God saves whom He wills.
I believe that.
God wants to save everyone.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Peter understood that. John said He wants it so much that it cost Him the life of His Son. It was His universal appeal, offering to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.
I believe that, too.
From the very beginning, though, He has offered people a choice. From Eden to Ararat to Sodom to Egypt to Canaan to Babylon to Bethlehem to Calvary to now; He has provided a gate to enter and a path to follow.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Jesus said it. He also said: “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” And Mark’s gospel adds, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
So I believe that, as well.
And while I love to read of the confidence we can have in God’s love and generosity throughout Paul’s letter to Roman Christians – not to mention His deep desire to draw all men unto Himself – I find the same promise in the middle of it: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And I find nothing that contradicts His long history of commanding all to repent – through all the prophets, through Christ, through Christian messengers – and His ongoing willingness to put an end to those who continue to rebel; to follow their own path away from Him and to the harm of themselves and others.
Therefore, I believe He will.
Because in describing His own full glory, His very nature, He said: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
He is just and righteous. Therefore He judges and punishes.
He loving and merciful. Therefore He forgives and redeems.
My late dad used to express this dual and dueling nature within God as His two arms: an arm of righteousness and an arm of mercy; an arm of justice and an arm of compassion.
To believe in a God who is only one or the other – who can only be one or the other – is to believe in a one-armed God.
I believe in a God who is mighty to save, and mighty to condemn.
And His universal appeal is not lost on me.