K: I knew that might start something. You're quite perceptive there and even right to question this verse I cited.
I'm not sure it's clear cut either way, but neither do I necessarily see an issue either way it is interpreted.
As this is a really important issue, and one dear to my heart, I want to weigh in with a bit of depth - this is a bit long (not per K's standards, perhaps, haha, but by mine
OK, this is how I see it. This issue of what we cannot know without God revealing it to us has to do with: A) His creation of us in HIS Image; B) God's desire (which comes first) to love us; C) Him giving us our free will; D) Him making salvation possible by His sacrifice upon the Cross; E) Him giving US the choice of what He desires for us, but that He won't force upon us (a desire and love for Him); F) Upon His standards and Holy Character, per how He frames the choices (to accept or reject Him) AND their consequences. And subsequent
to what God puts before all people, is a matter of their freedom of will to make a choice – He has also provided and enabled and this choice (to embrace Him) possible
, but not certain - as that is dependent upon their RESPONSE. Notice that ALL of items A - F are per what God first
has done and desires. None of what our salvation depends upon - including the fact that He must FIRST woo and enlighten us to Himself - is dependent upon us. Our choice is FIRST also given by Him. So, He allows us a choice in RESPONSE to all that He first does for us. And that response would be impossible without Him first giving us the choice and ability to respond. So, Salvation is, ultimately, ALL due to the Lord. There is no cooperation in Salvation, only a response to what only God can provide. So, the question becomes, WHAT exactly does God wish to provide, and to WHOM - inclusively?
God clearly has stated that He loves ALL: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever
believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." First off, this world God loved, was a world of unsaved persons who needed saving - His stated purpose for coming here. So, BEFORE saving people in this unsaved world, He loved them. To whom does God show His love, concern, and willingness for an unfathomable Sacrifice (Jesus!)? ALL, as all need saving!
As Paul writes to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for ALL people
, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires ALL people
to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a ransom for ALL
So, who does God inclusively desire to repent (turn to Him)? "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that ALL
should repent..." So, we see that God has an ALL-inclusive desire as to whom He loves AND that He desires to save. But doe's He show favorites?
Peter, having just realized that God desires the salvation of Gentiles as well (as before He had the Jewish understanding that God was only concerned with the Jews), reveals his enlightenment: "Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism." In fact, Scripture reveals in multiple places that God does not show favoritism as to whom He wishes would come to Him and love Him BACK: 2 Chronicles 19:7, ACTS 10:34, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, 1 Peter 1:17. But He does set a standard for all who He'll apply Christ's sacrifice to - a different matter.
Repeatedly, God also models His love for all in His commandments to us: Remember the lawyer, who wanted to find a technicality over whom inclusively Jesus says we are to love – the lawyer cynically asks, yeah, but “who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with the story of the Good Samaritan – showing that we are to love ALL. God does not qualify who He loves – He doesn't show favorites! And Scripture reveals He doesn't expect us to, either. God is not a hypocrite, that He loves only select people while teaching US to love ALL – as HE loves all and desires all would love Him BACK. But He gives ALL a choice in his response.
Repeatedly, across Scripture, God warns of those who will not turn to Him. WHY so, if they do not have a choice in the matter? Why would He be upset if anyone doesn't choose Him IF HE hasn't made it possible – that NO MATTER WHAT ONE MIGHT DESIRE, He's supposedly locked the parameters so that only some
can choose to love Him back? This is a concept not found in Scripture!
God ALWAYS rails against the evils of rebellion and rejection of Him and His ways, per the evils of of the human heart and mind. Those who are not saved are ONLY those who have rejected the door (Jesus) through Whom ALL may and MUST enter God's Kingdom to receive salvation. GOD first gave us the choice – which without we could not choose Him BACK. Repeatedly, Scripture urges all to embrace the Lord - AS IF THEY CAN
! Does God implore something that is impossible to obey? Does God withhold salvation from anyone for any reason other than that THEY reject Him? Absolutely NOT!
So is God’s favor arbitrary? Do our choices have any impact on whether we are among His favorites? Isaiah 66:2 says, “THESE are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” Hmmm, sounds like something to do with the WILL of a man - He looks upon with favor those who have a certain willingness and humbleness about them. But there is more.
OK, so WHY doesn't God make Himself far more obvious to many of the currently unsaved (as, obviously, some
of those currently unsaved will eventually embrace the Lord)? Because THEY are unwilling to place their faith in Him. And even before that, they reject what He's already made them aware of about Himself. God DOES give people enough to know He exists and to want to know Him, to know more - but THEY refuse what He FIRST and has ALREADY shown them about Himself. Remember, even some of the unsaved religious rulers, having received full knowledge of Jesus' teachings and miracles, had enough knowledge to believe Who Jesus was/is: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities BELIEVED in Him
, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it...” (John 12:42). Clearly, these leaders knew ENOUGH, but refused to confess Jesus. What does God say about ALL people - even those of ancient times who did not possess the words of the Prophets or The Law: “... because that which is known about God is evident within them
; for God made it evident to them
. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen
, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse ” (Romans 1: 19-20). So, people are responsible, NOT for what God HASN'T shown them yet, but because of what He has ALREADY "made evident to them." Notice, this says nothing about one having not heard the Gospel message - which is because one can reject God BEFORE ever hearing the Gospel - and that is enough to condemn them. God knows that the Gospel would just be further rejected by many. Again, how much more knowledge did those religious leaders who "believed" need? Knowledge isn't many people's true problem or blockage. It's not GOD that blocks salvation - it is people's hard hearts and minds!
OK, so, we see that people DO know enough about God, because HE tells us He FIRST reaches to and reveals various things about Himself to them – and, for many, does so before they ever hear the Gospel. WHY would He even do that
– why is that important to God to give people some upfront knowledge of Himself? It's because He is JUST! He does not condemn because of things HE doesn't provide, but only due to their UNWILLINGNESS to appreciate or embrace such enlightenment which He has already given them. So, instead of wanting to know more, and “though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, THEY became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man
and of birds and four-footed animals and [o]crawling creatures.” So, people made their own gods, and did so in THEIR own images - or desires how to craft their own gods.
God, lamenting His heartbreak over Israel's unwillingness to embrace Him, says, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and YOU were not willing!
" (Matthew 23:37)
The issue is that God HAS shown us enough to want to know more; enough to receive more – of which He desires to give but not FORCE upon us. For some, like those in ancient Israel and those with the Gospel, God provides a LOT more knowledge of Himself and desires for us. But knowledge is not most people's TRUE issue relating to their lack of faith in God. Yes, God has to move first – and He already HAS, and to whatever individual extent He perfectly knows is appropriate and adequate for a given individual to know He exists, and that He wants them, and that He has more for them, IF only they would be WILLING
. So, it has always been that God wants us, has FIRST reached to us – and that He provides all needed to know more, and is more than willing to provide whatever we need, and to lead us all the way to salvation. However, He desires to give us a choice that also allows us to exercise our free will: Either to move toward Him or away from Him – He's allowed us to truly have the freedom of will to RESPOND to what He's already first done for us. For those never saved, their fate has absolutely nothing to do with anything God desires to withhold from them – it has to do with things He has already
provided them and wants to show them more of – but that they refuse Him.
The block to salvation isn't God, it is a man's hard heart and mind
: Men are UNWILLING. And all those permanently unwilling will die unsaved!
Note God, on the unwilling: "Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?"
"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezekiel)
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter)
"“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (From Isaiah - note the contingencies that are to do with the will of man - as God's will is for them to turn to Him!
"We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast
." (2 Samuel) (So, God HAS provided ALL the "means" to not remain an outcast - will we receive His "means?"