Your Question # 9
[#9] If man cannot respond to the Gospel without the grace of God, and God has already decreed by election who shall receive that grace, how can it be said that someone is responsible if they go to hell? Responsibility implies choice, but the unregenerate man cannot act contrary to his fallen nature, and thus he is damned for failing to worship God when it was ultimately impossible for him to do so by virtue of a nature and an election he had no power to transcend. It seems he had no choice over either so how, therefore, is he responsible if he does not come to Christ? (By way of clarification – I have been out of church for several years. I have started reading and studying again. I am quite sympathetic to the doctrines of grace and consider them Biblically sound, but I’m finding this an impossible stumbling block) Thank you.
Great question, your topic has been debated for centuries. However I will respectfully disagree with you on a couple areas. First, man has choices even if they are tainted by the flesh, and sinful nature. This is where the grace of God shines forth. The Bible at times MAY seem like it contradicts itself, but that is not due to God giving His Word, nor those God chose to record His Word. Many of our 'misconceptions' come from to a couple things...i.e. one's lack of Biblical knowledge, or taking texts out of contexts. One central truth you can hang your hat on, is there is no error in God's Word. Most of the time it is our misunderstanding of it.
The Bible says this to all:
a. 2 Peter 3:9 ..."God...is not willing that any should perish but that (how many?) ALL should come to repentance." Taking this verse alone, and there are many others, it implies that God is looking for man to repent. God can speak 'through' man's fallen nature with His Word empowered by His Spirit to enlighten man to the state of judgment he/she is in. Just because man is in a fallen nature, it does not mean he can't make right choices.
b. Romans 10:13 "For Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." God did not say here: "if the elect of God call on Him they shall be saved." He says 'whosoever', any man/woman can put their name there.
c. God did not say anywhere I have found in the Bible that He 'decreed' man to hell. Men have said this in some of their interpretations of these passages, but the overwhelming text of Scripture continues to say: 'anyone', 'all', 'whosoever will' - COME! Look at the next passage:
Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’
Now this may be a problem for some, God does know who will accept His invitation, He is omniscient (all knowing). He does not block out of His mind the knowledge whether or not someone is going to be saved or lost. He knows who will and who won't. Now what man must understand is, WE don't know who will or won't be saved. We are to obey the last thing Jesus told us..."Go into all the world and preach the gospel to EVERY creature." Here's a very simplistic way of looking at it. Those whom God sees as 'Elect', (and they are NOT 'Elect' until they are saved) ... will receive Christ as their Savior. Those who will not receive will remain under condemnation until the judgment.
My friend, God's grace and mercy is absolutely beyond human comprehension. We must understand that God is under no obligation to save anyone. Due to man's inherent sin, He could condemn all to hell and we would not be able to say a word against it at the judgment...like the judge sentencing a convicted mass murderer in the court. It's a foregone conclusion, the man is guilty and deserving of maximum sentence. The Father did not have to allow His blessed Son to die a cruel, humiliating death on a cross for you and me, but His love, grace, and mercy made it possible. The blood of Jesus is sufficient to save all from all their sin for all eternity. You are correct in one thing here, it would be a cruel joke for God to say 'preach the gospel to everyone' and only allow 'special' people to be saved. But the fact is, He said: "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:16. Jesus did not save the 'elect' only (as some have implied), but He is referring to ALL in the lost Adamic race.
God's supreme act of grace is in knowing the future and those who will come to Him. By this act of grace, as a loving, merciful God, He is preparing a place for all those who are saved. The same as if someone were going to adopt a child. First room for the child in their home is made ready (Jesus: "I go and prepare a place for you"), they set funds aside for the added expenses (we are joint-heirs with Him), then they drive to the orphanage, and choose the child (go into all the world), but (follow me now) they ask the child if they would like to be adopted and to come home with them. The child can say what? Yes or no. If they say yes, they know they're going to a new home, but they have no idea the joys and pleasures that await them once they arrive. (Eye has not seen nor ear heard, the things that God has prepared for those that love Him). So the Lord is doing for His children.
I certainly understand your consternation over this subject. I struggled with it myself in seminary, but remember our responsibility is simply to go and tell others about the grace and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus. If you and I do that, you will be amazed at the number of 'elect' you will see come to Jesus.
God bless my friend.