Robert Jeffress - Is God Unfair? - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The doctrine of election creates a mysterious tension between predestination and human responsibility. In fact, for many, this issue has become a barrier to belief. Are we free to choose our eternal destiny in heaven or hell, or are we merely robots that were programmed long before the beginning of time? Today, we're turning to Romans chapter nine, to answer three common questions. My message is titled, "Is God Unfair?" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
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 three, "There's not one righteous among us, no, not even one. For all 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. We really don't accept the fact that everybody is born guilty, because we don't understand the holiness of God. But God's justice demands that everyone be sentenced to hell. But statement number two, God's mercy allows for some to enter into heaven. God's mercy allows some to enter into heaven. Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".
So here's the question. How does God choose whom to save and whom to pass over for salvation? Is it because God looks at us and says, oh, I think you're gonna be a good person, I choose you. Is that the basis? Or is the basis just some capricious choice? Does God sit up in heaven with a deck of cards before the foundation of the world and say, okay, saved, lost, saved, lost. Is that how he does it? No, Ephesians 1:11 actually tells us the basis by which people are chosen for salvation. Ephesians 1:11 says, "That we are also have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to his purpose who works all things after the counsel of his will". God's choice in salvation is according to his secret plan, hidden in the heart of God. The truth is, we don't know why God chooses some and doesn't choose others. But we know salvation is all by grace. Is God unfair? No, there is no injustice in God.
Second question, does God predestine people for hell? That is, if you believe that before the foundation of the world, God chose some people to be saved. Does it naturally follow that before the foundation of the world, God predestined and chose people to go to hell? To put a finer point on it, did God actually create certain human beings for no other purpose, but to send them to hell and eternally suffer? Does the Bible teach that? Does it teach what is commonly called double predestination? Some are predestined to go to heaven, some are predestined chosen by God for hell.
Well, Paul anticipated that question as well. Look at verse 19. "You will say to me then, 'well, why does he still find fault? For who resists his will'"? What Paul is saying is, how can anybody be held accountable for their actions, especially the lost, if God has chosen them to be lost? For God to predestine somebody to go to hell and then tell them to accept Christ as their Savior, that's like cut it in a man's arms off, both his arms off, and then telling him to pass the ketchup. I mean, you're asking him to do the impossible. You're responsible for making it where he can't pass the ketchup, and then you're asking him to do the impossible. So does God predestine some people to hell? Let's get something straight. Don't ever use the argument, well, God can't do that because that wouldn't be fair. Don't play the fairness card. Because after all, God is the Creator, he's the master of the universe, he can do whatever he wants to do. God alone decides what's fair and what's just.
So, don't use the argument about fairness with God. In fact, that's what Paul says in verses 20 to 23. About those of us who would question the ways of God. He uses the illustration of a potter who's making a clay pot. And he said, "Imagine a potter is forming the clay with his hands, making this clay vessel in the middle of the process. The pot looks up at the potter and says, 'i don't like what you're doing. I don't like my shape, I'm too fat or I'm too thin. Or I don't like where you put the spout or I don't like where you're putting the top. I want to be different'". What pot has the right to question the potter? And Paul says the same thing with us, "Who are you a man to question God? God can do whatever he chooses to do".
So the question is not can God predestine people to hell? Sure he can if he wants to. The real question is, does God predestine people to hell? And this is where I depart from the extremes of Calvinism. I do not believe in double predestination. I do not believe God predestined certain people to hell. Sometimes it's called the doctrine of reprobation or double predestination.
Let me share with you two reasons I don't believe in double predestination. It has nothing to do with can God do it? Of course he can. But why I don't believe he does do it. Number one, double predestination is unnecessary for God. It's unnecessary for God. God doesn't have to do anything actively for people to go to hell. Because we're all out there on the water flailing around drowning anyway. We're all on death row awaiting our execution. God doesn't have to predestine us to hell because we're all headed to hell anyway. Because of the sin of Adam. The sin that has infected us and that we replicate every hour of every day, our rebellion against God. So God is not actively involved in causing us to be lost. We're already lost. You see that in verses 22 to 23 of Romans nine.
Let me show you something so interesting here. Remember Paul has just talked about and comparing us to a vessel of clay that God has made. And he says, "What if God, although willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction"? Now who are the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? These are the unsaved. They are vessels, creations of God who are destined to perish. Now, how did they get into that shape?
Notice the word prepared in verse 22, these people were prepared for destruction. Oh you'd say, there it is, God prepared them, he predestined them for destruction. No. That verb in Greek is in the passive tense, prepared. That is, the subject is not seen in the verse. God is not the subject. God is not the one who prepared them for destruction. They were already prepared for destruction. How? They were contaminated with sin. The clay was contaminated with sin. People were contaminated with sin. So they are already prepared for destruction and God has demonstrated his patience by enduring their rebellion for a season instead of destroying them. So even these people contaminated by sin who ultimately will be destroyed, they are a testimony of God's mercy. By the sheer fact that God has not destroyed them yet, immediately.
Now look at verse 23. "And he did so to make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy," now who are the vessels of mercy? That's the elect. Those are believers. Those are chosen by God. "Vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory". Now that verb, prepared, is in the active tense in Greek. And God is the one who prepared these vessels. Do you see what I'm saying? Those who are going to heaven, the vessels of God's mercy, these were prepared, chosen by God for salvation, as opposed to the vessels of wrath who were contaminated by sin. What I'm saying to you is, God doesn't have to actively send somebody to hell. Those who go to hell, go to hell by their own choice, by their own sin.
Remember what I said last week? No one is lost without choosing to be lost. Nobody is saved without choosing to be saved. Again, we stumble over this. Because we have this idea that God really owes it to all people to give everybody a chance to be saved. The truth is, we think God owes salvation to everyone. Jonathan Edwards, a puritan preacher once preached a message to his congregation. And he said, "Before you say God is unfair or that God owes everybody this". He said, "Carefully think about how you've treated God". "For example," Edwards said, "Do you really love God? I mean, when you really love somebody, you wanna be with them all the time, you think about them all the time, you try to please them all the time. Can you really say you love God"? "Most of you," Edward said, "You don't love God, you're looking for ways not to be with God. You look for ways not to read your Bible and to pray and just stay away from God's house. You grumble any time you're asked to give any money back to him at all you don't love God".
Why do you think God owes you anything? The fact that God would choose to save anyone, given our treatment of him, is a demonstration of his mercy. Double predestination. The reason I don't believe in it, is first of all it's unnecessary for God. All of us are headed for hell without any help from God. But secondly, double predestination is uncharacteristic of God.
Again, when you look at the heart of God, remember what we said last time? When you look at the pages of scripture, the scripture is clear. God is not desiring to save as few people as possible, the heart of God is to save as many people as possible. Think about 1 Timothy 2:3 and 4, "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires that all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth". Or 2 Peter 3:9, "For God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance". That's not a decree, a command of God, but it is the desire of God.
Now here's another great example. Hold your place here and turn over to Matthew 23:37. These are the words of Jesus. Says, "He looked out over the city of Jerusalem, at all the lost sheep of Israel". Remember what he cried out? "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling". Now, quick theology question here. Was Jesus equal to God? Nod your head up and down, okay? Yes, Jesus was equal to God. So if God predestines people to hell, then that means Jesus has predestined people to hell, right? I mean, if you believe that, you say God's predestined people to hell, then you have to say, Jesus has predestined people to hell.
So here you have Jesus, standing out, looking over lost Jerusalem and crying over the lostness of Israel. Now my question is, why is Jesus so broken up? Why is he crying over the lost state of Israel if he's responsible for it? If he is the one who determined they could not believe, why is he crying? I submit to you, those are crocodile tears on Jesus' part. Crying about something he's responsible for. But what did Jesus say? He said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I would that you would come to me, but you didn't. Because I didn't predestine you to come to me". Is that what he said? No, verse 37. He said, "You can come to me because you were", what? "unwilling". No one is lost without choosing to be lost. No one is saved without choosing to be saved.
That leads to a third question about election. Does election contradict human responsibility? I mean, if God has already determined he's gonna be saved, if it's a fixed game, I mean, doesn't that mean I really don't need to exercise faith, that's gonna come automatically? Doesn't it mean I don't need to get hot and bothered about witnessing to my friends and my family members? Doesn't it mean I sure don't need to give any money to that church in mission one eight in trying to share the Gospel, God's gonna do what he wants to do anyway?
Remember this statement, we're gonna talk about it more next week. Yes, God ordains the end result. But he also ordains the means to the end result. Yes, God is determined who's going to be saved, but he's also ordained the process by which they're going to be saved. And it is by you and I faithfully sharing the Gospel. No, God's sovereignty does not negate human responsibility. Now again, some people would point to Paul's own words to point out a contradiction. Look up at verse 17 and 18, the example of Pharaoh. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you, that my name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth'. So then God has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires".
Remember the story of Pharaoh? Pharaoh hardened his heart. Now, if Pharaoh had said yes automatically, I mean, none of those 10 plagues would've occurred. We wouldn't have seen the majesty, the power of God. But God said to Pharaoh, "I have raised you up for this purpose, to demonstrate my power. And through the hardening of your heart, my power is demonstrated". And so he says, "I have mercy on whom I desire, and God hardens whom he desires". And sure enough when you read through the Exodus story, you find 10 different times the Bible says, "God hardened Pharaoh's heart. God hardened Pharaoh's heart".
You say that's just not fair. That means Pharaoh had no say in the matter, God created him as a vessel of destruction to receive eternal punishment. That's not fair that God would harden his heart and then hold him accountable. It's true, 10 times the Bible says, God hardened Pharaoh's heart. But did you know in Exodus it also says 10 times, Pharaoh hardened his own heart. In fact, the Bible says seven times, Pharaoh hardened his heart before God hardened his heart the first time. And that's why I come back to, nobody is lost without choosing to be lost. Nobody is saved without choosing to be saved. And it's that human responsibility that Paul talks about in verses 30 to 32. "What shall we say then? That gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith: but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they, Israel, did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works". Paul says, "Let's summarize. It's getting close to lunch, let's summarize". He says.
Why are gentiles being saved all over the place? It's because they are choosing to pursue a right standing with God based on faith. They have accepted the Gospel, that salvation is not by works of the law, it is by faith in the grace of Jesus Christ. That's why they are being safe. He doesn't anything about election or predestination. Look at verse 30, it is because they are pursuing, in verse 31, in verse 30, the righteousness, which is by faith. That's why they're being saved, it is their choice to pursue righteousness by faith.
And why are the Israelites being lost? Why are they damned? It's because of God's election, it is by their choice. Versus 31 and 32, to pursue righteousness based on works of the law. The reason we are lost or saved, is because of our choice to either try to be right with God by our works or by God's grace, which is received through faith. Do you see that human responsibility here? It is their pursuit of a right standing with God based on law rather than grace that is responsible for their lostness. Nobody is lost without choosing to be lost. Nobody is saved without choosing to be saved.
Somebody once asked Spurgeon, "How do you reconcile God's sovereignty with man's responsibility"? You know what Spurgeon said? "You never have to reconcile, friends". You see what appears to us to be two contradictory truths, are not opposing truths at all. They're actually complimentary truths. And one day we'll see that. Let me illustrate that for you. Let's say you go into the gymnasium and you're feeling especially fit. And you see two ropes dangling from the ceiling. And so you go over to one of the ropes and you decide that you are going to pull yourself up to show what good shape you're in.
So you grab that rope, and as soon as you grab it, there's no tension in it and it falls. So you go over to the next rope and you try it. You grab hold of it, trying pull yourself up, no tension. And it falls. You're determined to get to the top. And so you decide to grab hold of both ropes, and you pull yourself up on both ropes, holding them. It's got all the tension in the world. And you get up to the top and you decide to pop the ceiling tile with your head. And as you do, you notice a pulley up there. And you discovered that what appeared to be two ropes, were in fact one rope on a pulley. It's the same way with the doctrines of election and responsibility.
If you grab hold of just one doctrine, the doctrine of predestination, and try to hold to it to get to heaven, you're gonna fall. It's not sufficient to get you to heaven. If you go over here to human responsibility and grab hold of it by itself, you're gonna fall as well. No, you have to grab hold of both truths in order to accept God's grace. And one day when you get to heaven, you're going to discover what appeared to be two contradictory truths, are actually one truth. God's election, praise God for that. Our responsibility to accept it and to share that message with others.