Have you ever noticed that a lot of people seem to know a lot about the bible, but when you really dig into it, not many of those people have actually ever opened it. I had a conversation with someone who told me that Hell wasn’t actually in the bible, it was a fabrication of the Catholic church, after Dante’s Inferno was written, because it got bodies in seat. Now over the last six months or so I’ve been pretty good about reading the bible daily and I have to tell you, Hell is absolutely in there. Along with a lot of other scary stuff.
So what scary stuff am I talking about? There are lot’s of places in the Bible that talk about being chosen by God, or being God’s chosen people and that you can only come to know God if he allows you to.
“He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesian 1:4
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” John 15:16
“…no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father” John 6:65
Today I was reading Romans 9. This chapter talks a lot about the idea of “Divine Election”. Basically God will chose who he wants to be merciful to and who he doesn’t and all of your good works aren’t enough. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that and I know that my bible reading said that this is an idea that a lot of Christians struggle with. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of being chosen. That word makes you feel special, cared for, included. But that also means if you read Paul’s words that there are going to be people that we might care about who aren’t chosen, people whom God might chose to harden like “Pharoh” in the story of Moses.
And then if God is picking some people and not others does that make him unjust?
This is what my bible reading had to say…
“Thus, while God may sovereignly bestow His grace on some, He must also sovereignly punish others. He will not “leave the guilty unpunished” (34:7). When Moses asked for grace to be granted to every Israelite, he was asking for that which would have been unrighteous. God’s justice requires that He punish sinners. His grace enables Him to sovereignly forgive some. It is not failing to save all which would be an injustice, but failing to judge many. God’s sovereign election of some to salvation is completely just.”
I’m trying to link this back to my idea that God gave Pharoh and others he punished in the Old Testament so many chances. But ultimately, while he always gives us free will, he also always knows what our choices will be. He knew Pharoh’s heart and the kind of person he was. So I thought maybe what I need to understand is that God will never chose someone who is not already at least slightly on the path toward him. I mean would you call a friend if you knew that they were never going to pick up the phone?
But then I read this…
“As Paul drives home (Rom. 3:10-12), “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” Scripture also piles up metaphors such as being spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), blind (2 Cor. 4:4), deaf (Matt. 13:14-15), lame (Luke 14:21), hardened (Eph. 4:17-19), and enslaved (John 8:34-36; Rom. 6:6), to show that as sinners, we had no inclination or ability to choose Christ or believe in Him.”
I think partially what scares me about it is that the concept could harden someone’s heart against God – a reason why people argue against preaching Divine Election. I mean we live and teach our children the idea that we are all created equal. But what this passage is saying is that we are not all equal in God’s eyes. I also understand that I am trying to constrain the God who created the heavens and the earth with my human understanding. The last reading I quoted from ended up saying that we should stop fighting and just let God be God. I do know that there are things in the bible that even the most educated scholars can’t make sense of.
I don’t know, I feel like I need to keep praying about this idea and for wisdom and understanding. At the same time, I think that as part of God’s chosen or elect, we have a responsibility to reach out to and pray for those we love. I heard once that if we have come to know God and Jesus and his love and sacrifice then it’s probably because someone prayed for us. So let’s take some time today in our prayers to pray for God to soften someone’s heart, someone we know and love, so that they too can have the privilege of being called a child of God.
If you have any more insight into this concept and passage I’d love to hear it.