhetorical question is an obvious “no.” Mankind, under the influence of satanic thinking, is always trying to define God based on human thinking rather than accepting God in terms of divine revelation. Mankind is always trying to bend God to his own thinking and then saying, “This is God’s will.”
This quotation from Isaiah 29:16, which Isaiah applied to the nation, Paul applied to individual Jews. Paul, in context, is speaking to the condemned Jews who had rejected Christ as Savior and were “grasping at straws” in an attempt to justify their error. To blaspheme and malign the perfect wisdom and justice of God is the irrational act of a desperate person. Irrational because after having made hundreds of free will decisions, which culminated in judgment, God is blamed and maligned. Thus these Jews were attempting to shift the responsibility from their erroneous decisions and blaming it on the sovereignty of God. Paul used debater’s techniques to refute this blasphemy and to shift the responsibility right back to human free will where negative volition had manufactured its own hardness of heart.
Or does the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?
In the analogy, the potter is God and the clay is mankind. Mankind compared to God is totally, completely and utterly stupid. The rhetorical question expects a positive answer and focuses attention on the authority of God, the creator of mankind. Everyone has a soul with freedom for self-determination. The lump of clay in effect is the body containing free will.
We all have something in common: we all came from the same lump. We all have a lump called a body which is the home for the soul. A pot is a container, and it is used because it represents the body. The body contains the soul, and the soul determines whether you are a pot of honor or a pot of dishonor. From man’s self-determination comes honor or dishonor, not from God. God puts volition into each pot, and each pot determines from his own volition whether he is a pot of honor or a pot of dishonor.
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?
This verse was a reference back to previous verses regarding Pharaoh and his hardened heart. Pharaoh was being described as a vessel of dishonor , showing that God uses whatever or whoever necessary to demonstrate His wrath and power. Paul was concerned for Israel that instead of becoming the spiritual seed of Abraham through faith in Christ, they would reject Christ and be no better off than Gentiles like Ishmael, Esau and Pharaoh.
A vessel of dishonor is an unbeliever who has rejected Christ whether Jew or Gentile, and God had much patience in dealing with rejection especially by His chosen people. Unfortunately, they became a demonstration of His divine wrath and a revelation of His divine power instead of what God had intended for them. So, Jews who reject Christ are just exactly like unbelieving Gentiles in spite of the fact that they have such a great spiritual heritage. “All Israel is not Israel.”
And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.
Paul does not want contemporary history to follow the pattern of Ishmael, Esau and Pharaoh. He wanted the Jews to fulfil their spiritual heritage. Therefore, the conclusion was that God’s purpose: “that He might reveal the riches of His glory through vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for His glory” was not going to be fulfilled by unbelieving Jews. Instead, those who He had called in eternity past (all believers) from among the Jews and the Gentiles would be the ones through whom God would make known His glory.
Only vessels of mercy (Jewish and Gentile believers) have the potential for glory. The qualified believer is the one who takes in doctrine and uses it to fulfil his/her spiritual destiny. The riches of glory include the imputation of blessing in time to the righteousness of God. While God has provided many wonderful things for the believer as a vessel of mercy, the vessel of wrath (unbeliever) has created his own destructive destiny.
The contrast between destruction and glory summarizes again the burden which Paul had for the Jews. Instead of depending on Christ for salvation, his contemporary Jewish friends were dependent on keeping the Law and the fact that they were physically related to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore the Jew without Christ becomes a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction by his own negative volition.
There is no divine blessing, only cursing, for Jews who reject Christ as Savior. The unbelieving Jew, like Pharaoh, is a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction. God originated the Jewish race for His glory but most racial Jews missed the divine purpose through the rejection of Jehovah.
Vessels of mercy include both Jews and Gentiles who become believers through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The context deals with a principle. Only those Jews who believe in Christ will be the recipients of the promises of God for Israel. The promises apply only to the spiritual seed of Abraham, those who receive at salvation the imputed righteousness of God, as well as, eternal life.
In the Dispensation of Israel many Jews and many Gentiles executed salvation adjustment to the justice of God by believing in Christ. Along with the elect remnant of Israel, God’s purpose was to call out an elect body of Gentiles as people for His name.