A frequent question the Christian may encounter as we bring the gospel to the world is "Do you think I am going to hell?" or "Do you think such and such type of person person is going to hell? (because of some heinous sin they have committed)" This question is often loaded and not all what appears on the surface. Most of you are probably familiar with this. At early stages of the conversation, when people may still be on the defensive, the skeptic may not yet be trying to ascertain real information about what the Bible says about their eternal state, but instead, are trying to draw out your self-righteousness or judgmentalism toward them. If you perceive this to be the case, and want to know what might be a biblical response, read on.
To the mass of ill-deserving sinners on earth, God holds out the gospel that any person who looks in faith to the Son will receive eternal life. But what if no one actually responded to that message? What if not one person took advantage of this opportunity? Because this is the actual condition we find man in - No amount of outward appeals by God to man's heart or reason will suffice to persuade him to come to Jesus. Left to himself he is hopelessly given over to darkness. If he refuses to come it isn't because God is holding him back or coercing him against his will in the way of sin. This is what man wants in his heart of hearts.
Does the love of God allow Him to simply leave all people in the misery of their own stubborn willful choice because to do otherwise would violate their so-called free will? It would certainly be just but God loves His people too much to leave us to our own stubborn will. So out of the mass of ill-deserving sinners he still has a plan to save them in spite of their obstinacy. If people are to come to faith in Jesus they also need mercy to be delivered from themselves - from their own hardened heart. Because it is in man's heart that sin resides and holds him in inescapable bondage. We need God to give us, not just a way to choose, but a supernatural disarming of our innate hostility to God and an implanting of a new heart which loves God - which sees the beauty truth and excellency of Jesus Christ. (John 6:65, 65, 37; Ezek 36:26' Rom 9:15, 16)
The following are some resources that were posted this week that many might find edifying and useful for their studies.
No One Seeks God – Romans 3:9-20 Dr. Timothy Keller
Look to Christ, Not to Self by C. H. Spurgeon
Diligent in Studying the Scriptures by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Amillennialism (Audio/MP3) by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger (interview)
Boast Not in Your Graces by C. H. Spurgeon
In Christ Jesus by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Why Is Faith Required? by Thomas Manton
A True Understanding of Sin by J. C. Ryle
God’s Unspeakable Love by Thomas Manton
What Is the Gospel Message? by J. I. Packer
God and Natural Disasters by Jerry Bridges
Free from the Fear of Judgment - 1 John 4:18 by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)
"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)
What does Jesus mean when he calls people not to judge others? Does he mean he wants us to be undiscriminating between what is right and wrong? Or does he mean to simply keep your comments about right and wrong to yourself? Or to live in such as way where we don't care how other people live at all? Is he telling us to just leave others alone? Well, when we read the statement in context Jesus actually said something quite different than most people imagine. According to the remainder of the passage Jesus is saying that when we confront other people's sin, we should always keep in mind our own ... we then speak from a posture of humility, love and empathy. Jesus does not say, "forget about it" but says "first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." So he clearly isn't telling us to ignore the sins of others but to remind ourselves of our own condition before saying anything. So does taking the speck out of our own eye mean that we must first be sinless ourselves if we are to be qualified to help others our of their bondage? ... no the Bible is indicating that we are to always approach other sinners on equal ground recognizing that we are likewise only saved by grace alone, by God's good pleasure, and nothing more. We have nothing over anyone else ... so remember that when we bring the good news of the gospel to others.
Question: The Bible clearly shows that the choices we make will alter our destiny. For example, God appeals to wrongdoers, saying: “Turn back, please, every one from his bad way and from the badness of your dealings . . . that I may not cause calamity to you.” (Jeremiah 25:5, 6) This appeal would be pointless if God had already fixed each individual’s destiny. Moreover, God’s Word states: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Yahweh.” (Acts 3:19) Why would Yahweh ask people to repent and turn around if he knew beforehand that they could do absolutely nothing to change their destiny?
Response: Left to ourselves, our choices would only lead us to perdition. None of these Texts you cite show the moral ability of man to follow Christ, apart from the Holy Spirit. They are simply imperatives - God telling us what we OUGHT to do ... not what we are ABLE to do. You have to read into the text to and presuppose another meaning - that any time God give a command it automatically means man has the ability to fulfill it ourselves, in the flesh. But this is to forget the whole reason for Jesus coming. Did He not come to be the Savior for the very reason that we are NOT ABLE to live a sinless life and live? Are we not sinners in need of grace? God commands us to love him with all out heart. Does this mean we are willing and able, of ourselves, love him with all our heart?
Take the time to meditate on Roman 3:19, 20. The purpose of God's command is NOT to show our ability but reveal our inability ... to expose our sinfulness:
Works, Grace and Salvation by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The Times Require Clear Distinctions by J. C. Ryle
Preach the Gospel, and Leave the Results To God by B. B. Warfield
Encouragement for Pastor's Wives (Free eBook) by Albert Martin
The Consistent Christian (Free eBook) by William Secker (1660)
The Doctrine of Sanctification (Free eBook) by A. W. Pink
The Gospel and the Problem of Evil by John W. Hendryx
Does Irressitible Grace Make Men into Robots? by J.W. Hendryx
The Covenants of Works and of Grace (Free eBook) by Walter Chantry
Beware of Mingling Anything of Your Own with Christ by J. C. Ryle
Parent's Groans Over their Ungodly Children (Free eBook) by Edward Lawrence (1623-1695)
Delivered From the Law as a Rule of Justification by Charles Hodge
Comment: Irresistible grace makes men into ROBOTS
Response: I never heard the Bible make this argument. In fact, it makes the opposite argument, that is a great act of love to help people who cannot help themselves.(Isaiah 42:7; Rom 9:16-21). Its called mercy. It no more makes people into robots than parents who save their disobedient children from danger makes their children into robots. You don't leave your children to themselves. And whether your children want your help at the time or not, you know better than your children what is good for them. Most people call this love. How much more does God know what is good for his children?
Grace is irresistible because the Scripture says of sinners that God turns their heart of stone to a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26) before they follow Him. No one believes while his heart is still stone, and no one with a heart of stone would even want a heart of flesh (or it would already be flesh) - so this heart of flesh is not self-generated. but when God takes away the stony heart and makes it flesh, all barriers of resistance have been disarmed and we then see the unsurpassed beauty, truth and excellency of Jesus Christ. The new heart cannot but want to follow Him.
I have met many Christians who think that God will only love you if you first meet His condition(s). Many will say God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life ... but then turn around and say "now meet these conditions". But a conditional love is the very biblical definition of being a respecter of persons. Have a good look in the Bible what respecter of persons means. It is when you think you can get something out of a person you give him a seat of honor etc..
The God of the Bible, on the other hand, is a God who unconditionally loves more ill-deserving people than any man can count. Unconditional by definition means He is not a respecter of persons. There is nothing in us worthy, only ill-deserving, but he loved us anyhow, even before the foundation of the world. (Eph 1:4,5) and sent His Son to redeem us.
God indeed gives everyone in the world conditions ... but men are so wrapped up in themselves, captive to sin, that no one can or will meet them (dead in sin Eph 2:1). So in pity, mercy and love, Jesus comes and meets the conditions for us, doing for us what we are unable to do for ourselves (Eph 2:5).. Jesus meets the condition for us not because we first loved him but because He first loved us sinners,. (1 John 4:19; Romans 5:8)
Does God love the non-elect?
The Bible has a multi-faceted answer to this question which goes well beyond a short discussion, but suffice to say, God obviously has a particular unconditional love only for his elect that he does not for the non-elect. But much of the Bible also shows God's care and love for everyone in many and varying ways... so it is not a simple yes or no ... but if one is asking does he have an "unconditional love" for the non-elect, the answer certainly is no (Romans 9:13) -- or else everyone would be saved since unconditional would imply that all conditions are already fulfilled and all sins have been paid for, including the sin of unbelief.
In discussions with atheists, I always find it both amusing and puzzling that they almost never fail to make statements such as "I believe human sacrifice is wrong" or "in my opinion the Canaanite genocide was wrong". Now either they are trying to persuade me that such things are objectively wrong (in which case they have just denied their atheism) or in the unlikely event that they are really just giving me a personal opinion, I can only answer, "that's nice, good for you. Good luck with that". For if it is merely a personal opinion among millions of others, the statement is about as meaningful as the most absurd trifle.
A personal opinion about right and wrong has zero authority ... so why talk about it so often and passionately if you did not think it is truly right or wrong? if all is relative, as you claim, then someone else's opinion is not only just as valid, but to be celebrated. There is no "better" or "worse", "right" or "wrong" opinion in a relativistic world ... for something to be "better" would imply there was an objective standard of truth he/she was measuring it by.
A frequent visitor who is an atheist replied to this comment by challenging me with the following incoherent rambling:
"If I say, 'A cooked egg is better than a raw egg. Would you reply, "You stated an opinion about eggs. You must believe in an objective standard of egg quality."
Visitor: "...the Holy Spirit draws everyone at some point in their life. It is up to man to respond."
Response: Thank you for your comment but it has no biblical basis. I often hear persons appeal to John 6:44 as if the word "draw" somehow means that man is placed in some neutral semi-regenerate state outside of his natural depravity leaving man with a new moral ability to either 1) believe or 2) not believe. But when read in context verse 44 cannot possibly mean that. Jesus leaves no room for such a view. Here's why:
Take the time to read verse 44 in light of verse 37 which uses the same language "come to me", clearly indicating that Jesus is keeping on topic ... Verse 37 reads, "ALL that the Father gives to me will come to me." So according to this verse, HOW MANY of those who the Father gives the Son will come to faith in him? Verse 37 says ALL. It does not say some. It does not say 50. It says all. And it also teaches that the Father giving them to the Son precedes their coming to him. So saving grace is not a reward for faith but the effectual/infallible cause of it.
Jesus is not teaching what you are saying... Instead in light of verse 37 we can only conclude that ALL THOSE whom the Father DRAWS will come. (Also see verses 63 & 65 which teach the same idea).