Keys to Understanding Romans 9 : 19-21 – Who is Arguing with the Potter?

In this series, we are not going through Romans chapter 9 in depth. My goal is merely to give us some key cross-reference passages to help us come to a clear understanding of what Paul is communicating in Romans 9.

Let’s take a look at verses 19-21:

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Romans 9:19-21

Here we have God represented as the Potter Who has sovereign authority over the clay. But those represented by the clay take issue with how God has dealt with them. Who are these people? In what way do they feel they have been misused by God? These questions are not difficult when we follow Paul’s argument from 9:1 up to 18.

Paul started off by telling his readers that Israel had been prepared for the promises of the New Covenant. But in their rebellion they rejected the Messiah and chose to boast in their ancestry and their devotion to the Law of Moses, instead of embracing the promises of God that are “Yes and Amen” in Jesus Christ. Their pride caused them to stumble over the stumbling block, and God in turn judged them by hardening them in their unbelief. They had sinned, and God justly judged them for their sin. But not only did He judge them, but He used their sin to further His purposes and bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. In this way, their sin did not hurt God’s glory in the slightest but actually magnified His grace to the nations. This is exactly what He had done with Pharaoh, which is why Paul used Pharaoh to represent the unbelieving nation of Israel in verse 17: “For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’

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