“So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens. You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the One forming it, Why did You make me like this? Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor?” (Romans 9:18-21)
Charles Hodge says that God
“does not make men wicked, but from the mass of wicked men, he pardons one and punishes another, for the wisest and most benevolent reasons.”
Yet Paul in shutting the mouth of the objector asks rhetorically, “Shall the thing formed say to the One forming it, Why did You make me like this?” Hodge says that God DID NOT make him like this. Paul says that He DID make him like this. Hodge had expressed his mutiny in this statement:
“It is not the right of God to create sinful beings in order to punish them…”
But Paul says that God does have this right, God does have this authority to make a vessel dishonorable. And why would God create the dishonorable vessel? In order to demonstrate His wrath and power in it (v. 22).
Romans 9:19-21 refutes the lie that man’s “compatibilist freedom” is how a sinner is held accountable for the acts of sin he performs. The sinner asks, “Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?” In other words, why does God hold me accountable, since God actively and efficiently controls what I do?
How does Paul answer this question? If he were a Hodgian, Calvinist compatibilist heretic, he would have said something like:
“You know, you’re right. God really wouldn’t have a reason to find fault with you if He were the one actively hardening you and controlling what you do. The only reason you’re accountable for the acts of sin you perform is because God does not actively and efficiently cause you to sin; you sin because God has ‘decreed to permit’ that you would sin of your own free will.”
But that’s not how Paul answers it, because Paul is a believer. Instead of saying that man has a “compatibilist free will,” he says, “O man, WHO ARE YOU answering against God?” He says that man has absolutely no business shaking his fist at God for making him do certain things. And why does man have absolutely no business doing that? Is it because God didn’t make him do certain things? Yes, say the heretics. NO, says the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul:
“Shall the thing formed say to the former, Why did you make me like this? Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor?”
In other words, God is saying that He has the right to make certain people for SALVATION and certain people for DAMNATION and to SHOW MERCY to whom He desires and to HARDEN whom He desires (v. 18). This clay is not “already dishonorable before God makes anyone,” as some heretics would like to say. This clay is unformed man. Some people are formed — created — for the purpose of hardening and damnation. Some people are formed — created — for the purpose of mercy and salvation.