As a part of my degree program, I just started a class on the book of Romans tonight [This one has been festering a while, the class started a couple of weeks ago.]. During class we got into an extended discussion of the following passage:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
To me, this passage clearly states that everyone is brought to a point of decision and must choose God or turn away. There is no one who doesn’t get an opportunity to choose God. The problem then becomes Christ. If Christ is required for salvation (John 14:6) then simply making a choice for God isn’t enough. There has to be some understanding of the gospel.
Here is where we got into a healthy class discussion. I think it’s clear in the Romans passage that if God is allowing “no excuse” then he is providing a complete opportunity for salvation. It is possible for someone in some tribe out in the middle of nowhere, completely cut off from the gospel of Jesus Christ to be saved. But if this is so, why would anyone do missions? There is an old argument that says “if people who are never given a chance to reject the Gospel will all go to heaven, the best thing we Christians can do is keep our mouths shut.” That isn’t what I am saying here. In Romans, God has revealed to us through the Holy Spirit, that he gives everyone that chance to choose him. It does not say in that passage that everyone has an equal chance, or that it isn’t harder in some circumstances to choose God. Certainly life experience would show us that some people travel a more difficult road than others.
This is where the importance of missions becomes so key. The fall of man has made it entirely too easy NOT to choose God. If you think about Adam, he was walking in the garden talking to God. His mate was formed from his rib. He got to name all those brand new animals and live in paradise. He should be a text book case for someone who would choose God. How much more proof would you really need? And yet he fell. How much more does someone who has never heard a fair reading of the gospel need to hear it?
This probably sounds like an odd perspective coming from a Presbyterian. After all, we believe in predestination. If God has already decided who is going to heaven and who isn’t, why do our actions make any difference? I’ll save my specific thoughts on predestination for another time, however, I do feel strongly that God doesn’t need me. He has a plan and a purpose for me, and he wants to use me. But if I refuse him, he will find someone else. His plans and his purposes will still be accomplished. But what kind of person would I be, if I took the talents, abilities, and preparation he has given me for his specific purpose and perverted it to some other end?
As I drove home tonight, I got to thinking about Hugh Heffner. I believe God has a plan and a purpose for Hugh Heffner. Maybe he was supposed to setup Christianity Today, I dunno, but God created him for a purpose. Right now, he isn’t fulfilling his purpose, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have one. In fact, I believe God STILL has a plan for Hugh. If nothing else, his life experience qualifies him to write a pretty incredible commentary on Ecclesiastes.
Have you considered what God’s purpose for you might be? If this is an area where we can pray for you we’d love to know and be in prayer for you.