Contrary to our usual thinking, God does not treat everyone the same, just as the law does not treat everyone the same. The law treats law breakers differently than it treats law abiders. Law breakers are punished, law abiders are not. And the difference is a function of justice. Justice requires different treatment for law breakers than for those who abide by the law. Thus, those who refuse God’s grace, who refuse God’s gifts of mercy and reconciliation do so out of their own strength, their of desires, their own free will, their own stubbornness. And their refusal to receive it means that it has not been given.

How so? If I try to give you a gift of $10,000 and you refuse it, then the gift has not actually been given. You haven’t received it, and I haven’t given it. I may have offered it, but I never actually gave it. Neither the bank nor the IRS would consider my effort or intention to constitute the bestowal of such a gift. Though I desired to give it to you, it was never actually given because it was never actually received. Whose fault is it that you don’t have it? Yours, and yours alone. You are completely responsible for not having the gift because you don’t want it. And so it is with God’s gift of grace and mercy. In God’s sovereignty He only gives His grace to those who will receive it. He knows better than to give it to those who don’t want it. He’s not about to give it to His enemies.

God’s ambassadors ask, beg, implore, demand and command everyone to receive reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. We target everyone because we don’t know who has received God’s gift of grace and who hasn’t. God does, but we don’t. Nonetheless, all who receive God’s grace, do so by the mercy and power of God alone. It is His gift. He gives it to whoever He wants. Thus, God gets all of the praise and glory for the reconciliation of believers.

Conversely, and all who do not believe, those who refuse God’s reconciliation, do so out of their own stubbornness, out of their own free choice to deny God. And they receive all of the responsibility and blame for their own actions, for not yielding to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Does that mean that they are more powerful than God because they can contravene God’s will for their salvation? No. It means that they are stubbornly prideful and full of themselves.

The decision to refuse God is not a decision that is made out of strength or intelligence. It is a decision that is made on the basis of sin. It does not contravene God’s will at all because part of God’s will is the punishment of sin and its eradication from the world.

It may not seem fair to you that God withholds grace from some people and then punishes them for not receiving His grace, but it isn’t because that is not the way it actually happens. If you think this way, your concept of fairness or justice is too small and it is leading you astray. You are trying to hold God accountable to your understanding of justice and fairness rather than trusting that God is actually fair and just in all His dealings. There are more pieces of the puzzle that you and I don’t have access to, that God takes into consideration. Consequently, we are required to trust God rather than to know everything as He knows everything. That trust is also called faith.


  1. Hi,
    Phil, I feel fairly certain that you do not mean that we have free will (choice) to receive or reject God’s salvation gift. Certainly a gift has to be received by the intended recipient to be of value to him. Yes, the lost are “completely responsible” (paragraph two) for having rejected God’s gift; however, and maybe this is where we agree to disagree, God’s gift is sincerely offered to all. His grace “goes before” (prevenient grace) enabling whosoever will (is willing) to receive His gift. But His grace is not “irresistible” – He doesn’t force anyone to believe. Maranatha, Paul

  2. Paul, of course people have free will. God gave us free will. We have no choice but to have free will. God didn’t ask us if we wanted it, He just gave it. And once we have been given this free will, are we then free to reject it? Or do we have it whether we want it or not? The philosophical difficulties with this issue are legion.

    What I’m trying to say (though not very successfully) is 1) that sinners are completely responsible for their sin (and God is not), and 2) God is completely responsible for our salvation (and we are not).

    Do you argue for the resistibility of God’s grace because you have proven your ability to resist it? How else would anyone know that it is resistible? Are you defending sinners by saying that sinners are stronger than God? This is not a biblical argument. It seems to me that such an explanation has hold of the irresistibility stick by wrong end (arsy varsy).

    Rather, the biblical position is that the gift of grace is irresistible to those to whom it has been given. God’s love is irresistible. The reason that some people appear to be able to resist God’s grace, God’s love, is that they don’t have it. And the reason that they don’t have it is not that God has withheld it from them, but that they have willingly rejected it from the outset. It’s not that such people consider it and then reject it, but that they refuse to even consider it. It never even shows up on their radar — not because it isn’t there, nor because God has withheld it, but because they don’t want it.

    The difference between believers and unbelievers is that believers want what God gives and unbelievers don’t want it. It is not that God overpowers people’s conscious desires, but that some people want what God gives and some don’t. And those who want what God gives find that they cannot resist that desire. Others don’t have that desire, so there is nothing to resist. And the reason that they don’t have that desire is that they don’t want it.

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