For many centuries, the worldwide Church consistently recognized man’s free will throughout Scripture. In the year 680, the doctrine of free-will was authoritatively defended by the Church in the Sixth Ecumenical Council.
Then, over 800 years later, the Protestant Reformation erupted. Men like Martin Luther and John Calvin convinced many followers that man’s free will was an illusion. They cited a number of Scriptures out of context, attempting to support their views. One of the passages frequently used was the 9th chapter of Romans.
Ironically, when Romans 9 is interpreted in its full biblical context, it actually proves to be a positive argument in favor of man’s free-will.
There are many impressive connections between
the Biblical books of Jeremiah and Romans:
- Jeremiah and Paul were both prophets born to the tribe of Benjamin.
- Both were prophets who wept over the unfaithfulness of the Jews, and over the judgment which came to them as a result.
- Both used very similar concepts and similar terminology in their books. For example, consider Paul’s “Olive Tree” terminology in Romans 11, which closely parallels Jeremiah’s “Olive Tree” terminology in Jeremiah 11.
Similarly, Romans 9 closely parallels Jeremiah 18.
Paul was an Old Testament scholar. He knew the OT backwards and forwards, including the book of Jeremiah. Plus, Paul was a Benjamite prophet, just like Jeremiah. So it is not surprising that Paul’s writings echo the writings of Jeremiah so often.
In Jeremiah 18, the prophet Jeremiah likens God’s grace & judgment to the way a Potter works with clay. The Potter makes some vessels for honorable uses, and other vessels for destruction.
In Romans 9, the prophet Paul likens God’s grace & judgment to the way a Potter works with clay. The Potter makes some vessels for honorable uses, and other vessels for destruction.
In Jeremiah 18, Jeremiah is explicitly clear . . . The clay determines whether or not the Potter will make it into this sort of pot or that. If the Potter makes the clay into a vessel of mercy, but then the clay rebels, then the Potter changes course and remakes the clay into a vessel of wrath. If the Potter makes the clay into a vessel of wrath, but then the clay repents, then the Potter changes course and remakes the clay into a vessel of mercy.
In Jeremiah 18, the Potter molds the clay of the nations. Faithful nations are molded into vessels of mercy, and rebellious nations are molded into vessels of wrath. And through repentance, any nation can influence the hand of the Potter.
In Romans 9, the Potter molds the clay of the Jews and Gentiles. Those who are faithful are molded into vessels of mercy, and those who are rebellious are molded into vessels of wrath. And today, as always, the Potter’s hand is influenced by man’s genuine repentance.
Jeremiah 18 is in agreement with the theology of man’s free-will.
And Romans 9 was written in light of Jeremiah 18, even using similar terminology.
When these passages are viewed side-by-side, the close parallels are easy to see.