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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Is God Unfair? - Part 1

Robert Jeffress - Is God Unfair? - Part 1


Robert Jeffress - Is God Unfair? - Part 1
TOPICS: Calvinism

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Both Christians and non-Christian alike struggle with the concept of predestination. Does God randomly choose his elect, while denying salvation to others? If God is truly fair and loving, then shouldn't he want all people to come to faith? Well, today we're going to address these pressing questions and more with answers from Romans 9. My message is titled "Is God Unfair?" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

I had only been pastor of my first church for just a few months when I made the decision, the naïve decision to preach on Romans 9, the passage we're going to look at today, a passage about the subject of predestination. I preached my sermon, and did what I thought was a good job of balancing God's sovereignty with human responsibility, but there was a small group of men in the church who had already determined they wanted to get rid of me as pastor, and after I preached this sermon, they were sure they had the smoking gun necessary to both convict me and execute me. So I got word on Monday morning after the Sunday sermon that there was going to be an emergency meeting of the deacons on Tuesday night to determine whether the pastor was a heretic or not, and so we gathered together in the fellowship hall for our deacons' meeting, and the charges were presented that I was a heretic, because of what I preached on Romans 9.

So it was my turn to answer for myself, and so I had them go into the Sunday school rooms on the perimeter of the fellowship hall and gather up all the Bibles, since, of course, the deacons wouldn't be bringing Bibles with them. that's another story. I had them get the Bibles, so they opened the Bible, and I went through about a 45-minute study with them, a word study of predestination and what the Bible said about that, and also about human responsibility to accept the Gospel and share it with others, and when I was finished, you know, felt like I'd done a pretty good job until the spokesman for the group, an elder deacon stood up, and he said, "Now, pastor, that's fine. That's fine. You are free to preach that wherever you want to preach it, but not in this church".

What is it that riled that group of people up so much? I don't have to tell you this controversy is still going on. Right now, this controversy between predestination and human responsibility, it's raging in our denomination, our Southern Baptist denomination. I just heard this week of another church that has split over this issue. Well, this controversy is nothing new, and so today, before we actually get into the text, the text that almost got me fired many years ago, before we do that, I thought it would be interesting for us to talk about a couple of terms you may have heard about before, but you've wondered about, and the terms have to do with two systems of belief that try to describe God's sovereignty and its relationship to human responsibility.

The first term is the term Calvinism. Perhaps you've heard of that before, Calvinism. On your outline, you can jot down this definition. Calvinism is a system of belief that emphasizes God's sovereign choice in salvation. It's based on the teaching of John Calvin. John Calvin lived in the 16th century. He was one of the leaders of the protestant reformation, and his teaching has been summarized in what is often called the five points of Calvinism. Now, Calvin himself did not develop these five points. They were developed by his followers in response to another system of belief we'll look at in a moment, Arminianism. But these five points of Calvinism can be summarized in an acrostic that spells out the word tulip, T-U-L-I-P. So we're going to tiptoe carefully through the tulip -in the next few moments here. You in day one wouldn't get that reference, okay? But those of us who love Tiny Tim, we remember it very well. The tulip, T-U-L-I-P, they summarize the five points of Calvinism.

The "T" stands for total depravity. That is, man is so sinful and was so corrupted by the fall that he is spiritually dead, and never could he on his own ever trust in Christ as Savior apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. No man can choose to believe. He does not have that capacity because of sin. God has to regenerate him. That's total depravity.

The "U" stands for unconditional election. That is, God chose certain people to be saved apart from anything they would or would not do in the future. You've probably heard people say, "Oh, well, I believe God chose people based on his knowledge that if they were given a chance to accept the Gospel, they would, and that was his basis for election". Calvinism says no. Calvinism says God's choice was apart from anything the sinner may or may not do. It was unconditional.

The "L" stands for limited atonement. The Calvinists believe that Christ died for the sins of the elect, not for the sins of the world. And they would say, if God, if Christ died for the sins of the world, then all the world would be saved automatically, and of course, we don't believe that. That's universalism. So they say limited atonement. Christ only died for the sins of the elect.

The "I" in tulip stands for irresistible grace. That is, if God has called you to be saved, you cannot resist his grace. Your salvation is certain. God's grace is irresistible for the elect.

And then the "P" stands for perseverance of the saints. Sometimes we call it the eternal security of the believer, and that is, those who are elect by God are secured by God, and nothing will change that, and if you're truly one of the elect, your faith will persevere until the end. If it doesn't, it simply shows you are not one of the elect.

Now, that is Calvinism in a nutshell. Now, the other system of belief is Arminianism. Arminianism. That's not Arminianism, okay? That's a country. Arminianism is a system of belief that acknowledges God's sovereignty, but it also emphasizes man's responsibility to exercise faith in salvation. Arminianism doesn't negate God's sovereignty and salvation, but it emphasizes man's responsibility to exercise faith. Arminianism is based on the teachings of a man named Jacob Arminius, who also lived in the 16th century, and Jacob Arminius did not accept all of the teachings of the reformers, and so he developed a system of belief in reputation to some reform theology. Now, the year after Jacob Arminius died, his followers, too, summarized his teachings in five articles of faith. Now, I printed them out for you completely on your outline. Let me just highlight them.

Article one of Arminianism said, God has chosen to save some on the basis of their faith in Christ. That is, God's basis for choosing people was based on his knowledge that they would exercise faith. Article two, in contrast to Calvinism, Arminianism says Christ died for everyone. He died for the sins of the world, but only those who believe will actually experience the forgiveness of sins. Article three, man cannot do anything in and of himself good except exercising faith in Christ apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, Arminianism and Calvinism are an alignment. The Arminianist says, yes, the regeneration of the Holy Spirit is necessary to exercise faith, but article four, although men can't do anything good apart from believing in Christ, apart from the grace of God, God's grace is not irresistible. Arminians believe it is possible for a person who has an opportunity to believe to resist the grace of God.

And then article five. Whether those who are genuinely saved can ever be lost is uncertain and demands further study in scripture. Arminians cannot talk about the security of the believer, because they're not sure believers are secure. They said we can't really answer this question. It demands further study. I had not been here at this church long, just a couple of months, when somebody came up to me after a sermon and said, "Oh, I can tell by your preaching, you're Arminian in your theology, aren't you"? Few months later, somebody came up to me and said, "You know, I've been listening to you for about six months. You're a closet Calvinist, aren't you"? Now, which am I? Which are you?

I'll never forget the words of Dr. Charles Ryrie, one of our members here, and one of my professors of theology at Dallas seminary. More than 30 years ago, I'll never forget his words to our class. He said, "Men, don't ever let yourself be known as a Calvinist or an Arminianist. Be known as a biblicist". I do not feel any compulsion to align myself with any man-made system of theology that tries to explain the inexplicable. Teach the Bible, and you'll be balanced. The Bible teaches God's sovereignty. It's a mystery. The Bible teaches our responsibility. By the way, Paul was not a Calvinist, nor was Paul an Arminianist. He was a biblicist. Yes, he believed in election. He embraced the teaching of the Old Testament scriptures about election, as we'll see today, but he also believed in everyone's responsibility to trust in Christ and to spread the Gospel to others.

Now, with that background, let's turn to Romans 9. Romans 9. If you missed the message last time, remember we began our study of this fourth major section of the book of Romans that talks about God's program of righteousness. The theme of the book of Romans is God's righteousness. That is, a right standing with God is available to everyone who trusts in Christ, and when we get to chapter 9, the question has to do with Israel. Chapter 1:16 said the Gospel was for the Jew first, and then those of us who are gentiles. Well, the question is, if God predestined Israel to his nation, to be his people, and yet the vast majority of Israelites are rejecting Christ, what happened? Has God's elective purpose failed? Has God's program failed? No, Paul says in these three chapters. Nowhere in the Bible that God promise to save every Jew. There is no blanket promise that all of ethnic Israel will be saved. The promise in the scripture is all believing Israel will be saved.

Over and over again, Paul says, Jesus says being a physical descendant of Abraham, it doesn't guarantee salvation. It's not enough to be physically related to Abraham. You have to be spiritually related to Abraham through faith. And so Paul's point in these three chapters is God's elect will be saved, both Israel and gentiles alike, and of course, that brings up the a subject of election. What about election? Well, Paul says beginning in verse 6, election has always been a part of God's plan, that God chooses certain people and passes over other people. You see that in Abraham. God looked down and he chose Abraham to be the father of Israel. Why didn't he choose Harry or Sally or Tom or Habib? Why did he choose Abraham? It was part of God's elective purpose.

And then we saw not only did God choose Abraham, God chose Isaac over Ishmael. Why? It was a part of his sovereign choice. And then we saw in verses 10 to 13, God chose Jacob over Esau. Both were descendants of Abraham, both were descendants of Isaac, and yet God made a sovereign choice to choose Jacob over Esau. You know, we see same thing today. Why is it God chooses to place some people in a prosperous nation like America, and he allows other people to be born in poverty? Why is it God chooses to allow some people to be born healthy, and other people to be born handicapped? Why is it God places some people in a place where they can hear the Gospel repeatedly, and yet other people are placed in an area where they will never hear the Gospel? That has to do with God's elective purpose.

After last week's message, a friend emailed me and he said, "You know, I have a couple of questions about your message about election". And I said, "Trust me, I have many more questions than you do". I mean, it is a mystery, this whole idea of election, but it is found in the Bible. Now, as the apostle Paul wrote these words, he imagined his readers would also have some questions about election, so beginning in verse 14, Paul is going to answer the three most commonly asked questions about election. They are questions that you have probably had as well.

Question number one. Isn't election unfair? You know, this is one of the most foundational objections to the whole idea of election, the idea that it is unfair that God would choose to offer some people salvation and pass by over other people. I mean, after all in a democratic country like ours, we think everyone ought to have an equal shot at salvation. That's just part of who we are, so we say it's unfair that God would choose some and not choose others. In fact, I've heard people go as far to say, "If that's the way God wants to do his business, he's not going to receive my worship".

Now, before you make the charge that God is unfair in election, realize that it is a part of our fallen nature that we want to accuse God of anything. In fact, our default position, when we don't understand something, is to blame God. We got it from Adam. Remember, after Adam sinned, God confronted him with his sin. What did he do? He blamed God. He said, "God, it's not my fault. It's this woman", Amy, I'm not pointing at you, "It's this woman that you gave me". That's why I sin. All along since that time, we've wanted to blame God and charge him with unfairness. We do the same things today.

I thought about this week, two of our tremendous church members were taken to heaven. We lost Dr. Ron Anderson, great man of faith who devoted his life to helping the poor. Then we lost Larry walker, who was on a mission to India. Our first thought is, God, why would you take two godly servants like these and leave so many ungodly people on the earth, or even leave Christians who aren't doing anything except just taking up space and sucking oxygen off the planet? Why do you do that? Why not take them and leave Ron Anderson and Larry walker behind? It's all part of the mystery of God. We want to say that God is unfair, but notice how Paul answers the question of unfairness.

Look at verse 14. He says, "What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be"! And there's that phrase again, "Me genoito. A thousand times no"! God is not unjust. In fact, the doctrine of election is a perfect demonstration of both the justice and the mercy of God, and he uses the example of Moses. Remember in Romans 9:15, the Israelites were being punished by God, and Moses intercedes on their behalf. Look at what God says to Moses. "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion". The fact is, the Israelites were deserving of God's justice, his punishment, but instead, God chose to show them mercy. Paul goes on to say, "For it is not depend upon the man who wills or the man runs, but on God".

You see, when you really understand the sinfulness of man and the grace of God, you come to understand the real question is not, why doesn't God save everyone? The real question is, why does God save anyone? Whenever you're attempted to think that God is unfair in choosing some for salvation and passing by over other people, I want you to remember these two illustrations. Let's say, illustration number one, you're standing on the deck of a cruise ship. We talked about a cruise ship last time. Let's say you're on the deck of the cruise ship, and right below you on the next deck, you see a father, a mother, a teenager, and two children, a family standing together. They all slip and fall at the same time, and they fall into the ocean, and they're flailing around, about to drown. You have two life preservers right by you, and so instinctively, you take those two life preservers and you throw them to the two children.

Now, why did you pick them instead of the father or the mother, the teenager? Well, we know why you didn't choose the teenager, but why did you do the father, why didn't you choose the father and mother? Why'd you choose the two children? Well, you had your reason. Now, some people might disagree with your choice, but would anybody accuse you of being hateful for choosing to save those two children? No. Now, somebody would say, "Well, pastor, that illustration is flawed, because you're limited to two life preservers. You have to make a choice, but God's not limited. He could save as many people as he wanted to". Okay, second illustration. You're the governor, okay? And you make a choice to pardon a prisoner on death row in Huntsville. You have your own reasons for doing it. You choose to pardon the prisoner.

Now, could you pardon lots of prisoners? Yeah, you've got the power to do it, but you choose to pardon one prisoner. So the prisoner's pardoned from a death sentence. Now, is anybody going to call you hateful because you pardoned that prisoner? They may not agree with your choice. They may not say that he deserves to be pardoned. They may say somebody else ought to be pardoned, but nobody is going to accuse you of being hateful and cruel for pardoning a prisoner, because you see, the prisoner who got pardoned, what did he receive from you? He got mercy. The other prisoners you left on death row, they received what? Justice. One prisoner gets mercy, the others get justice, but no one gets injustice. It's the same way with God.

The fact that God chooses to pardon some is not an act of cruelty. It is an act of mercy. The fact that God passes by other people is not unjust. They simply get justice. When you are tempted to think that election is unjust, remember these two phrases. Write them down. Number one, God's justice demands that everyone be sentenced to hell. God's justice demands everyone be sentenced to hell. Remember Romans 3? There's not one righteous among us. No, not even one, for have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God. Every man, woman, boy, girl who's ever lived deserves hell, because we've all sinned. Do you know the real reason we all stumble over election? We don't really believe we're that sinful.
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