Many puzzle about Romans 9 and what some claim to see as a teaching of “double-edged” predestination, that is, that God predestines some for hell. It is useful to see what the Fathers do with such a passage. Here is an excerpt from John Chrysostom’s sermon on Romans 9 that addresses the subject well and demonstrates that God does not predestine anyone to damnation. The question was raised in a recent comment and I thought the answer worth posting.
Here is some of the most relevant commentary:
Ver. 20, 2l. “Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus? Hath not the potter (Read Jer. xviii. 1–10) power, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?”
Here it is not to do away with free-will that he says this, but to show, up to what point we ought to obey God. For in respect of calling God to account, we ought to be as little disposed to it as the clay is. For we ought to abstain not from gainsaying or questioning only, but even from speaking or thinking of it at all, and to become like that lifeless matter, which followeth the potter’s hands, and lets itself be drawn about anywhere he may please. And this is the only point he applied the illustration to, not, that is, to any enunciation of the rule of life, but to the complete obedience and silence enforced upon us. And this we ought to observe in all cases, that we are not to take the illustrations quite entire, but after selecting the good of them, and that for which they were introduced, to let the rest alone. As, for instance, when he says, “He couched, he lay down as a lion;” (Numb. xxiv. 9) let us take out the indomitable and fearful part, not the brutality, nor any other of the things belonging to a lion. And again, when He says, “I will meet them as a bereaved bear” (Hos. xiii. 8), let us take the vindictiveness. And when he says, “our God is a consuming fire” (Deut. iv. 24; and Heb. xii. 29), the wasting power exerted in punishing. So also here must we single out the clay, the potter, and the vessels. And when he does go on to say, “Hath not the 468potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” do not suppose that this is said by Paul as an account of the creation, nor as implying a necessity over the will, but to illustrate the sovereignty and difference of dispensations; for if we do not take it in this way, divers incongruities will follow, for if here he were speaking about the will, and those who are good and those not so, He will be Himself the Maker of these, and man will be free from all responsibility. And at this rate, Paul will also be shown to be at variance with himself, as he always bestows chief honor upon free choice. There is nothing else then which he here wishes to do, save to persuade the hearer to yield entirely to God, and at no time to call Him to account for anything whatever. For as the potter (he says) of the same lump makes what he pleaseth, and no one forbids it; thus also when God, of the same race of men, punisheth some, and honoreth others, be not thou curious nor meddlesome herein, but worship only, and imitate the clay. And as it followeth the hands of the potter, so do thou also the mind of Him that so ordereth things. For He worketh nothing at random, or mere hazard, though thou be ignorant of the secret of His Wisdom. Yet thou allowest the other of the same lump to make divers things, and findest no fault: but of Him you demand an account of His punishments and honors, and will not allow Him to know who is worthy and who is not so; but since the same14791479 Such is plainly the sense, but most mss. have τὸ αὐτο φύραμα τῆς οὐσίας ἐστὶ, it is the same lump in regard of the substance. lump is of the same substance, you assert that there are the same dispositions. And, how monstrous this is! And yet not even is it on the potter that the honor and the dishonor of the things made of the lump depends, but upon the use made by those that handle them, so here also it depends on the free choice. Still, as I said before, one must take this illustration to have one bearing only, which is that one should not contravene God, but yield to His incomprehensible Wisdom. For the examples ought to be greater than the subject, and than the things on account of which they are brought forward, so as to draw on the hearer better. Since if they were not greater and did not mount far above it, he could not attack as he ought, and shame the objectors. However, their ill-timed obstinacy he silenced in this way with becoming superiority. And then he introduces his answer. Now what is the answer?