Bennett Heathmont from Victoria, Australia recently asked us this question:
Hi, listening to your discussion on nobody coming to Jesus without being drawn by the Father, this verse kept coming to mind, “God has consigned all men to disobedience that He might have mercy on them all” (Rom. 11:32). If not all are saved, could it be suggested that God chose not to have mercy on those who are not saved in the end?
Thanks for the question Bennett. I think the key passage for us to consider here is Exodus 33:19 (and also Romans 9:15-16 along with it) in which God says “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Since we have all strayed from God’s path (Is. 53:6), the only way that any of us can be saved is if God has mercy on us and rescues us.
Now, perhaps I’m reading more into your question that you originally intended, but if you are suggesting that God’s foreknowledge might be involved here, and that since he knows those who will not end up being saved in the end, perhaps this is the reason he decided to withhold his mercy from this particular group. If this is indeed what you are asking, then I would suggest that you take another look at a text such as Ephesians 2:1-10. You see, in Adam, we’re all dead in sin and completely unresponsive to God (which is why we can’t even see God’s kingdom, much less make a decision to sign up for it — John 3:3-8). And so, even if God did look down the corridors of time, apart from his own merciful intervention, what is it that he would see? He would see people who are completely unresponsive toward him because they are still dead in their trespasses and sins.
I discussed issues related to this during my recent exchange with Justin Holcomb (7/14/19). In the latter part of John 10, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” This statement is in many ways parallel to other things he has said throughout this Gospel, such as the fact that “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (Jn. 6:65), or “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (Jn. 8:47). So unless God in his mercy and grace first rescues us and makes us alive (Eph. 2:5) then we will remain totally unresponsive to the word of God and the call to salvation. And as we have seen, this mercy and grace is not given indiscriminately to all, but only to those whom God is pleased to call his very own sheep. In fact, in John 6:37 Jesus says “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” And so, at the end of the day, Exodus 33:19 is the key to understanding these issues clearly. As God hid Moses in the cleft of the rock, he declared to him saying, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy.” Shane Rosenthal White Horse Inn