Do Not Blame God
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 9:19 You will say to me, therefore, “Why then does He still find
fault? For who can resist His will?”
Paul now confronted an imaginary antagonist. A careless reading of Paul’s previous remarks could cause one to charge God with unfairness.
A person might be tempted to say, “If God’s will determines who is pardoned or hardened, then God must be blamed for human behavior. He has no right to find fault in us, because we are merely puppets to His will.”
This reprehensible idea is as ancient as Adam’s excuse in the Garden of Eden: “The woman You gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12); and as modern as the person who grumbles, “Why did God make me the way I am?” This is unthinkable. How can anyone even imagine using God as a scapegoat for his or her failure?
Blaming God for evil is so repugnant to Paul that he now took time to rebuke anyone who might hint at such a thing. God is not to blame for evil.
In verse 22 Paul will present his case that God has every right to punish sinners. But before he does this, Paul will write two verses of rebuke.
Romans 9:20 But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will
what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make
me like this?”
In other words, a creature never has the right to sass its Creator. It is monstrous for people to charge God with evil. We do not understand the mysteries of evil’s origin, or the full majesty of God’s holiness, yet we often respond contentiously to God anyway.
We hate the doctrine of depravity, and do not want to humble ourselves. Though our knowledge is finite and sin-warped, we want to dictate to God how He ought to handle His creation. We in essence say, “Do not punish us, God. Sin is your fault, not ours.”
A ruler was once believed to be responsible for the sun’s movement. Every morning he rose before dawn and waited for the sun in order to bid it good morning. He would then point out with his finger the course the sun was to take that day. Preposterous, isn’t it? Actually it is no more ridiculous than thinking creatures can argue with their Creator. It is not our place to blurt out our opinions regarding the way God rules His own creation. With regard to difficult matters, let us reverence God with submissive, silent awe.
Romans 9:21 Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make
from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another
Everyone knows a potter has the right to make whatever piece of pottery she chooses from any lump of clay. Sometimes the clay is fashioned into something beautiful and fragile; other times it is fashioned into common vessels for ordinary, everyday uses. All is left to the potter’s prerogative.
In the same way, God has the right to do whatever He wills with regard to sinners. In our text, Paul was not picturing God as He relates to His cosmological creation, but was talking of what God can form out of the sinful messy mass that resulted from the Fall.
Potters do not create clay. They merely work with what clay they have. Similarly, God did not create sin, but He was left with the unappealing chore of having to deal with a sinful race.
The “lump” in Paul’s comparison refers to sinners, people who have rebelled against God. The whole mass is obnoxious, putrid in and of itself.
Every bit of it deserves to be cast into Hell. God is not obligated to any part of it. He has the right to deal with this rebellious clay as He desires.
In Sovereign mercy, God decided to spare some of the clay. By grace He chose to make from the vile lump of clay some vessels for honor.
This is not to say any human being deserves to be saved more than any other human being. Believers were drawn from this miry clay. No piece of clay is better than any other piece.
There is no room for boasting among believers. God was not obligated to any of us. Every believer is descended from Adam. This means we all inherited the same nature as Cain, Jezebel, Judas, Genghis Khan, and Adolf Hitler. The actual evil of some people reveals the potential evil of all people.
The difference between believers and nonbelievers is not one of nature, but rather of grace. Every Christian is a miracle of grace.
Because of Christ’s shed blood, God can reach down into the wretched mass and, based on repentance and faith, form vessels unto honor. Allow God to do this work in you now.
Romans 9:22 And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to
make His power known, endured with much patience objects of
wrath ready for destruction?
After refuting the irreverent spirit expressed in verse 19, Paul now turned his attention to answering the questions raised there. Is God right in finding fault with people? Can human evil be blamed on God?
Anyone who reflects negatively on God is not only irreverent (vv. 20-21), but also wrong. God must never be blamed for people’s rebellion, nor must He ever be counted unfair for punishing sinners.
It would be wrong for God to make people sinful and then punish them. But it is absolutely proper for Him to take people, who by their own choice are sinful, and then punish them. This is exactly what God does. He is willing to show His wrath, and He does make His power known against evil.
However, before God ultimately reveals His wrath and power, He gives the wicked ample space to repent. God always restrains Himself until punishment is long overdue. He shows patience even to the incorrigible.
Pharaoh was not destroyed at his first sign of obstinacy. God’s final blow was delivered as a last resort. All who ultimately perish are offered ample space for repentance. The Lord tarries long; this reveals a reasonable display of His own righteousness in their ultimate condemnation.
No one can say they perished unwarned or uninvited. God always forbears long enough to allow those who want to repent to do so.
The Lord does all He can to win sinners. When they are condemned, the blame is totally on them. Before Noah’s flood, ample time was given for people to repent. Those who died in that flood could blame only themselves.
Never blame God for the lostness of people. Sinners go to Hell not because of God’s non-election, but rather due to their love of sin.
The grace of God flows equally toward all people. Some appropriate this goodness; others misappropriate it. Consider two mushrooms; they are rooted side by side in the same soil, receiving the same amount of sunshine and rain, yet one is poisonous, the other delightful. As Theodoret said, “The sun by the force of its heat, moistens the wax and dries the clay, softening the one and hardening the other; and as this produces opposite effects by the same power, so through the long-suffering of God, which reaches to all, some receive good and others evil; some are softened and others hardened.”
We do not understand it all. But one thing we do know for sure. On Judgment Day, we would much rather be a vessel illustrating God’s mercy than a vessel illustrating God’s wrath.