“Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.”

Verse 15 has shown that God has mercy according to His own sense of right, and not according to what  we may think is right or to any human code. “So then, to whom He desires, He has mercy.”  This is a conclusion stated by Paul as the result of all the argument.

“Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy,
Literally: “So then, to whom He desires, He has mercy”–This is Paul’s conclusion from the facts already laid down.  God, according to His own will and wisdom, in perfectrighteousness, bestows mercy on whom He may so choose to do so.

That is to say, God bestows His blessings upon one part of mankind, (the Jews of old, and the Gentile Church of the present time,) while He allows another part (the Egyptians of old, and the Jews of the present day) to go on in the abuse of His goodness and forbearance, hardening themselves in sin, till He brings upon them a most just and exemplary punishment; unless this may be prevented by their deep repentance and general return to God through Christ the promised, real Messiah.

“whom He will He hardeneth”
Literally: “And to whom He desires, He hardens.”–This is not stated in what the Scripture said to
Pharaoh, but is a conclusion to which Paul had arrived, in view of the case of Pharaoh.  It implies an act of sovereignty on the part of God in thus leaving Pharaoh to His chosen course, and in not putting forth that influence by which he could be saved from death.

            HARDEN:  (Grk.–sklērunei)–This Greek word is used only here in the N.T.  It literally means, ”to harden in the manner specified “ as here in the case of Pharaoh.    Actually, Pharaoh hardened his own heart also (Ex 8:15,32; 9:34), but God does give men    up        (1:24,26,28).  

            This does not mean to exert a positive influence, but to leave a sinner to his own course, and to place him in circumstances where the character will be more and more developed. God does leave them to the hardness of their hearts as He did Pharaoh, by continuing him on earth notwithstanding his sins, and suffering him, under judgments and mercies, to act out his wickedness, and thus grow harder and more wicked than he was before.
           Three words are used in the Hebrew to describe the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, but the most commonly used means, “to be strong,” and therefore represents the hardness as “foolhardiness,” or “infatuated insensibility to danger.”  The word here rendered as “harden” would have be better rendered as, “permitted to harden,” that is,  God “permits to become hard.”

“Thou wilt say then unto Me, ‘Why doth He find fault?  For who hath resisted His will?’”

“Thou wilt say then unto Me
Literally: “You will then say to Me.”–Paul here refers to an objection that might be made to his previous argument.

If the position which he had been working to establish were true;
1.      If God had a purpose in all His dealings with men;
2.      If all the revolutions among men happened according to His decree, so that He was not disappointed, or His plan frustrated; and,
3.      If His own glory was secured in all this, why could He blame men?

“Why doth He yet find fault?”
Literally: “Why does He yet find fault/– Paul here introduces the Jew making an objection similar to that in 3:7: If the truth of God had more abounded through my lie unto His glory.

1.      That is, “If God’s faithfulness is glorified by my wickedness, why yet am I also judged as a sinner?”  That is, why am I condemned for that which brings so much glory to God?  The question here is: If God’s glory be so highly promoted and manifested by our obstinacy, and,
2.      God allows us to proceed in our hardness and infidelity, why does He find fault with us, or punish us for that which is according to His good pleasure?  Why does God blame men, since their conduct is in accordance with His purpose, and since,
Godbestows mercy according to His sovereign will? This objection has been made by sinners in all ages. It is the standing objection against the Doctrines of Grace.

The question, “Why doth He yet find fault?” is not only unholy, but is even blasphemous.  It is man setting himself up to condemn not only the decree of God but also to claim a higher position for himself so that he actually has the audacity to sit in judgment over God Himself.  Paul's imaginary objector picks up the admission that God hardened Pharaoh's heart.

                        YET:  (Grk.–eti)–This argues for a change of condition since that is true. “For who hath resisted His will?”

“For who hat resisted His will?”
Literally:  “For who has successfully opposed His will, or frustrated His plan?” 

            This does not mean that no one has offered resistance or opposition to God, but that no one has been able to do so successfully. The idea is the result, rather than the process of resistance.  A man may resist God's will, but cannot maintain his resistance. The question really means, “Who can resist Him?”
            The Greek word (anthestēken), here translated as “resisted” is commonly used to denote the resistance offered by soldiers or armed men. Thus, Eph .5:13, “Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand (resist, or successfully oppose) in the evil day.” See Luke 21:15, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist.” See also Acts 6:10; 13:8, “But Elymas–withstood them,” etc.
            God accomplished His purposes in spite of their opposition. This was an established point in the sacred writings, and one of the admitted doctrines of the Jews. To establish it had even been a part of Paul’s design; and the difficulty now was to see how, this being admitted, men could be held chargeable with crime. Many have attempted to resist God'S will; but none have ever succeeded in maintaining his resistance.

“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?’”

      “Nay but, O man”
Literally: “Yes, rather, O man.”  To this objection Paul replies in two ways;

       1.     By asserting the sovereignty of God, and affirming that He had a right to do it, (vv.
       2.     By showing that Goddid it according to the principles of justice and mercy, or t involved of necessity in His dispensing justice and mercy to mankind (vv. 22-24).

            O MAN:  (Grk.–ho anthōpe)–Referring to humanity in general; man as a man, homer saps in general and not just Jews.  Little, impotent, ignorant homer saps. The important thing is that God is God;  He will always be God, and little man will not change that. most important fact.

“who art thou”
Literally: “Who are you?”–Or as we might say in our vernacular:  “Just who do you think you are?”  Paul here strongly reproves the blasphemy and wickedness of charging
God.  Paul brings this question:

1.      Because man is a created creature of God, and it is improper that he should accuse his Maker.
2.      Because man is unqualified to understand the subject. “Who art thou?”

What qualifications has a creature of a day,–a being just in the infancy of his existence; of so limited faculties; so perverse, blinded, and interested as man–as to sit in judgment on the doings of such an Infinite Mind? “O Man,” who you such  authority/”

3.      Because even if man were qualified to investigate those subjects, what right has he to reply against God, to arraign Him, or to follow out a train of argument tending to involve his Creator in shame and disgrace?                       

“repliest against God”
Literally:  “Answering against God.”–The passage conveys the idea of answering again; or of arguing to the
dishonor of God.  This implies, that when God declares His will, man should be silent–“be still and know that I am God.”. God has His own plans of infinite wisdom, and it is not ours to reply against Him, or to arraign Him of injustice, when we cannot `    see the reason of His doings.

          THAT REPLIEST:  (Grk.– antapokrinomenos)– Literally:  “to contradict in reply;   to answer by contradicting.”  This Greek word is used in the N.T. only here and in Luke 14:6–“And they could not answer Him again to these things.”

This means disputing against God by finding fault with the principles upon which He governs the world; or by accusing God of injustice for fixing the terms on which He will show mercy.  Paul now meets another objection of the Jewish adversary.  Who are you — In all your boasted wisdom and penetration; that replies against God? —
1.      If
God'S will is paramount, why should He find fault, for no one nation can withstand His will.

2.      If God hardens people, or the nation that is hardened only submits to Him.

Paul does not stop to show that this objection is far-fetched, and illogical, but in substance says: “Let that be granted. Then what right has the Jewish nation to object?  It is nothing but a lump of clay in the hands of the potter.”  Human reasoning is not the answer to the problem.  The answer is found only in the mystery and majesty of the sovereignty of God.Faith leaves it there and accepts it in humble obedience.  Unbelief rebels against it and continues on under the very wrath and judgment of the God it questions.

“shall the thing formed say…etc.”
Literally:  “Shall the thing formed say to the [One] forming {it}, ‘Why did You make me this way?’”–This sentiment is found in Isaiah 29:16 (see also Isa 45:9.). The objection is one which is supposed to be made by a Jew, and it was proper to reply to Him by a quotation from  His own Scriptures.

It was correct to present this to a JewThey who have received every blessing they enjoy from God ought not to blame Him for not making them different.

“Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor”

“Hath not the potter power”–Paul is still pointing to this same sovereign right of God  theme. He now proceeds to use another illustration, and another passage from the O.T. Isaiah 64:8, “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.”   This question, expecting an affirmative answer, is Paul's reply to the previous one, "Why did you make me this way?”

         This passage is preceded in Isaiah by one declaring the depravity of man. Isa 64:6, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”  As they were polluted with sin, as they had transgressed the law of God , and had no claim and no merit, God might bestow His favors as He pleased, and mold them as the potter did the clay. He would do no injury to those who were left, and who had no claim to His mercy, if He bestowed favors on others, any more than the potter would do injustice to one part of the mass, if he put it to an ignoble use, and molded another part into a vessel of honor. 
            The figure of the clay, first introduced from Isaiah, is carried out at length in the passage from Jeremiah 18:1-10, which is referred to. It is important for understanding Paul's drift to examine this passage. The prophet Jeremiah, in order that he might understand
God's way of dealing with nations, is directed to go down to the potter's house, and watch the potter at his work. The potter is at work with a lump of clay, with the view of making a vessel of it; but it is "marred in the hand of the potter;" it does not come out into the form intended; so he rejects it, and makes anew another vessel after his mind, "as seemed good to the potter to make it." Jeremiah’s application of the illustration is that, "as the clay is in the potter's hands, so are ye in Mine hand.”
            This is still the condition of sinful men.
God does no injustice to a man if he leaves him to take his own course to ruin, and makes another, equally undeserving, the recipient of his mercy, He violated none of my rights by not conferring on me the talents of Newton or of Bacon; or by not placing me in circumstances like those of Peter and Paul.

              POWER:  (Grk.–exousian)—Literally: “Authority.” This word does not merely mean   physical power, bu refers to authority, or right..  (See Matt. 7:29, where this Greek word is translated as “authority;” (Matt. 21:23; II Thess. 3:9; Mark 2:10; Luke 5:24; John 1:12), “The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins,” etc.

“Of the same lump;”
Literally: “Out of the same lump.”–The “lump” here  is
“mass;” the mass of fallen sinful men, who can claim nothing at God's hand as a matter of right, and towards whom He may justly proceed, as He did towards Jacob and Esau, showing mercy to one, and withholding it   from another.

           LUMP:  (Grk.—phuramatos)—From phuraō which means, “to mix so as to make into dough.”  Hence, any substance mixed with water and kneaded.  This is a common mode of expression among the Hebrews. The lump here denotes the mass of men, sinners,      having no claim against God.  The potter illustrates God's ight over that mass, to dispose of it as seems good in His sight.

Paul continues his answer to the Jews. “Has not God shown, by the parable of the potter,” (Jer 18:1), etc. “that he may justly dispose of nations, and of the Jews in particular, according as He in His infinite wisdom may judge most right and fitting; even as the potter has a right, out of the same lump of clay, to make one vessel to a more honorable and another to a less honorable use, as his own judgment and skill may direct; for no potter will take pains to make a vessel merely that he may show that he has power to dash it to pieces?”

“make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor”
Literally  “To make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor.”  One vessel for an honorable use, or one that is designed for a more useful and refined purpose, or another vessel unto dishonorable use; i.e., for  more common use.

          VESSEL:  (Grk.–skeuos)–Referring to, “a vessel such as a receptacle, household utensil, the tackle and armamemt of ships, an implement.”

The doctrine of the passage is, that men have no right to complain if God bestows His blessings where and when He chooses to do so.  So God, as far as right is involved, has the right to make of His creatures what He will. It is not said that we are as clay in the potter's hands, but that God has the right over us that the potter has over his clay. One lump the potter can use for a splendid vase; another for a vessel for base uses.