"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" (Isaiah
"Then the word
of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot
I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as
the clay in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine
hand" (Jeremiah 18:5,6).
Our governing thought
is that the vessel made by the potter is an expression of
the mind of the potter. It is not just something in
itself, but it expresses a thought. So we resume with God
represented as a Potter.
God took this
conception Himself: it is not an idea given to Him by
man. It is God who has the clay in His hands and who is
working it according to His own mind. He is therefore
occupied with a definite purpose: He is working to have a
vessel for Himself, and the vessel is something which He
chose before ever He put His hand to the work. The
principle which the Apostle Paul embodied is a principle
which governs all the work of God. The Lord said to
Ananias (of Paul): "He is a chosen vessel unto
me" (Acts 9:15), and Paul himself said later: "It
was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from
my mother's womb" (Galatians 1:15). And that
Apostle makes it clear to us that all who are called in
Christ Jesus are foreknown and chosen by God. It is the
Apostle Peter who says that he is writing to "the
elect... according to the foreknowledge of God the
Father" (1 Peter 1:1), and that elect was
scattered abroad throughout "Pontus, Galatia,
Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia".
Now this subject of
'election' is a very difficult one, so let us say
something that will have the object of getting rid of
some of the difficulty.
Every truly saved soul
ought to have at their salvation a sense of divine
destiny. A consciousness of vocation comes with the
consciousness of life, and everyone at new birth ought to
feel: 'Now there is something to live for! Now
I feel that there is a purpose in life.' Everyone who
professes to be a child of God but does not have that
consciousness is not a truly born-again child of God.
This is true of every
part of the creation naturally when it is right. How busy
are all the living creatures on this earth! They have a
sense that there is something they have got to do with
their life. Look at the little ants on the ground! They
are very busy! It is as though their very
life depended upon their getting something done. And when
life is right it is always like that. If you like to go
outside of this building today you will meet a number of
wasps and you will prove that what I have said is true.
They are going to get something done and are not going to
be easily discouraged.
Purpose is a
characteristic of life, and if that is true in the
natural creation, it is much more true in the spiritual.
It is possible to be dead while we live; and that simply
means that we have lost the sense of a purpose in living.
Have you noticed that when faith declines the
consciousness of purpose also fades? Faith and purpose
always go together. Little faith means little purpose and
large faith means large purpose.
Now we are not given
any option in this matter, for it is just a matter of
life or death. If we have life we have purpose, and if we
have no life we have no purpose. That is because of the
divine sovereignty in this matter, and it is all bound up
with this matter of election, because God has chosen us
for a purpose. The vessels which this Potter makes are
not just for ornaments. They are not intended to be put
on a shelf for people just to notice, or not to notice.
God makes His vessels with an object.
You cannot explain the
divine sovereignty in this matter, so you had better give
up trying! When God says: "I have chosen thee",
He does not invite us to explore the reasons why, nor
does He invest the elect with omniscience. Indeed, He
does not allow us to investigate His reasons for what He
does. As a matter of fact, He makes it more difficult for
the elect to understand His acts than anyone else. The
clay is not allowed to ask the potter: 'Why did you
choose me, and why did you make me like this?' The vessel
is not permitted to say to the potter: 'Why did
you choose me for this purpose?' God just does it, and He
does not allow us to ask any questions as to why.
of doctrine in this matter often lead to spiritual death,
because they put the unsearchable, infinite wisdom of God
into a little man-made box. It is very true to experience
that hard-and-fast doctrines about election and
predestination often lead to death. Those countries where
a rigid doctrine of predestination rules are usually the
most spiritually dead. You can have Protestantism without
life, and you can have 'reformed theology' without life.
The reason is that men have put this infinite,
unsearchable wisdom of God into a box of fixed doctrine.
The chosen vessel
becomes the instrument of a divine wisdom which surprises
the vessel itself. Sooner or later that chosen vessel is
full of one question: 'Why did God choose me? Why did He
call me to this work? He ought to have chosen anyone but
me! I am the most unsuited for this kind of life and this
kind of work.' That was true of Moses. When God would
send him to Egypt, he said: 'Oh, if you can send by
anybody, do so, but not by me.' When God chose Jeremiah,
the latter said: "I cannot speak: for I am a
child" (Jeremiah 1:6). A prophet, whose
one business it was to speak, felt that it was the one
thing he could not do. Divine choice is a very
extraordinary thing, and it is not always the thing that
we would like or would choose that God calls us to. When
we are young we have perhaps a great idea of being in the
Lord's work, and we leap to it very eagerly as though we
can do it, but when we get older we feel more acutely our
dependence. It is then that we discover that naturally we
are not fit for it, and many of God's chosen vessels have
had to be kept in the work by the very power of God
You see, it is God's
own sovereignty in His choice, and the point is this: It
is not the vessel, but the purpose for which the
vessel has been chosen.
What is it that unites
us as Christians? Now listen to this: It is not
salvation, nor redemption, but it is God's power in
salvation and redemption that unites us. It is the common
consciousness of all believers that they exist for a
purpose and that God has saved them with a great purpose
in view. This is a very important thing to remember. We
may all be saved, and yet we may all be divided. We may
all be redeemed by the precious Blood of Jesus and yet
remain just individual units. But see what a uniting
power there is in everybody feeling that they are called
to a purpose! They are united by one common vision. There
were plenty of things to divide the people in the days of
Nehemiah, for they all had their natural and personal
interests, and the enemy was doing everything he could to
divide them, but they were all mastered by one purpose -
the building of that wall - and that common vision and
purpose defeated the enemy at every turn.
To return to the words
of Peter: We do not have to be always all together in one
place to be so united. Peter said: 'To the elect who are
scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia,
Asia and Bithynia.' It is one elect in many places,
united because of one consciousness of divine purpose in
Well, that has to do
with God as the Potter. Whether we understand it or not,
God acts in sovereignty when He calls us to Himself.
I believe most strongly
that this is the point where the mistake has been made.
Election has been made a matter of salvation when it
ought to have been made a matter of purpose. We are not
predestined to be saved, but are predestined, through salvation,
to come to God's purpose. Election has more to do with
purpose than with salvation - salvation is only on the
way to purpose.
Israel was God's chosen
nation, elect among the nations, and was brought out of
Egypt by the virtue of precious blood. When Israel failed
of the purpose of God in their existence, they defeated
all that had gone before. It was the purpose of
their redemption that justified their continuation as
God's vessel, and when they lost their purpose they lost
Dear friends, we are "called
according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Now much of what I have
said is perhaps difficult for you to understand, but it
is very important, and it leads to the other things which
are not quite so difficult.
Let us walk back to the
potter's house with Jeremiah, when the Lord says to him,
and to Israel: 'Am I not able to do as I will with My
The first thing that
arises, then, is God's ability to do what He decides to
do. Supposing we now put ourselves in the place of the
clay and are told that God has called us into a great
eternal purpose: We are to become an expression of the
very mind of God. What is your reaction to that? I think
the best thing we could say would be: 'Well, I don't want
to disbelieve God, but I don't think He will be able to
do that with me. Forgive me, Lord, if I seem to be
without faith in You, but I don't think You will be able
to make a success of me.' The Lord just answers: 'Am I
not able to do what I decide to do? Do you mean that My
power is so limited that I cannot do what I make up My
mind to do?' God's choosing carries with it God's power
to do that for which He chooses. 'Yes, but Lord, I don't
doubt Your power to do what You want to do, but how are
You going to do it? I just do not see, Lord, how You can
do it with me!' Or it may be: 'Lord, I just don't see how
You are going to be able to do it with that person. He is
a perfectly hopeless man, and she is a perfectly hopeless
woman.' And the Lord answers: 'Do you mean that I have
not got the wisdom to do what I have decided to do?'
God's power and wisdom accompany His choice.... 'Very
well Lord, I don't see how You can do it, but go on.'
Then the Lord begins to
work, and He comes on some difficulty in the clay. There
is something that is just not yielding to Him, that is
not suitable to His purpose, and a crisis arises. It
seems as though things come to a standstill, and then we
say to the Lord: 'I told You so, Lord! You have got the
wrong man. You see, You have got hold of the wrong piece
of clay. I tried to tell You that You had made a
mistake.' And that does not happen only once - it happens
again and again through our lives.
But look at the potter
in the potter's house! Look at his patience with the
clay, and his persistence, and then look at the people to
whom he was speaking. Think of Israel! Apart from
ourselves, Israel is the greatest example and
demonstration of the patience of God through history. I
know what you are thinking! When the vessel that the
potter was making was marred, he made another vessel. But
I will ask you a question: Was his new vessel made with
new clay or was it made with the old clay? The answer to
that is given to us in Paul's letter to the Romans,
chapters nine, ten and eleven. There Paul says: 'Yes, it
is true that the original Israel was marred in the hands
of the Potter, but out of the original clay He takes a
remnant' - and this is the impressive thing - 'and that
remnant is according to the election' (Romans 11:5).
God's work is not all
in vain, for in the remnant He sees His full thought
realized and expressed. There may be a lot about us that
tries the patience of God, but He will never give us up -
until we say that we absolutely refuse to go on with Him.
But who shall ever say that God's patience is exhausted?
No, dear friends. If
God has really called us, He knows what He has called. He
knows all that has to be done. His wisdom and His power
are very great; His patience and His persistence are just
wonderful, and the potter's house tells us that God is
triumphant at last.
I think I had better
leave it there for the moment. There is very much more to
come later on, and there are some things of very great
importance in this connection. If you are really the
Lord's you can settle this question that you have been
chosen. Has God drawn our hearts out to Himself? That
settles the whole question of election. Have you really
some desire toward the Lord? Where did that desire come
from? The one thing that we sometimes have to fall back
on is this: 'Lord, I did not create my desire for You.
With all my weaknesses and all my failures, You have done
something in me so that I cannot do without You.'
Let us just settle,
therefore, that God has chosen us according to His
purpose and that sense of divine purpose must really
govern our lives. Let us have faith in God that He has
the power and the wisdom and the patience to realize what
He has chosen us for.