19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
20 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?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
1901 ASV Translation:
19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will?
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?
21 Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?
I. Man's Reaction.
A. Involved in Paul's anticipation of a "reaction" is his grasp of the pervasive influence that opposition to God has already had in man.
1. Prior to 9:19 was 9:14 where Paul raised the question that sinful men almost invariably raise when told that God has a purpose to which all issues of "choice" are submitted: is it "unrighteous" of God to make His choices of love/hate?
2. And prior to 9:14 was 9:6 where Paul addressed the question of whether the Word of God has been rendered void by the refusal of men to embrace it.
3. And prior to 9:6 was 9:1-3 where Paul declared the reality of his "love" as a most fundamental aspect of his letter.
4. And prior to everything that Paul wrote was the introduction of "anti-love" into the creation of God: as soon as the "beloved" becomes one's own self, Death enters the picture and will not be banished until the final defeat at the end when all things are brought back into their proper relationship to God (1 Corinthians 15:28).
B. At issue in a "reaction" is the "understanding" of the one "reacting".
C. When "understanding" is involved, there are at least two problematical elements.
1. Any level of "true" understanding requires the oft noted "big picture". One cannot put a piece of a puzzle into the wrong puzzle and have understanding of the larger picture. This element often assumes that the one seeking understanding is "outside of the picture" in terms of any true perception: he has nothing "at stake". He is simply looking at a partially completed picture and seeking to "complete" it.
2. Any level of "true" understanding also requires the one seeking to understand to be aware that he cannotbe "outside the picture" in any case and he cannot have any predisposition to "force" pieces to fit in a way that allows him to be the "author" of the picture. This is at least a part of Paul's introduction to Romans 9: the selfless love that offers any level of sacrifice required for "blessedness" for the "beloved". This kind of love allows the one seeking to understand to be divested of personal agenda issues that tend in the direction of "forcing" the pieces of the puzzle into places they do not belong.
II. The Issue: God's Judgment.
A. The question: why does God "blame" people if their behavior is under His "mercy/hardening" decisions?
1. The issue of "finding fault" is, according to the usage of the word in the New Testament, a matter of finding something/someone "unacceptable (Mark 7:2; Romans 9:19; and Hebrews 8:8). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that the word means "to be dissatisfied with". In a general sense, this is not necessarily a "moral" matter, but simply the acknowledgment that the thing that brings the "dissatisfaction" simply does not measure up to the "situational requirement". However, the reality of man's bondage to sin does bring the moral issue into play, but not as a contradiction of expectation. God does not "expect" sinners to "fit" the "situation" of a godly Kingdom, but they still do not "fit". He is "dissatisfied" with what they are in respect to what He intends. This dissatisfaction will lead to their rejection for His purposes because they do not "fit". The issue the objector needs to examine is this: are they any less "unfit" because God restrains Himself in regard to mercy and acts in regard to hardening?
2. This question has echoes of 9:14 built into it. Any issue of "judgment" assumes a foundation in "Justice".
3. In the revelation regarding the Justice of God, there is no indication that a person's own choices are not his/her own choices evenwhen those choices are heavily influenced by the forces of "temptation". James 1:13-14 plainly declares two facts: God never tempts man to do evil; and man has an inner enemy. Since this is true, there can not be any sense in the "hardening" of men by God that smacks of Him "forcing them to do evil". Even Romans 1:28, as a declaration of God's execution of hardness, does not imply "force". It simply declares that He sealed them in their own chosen direction.
4. It is interesting to this point that men do not "object" to the influences of "mercy"; they only "react" to the influences of "hardening". Where is the "love" in this kind of self-serving selectivity?
B. The assumption: God has a "Boulema" that cannot be resisted.