The DEEP

Just Pottery?

or a just potter?

Romans 9:19–26 (ESV)

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.’”

What troubles people about this passage is that we are much more than lumps of clay. Justice for a lump of clay isn’t necessarily justice for a person. To put it another way, a lump of clay doesn’t need justice. Whatever the potter wants to do with his clay is OK by me.

We are much more than lumps of clay, but God is also much more than a potter. The analogy still holds.

But that’s still unsatisfying. It doesn’t settle the issues of responsibility and justice. God’s priorities are such that his being unjust would be allowable, but that’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says God is just.

He is just, but the explanation is long and complicated. It involves how responsibility for the same thing can exist simultaneously on multiple levels.

I treat this at length in a series on justice and predestination here:

https://www.ailbe.org/columns/thedeep/item/15342-justice

https://www.ailbe.org/columns/thedeep/item/15343-justice-part-2

https://www.ailbe.org/columns/thedeep/item/15344-justice-part-3


However, this gives rise to another important question.

As created beings, how can we be important to God. Specifically, how can we be important enough for the sacrifice of the cross? For that we sing, “Tis mystery all, the immortal dies.”

People often “love” the things they create, but not like this.

Praise God for His unimaginably great love.


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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.