Paul specifically says God shows mercy to some people, and chooses to harden the hearts of others so that they refuse to listen. (8:18). He gave Pharaoh as an example. Then he goes on to say, “that’s the way it is. Don’t question God. He will show mercy and compassion to anyone he chooses.”
There are those who base their theology on these and similar verses. They call it election or pre-destination. And as I read these verses this morning, I prayed: Are they right to believe you decide to deny salvation to some based on a criteria we can’t understand? Is that what Paul is saying?
Then I read chapters 10-11 and heard Paul say salvation is for everyone. I was reminded of the “whosoever” of John 3:16, the “not willing that any should perish” of 2 Peter 3:9. How do I reconcile two seemingly opposite views? Because I believe both views are true by the fact they are God-breathed Scripture.
Which makes me think they aren’t all that opposite after all. Here’s what I believe Scripture teaches from Genesis to Revelation: God loves people. Jesus died to save people. God, from day one has been revealing Himself to people, to draw all of us to Himself.
But God created us with the gift of choice. Anyone who chooses God, God chooses to accept. Anyone who chooses to reject God, God chooses to reject. From before creation, God knew who of us would choose Him and who would reject Him. From before creation He chose to save all who choose Him, and condemn all who reject Him.
That’s what He predestined: the means of salvation.
You might not like it. You might think it’s too cut and dry, black and white. Hear Paul say: who do you think you are to question your Creator?
I think many of us have been caught up in trying to figure out predestination, and we may have overlooked the important message Paul wanted us to hear. I think Paul (speaking for God) wanted us to consider the seriousness of rejecting God.
Do you accept that Jesus died to pay your sin debt? Do you choose to believe that He is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life? Have you been born again? Then you are chosen by God to receive His grace!
But if you don’t accept Him on His terms, if you don’t believe, you are chosen by God to receive His punishment without mercy. And hear His warning:
If you reject Him, He hardens your heart. The consequence of denying Him is an ever progressive hardening toward Him, so that eventually you won’t even hear Him any more. Not that He won’t be revealing Himself. But it will be harder and harder for you to see Him.
Rejecting God is serious. And I think that is the important lesson Paul was trying to convey here. You are chosen by God to be His child. Jesus died for you so that your sins can be forgiven. That is His choice for you.
The question is: what is your choice?