by Rayola Kelley
Q: If God wills all men to salvation, but yet all are not saved, does that make God no longer in control? Obviously we know that God is in control of everything…so where does that leave us? The more I read Scripture, the more I think the average church gives too much credit to man making the choice to come to God. Like God is sitting in heaven wringing His hands just hoping that we will come to Him. Maybe that's the case, but it seems to me that God is in more control than that. On the other hand . . . why would He call us if we could not hear Him . . . “ever hearing, but never understanding.” All I know is that however God chooses to save us, the glory goes to Him. If He is glorified by those who go to hell, so be it . . . if He is glorified by those who go to heaven , so be it. I long for the day that we are all in heaven and will understand perfectly.
A: When we talk about such things as Calvinism, we are talking about one man's view of God. Such views may be scriptural, but they are always limited. The reason for the limitation is that no one can describe, reveal or contain the infinite God in his or her explanation of Him. God does not work within man's interpretation, but according to His infinite character. Clearly, the problem is that such views are instituted into belief systems that influence how we, as believers, view God in His Word. When our theology is shaken by something that runs cross current with it, confusion, anger and pride will raise their ugly heads. This is where the conflict occurs among our different denominations. When you consider that such conflict is nothing more than man standing up for one man's view of God, rather than standing up for His truths, you realize how such debates are unprofitable (Titus 3:9). As a result, I have long concluded that man is saved in spite of man's theology, not because of it. Salvation comes because we believe God's Word, not man's limited view or description of God.
The next question is how important is it that we have a right perception of God? It is of the utmost importance. However, once again we will be challenged about our beliefs, not at the point of what we have received as truth from God's Word, but at the point of our theology. We must honestly ask ourselves where our theology begins and where the simple child-like belief for the Word has brought clarity to our souls about a matter. After all, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, and not by man's theology (Romans 10:17).
I perceive the confusion you are having is because you have been influenced about the sovereignty of God due to Calvinism. Although my understanding about his view of God is limited, this is the conclusion I have come to about this matter. For Calvin to maintain much of his theology about issues such as election, he had to explain how the sovereignty of God operated. In other words for God to be God He had to maintain absolute control over His creation, especially when it came to man. Therefore from this viewpoint, all men are already predestinated as far as their eternal destination is concerned.
It is true that God never loses control, and man does operate within the will of God, but what few people understand is that God's will operates in three different arenas. There is God's permissive will, His providential will and His perfect will. This brings us to an important aspect about God's will. God's will is that all men come to repentance, instead of perishing in their sins (2 Peter 3:9). It is God's will that all men be saved. Therefore, God's perfect will is for every person to be saved. This is His heart’s desire for each of us.
However, man also has a free will. God gave him a free will so that he has the ability to take responsibility for the direction of his life by choosing who he will love, worship and serve. God is not looking for robots or programmed people to love Him. He deserves worship from those who choose to do so by their own collective will. But, because He is God, He is not caught off guard by man's choices, and is very much involved in the circumstances that often confront each person.
These circumstances are designed to bring a person to a point where he or she will make the necessary decision about God and his or her destiny. However, God will not step over the free will of man. Faith is a choice of the will. Unless I will something, I will not receive it as a truth into my spirit.
It is true God knows who will choose Him, but this does not change His will or desire towards those who refuse to choose Him. The opportunity for salvation is open to all. Such salvation predestinates those who believe to be conformed to the very image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). On the other hand, those who refuse to choose His salvation cannot stand before their Maker and accuse Him of being partial. This brings us to how all men operate in the will of God. If a person chooses to live according to the preference of their sinful disposition, he or she will be operating within God's permissive will. In other words, He is allowing it, but it is not according to His perfect order. Such a person will reap the consequences of his or her rebellion, in the hope that the person will see the error of his or her ways. We see this throughout the Word of God.
Sometimes a person starts out in God's permissive will, but then they ask Him to have His way. At this point God's providential will comes into play. He actually sets up circumstances in which to humble, teach or bring people to His perfect will. Needless to say, all unbelievers operate within God's permissive will. As a Christian, I have operated in all three areas of God's will. He showed His love, mercy and grace by allowing circumstances to break me and bring me back to a place of reconciliation. Needless to say, His perfect will is a place of rest for the weary soul, brings clarity of mind, and sweet communion.
I do not know if this helps you to understand that God is not out of control when man is determining his eternal destiny or doing his own thing. God knows what heart will be receptive towards His salvation, but it does not change the desire of His heart to see that all would come to Him. Jesus’ heart broke on the cross, because man in his rebellion refused the benevolence of God. No doubt it still breaks as man continues to taste the bitterness of his rebellious choices.
God bless you as you search the glorious possibilities of our great God.