Question: If we are chosen by God and have nothing to do with it then what does that say about the people that don't believe. Did God by not choosing them condemn them to hell?
This is the question that Ephesians 1 almost always elicits. I appreciate the question, because it speaks to a heart that longs for people to be rescued from Hell. This should be every Christian’s heart! “Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” (Rom 10:1 ESV) Christians, should never just feel like, “I’m good… The rest of the world can just go up in flames.” What selfishness. We should desire to see everyone saved!
And so, when we read passages like Eph 1, or Romans 9, or think about God’s choice of Abraham, his choice of Israel, his choice of Jacob instead of Esau, etc, etc.... The Bible is explicitly clear from the Old Testament to the New, that God is the one who elects those who will be saved. He chooses us, we don’t choose him. We can’t choose him. We are dead in our sins (Eph 2:1), not seeking after God (Psalm 14:2-3), suppress the truth about God (Romans 1:18) and thus can’t come to God unless he first draws us (John 6:44). What does this mean then for those who aren’t chosen? Three things come to mind when seeking to Biblically answer this question.
First, we can only know what God reveals and shouldn’t try to guess about what He hasn’t revealed. God has clearly revealed that our salvation is from him, not ourselves. He gets the glory. We don’t. However, nowhere does the Bible teach that God chooses people to go to Hell. If we say that God chooses people to go to Hell, then we are saying something that God hasn’t revealed. Choosing people to go to Hell might seem like the logical implication of him choosing people to go to Heaven, but our logic doesn’t equal God’s logic. His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8). We cannot speak where God has not spoken, because to do so is to assume that we understand the mind of God, which is idolatry in elevating ourselves to the same position as God.
Second, not only can we not know things that God hasn’t revealed, but we must trust him with those things. Paul draws this out through the rhetorical question in Romans 9,
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- (Rom 9:21-23 ESV)
Now Paul isn’t saying that this is what happens. He is asking a question, not stating a truth. But his point is that even if this is what God does, who are we to question our Creator? We have no right to bring charges against him. We must trust in his justice and goodness and humble ourselves before our Maker.
Third, while the Bible does not say that God chooses people to go to Hell, it does say that people choose to go to Hell.
the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (Joh 3:19 ESV)
Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:32 ESV)
No one is forced to rebel against God. This is what we choose. Not only do we choose to rebel, but we make that choice knowing deep down what that will cost us. Everyone has imprinted on their hearts that sin leads to death. Yet, we still choose sin. And so it is not like there are people outside of the gates of heaven who desperately want to get in and God is only letting those in whom he has chosen. The gates of heaven are thrown wide open, the way of salvation is made clear. And yet, we are all running as hard and as fast to Hell as we possibly can. God is not required to do anything about that. Yet, in his mercy, he chooses to stop some from making such a fateful choice. So his choice of salvation for some is not him choosing damnation for others. That’s a choice that they are responsible for. And so, we must plead with people, “"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Mat 3:2 ESV)
- Pastor Jeff
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