THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
John 6:44 and the Fairness of God
By Beth Hyduke
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:44What Jesus meant in John 6:44, and what the rest of the Bible teaches too, is that if left to themselves, people don't have the desire to come to Christ. There is no desire to repent and there is no desire to embrace the things of God. The Bible says that man in his natural state of fallenness is spiritually dead in his sins (Ephesians 2:1). Being spiritually dead, man can do nothing to improve or reform his condition, and more than that, we have no inclination towards escaping our predicament. Unless God intervenes and makes us newly alive to Him, we will continue in our rebellious hostility towards God, never having any desire for Christ. According to the Bible, this is the state of all men and women pre-regeneration, pre-salvation.
God knows this, and recognizes that unless He overcomes the inborn hostility within the human race towards Him, none of us would ever heed His call or respond to His invitation. So God provides a special work of grace for some individuals by changing the condition, position, and disposition of their hearts. To these whom He has chosen, He gives a new desire for Christ so that what formerly held zero interest for them in their unregenerate state is now something they come alive to, and treasure and respond to in love.
Is this setup fair? Now, once we start talking about ethical fairness, what we're justly owed, what we're entitled to, we need to remember that as sinners, as enemies of God, the only thing any of us deserve is hell. I would remind that God doesn't owe salvation to anyone. God's holy character requires that He be just to everyone, but being gracious to anyone is not a divine obligation but a discretionary option. In other words, God must be just, but He can choose to be gracious, or not. If God carries out sentence on an unrepentant sinner by sending them to hell for their full debt of unpaid sin, He is showing them justice not injustice. If He transfers the penalty of a person's full debt of sin onto Another who pays it for them in a full and legally acceptable way, He is showing mercy without ceasing to be just.
God makes it clear that He reserves the following as His divine prerogative: "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy" (Romans 9:15). So He elects some to salvation and He appoints some to condemnation, and He does this without compromising justice, righteousness, or holiness. At the same time, He makes a point to tell us that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11) and that it is His heart's desire that all people come to saving faith in Christ (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, Luke 15:7). Putting this all together, we can conclude that although God desires that all be saved, the desire does not move Him to act upon it by actually saving all.
What are we to make of this? If God desires that all be saved, why doesn't He show grace to all instead of merely to some, thereby saving all instead of only some? In a book titled Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace, John Piper writes:
What are we to say of the fact that God wills something that in fact does not happen?...[One] possibility is that God wills not to save all, even though He is willing to save all, because there is something else that He wills more, which would be lost if He exerted His sovereign power to save all...What does God will more than saving all? The answer given by Arminians is that human self-determination and the possible love relationship with God are more valuable that saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace. The answer given by Calvinists is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God's glory in wrath and mercy (Romans 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Corinthians 1:29).While God does not confide in us why He has chosen to save only some, knowing some essential details about the character of God, I suspect that John Piper is on the right track in speculating that God has a higher purpose in mind than would be accomplished if He were to indulge His desire to save all people. With the track record of my own sinfulness in view, the real question to my own mind becomes not why do people go to hell but why do any of us go to heaven? That God would choose to provide a way of redemption and reconciliation to any of us selfish, undeserving, ungrateful, actively hostile rebels, when He would have been fully justified and well within His rights to show us no mercy and no consideration and send us all directly to hell. That He loved us enough, in spite of our sinfulness, to provide a Way of salvation to us through His own Son is the ultimate proof that we serve a compassionate God of grace.
Image Credit: raincamation40; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Calvinism-Tulip | Controversial-Issues | God-Father
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