“Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” Romans 9:21.
This is one the texts in all the Bible most misunderstood not only by Arminians but also by “Calvinists.” We have heard for years those attempting to expound it tell us that it refers to God taking from the lump of fallen humanity His vessels of mercy. We must take issue with this view. Notice what is happening to this lump. It is being made a vessel. A vessel is a container. One container is “made unto honor,” and another made “unto dishonor,” showing us that in the clay, taken as a lump, there was neither honor nor dishonor in it. Notice it does not say one was made beautiful and the other ugly. Rather, the honor and dishonor refer to the use for which the vessel was made. In fact, we do not believe it amiss to state that what the vessels were to contain reflect this honor and dishonor.
II Corinthians 4:7 tells us, “But we have this treasure [the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, verse 6] in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” This vessel was made unto honor, not because it was brightly colored or laid with precious stones, but it is honorable because it holds a precious treasure. Mark well, the vessel is not the treasure but merely its container. Is not this vessel our flesh? It is a vessel of mercy which has been afore prepared unto glory (Romans 9:23) because God’s mercy has been extended to it, not because of anything it possessed of itself, but because of what it has been given which it did not possess before. It was prepared for the treasure before it possessed it.
The reprobate, it is true, also has an earthen vessel, but it holds no treasure. Notice: it was prepared afore unto dishonor; it was not left in dishonor. If this were a lump of fallen humanity then what need would there have been to prepare it. Would not it have been dishonorable already? It was a vessel of wrath, fitted to destruction, and this fitting was done by the same hand which fitted the vessels of mercy to hold His treasure.
Elder Robert N. lackey
January - February 1992