Volume 11, Issue 3: Doctrine 101
As a young boy growing up in Mojave, California, my best friend was a classmate named Don. On one occasion at Don's house, we were in a creative mood. Don and I took turns playing with some modeling clay, carefully forming what eventually became a head. We artfully sculpted eye sockets, and then with some blue clay, we rolled two small orbs and placed them in the holes for eyes. We crafted ears and located them on either side of the head. Red clay rolled in a long worm-like fashion and appropriately situated became the mouth. It was a remarkable creation in which we took great pride having worked all of fifteen minutes to skillfully craft it. It rather resembled a gray-colored Mr. Potato Head, however, lacking a nose.
Don came to the rescue by locating among his many wonderful possessions a small cylindrical firecracker, a "lady finger," that he had kept hidden from his parents. He delicately inserted the firecracker into the back of the clay head we had fashioned, forcing the clay in the front to protrude forming a most delightful proboscis. For two small boys in the third grade, it was a Michelangelo-esque work of art.
We carefully snuck our masterpiece out of the house and pedestaled it on top the gas meter on the side of Don's home where, coincidentally, there happened to be no windows. To commemorate this historic creative moment, Don struck a match and lit the lady finger's fuse. Within a few seconds, both of us were suffering an acute case of tinnitus, our ears ringing loudly from the deafening blast.
Almost simultaneously, Don's mother appeared and asked what had happened, or at least we thought that's what she asked by the worried look on her face and from watching her lips move. As we surveyed the splattered mess of modeling clay stuck to the side of Don's stucco house, we dutifully sought to calm her fears by resolutely assuring her that absolutely nothing had happened. "We were just playing."
Don and I delighted in destroying our clay creation. We had made it for that purpose from the start. Yet others have used that same type of modeling clay to fashion very becoming and tasteful art pieces, that subsequently became the pattern for a mold resulting in the production of numerous duplicates that could be enjoyed and appreciated by many. I have seen a Chinese cloisonne vase made of fired clay, and I have also seen a chamber pot made of the same fired clay. One vessel was made for honorable purposes, and the other for dishonorable. This is not an unreasonable nor difficult concept for Christians to understand...as long as we limit our discussion to clay. Yet many Bible-believing Christians have a hard time accepting this concept when it is applied to human beings. But why is this?
The Scriptures often present the picture of God as the potter and man as the clay. Isaiah has written, "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" (Isa 64:8). Jeremiah also said, "`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'" (Jer 18:6). And in the New Testament, Paul repeated this image, "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" (Rom 9:21).
Why then should we find it so difficult to believe that a sovereign God has created some men for perdition? Is this not what the Bible teaches? "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" (Rom 9:22). And even from the Proverbs, we learn the same lesson, "The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil" (Prov 16:4). Why do many who heartily name the name of Jesus Christ and call Him Lord reject His Lordship when it comes to the point of men being created for the day of doom? Can't God glorify His holy name through these as well as through those whom He has mercifully created for salvation? "For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, `Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth'" (Rom 9:17).
If we cannot bear the thought of men giving up their personal autonomy in salvation, then we must again consider the Scriptures, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy"(Rom 9:16, emphasis added). If we reject the testimony of the Bible, then are we not guilty of unbelief from which we must repent?
Adam was made by a sovereign God from the dust of the ground. Adam was a creature, a creation of God. All men are of the same clay as our father Adam. The comparison is too simple to miss. God created Adam, and God created us. "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?" (Rom 9:20).
Our responsibility to preach the gospel to all creatures is not diminished because God has prepared some men for destruction. To the contrary, Christ came to save the world, and the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. God has entrusted the proclamation of the gospel to His people, the church. We should leave who is saved to Him, and stop trying to play as though we were the potter as well as the clay.