Not too long ago, a friend of mine that I met in my Freshman year in college have contacted me, unexpectedly. I have heard from his colleagues that he apostatized, but I was not sure myself, so I asked him. It turned out that he actually did, and the frightening thing was, he was very zealous for God. It reminds me of how Paul described his fellow Isrealites in Romans 10:2.
His main objection was an objection that I actually heard from a former pastor who apostatized. That is: God created people, knowing that they would suffer eternal condemnation in the end when He did not have to. This is objection is another way of saying that God allowed there to be evil and then punishing people for it. The way that this argument is constructed makes the listener think that God is being unfair. But, the bible teaches otherwise, and what the bible reveals to us is hard for many people to swallow because their arrogance and wanting to be God.
Other objections include: Why does God just not save everyone? (Or why does God just not elect everyone, except for maybe Hitler?) Why does God send people who never heard the gospel to hell? (like babies?) Why does God predestine people to go to hell? Why am I created when I did not want to be? (Now I am going to hell because of Adam’s sin.)
The issue I have when people ask these kinds of question is that there are assumptions that is not biblical. For example, the bible does not teach that God predestine people to go to hell. Ignorance and the wrong assumptions lead to these supposedly hard questions, and I need to be able to discern this anytime I am confronted by objections like such. I do not deny that some of these questions can be difficult, but they are only difficult questions if the person receiving them do not know the scriptures very well. Experience also helps because the dead man always have ways to make excuses for not repenting of their sins, and he tries to lead the Christian into a ditch.
I have learned from the bible and from experience that the best way to talk to these people is to use the scriptures. They are infallible, inerrant, and therefore, sufficient. I do not need to be a theologian to talk to these men that I talked to. Both of them had a lot of education in theology. My friend went to Moody for almost 2 years. This other person has a PhD from Trinity Theological Seminary and was a pastor for many years. The main issue is their love for sin, not their lack of knowledge. However, I can bring people to certain scriptures to keep them quiet, and to help them see that the root issue is their hatred for God and their love for themselves and the world.
I believe that it all comes down to God doing what He pleases, but knowing all of the reasons to why He was pleased to do or allow certain things is impossible for that has not been revealed to us. We are limited to what Scripture teaches. Here are some verses (NKJV) that I mention in my conversation with these men:
Psalm 115:3 “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Romans 9:14-21: What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.
Proverbs 16:4 The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom. **I do not believe God actively predestine people to hell here. I believe those born under Adam are already destined to go to hell. Out of time, I don’t believe God had a bank of people in a neutral ground, and He pulled them out of that to put them in either the path to heaven or hell. I would refer to John 3:18 to back up my argument where it says, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Romans 1:18-19 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.”
Romans 2:12-16 “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”
Isaiah 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.“
Other verses that I wish I alluded to during those conversations:
John 15:22 “If had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.“
Ezekiel 18: 24-26 “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies.
Deuteronomy 29:29 ““The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.“
Now, of course, I would have to be able to explain these verses, and I may not be able to use all of these verses mentioned, but they are a good start, at least for me. I certainly do not want to take verses out of context, otherwise, I would not be able to properly exegete (draw out rather than reading into it) the text. However, these men had enough knowledge where I did not have to explain all of these verses. They themselves studied some of these passages already. In fact, that former pastor did his dissertation on Isaiah 55:8.
Like I said before, these type of men like to make excuses for their sins, and they want to put the believer in a corner and trap him. My friend even blamed God for actively working in the sinner to not repent, but that is not true. he basically denied that man was responsible. Man is responsible and God is sovereign. God never sends a person who truly wants to know Christ into eternal torment nor does He send a person who utterly hates Jesus to heaven. A person is in hell because he simply wanted his sins over Christ. God gives men what they want.
The question should not be: Why does God send people to hell? Rather it should be: Why am I still breathing?! The truth is, we all deserve hell for our sins, and one preacher put it this way: If the whole world went to hell, God would still be loving and just. But the amazing thing is God chose some to worship Him in heaven. In fact, Christ is setting up a special place for each of children (John 14:1-2).
Also, God does not actively work in humans to commit sin. He gives them over to their wicked passions as a means of judgment.
The doctrine of election is comforting, and it brings exceeding joy when understood correctly. I wish I can find the quote that someone sent me awhile ago. But, the man was basically saying how amazing it is that God chose him, out of all of the millions of people going to hell. It sounds harsh, but it is true! The value of our election can be magnified by understanding how limited the elect is. Millions and millions of people have perished over time, and yet here I am breathing and knowing that my eternity rests in Christ. I could have been lost in that million. Amazing! Only a humble and regenerate heart would submit to God’s sovereignty. He does what He wishes, but what He does is ultimately good.
I am sure there is much more that can be said regarding the issues that I ran into. I am no bible student or a licensed theologian. I am just a Christian who reads the bible a lot, and studies it with the accountability and help from others. I never implied that these issues are can be easily understood. It takes time to grasp, and that time varies from people to people. I have to deal with these issues trusting in God, and putting down any arrogant thoughts that may arise. I may have misused some of these verses, but that is because I do not have all of the correct interpretations of scripture. I am learning daily. I do look back, and I wished I could have explained things better or said certain things to these men or other people that I talked to about these issues.
Nonetheless, It is sad to see these men depart from the Lord after tasting the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter writes that it would have been better for these men to not have known the way of righteousness; they are like dogs that returned to their own vomit (2 Peter 2:21-22). However, I do not truly know whether they completely apostatized. Romans 1 teaches that the Lord gives people over to their sins, but it does not imply that the Lord will never pursue them again. Ichabod Spencer apparently worked with a person who may seem to have committed the unpardonable sin by the reader, but he kept counseling this person, and the person eventually came to know Christ.
Lastly, another thing that came to my mind is that men with so much bible knowledge can be bent on destruction because they are unstable (2 Peter 3:16). That is why I do not believe a person is automatically a solid Christian just because they claim to adhere to Reformed Theology.
I will keep them in my prayers along with many other friends who apostatized. I will pray that God will not give these people over to their sins and blind them that they may not see (John 12:40), but rather He would open their eyes to the truth and have mercy on them.