Friday, September 11, 2009

Questions on the Sovereignty of God, Part 1

Preaching through Ephesians 1 has brought up a number of questions related to the sovereignty of God and human freedom. This is the first of a series of posts on the subject. Listen to the messages here. I would also recommend Tim Keller's, The Reason for God for more on these questions.

Why would God choose to send people to hell?

At first thought, it does seem quite unloving that God would chose some people to enjoy paradise while others suffer in hell for eternity. Many have questioned whether God's love and hell are even compatible concepts. But this question assumes at least two things.

First, it assumes that people are basically good and therefore deserve heaven, or at least a "fair chance." But the Scriptures tell us that "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one" (Romans 3:10-12, ESV). Far from deserving a chance, all people deserve eternal punishment for sinning against God (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Every person born into this world rebels against God and is headed for eternal punishment. So we are far from good! We are far from deserving anything from God. And yet, in His mercy, God chooses to pull some people from this future and give them eternal salvation. It is not that God chooses some people to go to hell (we are all headed there to begin with because of our sin), He chooses many people to be saved from it.

Second, this question assumes that we get to decide what is fair, and according to us fairness means a choice. In other words, God is unfair for choosing some and not choosing others. Paul addresses this very question in Romans 9:14-20 (ESV):
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'
At the end of the day God is the Creator, not us. And as the Creator he decides what is fair. Fairness would actually mean that all people suffer eternal punishment. Thankfully, God does not operate according to fairness, but according to mercy and grace. While we cannot always understand the mystery of His ways, we can rejoice that He has provided salvation for many through Jesus Christ.

Finally, no one knows whom God has chosen and whom God has passed over. This is why the invitation to come to Jesus should be offered to all and no one should be labeled a lost cause. Just because God has chosen to pass over some does not mean we know who those people are. Our job is to share the Gospel with everyone and to pray that God might save them.

2 comments:

  1. Predestination and free will is hard to wrap your mind around. There is so much freedom in predestination. It makes it impossible for man to take credit for their salvation or others. It makes it impossible for the saved to be angry or prideful and look down on others that have not yet experience a saving faith (even after you shared all the right Truths and they still won’t believe). I’ve recently struggled in the area of trust because of predestination. When God places a precious loved one in your life and you watch them rebel against Him it is very painful. I found myself asking if it would every happen (salvation) and what if it won’t. My prayer (begging for grace and mercy) revealed some doubt. I was reading through promises and attributes of God in Ephesians and 1 Peter for encouragement and found promises only to believers. What about unbelievers? Then a friend encouraged me with His word in Psalm 37 about delighting in God and He will give you the desires of your heart. In verse 7 it says to “rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him”. Wait in Hebrew is Chiyl – to twist or whirl, dance, writhe in pain, tremble, trust and wait expectantly. So instead of doubting He has challenged me to trust and delight in who He is and to joyfully pray for those He purposefully brings to my life. I can now grieve when they go astray but I can rejoice in God for who He is and what He is doing. He is a God that I can believe that can do so much more that I am even expecting.

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  2. The part of predestination that has most bothered me is, how God decides who is saved and who isn't. Why do i have the gift of salvation, but others don't? I obviously did nothing to deserve it. Did i just get lucky? How do i even know I'm one of the elect?

    These questions were the cause of many restless nights. Finally after a great deal of prayer and reading I came to the conclusion that I may never fully grasp the concept of predestination, but that i can rest in the sovereignty of God and the fact that he is good.

    Then my world was again jolted when i stumbled across this passage in Romans...
    "For those he foreknew he also predestined."
    To me this means that because God foreknew that we would accept him he predestined us. This gives me comfort but it is also contrary to what you have been saying in church Jeremy.

    Again I am left in utter confusion... I am trying my best to trust God throughout this, but i honestly don't know that much about the bible. I have only been following God for a short time and feel very overwhelmed....

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