I have just read your response to the question about limited atonement. Are you saying that unless God has specifically chosen us, we ultimately do not have a choice as to whether we will accept Christ or not - God has actually made that choice already and Jesus really only died for those people? Are not the elect the people who have chosen Jesus as their personal savior? What if God never chose me to be one of the elect although I believe in my heart that He raised Jesus from the dead and I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord. The Bible says that if I do this I will be saved. Am I therefore not part of the elect, or am I just wasting my time?
It would be good to start by reviewing three past questions and answers which discuss predestination: “If you are not chosen then does it really matter when you die?“, “What is the role of man and God in salvation?“and Does the Bible teach that Christ died for everyone or just the elect? are related ideas. Predestination is where we must start, and then we can discuss Limited and Unlimited Atonement.
God Predestines and Man Believes
Predestination is clearly taught in scripture (see above links). God decided who would become a Christian before He created us. He chose everyone who would believe in Christ! But scripture also teaches that we choose. John 3:16 says that whosoever believes escapes eternal punishment and gain eternal life. We are told that all who receive Christ become a Christian, yet it is God who causes us to receive Christ (John 1:12). Scripture teaches that God decided and we also decide. How can both be true?
It seems to be a paradox that 1 Timothy 2:3-4 says God desires “all” of the world to be saved.
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NASB)
2 Peter 3:9 declares that
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)
But then how do we respond to John 6:37, 44 and 65?
And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” John 6:65 (NASB)
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 6:44 (NASB)
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:37 (NASB)
John 6:37, 44, 65; 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9 appear to be in conflict. The truth is we cannot understand some things in scripture such as God being a Trinity, the virgin birth, God becoming the God-man and Jesus living His life as the God-man, for example. Yet, we believe these truths. But when we come to this predestination and limited/unlimited atonement, we really struggle. Why?
We struggle because scripture teaches both! We also struggle because we want to be free to make our own decisions, just as we want the freedom to sin! Most of us believe we made the decision to believe in Jesus or receive Him. It felt real to us because it was real. Why did it feel real and why did we believe in Christ? The answer is that God gave us the faith according to Acts 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29 and 2 Peter 1:1. When we believed, we repented of our sins because we finally understood our dangerous situation that we were going to hell (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). True Christians yield themselves to Christ as Lord of their lives.
We choose Christ as our Savior and Lord because God the Father has already chosen us. Yet, He commands us to believe.
TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME . . . they were not able to enter because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:15, 19 (NASB)
This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. 1 John 3:23 (NASB)
This implies we have a decision to make and Romans 10:13 says, “WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” To provide balance, we should also ask ourselves, “How significant is my role?”
Dr. Harry Ironside told about a man who gave his testimony, telling how God had sought him and found him, how God had loved him, called him, saved him, delivered him, cleaned him up, and healed him. It was a tremendous testimony to the glory of God. After the meeting, one Christian took him aside and said, “You know, I appreciate all that you said about what God did for you, but you did not mention anything about your part in it. Salvation is really part us and part God, and you should have mentioned something about your part.” “Oh, the man replied, “I apologize. I am sorry. I really should have mentioned that my part was running away, and God’s part was running after me until I found Him.”
1. Michael P. Green. Illustrations for Biblical Preaching. Baker Book House. 1985. p. 267.ry
Suggested Links:Does the Bible teach that Christ died for everyone or just the elect?
If you are not chosen, then does it really matter when you die?
What is the role of man and God in salvation?
Does the Bible teach that Christ died for everyone or just the elect?
Predestination and Human Responsibility
Searching for God