It would be beneficial to look into the answer to each one of the questions we might have about God and the Bible. For this paper, though, we will take a look at one issue: the doctrine of election, as seen in Romans 9 through 11. A thorough examination of predestined salvation should offer us a clearer viewpoint of the incredible goodness, love, mercy, justice, and wisdom of God. The questions that may come to mind when discussing this topic are the following: Do we have a choice whether to accept the Lord? Or does God choose some and reject others completely according to His own will? The way that we decide to deal with this issue may indicate how accurate (or inaccurate) our perception of God’s wisdom really is.
Beginning with Romans chapter nine, we come across one of the first of many Old Testament quotations that show up within this section: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. So then he has mercy on whomever He wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”
For those who have grown up with more of an Arminian belief-system, this is when it starts to get uncomfortable. Is Paul saying that God only wants some people to be saved? Does this mean that salvation is awarded apart from the free will of man?
As we continue to read the passage, we see more and more verses that seem to support a Calvinistic view of predestination. First of all, it seems as if those who are chosen for salvation could only come to repentance because they were chosen by Jesus, and not because they themselves chose Him: “I was found by those who were not looking for Me; I revealed Myself to those who were not asking for me.” Secondly, it seems as if God hardens the hearts of those He does not choose: “…He shows mercy to those He wants to, and He hardens those He wants to harden.” When studying this passage, you may come to the conclusion that those who do not choose salvation are unable to because “the Lord has not given [them] a mind to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear.”
For many believers, this conclusion does not set well. If each one of us has decided whether we believe in limited atonement or not, it is necessary that we ask ourselves where our decision originated. There is a chance that we could have made our decision without getting our ideas from the Word of God. (Proverbs 3:5-7)
Perhaps we cannot believe that a loving God could offer salvation only to a limited number of people. Our natural response may be: “I can’t believe in a God like that. My God wouldn’t do that.” But, that’s where the problem is; because what if it is true? What if God – apart from human will – predestined some people to be saved and others not to? Is God un-loving? Is He un-just? Is he not as good as we thought He was?
God is who He says He is. If His ways cannot be understood by human minds, He still remains perfect. If our finite understanding cannot grasp His infinite ways, His character still remains fully love, fully just, and fully good. J.I. Packer says it this way: “All His works of creation and providence and grace display [God’s wisdom], and until we can see it in them we are just not seeing them straight.” “…we ought not to hesitate to trust His wisdom – even when He leaves us in the dark.”
Maybe this study makes us wonder whether He can be both loving and just, simultaneously. A.W. Tozer contradicts this idea: “All of God’s acts are consistent with all of His attributes. No attribute contradicts any other, but all harmonize and blend into each other in the infinite abyss of the Godhead.”
In Romans 9, God answers the doubts we may have about predestination: “But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor?” Isaiah continues by saying: “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or who gave Him His counsel? Who did He consult with? Who gave Him understanding and taught Him the paths of justice? Who taught Him knowledge and showed Him the way of understanding?” Paul’s attitude in Romans is that “…it is incomprehensible that any person would take issue with God on anything He chooses to do. It is as useless as a dog barking at the moon to flee the sky! Just because we are God’s creation gives us no right to challenge the way He deals with us! Paul is shocked that any rational person would.”
Romans 11 concludes with the most appropriate benediction: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” By unpacking these verses you would learn that the riches, wisdom, and knowledge of God are profound, mysterious, vast, incomprehensible, and unfathomable. His “riches” are His abundant blessings and mercy for sinners. His wisdom refers to both His character and to His plan of salvation. And his knowledge is omniscient. His decisions and arrangements cannot be fully investigated. His movements are untraceable. No one has been able to understand the intellect, thoughts, feelings, and will of the One who is in supreme authority. He never needs an advisor. Everything belongs to Him. And no one is entitled to His blessings.
A.W. Tozer defines wisdom in this way: “Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends to achieve those ends by the most perfect means. It sees the end from the beginning, so there can be no need to guess or conjecture. All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time… Not only could His acts not be better done, a better way to do them could not be imagined.”
1 Corinthians 1:25 also speaks of God’s wisdom: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Who are we to question it? The passage continues by saying that Jesus “has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.”
We would do well to ask ourselves the same question asked in 1 Corinthians: Who are we to question the wisdom of God? As J.I. Packer puts it, “…one must learn to reverence God. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ Not till we have become humble and teachable, standing in the awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty (‘the great and terrible God’ ), and acknowledge our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.”
James 3:17 tells us that “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” It may be hard to understand how God’s redemption plan could fall under each one of these descriptions. But, we can be confident that, no matter how complicated salvation seems to us, every single bit of it is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere.
God has predestined us (whether it was according to: His own will or according to His will along with ours) to be redeemed and transformed into a righteous and holy people. All we need to know is that His plan flows out of His holy wisdom. We can blindly trust in the wisdom of God.