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COMMON OBJECTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE OF SOVEREIGN GRACE

#1: IT ISN'T FAIR!

This is the most common outcry from those who are studying topic of election. In our limited understanding we think it unfair that God would only choose to save some while holding others accountable for not receiving Him when in the confines of their sinful nature they were unable to do so.

Interestingly, these are not new questions. Paul's Roman readers were undoubtedly struggling with very similar questions as he answers them in Romans 9:11-16,18, (read 10-24 for context)

11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad--in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls--she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." 14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

You may be thinking, as I too once did, 'that's not fair! God isn't even giving some people the chance to be saved. He is condemning people who were foreordained to reject him?!!!'

Paul anticipated the same objection from his readers: 19 One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" The answer? 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, `Why did you make me like this?'" 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory-- 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

I wrestled with this passage for a long time. It really does not seem fair to my human mind that God would "have mercy on whom I will have mercy" and "endure with patience vessels of wrath, prepared in advance for destruction". I have spoken to some who say that this passage is referring to the jews and God's election of a nation. Verse twenty four, in my opinion, would debunk that idea as it speaks of the calling from among jews and gentiles, vessels of mercy prepared in advance for glory; but supposing that is the case, is it not just as "unfair" of God to elect and chose one nation over another?

Is it unfair that God would judge a man for rejecting him when that man is unable to do receive Him without His intervention? Consider for a moment why that man is in such a state. It is a result of his sin. It is man's own fault that he is unable to come to God. God is just in condemning him because he is a sinner.

But, you might say, as I have often heard people say, 'what if I want to be saved, but then I cannot be because God has not elected me, is that fair?'

First of all, what is the measure by which we determine what is fair of God to do? ("Who are you, oh man?) Is God unfair because He does not choose to save everyone? You say if God were like this then, no, He would not be fair, as He would not be giving people the choice. But they did choose. We all choose to sin, to disobey God. If God were to really be fair and just with us, He would send everyone of us straight to hell. The wages of sin is death and we all very much deserve it. God is not unmerciful, unloving, or unjust if He does not chose to save everyone. He is extremely loving, and extremely merciful if He chooses to save any at all. That is grace. God doesn't owe anyone salvation.

The second aspect to consider here is the desire for salvation. The hypothetical person in the above example is saying: "I want to be saved!" And if those words come from the heart, that is the sign of a heart God has already softened, He may be calling them already. For "the natural man does not desire the things of the Spirit of God"(1 Cor. 2:14) "The preaching of the cross is to them that are perishing, foolishness"(1 Cor. 1:18) If this person is truly honest about their desire for salvation and truly seeks to know God as He is, that is not something that can come from the dead, sinful nature, which as we have seen earlier desires nothing more than to enjoy his sin and run from God. Everyone who honestly desires to know God, on His terms (salvation by grace alone) will be saved. Those who come do so willingly (for God has made them willing) and those who die in their sin also do so willingly. No sinner will ever stand before God and say "I wanted your salvation and you did not give it to me" Jesus said: "He that comes to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37) The one who dies in His sin and has rejected God will get what He wanted. He wanted nothing to do with God and so it will be that God will have nothing to do with Him throughout eternity.

God is being fair when he sends a sinner to hell. We whom God saves are the ones who get what we don't deserve. We too had chosen sin and would have remained in it were it not for the grace of God. We too deserve death. "We were by nature children of wrath, even as others" (Ephesians 2:3). But instead of merited wrath, God chose to give some of us love and grace. That is unfair. Praise the Lord.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:22-36)


# 2: BUT GOD IS NOT WILLING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH! (2 Peter 3:9)

Or is He? Read 2 Peter 3 verse 9 says "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."

Many people jump on the last part of that verse and say: See! The Lord is not willing that any should perish. But the question few ever ask, is: any of what? When one reads the entire passage, he sees that Paul is talking to the saints about the saints. The saints were being confused by scoffers who were mocking the promise of the coming of the Lord. Paul was reminding them that God is not slacking when it comes to keeping His promise (of his return for his saints), that he is longsuffering to US-WARD, not willing that any of us should perish, but that all of us (His chosen) should come to repentance. The reason for His delaying His return, was that He was not willing that ANY of them should perish.

If "any" indeed meant that God was not willing that any in the world perish, as is the popular belief, then God would be delaying His return forever, or else His will (that none perish) would not be done and people would perish when He was not willing that it be like this. If God was not willing that any as in anybody at all perish, none would. But men perish every day. God is sovereign. Nothing can happen that He does not will to happen. Therefore it is His will that they perish. Again, if it was not, they would not.

This is not to say that God is in any way barbaric, taking delight in seeing thousands of people go to hell. This is the farthest from the truth. The disobedience of His creatures greatly grieves the Father. We see Jesus weeping "how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37) We know he could have made them willing if He chose to do so (Psalms 110:3), and yet he wept for them. It is specifically said in Ezekiel 33:11"As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked but rather that they turn from their ways and live." I believe it is accurate to say that while God takes no joy in seeing men perish, in His sovereignty He is willing to let it happen, that He might make His power known (Romans 9:22)


#3 IF GOD HAS ALREADY CHOSEN WHO HE WILL SAVE WHY EVANGELIZE?

For many free-willers, the urgency to evangelize is found in needing to persuade as many people as he possibly can to turn to Christ. They are correct in pointing out that for someone who believes that Salvation is God's predetermined work and that not one more person will be saved then those God has chosen; it could be easy to fall into a mode of complacency and lack of urgency. One could say "Why bother evangelizing? If God has chosen someone, they will eventually get saved."

The Bible is clear that people are not "automatically saved" Romans 10:17 tells us that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" In Romans 10:14 clearly states "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Jesus has commanded us to go out into the world and preach the gospel to every creature. It is a command and like any other, it must be obeyed. It is not up to us to determine who is elect, only to preach the gospel to each man, as though he is elect and able to hear the message. It is the knowing that God has an elect, chosen people who will hear the message and receive that should further motivate us to preach the gospel.

His belief in election didn't hinder Paul's evangelistic efforts. Paul lived and died spreading the gospel. He declared in 2 Timothy 2:10 "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. As Chuck Swindoll once said: "If your theology is causing you to loose your zeal for the lost, it's wrong".

Does any of this really matter? What does it change?


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