If you know me, or have read anything I have out there, you’ll know that my theology is more on the side of what’s known as “reformed” (typically known for believing in predestination or more formally known as “Calvinism” or known historically as “the doctrine of justification”). I have had MANY conversations in seminary, with friends, and with family about this belief and the consequences of believing this way, and some of the difficulties in perceived contradictions to this. Some of the more well known scripture passages that some have a difficulty reconciling is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever would belie in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.” But don’t forget the next verse “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” And another in Romans 10:13 (quoted from Joel 2:32) which says “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”
The word “world” is a term which has multiple meanings. It was said of Jesus that “the entire world” was following after Him. Now obviously this does not mean that every single individual in the world was going after Jesus. The “world” can, and often times does, refer to God’s overall creation. God came to this world as fully-God and fully-man in Jesus not to “condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him…” Jesus came not just to rescue individuals, but His very creation as well. This is why in eternity the earth will be restored and we will dwell with Him on the new earth, not floating on some cloud up in the “heavenlies” somewhere. He will restore that which was broken, both sinful nature and the material creation. “In a latter part of Romans, Paul wrote that ‘all Israel will be saved (11:26). A bit earlier he wrote that only ‘a remnant chosen by grace’ (11:5) will be saved out of Israel. He then proceeds to show us that ‘all the world will be saved…[via] a remnant chosen by grace,’ then why can’t we say that ‘all the world will be saved via a remnant chosen by grace’? This, I believe is the intent of John 3:16 – God so loved the world so much that he sent his Son to save all believers (not those who will die in unbelief). His mission was to save the world, not condemn it. And because of the elect international remnant, the world is, in fact saved!” – Michael Horton “Putting Amazing back into Grace.”
Often times points are best illustrated through stories. I am not the best story telling, but here goes nothin:
Imagine with me…two tribes, the Spoodikacks and Monokallos were opposing forces. A long time ago in a galaxy far far away… 🙂 …the great ruler Mpampa built a great fortress for his people to dwell in harmony. However, the fortress was now ruled by the oppressive Spoodikacks. Within the great fortress were Monokallos whom Mpampas desired to rescue. So he sent his best, brightest, and purest soldier, Heroas, in to fight in order to rescue the ones he assigned for Heroas to rescue. Upon their rescue, Mpampas deployed his forces to completely destroy the forces within the great fortress by poison, fire, and acid in order to dissolve the stench of evil and death from its walls and restore it to its former glory.
The LORD’s plan for his creation has always been the rescue of His people/kingdom (those who believe, who are called according to His purpose, predestined for adoption as sons and daughters of God), the destruction of sin and evil, and the restoration of His creation. Jesus died to save “those whom the Father draws” to rescue His people and restore His creation on a holistic scale, not simply a vague generalistic “offer” He threw out there for people to accept of reject as if His kingdom were made up of the “fittest” of humanity that somehow had the strength and ability to choose God.The reality is we are all corrupt, “none choose good, no not one.” If no one chooses good, how is even one person able to, left to their own devices, able to choose the greatest good in the universe, namely God? He/She can’t. It is utterly, improbable/impossible. Simply because no one left to their own devices WOULD choose God. Our very corrupted nature is at odds with God and His goodness. It is only by the divine providential choice and redemptive work of God that we are given the ability to know Him. He rescues us. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should bear much fruit and that your fruit will abide…” (John 15:16). So God DID/DOES love the world (His creation) so much that He gave His only begotten Son, that “those He chose and appointed them that they should bear much fruit (John 15:16), those whose names are written in the book of life, which was written before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, 17:8), “those He chose in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him [having] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph 1:3-5),” should not perish, but would have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world (His creation), but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” This is not to say that God doesn’t condemn the world. It is saying that the mission of Jesus was to come to earth to be “the propitiation” to save those whom the Father had predestined from the foundation of the world.” By His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, God redeems those He loves, and pursues through His Holy Spirit those who are “not His people” making them into “His people,” the kingdom of God. Then at the end of time, He will return and redeem and purify His creation back to its original glory and splendor for His people to dwell with Him forever.
The doctrine of justification is not speaking to those who are “not His people” necessarily. The usual emotional response – and refutation – given by those who oppose this doctrine usual appeal is to assert such statements as “my god wouldn’t do that” or “that’s not fair” or “he offers salvation to everyone” or other such philosophies that may or may not originate in scripture, and mainly appeal to the emotion and wisdom of men, not the clear teachings of divine scripture and orthodoxy. Some are chosen to glorify God through their redemption and glorification – to receive that which they do not deserve, and the rest God has destined to be recipients of His divine justice (Romans 9) to receive exactly what they deserve “the due penalty of their actions” (Romans 1:27). The grace of God is not something universal and cheap. It is intentional and very costly, and what was costly to God cannot be cheap to us or treated nominally.