The apostle Paul alluded to Jeremiah 18 when he taught the church at Rome in a letter. Paul’s argument in Romans 9–11 is that God’s sovereign will prevails in election and reprobation. In other words, God can do with His creation whatever He wants to do with it. He may destroy what He has made (2 Pet 3:7), or He might redeem what has been ruined. The context of Romans 9–11 is ethnic Israel, as distinguished from spiritual Israel.
Paul draws from the prophet Jeremiah, the preacher from the early 6th century B.C. At that time, God was about to pour out His judgment upon Judah for unrepentant sin (Jer 18:11). Judah is a vessel of wrath being prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22). God’s reason for executing wrath, by the hand of Nebudchadnezzar of Babylon, is Judah’s stubborn, evil heart (Jer 18:12). Judah has forgotten Yahweh, the God of Israel (Jer 18:15).
Idolatry is common among those who claim the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, but who have wandered into heresy (Jer 18:15). They have found the way of the Lord…hopeless (Jer 18:12). They have concocted their own plans, to execute in their own way!
Jeremiah was sent as a prophet of God to rebuke Judah for their disobedience to God’s law. He declared a message of repentance. Judah had not learned by Israel’s example, when God brought judgment upon the northern kingdom a century before Jeremiah’s day.
In Isaiah’s day (late 8th century B.C.), the Potter’s wrath was known to Israel, at the hand of Sennacherib and the Assyrian army (Is 64). Israel had been judged to be a rebellious people (Is 65), just as Judah was now displaying. Nothing changed in Israel across the centuries. The Jews killed the Messiah of God, Jesus Christ, and Paul was now explaining why the wrath of God was against ethnic Israel, to the predominantly Gentile church at Rome.
Paul wrote in Romans 9:6, “Not all Israel (ethnic) is Israel (spiritual).” In other words, not all Jews are believers in Jesus Christ because God has not regenerated them with His indwelling Holy Spirit, whom He sent to bring to life, spiritually, God’s beloved elect people. Thus, the Potter’s wrath is revealed against unrighteous, ungodly, ethnic Israel.
It is absolutely vain to trust in one’s blood lines for salvation (Jn 1:12–13), “I am a Jew. One of God’s chosen people, and this is the basis of my salvation.” This fundamental error is found in the ignorance, or neglect, of the doctrine of the remnant. The remnant people, according to God’s gracious choice (Rom 11:5), both Jews and Gentiles (Rom 3:29), are those for whom Christ died, being their propitiation (wrath absorber) for sins (Heb 2:17).
Isaiah 64, Jeremiah 18, and Romans 9 are revelation of the classification known as, “Reprobate Israel.” How much clearer is one’s theology when she recognizes this distinction. Suddenly, God’s wrath against “Israel” makes perfect sense, whereas it is shrouded in mystery under the false teaching of Dispensationalism.
The sovereign will of God is executed perfectly by God’s eternal decree (Eph 1:11; 3:11). So the next time you catch yourself singing a song about God being the Potter and you being the clay, remember the biblical context of the Potter/clay imagery: the just wrath of our righteous God against an obstinate, idolatrous, unrepentant, reprobate people who pridefully claimed the name, “Israel,” meaning, “He who struggles with God.” And that, they did, generation after generation.
Just as God prevailed in the life of His covenant son, Jacob, the one whom God loved before he was born (Rom 9:13), so He prevails in the life of each of the elect remnant (Rom 9:27). In this, the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22), like unregenerate, ethnic Israel, are known from the prophets and the apostles. The vessels of mercy, also in the sovereign will and hands of the Potter, receive grace unto glory. For these ends, election and reprobation, each was made by the perfectly merciful…and wrathful, Potter, our sovereign God.
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 25, 2021