Romans 9:20 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Romans 9:20, NIV: But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? 'Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?''

Romans 9:20, ESV: But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

Romans 9:20, KJV: 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?

Romans 9:20, NASB: On the contrary, who are you, you foolish person, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it?

Romans 9:20, NLT: No, don't say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, 'Why have you made me like this?'

Romans 9:20, CSB: On the contrary, who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, "Why did you make me like this? "

What does Romans 9:20 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul now asks his readers, all of us, some hard questions. He has imagined that we are responding to the example of God hardening Pharaoh's heart, yet still holding Pharaoh at fault, with questions about God's fairness. This is a normal human reaction; if a person somehow "forced" another into something, we'd consider it outrageous to hold the coerced person responsible.

But Paul turns the question back on mankind: Who are we, as mortal human beings, to answer back to God? God is the One who molded Adam from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and who puts all of us together in our mother's womb (Psalm 139:13). Can the one who is molded talk back to the One who molded him and demand he ought to have been made in some other way?

The assumed answer, of course, is no. Created things don't talk back to their maker. Neither do human beings have the right to moralize to their Creator about His choices. He is God. We are not. As crippling as it might be to our own sense of pride, we must start with the realization that God has no obligation to us. He owes us nothing: not mercy, not love, not grace. That, in fact, is one reason the gospel is so incredible. The love and mercy God shows to us, in providing for our salvation, is something absolutely and completely unearned and undeserved.

We can't appreciate the depths of that kind of love until we accept the fact that it's entirely unnecessary on God's part.