Did God choose to not save certain people?

The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all things, including salvation. God has mercy on whom He will have mercy. (Romans 9:16, 18) He loved Jacob and hated Esau so that the purposes of His divine election would be accomplished without the work of men but by His own will. (Romans 9:11-13) God is the potter who makes some vessels to honor and some to dishonor. (Romans 9:22) Passages like Romans 9 seem to indicate that God chooses who will be saved.

Jesus said that the way which leads to destruction is wide. The way that leads to life is narrow and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14) This raises a troubling question. If people are saved by God’s choosing, then why are so few saved?

Passages like Romans 9 are only one side of the story. The Bible also teaches that man is fully responsible for his reception of the gospel. Esau made the choice to sell his birthright. He was the one who despised the promises of God. God in no way caused Esau to sin. God does not sin, does not cause men to sin and does not tempt men to sin. (James 1:13) God is the one who draws men to Himself, but none can say God is responsible for their unbelief. God’s sovereign working in salvation is such that it does not negate the responsibility of the individual to respond to the gracious working of God and to receive the legitimate offer of eternal life.

The Bible does not tell us how God does His choosing. Scripture does tell us some things His choosing is not based upon. God does not choose based upon some favoritism which selects people based upon personal qualities that may be advantageous to Him. God is not a respecter of persons. (Colossians 3:25) Nor can it be said that God chose based upon a knowledge of who would believe Him. That is just another form of salvation by works in which the saved merit salvation because God knew they were the only ones who would believe.

None can imagine that God is cruel or capricious in salvation. The Bible clearly says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Instead, God’s delight is in the repentance of the wicked so they can have life. (Ezekiel 33:11) God is not willing that any should perish. He desires the repentance of all. (2 Peter 3:9) God’s choosing is not evil in any way, but is the outworking of His compassion and grace.

These truths of Scripture are hard to understand. We will not have a full answer to this question until we reach heaven. Right now we cannot fathom the wisdom, grace and glory of God. We do not understand how God chooses or how His sovereignty works in man’s salvation. We know God is sovereign and man is responsible. God’s sovereignty is not limited by man’s responsibility, nor is man’s responsibility limited by God’s sovereignty. Both are true though we may not be able to explain how they can be true at the same time. Just like we cannot explain how the Father, Son and Spirit are each fully God and yet God is One God. Difficulty in understanding a truth should not cause us to refuse to believe it.

The proper response to this problem is to worship the God who is so wise His plan of salvation baffles the greatest of minds. The right response is to praise the God who is so gracious His salvation can be received by the simplest of children. Those who are saved must rejoice in their salvation. They ought to preach the gospel faithfully to all and pray earnestly for the salvation of the lost. Each Christian must glorify the God who chose to save him and who invited him to receive His salvation.

Is Repentance Necessary for Salvation

The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace, through faith alone. (Ephesians 2:9) The Bible is also clear that a person’s works no part in bringing salvation. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5) But many preachers talk about repentance when they preach the message of salvation. If salvation is only through faith what does repentance have to do with it?

The Bible preaches repentance as part of the gospel message. The end of Luke’s gospel records Jesus’ command to His disciples to take the gospel to all the world. In that commission Jesus connected repentance to forgiveness. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.” (Luke 24:47) In Acts 2 when the Jews asked Peter what they must do to be saved, he said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38) The gospel Paul preached was a gospel of repentance. “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21) Repentance is necessary for salvation.

How is repentance a part of salvation but not a work? Repentance is a change of mind or heart that results in a change in behavior. Repentance is not an action, or inaction. Repentance is a changed mind that recognizes sin and guilt. Repentance is a changed heart. A person can change behavior without true repentance. Many motives exist for a change in behavior. Fear of consequences or desire for a benefit may cause someone to change without ever recognizing he has sinned. A drunk may give up drinking because it affects his ability to get a promotion but never repent of the sin of drunkenness. On the other hand, a profession of sorrow or an acknowledgment of guilt is not necessarily repentance. Sorrow that does not transform the person is not repentance. Repentance produces a change in behavior. Changed behavior is not repentance, but it will be the fruit of repentance.

How does this relate to salvation? Repentance to salvation is not turning over a new leaf or becoming a better person. Repentance to salvation is a change of heart that turns away from false beliefs about God and salvation. Paul’s gospel message was a message of repentance towards God and faith towards Jesus. He preached to the Jews repentance of their rejection of Jesus. (Acts 13:39-41) Peter’s message to the Jews was the same as Paul’s- repentance from their rejection of Jesus. (Acts 2:36-38) Paul preached to the Greeks repentance from idolatry. (Acts 17:29-30) Repentance to salvation is a turning away from false gods and false methods of salvation and a turning “to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9)

Repentance is necessary for salvation. No one can be saved unless he turns away from all false beliefs, all attempts at saving himself, all self-righteousness, all false saviors and all rejection of Jesus to trust in Him alone for forgiveness of sin. Repentance is the other side of faith. Repentance turns from false worship to faith that trusts Jesus alone.

Does Hebrews teach that flagrant sin can never be forgiven?

Can a Christian lose his salvation? This question has long troubled and divided believers. Thousands of pages have been written to give an answer to this burning question. One of the major battlegrounds in this debate is the meaning of various key verses in the book of Hebrews. For example, Hebrews 10:26 says, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Does this mean that if someone knowingly sins they lose their salvation and can never enter heaven?

Hebrews quotes the Old Testament over 30 times and makes many more references to people, events and rituals found in the Old Testament. The book of Hebrews was written to Jews who had a broad knowledge of the Old Testament. The modern Christian needs a similar broad understanding of the Old Testament to better understand the book Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:26 points back to the absence in the Mosaic law of any sacrifice for intentional and willful sins. Numbers 15:30-31 says, “But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.” The Old Testament did not permit a person to plan to sin on Saturday and ask forgiveness on Sunday.

The book of Hebrews was written as a warning to those in the church on the verge of abandoning their profession of faith. The Jewish Christians faced intense persecution because they turned to Christianity. Some buckled under the pressure and turned away from their profession of faith. Hebrews encouraged the wavering believers to remain faithful to Jesus because He is far better than the Judaism they were returning to. There is no salvation in Judaism. Jesus is the only way of salvation. Those who rejected Jesus for their cultural traditions and familial religion were not saved.

Despite the absence of sacrifice for willful sin in the Old Testament, the grace of God was and is greater than sin. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, he sinned willfully and presumptuously. Does this mean he was never forgiven? In Psalm 51 David was confident God would forgive Him He acknowledged his guilt before God. He understood no sacrifice was available for his sin. However, David did not despair he would never be forgiven. He cried out to God confident He would forgive. He prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psam 51:7) David’s words in Psalm 51 stand today as a Divine promise for all sinners, even those who willfully and rebelliously continue in sin. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) Those who repent of their sin and cry out to God for salvation will be saved.

Hebrews never teaches that salvation can be lost. The entire book emphasizes that Jesus alone is the fully sufficient Savior. He saves to the uttermost. (Hebrews 7:25) Those saved by Jesus can never exceed the limits of His grace. Hebrews not only teaches that Jesus secures the believer’s salvation, He also secures the believer in salvation. Hebrews 10:39 confidently asserts,“We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Those who believe to salvation will not draw back, fall away or turn aside. Those who rejected Jesus for Judaism did not lose their salvation, they turned aside from a profession that was not genuine. Those who are genuinely saved will not cast Jesus aside nor be cast aside by Him.

What is the doctrine of election?

The doctrine of election has been a source of debate among Christians for many centuries. One Bible teacher, Millard Erickson, who wrote a 1,000 page book about all the major doctrines of the Bible, said this doctrine is, “Certainly one of the most puzzling and least understood.” The Biblical doctrine of election has nothing to do with who is going to be the next President of the United States. The doctrine of election is about how God determines who will be saved.

Election is defined in many different ways. One view of election is typically associated with the group of teachings known as Calvinism, and is also closely related to the Lutheran view of election. This view teaches that God unconditionally chose to save certain, specific people. He chose these people before He created anything. He chose them only because of His grace, not because He saw they would believe in Jesus or because of some other good He foresaw would be in them. The ones God chose to save will be saved because He Sovereignly works in them to bring them to salvation.

The position that is often seen as the opposite of Calvinism is the Arminian view of election. This view teaches that God chose to save those who would believe in Him. In this teaching, God chose to save but He did not chose specific individuals who would be saved. Some variations of Arminianism teach that God chose to save individuals based upon foreknowledge of who would believe. That is, God saw who would believe Him and He elected to salvation those He foreknew would believe.

Others believe that election is of a means of salvation. God did not choose who would be saved, but He chose to save through the death of Jesus. All those who believe Jesus are joined to the chosen Savior and become part of the elect.

Others believe God chose to call out a group of people to Himsel, but He did not select the individuals of that group. He chose the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and He chose the church in the New Testament. In the New Testament era, all who are saved become part of the body of Christ. The individual members of this elect group are then known as the elect.

The question of election is challenging because it struggles with ideas that seem to be competing and contradictory. If God Sovereignly chooses those who will be saved and if only those He chooses can be saved, then how can He righteously punish any who do not believe what He has not given them the ability to believe? On the other hand, if man has the ability to believe or reject salvation then God cannot be fully Sovereign. If people have the full freedom to chose or reject God, then they have the ability to do things that God has no control over. The question of election wrestles with this seeming paradox of God’s sovereignty and man’s accountability.

Despite the challenges surrounding the doctrine of election, several key truths about God must be upheld. These truths cannot be denied and remain true to Biblical teaching. God knows everything. God knows the past, the present and the future. His knowledge includes everything that was, is and will be. He knows what men will believe and what men will not believe.

God is good and infinitely loving. He always acts for the benefit of His creation. He is not cruel or malicious. He is just. He does not play favorites with humanity based upon color, language, wealth, education, employment or power. God does not prefer those who have the most to offer Him. He deals with all men in goodness and justice.

Though many Christians have reached different conclusions on this subject, election should not divide sincere believers. In the end, each Christian will have to reach his own conclusions on the doctrine of election.

Can a Christian lose his salvation?

Once received, can salvation be lost? This question has been asked and discussed by many Christians and is understandably one of great importance. The security of salvation impacts how a believer lives the Christian life. The reasons for believing salvation can or can not be lost come from the believer’s understanding of key salvation doctrines.

Most Christians accept one of three possible answers to this question. The least commonly held view is that salvation is lost every time a Christian sins. Those who hold this position believe that to keep their salvation Christian’s must ask for forgiveness every time they sin.

The more common view is held by many who believe Lutheran or Arminian doctrines. This second group includes Wesleyans, Methodists, Charismatics and some Baptists. This belief contends that salvation is not lost by committing sin, but a person who lives in sin or turns from the faith loses his salvation. This position finds support in passages like Hebrews 2:1, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip”; Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame”; and Galatians 5:4, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” The warnings in these passages against falling from grace or letting truth slip seem to indicate that a Christian can lose his salvation.

The third view is held by many Baptists and those who believe Calvinistic doctrines. The third view is called eternal security and it denies that those who are truly saved can ever lose their salvation. A minority of those who hold this view believe anyone who prays a prayer for salvation is saved forever, no matter if they continue to live in sin or later deny Jesus. The majority who hold this third view believe those who are saved are secure in their salvation and genuine salvation is accompanied by a changed life. Because of James 2:17 they insist a prayer or confession of faith not accompanied by a transformed life is not truly saving faith. Scriptures upholding the doctrine of eternal security include John 10:28-29, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”

Despite the presence of passages that would seem to teach otherwise, the New Testament is clear and consistent in its teaching about salvation. The saved are saved forever. Salvation can never be lost. The Christian is secure in salvation because no part of it is accomplished by the person. Jesus has done everything necessary to save those who believe. The book of Hebrews is often cited as proof that salvation can be lost, but it is not. Hebrews is an awesome explanation of the supremacy of Jesus. He is greater than angels, Moses, the priests, the law and the sacrifices. Because Jesus is infinitely better, the salvation He gives is sufficient and eternally secure for all who will believe. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

Was Judas Iscariot saved?

Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples. Judas was the one who sold out Jesus to those who wanted to kill him. When thousands of people abandoned Jesus because His words were too difficult to believe, Judas stayed with him. He was a theif who stole money that was given to Jesus. Judas traveled across the region of Judea preaching the message of Jesus to the Israelites. While a disciple of Jesus, Judas probably performed miracles. Judas obviously believed something about Jesus or he would not have devoted over three years of his life to following Him. The combination of committed disciple and greedy betrayer causes many people wonder whether or not Judas was actually saved.

The evidences for Judas’ salvation are not conclusive. Jesus said specifically that that doing miracles is not evidence of true salvation (Matthew 7:21-23). Belief in the existence of God is not enough, for even the devils believe. (James 2:19) Judas’ actions as a disciple are not necessarily proof of salvation nor was Judas’ betrayal of Jesus proof that he was unsaved. Peter denied Jesus (though he did not sell Him for money), but Peter later repented of his denial.

When Judas betrayed Jesus he felt great remorse. Matthew 27:3 says that Judas repented himself, yet Judas’ repentance does not seem to have the hallmarks of saving repentance. His response seems to be an emotional sorrow, not a rejection of his sinful actions or choices. He was sorry that Jesus was going to be put to death, but not necessarily sorry that he had betrayed Jesus. The remorse of Judas did not lead him to repentance but to suicide.

The Bible never gives a definite statement about the salvation of Judas, but Satan’s possession of Judas seems to strongly imply that he was not saved. (John 13:27) Many Christians are agreed that a genuine believer can never be demon possessed. It seems extremely unlikely that God would allow Satan to take possession of one of His children. This is even more telling in the case of Judas when he contrasted with Peter. The evening before the crucifixion Jesus warned Peter, “Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat.” But Jesus tells him, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”(Luke 22:31-32) Satan was actively working on Judas, but Jesus gives no indication of praying for Judas. Would the Good Shepherd who gives His life for His sheep neglect to protect one who was truly His own?

Scripture gives no compelling reason to believe Judas was saved. Some have said we do not know the reality of a person’s heart, so we should not say if one was saved or not. While the compassionate Christian will be careful to avoid being overly dogmatic about the state of another’s soul, the Bible gives specific evidences of salvation. The evaluation of the Biblical evidence leads me to conclude Judas was probably not saved. My conclusion does not condemn him to hell, nor do I wish for Judas to burn in hell. A comparison of Judas’ life and choices to the Biblical evidence of salvation leads me to believe he was never saved. If Judas had of repented of his sin, the grace of God is great enough that even the betrayal of Jesus could have been forgiven.

How much more deserving is the worst person in heaven than the best person in hell?

In an article entitled “Ten Questions about Hell from an Atheist” author Herb Silverman writes, “Our earthly binary divisions are usually quite arbitrary. People may vote when they are 18 and buy alcohol when they are 21, but they are not permitted to do so the day before. We recognize such rules for what they are — distinctions without a real difference. Not so when it comes to the cutoff between an eternity of bliss and an eternity of torture.” He wonders, “How much more deserving is the worst person in heaven than the best person in hell?”

Only one person in heaven deserves to be there. That one is Jesus who is fully God and fully human. Aside from Jesus the best person in heaven is not in the least degree more worthy to be in heaven than the worst person in hell. The difference between heaven and hell is not worth, merit, deserving or goodness. No one goes to heaven because they deserve it. Those who enter heaven do so because they have been saved from what they deserve.

Salvation is never an issue of what the person deserves. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5) Heaven is not about getting what you deserve. Heaven is about the mercy of God which does not give you what you deserve and the grace of God which gives you what you do not deserve.

Every person deserves eternal judgment in hell. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Romans 5:12) “But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18) “But the fearful, and unbelieving . . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8) Because all have sinned, all deserve eternal punishment.

What everyone deserves has been placed on Jesus. What no one deserves is given to those who trust Him for forgiveness. “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18) The punishment of sin that everyone deserves has been suffered by Jesus. Those who turn to Him for salvation are forgiven and given eternal life.

The distinction between those in heaven and hell is not an arbitrary division. The difference between those who make it and those who don’t is not based upon a barely understandable determination that one is slightly better than another. All are guilty. Everyone has been condemned. The difference between heaven and hell is the response of the sinful person to Jesus. Those who believe Jesus is God and Savior, who trust Him and only Him for forgiveness of sin, will have eternal life. Those who do not will not. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life.” (John 3:36)