The Power of the Potter over the Clay
- Creation, Fall and Re-Creation – In our lesson today we want to discuss the power of the Potter over the clay as found in Jer 18:1-6: “…as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand …”. The picture of God as the “Potter” is quite understandable because He is the Creator. The Hebrew word for “potter” (yaw-tsar’ H:03335) is also rendered as “to form”, “to fashion”, or “to make”. Just as that potter formed a vessel on the wheel, so God created Man in His image as we discover in Gen 2:7, “And the LORD God formed [yaw-tsar’ H:03335] man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”. At the end of His six days of creation (Gen 1:31), God surveyed all that He had made, and proclaimed it “very good”. In this passage in the Jer 18:1-6, we see theextent of God’s sovereign power to do whatever brings glory and honor to Him. What is the spiritual meaning of the vessel’s becoming “marred”? we see in verse 4: “… the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it …”. The same Hebrew word for “marred” (shaw-khath’ H:07843) is found in Psa 14:1 and is translated as “corrupt”: “… The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt [shaw-khath’ H:07843], they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good”. Where did this corruption first begin? The whole human race, represented by Adam and Eve, became “marred”, or “corrupted”, in the Garden of Eden. Rom 5:12 records the sad condition we brought upon ourselves: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…”. The Bible reiterates the same gruesome picture many times. Consider, for instance, what happened immediately after the exodus from Egypt that God orchestrated in Exo 32:7, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted[shaw-khath’ H:07843] themselves”. They were worshipping the golden calves, which were Egyptian gods – they had left Egypt, but Egypt had not left them! Lest we be too critical of them, we need to heed the warning for us in Heb 3:12-13,19 and 4:1-2: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin… ”. We must never forget the instruction of Psa 94:9, “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed [yaw-tsar’ H:03335] the eye, shall he not see?” and Job 10:9: “Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again”. Let’s recapitulate: God created man from the ground; man sinned against his Maker; the creation became corrupted; and now God will create anew. Rom 9:11-22 depicts the miracle of salvation, by the sovereign grace and power of God, to redeem man from God’s wrath that he certainly deserves.
Gen 3:17-19 “… and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: … In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Jer 18:1-6: “The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.”
Rom 9:19-21 “… For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest [disputes] against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”
- I will have Mercy on Whom I will have Mercy – Despite the fact that all men are sinners, God extends His “great mercy” to all mankind in many different ways as we live out our lives on earth, as we read in Psa 145:8-9, “The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works”. All life is in God’s hands, and we are dependent upon His general mercy for every breath and heartbeat. We read about this as God spoke by the Apostle Paul to the people of Athens (and us) in Acts 17:24-28: “… For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring”. We also read in Mat 5:45 that God in His great mercy “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust”. Although God is merciful to all people in a general way by providing for their physical needs and restraining sin, many people confuse that kind of mercy with salvation itself. However, God only bestows His special gift of mercy – eternal life – specifically upon those whom He chose to save. God extends mercy specifically to the Elect by salvation. Mercy is God’s sovereign prerogative because nobody deserves It. Of course, God does not have to bestow His salvation mercyupon anyone because we all deserve eternal damnation for our sins. However, God has the sovereign rightto save whomever He so desires without giving any reason to anyone for His actions, as He declares in Rom 9:15-16: “For he [God] saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy”. Indeed, the whole Bible declares God’s sovereign power in the affairs of mankind and His salvation mercy upon His people. For those who would object to God’s right to choose some people for salvation for His glory and honor, God dispels all of man’s arguments in Rom 9:20-21: “… O man, who art thou that repliest [disputes] against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”. The good news of the Gospel is that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners from eternal damnation in Hell and that God allows sinners to humbly petition Him for mercy through prayer like the publican of old in Luke 18:13, “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner”.
Rom 9:18-24 “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest [disputes] against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath [unbelievers] fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy[believers], which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
- The Purpose of God According to Election might stand – One of the most informative passages in the Bible concerning election is found in Rom 9. There we read in verses 10-23: “And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of Godaccording to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth😉 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated …”. Rom 9:24-27 further explains: “… I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God …”. In Rom 9 God emphasizes the fact that absolutely no human effort is required or possible in His salvation program because man is spiritually dead and utterly incapable of any kind of performance, as Tit 3:3-7 boldly proclaims: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life”.
Rom 9:10-23: “And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth😉 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared[before the world began] unto glory”
John 12:37-41 “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.”
Rom 9:24-27 “As he saith also in Osee [Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.”
2 Tim 1:9 “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”
- Chosen in Christ, according to the Good Pleasure of His Will – Rom 2:5 describes man’s awful spiritual condition: “But after thy hardness and impenitent hearttreasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;” Isa 64:6-8 further pinpoints unsaved man’s spiritual bankruptcy: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand”. Considering that man is born spiritually dead as a result of sin and is under the just wrath of God, it is staggering to think that God would save anybody – but He does. He first included them in His will, which is also known as the Lamb’s Book of Life! As the testator of the Will, God sovereignly chose those who will be the heirs of salvation, and He wrote their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life before Creation. We read about this in Heb 9:15-17: “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth”. 2 The 2:13 declares, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth”. When we think about God as the Creator and Sustainer of this marvelous universe, we struggle to imagine how many infinite possibilities, or options, that God has at His disposal. Let’s consider some examples of whom God has already chosen: 1) He chose Abram (and renamed him Abraham) (Neh 9:7). 2) He chose the nation of Israel (Deu 7:7). 3) He chose the tribe of Judah (Psa 78:67-68). 4) He chose David (1 Kin 8:16). 5) He chose the twelve Apostles (Luke 6:13). 6) He chose Judas as well (John 17:12). 7) He chose Paul (Acts 9:15). 8) He chose His people (the elect) for salvation (Eph 1:3-6).
Neh 9:7 “Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham.”
Deu 7:7 “The LORD did not set his love upon you [the nation of Israel], nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:”
Psa 78:67-68 “Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.”
1 Kin 8:16 “Since the day that I brought forth my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build an house, that my name might be therein; but I chose David to be over my people Israel.”
Luke 6:13 “And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;”
John 17:12 “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest meI have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition [Judas]; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he [Apostle Paul] is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel”
Eph 1:3-6 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us [the elect] with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us [the elect] in him before the foundation of the world, that we [the elect] should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us [the elect] unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us [the elect] accepted in the beloved.”
- Chosen in Christ, to the Praise of the Glory of His Grace – Rom 9:18-28 unveils God’s blueprint to redeem His Bride – His Eternal Church. The Bible clearly teaches that salvation is totally by God’s sovereign grace, love and mercy; and those three elements – along with everything else associated with salvation – are unearned gifts from God to His people. Thus, we can say that the nature of God’s mercy is revealed to us through the salvation work of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to Psa 85:7, “Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation”. Only God can give a person eternal life. God must draw the elect to Himself and grant them repentance, spiritual understanding, faith to trust Him, and a capacity to love and obey Him. Only God can create a new eternal soul, or “heart”, and make a “new creature” of a person, as we read in Eze 36:26-27: “A new heart also will I [God] give you, and a new spirit will I [God] put within you: and I[God] will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I[God] will give you an heart of flesh. And I[God] will put my[God’s] spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them”. We also read this in 2 Cor 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. Man’s pride is the source of all sin, and his sinful arrogance would extend even into the arena of salvation unless God had prevented that from happening as seen in Gen 3:22-24:“…lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life… So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life”. Man’s innate self-confidence continues to the present day as he vainly relies attempts on his own capacity to participate in his own salvation thereby ignoring the Bible’s clear statement of his inability to do so in Gal 2:16: “… by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified”. In Acts 13:41 God refers this message from Hab 1:5 to those who refuse to acknowledge that He does ALL the work of salvation: “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I [God] work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man [Jesus Christ]declare it unto you”. God also makes it clear in Isa 43:25 that salvation is primarily for His honor and glory – not man’s benefit: “I, even I [God], am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins”. We read in Rom 11:36, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen”. Isa 42:8 further proclaims: “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another …”. The question that needs to be asked is: “What gives God glory?” We get a clue in John 11:4: “When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby”. What happened in John 11 to bring glory to God the Father and to glorify God the Son? This entire chapter deals with the raising of Lazarus from physical death – a dramatic portrait of the spiritual resurrection of the soul unto salvation.The first part of John 12 continues to drive home the point that only God has the power to raise the dead – both physically and spiritually. This is why the Lord Jesus declares in John 11:25, “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”. In essence, we learn from this historical parable that mankind is a spiritual corpse that is “dead in trespasses and sins” and subject to Hell. Only the voice of God – the Bible – has the power to raise a person from spiritual death to spiritual life. Rom 1:16 agrees, by citing the role of the Gospel – which is the whole the Bible – in salvation: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of Godunto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”. There are no conditions, or requirements, that an individual must meet to be chosen by God for salvation. The entire salvation process depends entirely on the sovereign grace of God completely separate from any human effort or collaboration as Rom 11:6 so clearly explains: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work”. The words of 1 Cor 1:26-28 help us see how every aspect of salvation is a gift of God – including His “calling”. And Eph 2:9 realistically tells us why: “Not of works, lest any man should boast”. This same reason is also summed up in the eight words of 1 Cor 1:29, “That no flesh should glory in his presence”. Salvation of man is for God’s glory alone.
Gen 3:22-24 “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life”
Eph 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Gal 2:16 “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
1 Cor 1:26-28 “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29That no flesh should glory in his presence.