Are we clay in the hands of the Potter?
A very common, traditional teaching in the church is that believers are clay and God is a Potter, shaping, molding and doing as He will with us. This understanding has never born witness in my spirit. If I am a new creation, created in righteousness, filled with His Spirit, adopted into His family and seated with Him in heavenly places, in what sense am I clay?
When we go to the Scriptures for understanding, an entirely different picture is painted. The idea of the Potter certainly refers to God, but the subject of the clay never refers to individuals, especially not in the New Covenant. The clay in the Old Testament refers either to Israel or to the nations. The contexts of the passages speaking of the potter and the clay is always with reference to God’s dealings with Israel. They are the chosen portion from the lump of the nations with whom God is working.
Romans 9 is frequently referred to as a passage that speaks of believers as clay, but again, Romans 9 is speaking of the Old Testament analogy of Israel found in Isaiah 29, Isaiah 45, Isaiah 64, and Jeremiah 18. In every case the context is the nation of Israel. In Jeremiah 18 it makes the subject very clear: “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;” (Jer. 18:6-7)
God is speaking to Israel in the context of the covenant of the Law and the promise He made to Abraham to curse those who cursed Israel.
What about us? In 2 Timothy Paul speaks to the idea of believers becoming vessels unto honor and dishonor. Here is the passage: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.” (2 Tim. 2:20)
But when we continue reading a very interesting statement is made.
“If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2Ti 2:21)
Reading the full chapter reveals that if a man wants to be a vessel of honor in the house of the Lord, he must purge himself from iniquity! That is a very different picture than the traditional teaching of the potter and the clay. Aren’t we already forgiven and cleansed? Yes, our spirits are one with Him, created in righteousness. But that is not what Paul is referring to. Read Colossians 3:5-14 for a full description of what Paul is referring to in 2 Timothy 2.
The point is that God is not beating and shaping His children as clay. He is not sending calamity, sickness and destruction into our lives. He sent His Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and the Word alone can perfect us.