Rob Buckingham's Blog

Does God Make Some People for Hell?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog responding to some comments made by Wallabies superstar Israel Folau. [1] He was asked on an Instagram post what he thought God’s plan was for gay people.  Israel’s answer was, “HELL … Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”  He later wrote, “My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings.”  In my blog, I respectfully disagreed with Israel Folau’s understanding of God’s Plan and explained why.

One of the primary purposes of blogging is “to present a person’s thoughts, feelings, opinions or experiences.”  [2] That’s what I attempt to do each week and, unlike some bloggers, I open my blog for others to comment to generate a healthy discussion on the issue.  While some of those commenting lack virtues such as kindness, gentleness, and self-control, most add to the conversation with their comments, questions, and suggestions.  It’s one of those comments that form the basis of this blog.

In response to my blog on God’s Plan, one reader suggested I was wrong because of Paul’s words in Romans chapter nine:

“Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…” (verses 21-23)

The person’s comment went on to suggest, based on these verses, that God makes some people for Hell while He makes others for Heaven (glory).   Romans nine has been used for centuries to teach this untruth.  Any church that includes the word “Reformed” in its name probably has this as a fundamental doctrine, which is enshrined in the Westminster Confession of Faith…

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.” [3]

Now, if this were true, which I don’t for a moment think it is, this view contradicts both the Nature of God and His Word.  Consider John 3:16, that teaches “This is how God loved the world …” and goes on to explain that salvation comes through God’s Son, Jesus, which is God’s Plan for the world God loves.  In other words, God doesn’t make some people for Hell; He has provided salvation, and eternal life and made both available to all.

In the context of the Day of Judgement, the apostle Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should reach repentance.”  I agree with Israel Folau about the importance of repentance [4] in order to access God’s Plan, but I maintain that God’s Plan for people is NOT Hell, because God is not willing that ANY should perish.  God “wants ALL people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  [5]  In fact, “EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [6]

The Reformed view of Romans 9 also contradicts the nature of God who “is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.” [7] James warns us not to “be deceived” about God’s unchanging goodness. [8] God is good and always good; He doesn’t make people and prearrange for them to be tortured forever in burning sulphur, don’t be deceived!

So, what is Paul referring to in Romans chapter nine?  It’s important to realise that Paul wrote a letter to the Roman Church. This letter didn’t have chapters and verses. In fact, these weren’t added to the New Testament until 1551.  These coordinates are a great help in locating various parts of the Bible, but they can also be a hindrance because we tend to read the Bible in bite-sized pieces and ignore context.

The Letter to the Roman Church was written by Paul to communicate the beauty and depth of the grace of God that is available to Jew and Gentile alike.  The first chapter highlights that all Gentiles are sinners; chapter two emphasises the sinfulness of the Jews, and chapter three teaches, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” [9] Upon this dark background of human sin, Paul places the gem of grace, and it stands out like a diamond on black velvet.  Salvation by faith in God’s grace is God’s plan for every person says Paul – not just for the Jews (as many Jews believed in the First Century) but also for the Gentiles, the people of all nations.

This theme continues through the first eleven chapters of Romans.  In 9:21-23 Paul is referring to Isaiah 64:8, “O Lord, you are our Father.  We are the clay, and you are the potter.  We all are formed by your hand.”  These verses are not teaching that God is arbitrary in choosing some and damning others. Paul is not speaking of individual people here at all but is instead instructing the church that God is Sovereign and can resolve to save Gentiles as well as Jews ~ a truth that was excellent news in the predominantly Gentile City (and Church) of Rome, and truth that is Good News to all people today.  In fact, the next verse in Isaiah 64 is the clincher, “Don’t be so angry with us, Lord. Please don’t remember our sins forever.  Look at us, we pray, and see that we are ALL your people.

If you are seeking forgiveness and a relationship with your creator, be comforted that He is not a torturing tyrant but a wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God, and it is His kindness that is intended to turn you from your sin. [10] Come toward Him and He will run to you and adopt you into His family. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make.

 

[1] http://baysidechurch.com.au/israel-folau-and-gods-plan/

[2] https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-purpose-of-writing-a-blog

[3]http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/index.html?body=/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ch_III.html

[4] On the topic of repentance, I encourage you to read my blog, “They need to repent.

[5] 1 Timothy 2:4

[6] Romans 10:13 in which Paul quotes Joel 2:32.  The context here is the wonderful truth that Jews and non-Jews are all included in God’s plan, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” (Romans 10:12, quoting Isaiah 28:16)

[7] Psalm 145:9

[8] James 1:16-17

[9] Romans 3:23

[10] Romans 2:4


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