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.