Why Have You Made Me This Way?

Romans 9:20–21

Principle for Bible Reading

It’s in the nature of us, as creatures, to question our Creator. Why did you make me like this, and not like him or him? Why did you make him like that, and not like me? Why do some believe the good news, and others reject it. In this lab, John Piper explores the relationship between the Potter and his clay.

View the outline.


Introduction/Prayer/Recap (00:00–01:56)

The Pots’ Rebellion (01:56–04:25)

  1. Romans 9:20 is a quote from Isaiah 29:16 and Isaiah 45:9.
  2. A pot makes a mistake when it claims it was not made (deny), or when it says its potter did not know what he was doing (find fault). (Isaiah 29:16)
  3. A pot also errs when it pretends to know pots better than the potter (suggesting the potter should have made him differently). (Isaiah 45:9)

The Potter’s Scorecard (04:25–06:41)

  1. Pots do ask the Potter all the time, “Why have you made me like this?” But they ought not ask God in this way. It’s a protest, not a genuine question. (Romans 9:20)
  2. The rightness of a potter is not determined by anything in the clay, but by the wisdom in the decisions he makes with the lump he’s given. (Romans 9:21)
  3. The potter is evaluated by whether he fulfills holy purpose with the clay he’s been given. (Romans 9:20)
  4. God is the potter, and he decides what is right.

Meet the Potter (06:41–9:34)

  1. God is the potter, and he decides what is right, and wise, and fitting.
  2. God desires to make known his power, and the riches of his glory. (Romans 9:22–23)
  3. If those desires require vessels for dishonorable use, than he is right to make them. (Romans 9:21)
  4. The vessels for honorable use (mercy) are Jacob and Moses. And the vessels for dishonorable use (hardening) are Esau and Pharaoh.

Study Questions

  1. Read Isaiah 29:16 and Isaiah 45:9. What mistakes do pots make in relationship to their potter?
  2. Considering a potter’s relationship to his clay, what right is Paul speaking of in Romans 9:21? How then would you explain that same right for God in his relationship to human beings?
  3. Looking over Romans 9 so far, which people are the vessels for dishonorable use, and which are the vessels for honorable use?

‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 9. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper defends God’s faithfulness to his promises, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘God’s Invincible Purpose and Promise’ series page to see all the labs in this series.

Piper: “God is the Potter, and we are his pots. Therefore, he decides what is right and fitting for our lives.”