Something that I've noticed is that atheists can't get past this point. They believe, and believe strongly, that if Creator God exists, then the world would be perfect. No sin, no sickness, no death, no suffering. Atheists cannot conceive of a Creator God who would allow, or even cause hardship in their lives. My goodness that's just about as narrow a view as their definition of evidence. This is a tremendously long post but it needs (from my point of view) to be said.
I can’t seem to get out of my mind a comment that was made by an atheist a couple months ago. He seemed obsessed with things fair and unfair. What was / is tremendously unfair in this person’s mind is God’s choosing some people for salvation and not others. ‘If this is how god works, then he is not a loving god' was the gist of his comments. As I reread this, it doesn’t sound like he’s much of an atheist, does it? Oh well.
People who are caught up in this type of thinking don’t get this fundamental fact. Regardless of everything else that goes on in the world, ALL of us deserve to go to hell. None of us are deserving of forgiveness. None of us deserve to spend eternity in Heaven. God’s Love is shown in that He has chosen, called, elected, destined and predestined in His foreknowledge some people for salvation so that they need not spend eternity in hell.
Is this fair? Well, not in the sense that some people get salvation when they don’t deserve it, or that they don’t get eternity in hell when that is exactly what they do deserve. No. In that sense, God isn’t fair.
Is the setting aside for salvation, people who don’t deserve salvation the sign of a loving God? Considering that God came to earth with the sole purpose of allowing us to do our absolute worst to Him, while He gave to us His best, I’d say that God's love is way beyond our ability to comprehend. Considering that God paid the debt that I owed Him, so that I could be forgiven and be freed from earned guilt, I’d say that I don’t possess the language to describe God's enormous love. I and other Christians have been given the deal of an eternity. It isn't fair but it sure does feel like love.
I don’t claim to know the why of what our Creator does and neither do the ‘chosen’ writers of the Bible. That is why we have verses like, “His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” And “Does the pot tell the potter what to do?”
This I do know. The doctrine of election is clear. Here is what I could find on the subject.
The Bible speaks throughout its pages of God choosing people especially for His elect purpose. He sets some kings on their thrones and deposes others. He raised up a Pharaoh of Egypt for no other reason than to display God’s awesome power in rescuing a ‘people’ of His choosing. The genealogy of Jesus is an astounding example of this election of people (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for example) taking place down through the centuries.
An example of election that causes people to stand silent in contemplating God’s fairness is Romans 9:11 - “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand . . .” To be chosen by God is not based on our being “good enough.” Obviously this is because none of us could ever be good enough to earn God’s choosing. His plans are Sovereign.
The apostle Paul of course is adamant that it is God who chooses people for salvation. It is not people who choose God. Apparently Jesus taught as much when His best friend John wrote, “No one comes to Jesus unless God the Father draws him to Jesus.” Paul knows this fact because God chose him to become a follower of Jesus while he (Paul) was diligently killing and torturing Christians. Paul was shown in dramatic fashion that salvation is by grace alone and not by merit. He explains in Romans 11:6-8 - And if [salvation is] by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day”
Hmm. God doesn’t seem too concerned whether some people think He’s acting fairly.
Romans 11:28,29 - As far as the gospel is concerned [and] as far as election is concerned, they are loved . . . for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
2 Timothy 2:10 - Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Titus 1:1 - Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.
1 Peter 1:1 - Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world
Jesus spoke of the elect concerning the final days of history whereby it is only by election that some people won’t be fooled by satan’s delusions that are poured out upon the people “who live upon the earth.” This term, “who live upon the earth,” is used by the writers of the Bible to describe those for whom this life on earth is their primary concern.
Matthew 24:22,24,31 - If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
In a somewhat comical fashion, I had one atheist express worry that rebellion could take place in heaven (something, I would think, that he doesn’t even believe in), just like it took place before the creation of the world. What he doesn’t understand, one of the many things that he doesn’t understand is that the rebellion of the angels, satan et al. was also part of God’s plan.
1 Timothy 5:21 - I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.
Those angels that fell, were allowed to fall. Those who didn’t fall were kept safe by God according to His Sovereign plan.
Another word that is sometimes used to describe this concept is FOREKNOWLEDGE / FOREKNEW:
Like the word elect, foreknowledge is used when describing God’s work within human society as well as in terms of those destined for heaven. The first reference in Acts applies to Jesus himself. His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection was no random set of events. It was planned from before the beginning of time. Jesus came to earth with this express purpose in mind. This is the same as those who nailed Jesus to the cross. Their actions were not mere accidents of history.
Acts 2:23 - This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
As stated, elect, foreknowledge and foreknew are most commonly used to describe those that God has chosen for salvation.
1 Peter 1:2 - . . .who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Romans 8:29 - For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Those who have been elected by God’s foreknowledge have clearly been CHOSEN by God.
The first use of this term in the New Testament is to describe unequivocally that all 12 of Jesus’ closest followers, including the one who would betray Jesus were chosen carefully by Him, not the other way around.
John 6:70 - Then Jesus replied, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!"
There are many, many verses that are meant to comfort God’s elect by reminding them that if God has chosen them, He is not about to just allow them to drift along through life without His help. One such verse is found in Luke 18:7 - And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
Such is the importance of this concept, that Paul takes the element of God’s protection and hammers it home in several of his letters to various Churches.
Ro. 8:33 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Ephesians 1:11 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Colossians. 1:27 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
Colossians 3:12 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
1 Thessalonians 1:4,5 - Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
In a teaching of Jesus that could be used in concert with the parable of the “Sower and the seed” we find this verse.
Matt. 22:13 - Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "For many are invited, but few are chosen."
This is an important verse for those who pride themselves in leaving, or in “thinking” their way out of Christianity. While believing they have somehow broken free by their own will, Jesus explained in His parable that roughly 3/4 of those who hear about Jesus and roughly 2/3 of those who make a decision to follow Jesus will at some point reject Him and go their own way. It is nothing rare or individual or courageous. Leaving Jesus is what the common crowd does. It is banal in the extreme. I’ll say more about this in another post. In a bit of irony, Jesus’ brother James points out that it is often those who the intellectual elite look down on who God has chosen for salvation.
James 2:5 - Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
For believers, the following verses do indeed produce comfort and peace in abundance.
1 Peter 1:1-3 - To God's elect, strangers in the world, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
1 Pt. 2:9 - But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Again, we are reminded in the Gospels of those who will be set apart for God in the latter days of history.
Mark 13:20 - If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.
Rev. 17:14 - They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."
DESTINED / PREDESTINED:
People sometimes ask, was I destined to become a Christian? I’ll let the Bible speak for itself.
1 Corinthians 2:7 - No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
No one should be under the delusion that being chosen for salvation means a smooth and easy life.
1 Thessalonians 3:3 - so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
Romans 8:29,30 - For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Ephesians 1:5 - he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—
Ephesians 1:11 - In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
The Bible makes it clear that, unlike one Hindu mathematician who said that on average it takes a person 6,800,000 reincarnations to reach their concept of paradise, in reality there is just this one “go-round.”
Hebrews 9:27 - Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,
The question then begs to be asked. If I was destined to become a Christian, are some people destined to go to hell? Well, again, left in our natural state every single one of us deserves to go to hell. It is only God’s love and mercy and grace by which some people have been saved from such a tragic end.
1 Peter 2:9 - They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
CALLED is the final term that the Bible uses to describe the concept of being chosen by God for salvation; it’s a calling that was set in place before the founding of the Universe.
Mark 3:13 - The calling of the disciples: Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.
Romans 1:1 - Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God
Romans 1:6 - And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:7 - To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:30 - And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
But why would God do this? I’ve addressed this in a 2006 post titled “Is God Insane?” It’s probably best, however, to let the Bible describe what’s going on. If you care about this topic, you’d do well to begin at verse 16 or even at the very beginning of Romans chapter 9. There, it is describing just what I’ve been talking about - God justly condemning some people to hell for eternity.
Romans 9:22-24 - What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath (the unsaved) prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy (those whose sins have been forgiven), whom he prepared in advance for glory.
My heart trembles every time I read those verses because it could have been me. Through nothing that I have done or deserved, only through the grace and mercy of God the Father, the Creator of everything that is seen and unseen, have I been chosen for salvation.
1 Corinthians 1:1,2 - even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy,
1 Corinthians 1:9 - God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1:23,24 - but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1 Corinthians 1:26 - Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.
1 Corinthians 7:17 - Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.
Ephesians 1:18 - I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
Ephesians 4:3-5 - Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
Philippians 3:14 - I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:15 - Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
2 Thessalonians 2:13,14 - But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ
1 Timothy 6:12 - Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1:8,9 - But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
Hebrews 9:15 - For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance
1 Peter 1:15 - But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
1 Peter 2:9 - But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Again, and finally, it is important for Christians to remember that while we experience the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control of Jesus while we are here on earth, it is not this life that holds our true reward. In fact like every individual on earth, we have been called to endure much hardship.
1 Peter 2:20,21 - But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
1 Peter 3:9 - Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 5:10 - And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.Revelation 17:14 - They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
So what does this all mean? I wasn’t a Christian until I was 30 years old. Was that part of God’s plan for my life? I don’t think so. The fact that it didn’t happen earlier was my fault not God’s. In fact, my asking Jesus to become my Savior and Lord may not have happened until I was 90 years old or even on my death-bed. Nevertheless, I believe that I was destined to become a Christian.
But what if I’d looked at my life when I was 25 and said, “Well, I guess it’s just not in the cards for me to be a believer. If there is a hell, I guess that will be my destiny. And by the way I think that if there is a God, then he's a Class A asshole for doing this to me.” I can’t be sure of course, but I think that I wouldn’t have remained in that state. As was my experience and has been the experience of millions of others, The Hound of Heaven ran me to ground. He loved me until I couldn’t push away that love for even one more day.
That is why none of us can know who is and who isn’t destined for heaven until the day that person dies. Even then, in many cases, we don't know what took place between that person and Jesus just before death. Like Paul, some of the most hostile and most unlikely prospects for Christ Jesus are just a heartbeat away from salvation. Our job is to pray. God’s job is too save. And as Jesus said, He will never turn away anyone who is genuinely seeking Him. Amen to that!