Hey Jo and Vince,
My question is about salvation I think. I was listening to a sermon about romans 8 and 9 and the message was essentially this: God must first enable a person to have faith in Him for that to even be possible, God chooses not to enable everyone to have faith in Him, God then punishes those who never came to saving faith, and all this is done to make to the chosen people feel more grateful that they have been chosen. Is all of this true?
Does God have to give us faith in order to believe in Him? If so, how can He judge those who don't believe in Him if He hasn't given them faith to do so?
Hey Jo and Vince,
Thank you so much for this sincere and challenging question.
When it comes to thinking through or speaking about the core doctrines of the Christian faith, a certain level of nuance and complexity is involved which makes it very hard to sum up those beliefs in mere sentences. All that to say, I don’t think we could begin to do justice to your excellent question in this brief format of Q&A (not without making a mess of it, anyway!).
However, because we really do love this question, and we think it’s very important, Vince and I are hoping to have the opportunity to engage with it more fully in an episode of Ask Away at some point. If we do so, we will certainly be in touch to let you know, so that you can listen!
In the meantime, I do want to recommend to you a couple of other Bible verses that I think it might also be helpful for you to consider as you think through this question of salvation:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” (1 Timothy 2:1-6)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jesus, John 3:16)
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Jesus, John 12:32)
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7)
One thing that is abundantly clear to me when I read Scripture is that the God of the Bible is a God of LOVE–a God who is love. And when Jesus speaks of the love of God, he speaks of it as a love that God has for all people. When Jesus references “the world” in John 3, he’s not merely talking about geography, he’s talking about people.
Whatever other theological conclusions we might draw from God’s revelation to us through Scripture, let’s not lose sight of his perfect love. In the reality of the life and death of Jesus Christ, we encounter a God who is always taking the initiative to love the lost and to bring people home: He is ever reaching out, ever pursuing, and He does so with a love for the world that is far greater than any that we might feel or experience.
There is so much more to be said to your question, and I recognize we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of it (indeed, whole libraries have been written on it, which shows you just how important a topic you’ve hit on). However, one thing to bear in mind as you consider this issue in particular is that we can never out-love God, because God himself is love. So if it ever seems like we’re coming to conclusions which lead us to believe that God is less loving than we had hoped or thought (or in some sense seems less loving than we are), there is a very good chance that we’ve missed something important, and that we are not yet seeing the clear and complete picture of just how beautiful and incredible God’s love is, and how much bigger and better than we could have possibly imagined.
Praying for you tonight, that you might encounter that love of God in a deeper way than you have ever known before, and that your experience of Him would always be of a God who’s “goodness and mercy follows [you] all the days of your life” (Psalm 23).