A little over a year ago I was invited to join a private website by a Christian man whom I had been conversing with on a Christianity forum. He had just created his site and only invited a handful of men who he believed were rightly dividing the word of God. I eagerly accepted his invitation and was quickly made a co administrator. There was Bible study, as well as a format where we could start a discussion on different topics and others would comment. It was a wonderful experience as it seemed we were all like minded brothers which is so refreshing.
A few months passed and all was well. Then one morning, I visited the site and saw that one of the members, a retired pastor, had posted something new. It was on the subject of Predestination. After reading just a few sentences I saw that he was a Calvinist and my heart sank. He believes that God purposely made some people “vessels of wrath fitted for destruction.” In other words, God created some of us for hell. I sent him a private message and told him I would not participate in this discussion and that I was in complete disagreement. I had lost a few friends in the past who were Calvinists and they had argued with me over it and I never heard from them again. I warned this pastor that this would only cause division. And I was right. The very next day an argument ensued between him and two others and it got quite heated. I did eventually join in. The pastor got so angry that he accused us of being false teachers. He was unable to control himself and resorted to name calling. Then suddenly he disappeared from the site. A few weeks later he returned, but things were never the same again. He avoided us and just kept posting more of his Calvinist views as if nothing had happened. A short time later, I and two other guys were permanently banned from the site without any warning or explanation.
I wanted to write about the apostle Paul’s phrase, “vessels of wrath fitted for destruction” (Romans 9:22). It has nothing to do with individual predestination, particularly any teaching that God has predestined some to heaven and some to hell. Paul’s subject was God’s covenant people, Israel, and how God had dealt with them and will deal with them on the basis of covenantal promises. Paul’s point was to demonstrate God’s mercy. Each of us has no hope without God. God tolerated “vessels of wrath” to “make known the riches of his glory upon the vessels of mercy which he prepared beforehand for glory.” (Romans 9:23) Paul argued that all deserve destruction. But those who come to Christ by faith alone for salvation are made “vessels of mercy.” Not because any of us deserve it, but because of God’s mercy which was poured out at the Cross.
In Romans chapter 10, Paul tells us that the Gospel must first be preached so that men may make a choice, and that the choice they make is one for which they are held accountable. Vessels of wrath are those who reject God. In His foreknowledge, God knows who would reject Him. He knows their evil hearts.
In the case of Pharaoh, Calvinists make the claim that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and the poor man could do nothing about it. That God purposely made Pharaoh the bad guy and thus he was a “vessel fitted for destruction.” But a careful examination of the scriptures shows that Pharaoh’s heart was already hard. (Exodus 8:15)
According to one Calvinist, because the potter (God) has power over the clay (Romans 9:21), this proves “God’s absolute sovereignty to determine the final destiny of men, either to honor or dishonor, to salvation and glory or to damnation and desolation.” But Paul’s illustration in Romans 9 of the potter and the clay has nothing to do with the our salvation. The potter and the clay was a common illustration in the OT (Isa 29:16, 45:9, 64:8; Jer 18:1-6). Never is it a reference to anyone’s salvation. Israel is said to be the clay (Isa 64:8; Jer 18:6). The clay is formed, not created. There was no clay before the foundation of the world, and neither is anyone said to be fitted or prepared before the foundation of the world. And although the “vessels of mercy” are said to be “afore prepared unto glory” by God, no agent is given in the case of those “fitted to destruction.” The Calvinist forgets that God did not create hell for humans, but for satan and the fallen angels.
Someone once said that we are all vessels fit for destruction until we come to Christ by faith. God only pre-destinates believers, never unbelievers, which is something Calvinists do not understand.
God is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) Does this sound like God wants all to come to faith in Christ, but only chose some to be saved?