Having defended God’s justice, Paul next defends God’s sovereign will. Verse 19:
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
How can God find fault when he hardens whomever he wills? Who can resist? Is it not unfair to Pharaoh to be held accountable for his evil actions since he was used by God, and even brought glory to God?
Paul answers this complaint with a question, hearkening back to God’s answer to Job. Verse 20: “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” Kent Hughes elaborates:
Tiny man – whose life is just a breath, whose history proves over and over that despite all his learning and technological triumphs he repeatedly makes colossal errors and falls into unspeakable barbarisms – this puny man stands before the God who knows the end from the beginning, who has never learned anything because he knows everything, who is the perfection of wisdom and love – and talks back to him. How absurd!
In questioning God’s actions, attitude is what really matters. It is perfectly okay to ponder over God’s works and actions when you are looking to know him better and to better understand salvation. In pondering God’s election and asking questions of it, or whatever mystery the Scriptures hold, when done in humble perplexity before God (in a loving quest to know Him as He is), you question with the right attitude. However, questioning God in a quarrelsome, accusing way, manifesting a spirit of rebellion against Him, is a refusal to let God be God—a reprehensible attitude.
Paul shuts such a person’s mouth posthaste, by putting her in her place. He does this by the illustration of the potter. Taking imagery from Jer. 18 and Isa. 45, Paul writes in vv. 20-21,
20b Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 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?
Can you imagine Sam Williams sitting down at his potter’s wheel, dropping a hunk of clay on it, wetting it, spinning it, crafting exactly what he wants from it, and then his creation (be it a vase or a bowl, or what have you) starts talking to him questioning his judgment? “Why have you made me like this?”
Sometimes, the adult just has to tell the child. “It’s because I say so.”
Look, the thing is, God is the Creator. He is sovereign. We are his creatures. We have all sinned against him. We all deserve judgment. The clay of mankind is sinful and dishonorable. The issue is not the reason why some are made for “dishonorable use.” The real question is, “Why are some selected for honorable use?” The answer lies in God’s sovereign will. He saves who he wants to save because those are the people he wants to save. That’s really all we need to know.
Our duty before God in this? He says, “Trust me.” And, he tells us that his will to choose us lies in his love. Eph. 1:4-6:
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.
My friends, embrace God’s love. Trust in him. Trust in him to be faithful to his promises to save those who believe in him. Call upon him as Lord, and follow Jesus. God is faithful, as we saw last week in Rom. 9:6-13.
God is merciful. Trust in his mercy. Trust in Christ Jesus to have taken your sins upon himself, suffering God’s wrath on your behalf, crucified on that cross. His death was according to God’s justice. He died so you might receive God’s mercy. As Abraham rhetorically asked, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25).
God is sovereign. Trust in God’s sovereignty. Rest in God’s sovereignty. Take comfort in the fact that he is utterly in charge, has the power to enforce his will, and, according to his perfect will, never, ever, makes a mistake. Not a single soul will be lost to him that he has chosen. If you are a disciple of Christ, trusting in Jesus, that means you. Because God is sovereign, we must rest in Him.
When you think about it, double-predestination, God’s sovereign choice in election and reprobation, is absolutely terrifying. It is understandable that people shy away from such things. Yet, as the Scriptures say, “The fear of the Lord is beginning of wisdom.”