There are the two Bible doctrines of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility which has caused a lot of discussion and debate. The Bible teaches both of them as follows:
God’s Sovereignty in Election
Romans 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
Ephesians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, … v4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
James 2:5 “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”
Man’s Responsibility to Believe
John 3:15 “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
John 3:36 “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
John 5:40 “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”
Acts 7:51 “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.”
Sometimes God’s Sovereignty And Man’s Responsibility are Brought Together In One Verse
John 6:37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
1 Peter 1:2 “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”
This immediately causes a conflict in our minds for how can God be totally sovereign and man have a totally free will at the same time? While this is a problem in our minds it is not a problem in God’s mind. However some believers swing one way and say that salvation is all to do with the sovereignty of God (which is generally known as Calvinism). Other believers swing the other way and say that the responsibility is down to the individual to believe or, sadly, not believe (which is generally known as Arminianism). So what position should a believer take? As God teaches both then believers should believe both and leave the conflict issue with God as God does not give us the answer.
However there are certain other issues that arise some of which are answered here.
Some People Believe That God From Eternity Past Could See Who Would Believe And Therefore He Elected/Chose Them.
Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.”
From Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 11:6 we see that grace is “completely undeserved favour”. As God’s grace brings salvation therefore there is nothing about us nor anything that we can do to deserve salvation. Therefore my choosing to believe in Christ as Saviour in time did nothing to merit God’s favour to choose me in eternity past.
Is God Just, To Act Sovereignly To Chose Certain People For Heaven?
The character and some of the benefits of God’s calling are below:
2 Thessalonians 2:14 “Whereunto he (God v13) called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Timothy 1:9 “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, …”
1 Peter 2:9 “(God) … who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
1 Peter 5:10 “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, …”
Additionally what does God’s Word teach us about God’s view of the whole world?
Ecclesiastes 7:20 “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”
Romans 3:9 “What then? are we (Jews) better than they (Gentiles)? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; v10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: v11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. v12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
Romans 3:22b-23 “For there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory (i.e. the character or standards) of God.”
Galatians 3:22 “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”
Therefore God’s Word tells us that we have all sinned and so we deserve God’s judgment. If we understand something of God’s holiness we would have no problem in realising that the above verses are true. So if God was to act in justice alone He would have to send the whole world to hell and there could be no just complaints about that because of our sins. The fact that out of all us sinners God has chosen some for glory is entirely from His wonderful and totally undeserved grace.
What Is God’s Attitude to Lost Souls Going to Hell?
God’s Word says:
Ezekiel 33:11 “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”
1 Timothy 2:4 “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
While God is holy, His attitude is that He does not want anyone to perish, i.e. go to hell, but that all should come to repentance and be saved.
Then why is there hell?
Matthew 25:41 “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
So hell and the lake of fire were originally prepared for the devil and his angels, because of their rebellion against God, and not for people. However if people continue in their sin they will sadly go there:
Romans 2:8 “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath.”
John 3:18 “He that believeth on him is not condemned (or judged): but he that believeth not is condemned (or judged) already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
But As God Has Chosen Some People For Heaven and Glory, Has He Also Chosen Some People For Hell?
The teaching of election can lead people to think that as God chooses people for heaven therefore He must also choose people for hell. Again what does God say in the Bible?
In Matthew 25:31-46 we have the judgment of the living nations by Christ. This is at the end of the Great Tribulation and before the Millennium starts. It is not the Great White Throne final judgment of all the lost souls after time has finished, as recorded in Revelation 20:11-15.
Matthew 25:34 says “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Matthew 25:41 says “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” The Lord Jesus does not say, “Depart From Me ye cursed of My Father”. So God did not bring the curse upon these people but they brought it upon themselves because of their unbelief which was manifested by their wrong attitude to God’s people in Matthew 25:43-45.
To understand the following verses I wish to make it clear that as far as God is concerned, and you probably know, there are two types of people in this world i.e. the saved and the lost. However each of these people types can be broken down into two more types. The saved include those that are going on for God and those who are back sliders, i.e. not going on for God. They are saved but are not progressing for God as they could. The lost include those who openly do not believe in Christ as their Saviour and those who profess or pretend to have trusted in Christ as their Saviour and belong to some church fellowship but in reality they have not trusted in Christ to save them. Some of these will leave their professed faith Christ and so leave the church and are generally called “apostates” which is not a word found in the Bible.
Some people to think that some Bible verses say that God chooses people for hell so let us consider them:
1. Jude v4 “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness (absence of restraint, indecency), and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
These ungodly men who have crept in among God’s people who did not realise that they were not saved. Jude says “who were before of old ordained to this condemnation,” and seems to say that God selected these particular individuals to eternal judgment a long time beforehand. The Word “ordained” is in the ASV translation “of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation”. v5 says “I will therefore put you in remembrance,” and so connects v4 with v5-7 and its three Old Testament examples of what sin and disobedience. So if people decide to leave the Christian faith, then their condemnation or judgment is the same as previously recorded of the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness, the rebel angels and the Sodomites in Jude v5-7. They are not foreordained to fall away, but once they chose to leave the Christian faith, they will face the punishment that all apostates will receive.
2. 1 Peter 2:8 “And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”
The ungodly are not appointed to be ungodly, but as they willfully disobey God’s Word they will not go on for God, and so are destined, or appointed, to spiritually stumble. Those who refuse to bow to and do reject the Lord Jesus will stumble. If a man insists in going on in unbelief, then he is destined or appointed to stumble.
3. Romans 9:22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
‘“fitted” in Rom 9:22, of vessels of wrath; here the middle voice signifies that those referred to, fitted themselves for destruction (as illustrated in the case of Pharaoh …)’ (Vine’s Expository dictionary). Some say it was God, some say it was Satan, that fitted the vessels of wrath for destruction. The vessels of wrath are those who through their own sin and disobedience are the subjects of God’s wrath (see John 3:36). However, as Vine says, since the word “fitted” is in the middle voice they fit themselves for destruction and not some random or illogical pronouncement from God.
Therefore the Bible does not teach that some are chosen by God to be damned or go to hell.
So In View Of The Teachings Of “God’s Election” And “Man’s Free Will” What Should The Believer’s Attitude Be To The Gospel?
The same person that said in Ephesians 1:4 “According as he hath chosen us in him (Christ v3) before the foundation of the world” also said in 1 Corinthians 9:16 “… woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” So the apostle Paul pronounces judgement upon himself if he fails to preach the Gospel. He feels the urge to preach and would feel wretched if he did not and his conscience would reproach him. Let us therefore pray for souls to be saved and that God will give us opportunities in the Gospel, whether by preaching or speaking about it, so as to lead others to trust in Christ.