Section 2: People DO resist the will of God. It is our job to be under God, who is Creator, not judging and questioning what He chooses to do with us. As Creator, God's choosing of what to do with us extends even from before time began.
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?
The last verses spoke of Pharaoh, and God's hardening Pharaoh's heart and punishing him, and now Paul answers an hypothetical question about that. The question is first of all "Why does God blame Pharaoh for disobeying, since He was the one to harden Pharaoh's heart?!?" and secondly "For who has ever resisted the will of God??" In response, Paul does not answer the first question directly, but answers the attitude of judgment and questioning that the question contains. At the same time, he seems to use that example to answer the second question when he says "who are you to reply against God?"
This puts forward first the idea that they are replying against God, with pride and not humility, and secondly that is it wrong: it is not what God wants them to do. In other words, the way I read it, it's rather witty. The question is "who has ever resisted God's will?" and the answer is "You do. You are. Right this second, while you are acting as a judge over God Himself, which is not what God commands you to do."
Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
Once again, man does not have the authority to sit over God and judge His actions. Paul emphasizes this idea by pointing out the obvious: God made us. He uses the physical analogy of a potter and clay to show that our correct place is in humility under God, who has ownership and creator rights over us. Building on that analogy, Paul goes on to put forward the idea that God is free to use one person for one thing, and another person (vessel) for another. God is free even to destine a person for dishonor, and destine another person to honor.
This builds on the earlier idea that God has mercy on whom He has mercy, and hardens whom He will hardens. That all seems to happen in "real time," but the idea of making a vessel for honor extends to the idea of predestination. Pre-destination is determining the destiny of something or someone ahead of time. In the analogy of the vessel, some vessels are destined for one things, and some vessels are destined for another - and all this happened before they were formed.
Section 3: God uses people. He endures bad to exploit it for His own ends. He also forms good for His own reasons.
Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
I realize of course that I am repeating this part. In connection to this next part, this idea of the potter and clay first suggests that as the potter uses vessels, so God also uses people. As a side note, there are negative connotations with the idea of using someone, but even though we are not to "use" one another, I think that as Christians, we all want to be used by God (in a good way)!
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, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
Continuing with the analogy of the potter and clay, which is a good analogy but not complete in all points, Paul poses a hypothetical question. Keeping in line with his previous comments about Jacob and Pharaoh, he implies that perhaps God endured some things for a larger purpose. In this case, the larger purposes would be showing wrath, making His power known, and providing contrast with the other "vessels." That last point seems similar to when we often choose white paper to write on, so that because of the contrast, people will be able to notice and understand what we have written. This concept was radical! That idea that God disliked evil was well known. The idea that evil happened anyway was well known. The idea that God punished people for doing evil was also well-known. But the idea that God uses evil and exploits it for His own purposes was slightly less widely accepted or well known.
The writer here also contrasts God's involvement with the vessels of wrath and the vessels of mercy. God actively endured the vessels of wrath, and actively had prepared the vessels of mercy. The verse does not say that He is the one to prepare the vessels of wrath for destruction.
"Notice, there are vessels of wrath, at the end of verse 22, fitted to destruction. In verse 23, vessels of mercy which He had prepared to glory. Now in the Greek you have two serious distinctions here in the Greek tense and you must recognize them. I should say in the Greek voice which is similar to English. You realize the difference between active and passive? In active, the subject does the acting and in passive the subject receives the action. Now notice, verse 22 is a passive, vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. God is not the subject. The verb is passive. Verse 23, vessels of mercy which He had prepared to glory. God, there, is the subject and the verb is active. Listen, God says I prepare vessels for glory, but vessels are prepared for destruction."
Given that God does not like evil, it is interesting to note that God "endured" evil for a greater purpose. This demonstrates God's complex will, because simply God does not like evil, but when weighed together with everything else that He wants even more, God's complex will allows evil and endures it. According to the counsel of His will, God uses people, endures bad to exploit it for His own ends, and forms good for His own reasons. Amazing!
Go to Part 3