Have you noticed the leave are really changing fast? Wow! It doesn’t seem possible when the days have been so warm.
So, let’s recap just a bit. We have been laboring to answer a simple question, “What about those who have never heard of Jesus?” To answer that, we first asked what worldview was most valid and best suited to answer the question. That answer was Christianity. We then asked whether man needed saving at all and that answer was yes. We then examined how that comes about and we determined that God is the only one who can do that. We then asked the question of who he saves. That answer was simple: Whom He wishes. From there, we found it reasonable for God to choose the children of Abraham (in spirit) to the exclusion of everyone else. Or, he could have chosen everybody. Or he could have chosen no one. The latter two would have precluded justice and benevolence, both clearly identified traits of God.
But all that is hard to accept in light of verses that claim all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. How is it possible to say that yet allude to the idea that some won’t gain entrance to heaven? After all, isn’t it our own will that keeps us out? Don’t we have until our very last breath to commit to Jesus? Paul explained in Romans 9 that it was a matter of God’s intent, not our works, and he used this verse as an example:
Malachi 1:2-3 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord? “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.”
We see this punctuated in Hebrews.
Hebrews 12:16-17 [see to it] that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Furthermore, Hebrews 3 & 4 stresses three times by quoting Psalm 95:7-8:
Hebrews 3:7-8, 15; 4:7 “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
So, there is not only a sense of urgency, but a clear message of finality. In fact, we see it over and over in the bible where God judges entire nations before individuals are able to draw their last natural breath.
How can this be? Why doesn’t it appear that God gives people, at least some and thereby reasonably assumed more than that, every single last second possible to change their minds? Certainly, God had determined Esau’s fate before his final breath. Doesn’t he want us to gain the Promised Land? Why would he close the gate when we still had time to repent?
To answer that, we need to look at the nature of man. Yes, Esau sought the inheritance, but apparently not because he sought the Lord. If he indeed called on the name of the Lord, he would have been saved. Romans 10:13 guarantees that. One can only conclude that Esau’s tears were selfish.
I don’t know about you, but it frightens me to think how much Esau and I have in common. Yes, I am convinced everything changed for me on June 13, 2007, but until then, me and Esau saw things eye-to-eye. Yes, it was a near-death experience in 2007, but I faced the same situation a year earlier and it didn’t even occur to me to take Jesus seriously. Plus, I should have been killed many times either by drowning, on the highway, or by work accident. I was well aware that I brushed very close to death many times before. Still, repentance was not on my radar. Certainly, I was exposed to the gospel many, many times. So, it wasn’t from lack of knowledge. No, Esau and I had the same outlook on life.
So, how, then, did I “get saved”?
The apostles asked the same question with Jesus’s encounter with the rich young ruler, as recounted in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Let’s look at one:
Matthew 19:23-26 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich man enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
We forget about verses like this, don’t we? Didn’t he say, “With man this is impossible”? He sure did.
Folks, I have said it many times before, but a man once told me that man’s primary problem is that we grossly underestimate the magnitude of our sin. In fact, we are so full of sin that we can’t even comprehend it. For some reason, we keep thinking that we have enough good in us to see this problem and, therefore, repent and be saved. Maybe I should say we think SOME of us have enough good in us…. The fact of the matter is that none of us have what it takes to repent on our own. Otherwise, why did Jesus say something so crazy like that? Plus, you and I know that this same message is all over the bible.
No, I am convinced that man is utterly hopeless and unable to repent on his/her own, apart from divine intervention. By this, I am including myself. This is very hard to accept. Very, very hard. Why? I’m not sure, but what comes to mind is that I want to think I can do it on my own. In fact, I don’t like the idea needing God to help me. I like the idea that I am smart enough or good enough to at least be better than most others and thereby gain a place in heaven – on my own. Stop and think about that for a moment. Furthermore, the idea of God standing in the way of anyone, especially me, casts a dark shadow across Him, does it not?
I think we have seen this same thought process someplace else:
Isaiah 14:12-14 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.
Do you recognize this? This is referring to the one behind the king of Babylon, Satan himself. By thinking we have something to do with our own salvation, aren’t we saying that we are ascending into heaven? Think about this.
Folks, it is my understanding, considering the entirety of scripture, that man cannot call on the name of the Lord apart from prior divine intervention of God himself. Yes, we do need to repent and call on the name of the Lord to be saved, but this happens only in response to God acting first. Both God’s initiation and man’s response are required. Furthermore, God isn’t looking down the corridor of time to see whether or not you will repent before he acts. No, he has established he decision to be merciful on whom he will be merciful before the beginning of time. You and I have never had anything to do with our salvation. It is an irresistible grace.
That’s not easy to swallow. I understand that. I’m not sure if I will present a list of passages concerning the business of “election” or not. You all know what I’m talking about. In the end, I will have a summary statement that I will use as a response to the question, “What about those who have never heard.” I guarantee that most will reject it; however, I am required to work out my salvation and be prepared to give a response to those who ask for a reason for the hope I have. This question is taking me a long time to work through that answer. Stay tuned.
Father, wow! Can it be true that I am completely helpless and hopeless apart from you? Yes, it is. Father, please forgive me for any arrogance I have thinking I deserve anything from you besides wrath. You forgiveness is your gift to me despite all my actions. I really don’t know what to say other than, “Thank you.” Amen.
Copyright © 2017 Scott Powers