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Why does God only choose some to follow Him and not others?

Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,

‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’

It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”

Romans 9:11-16

There is a fundamental principle about God that should always be kept in mind and helps us understand Romans 9.

God’s character is based on love and justice. (See 1 John 4:7, 8 and Psalm 89:14) Any interpretation of scripture that violates these principles must be incorrect. That appears to be the case with an understanding that says God indiscriminately chooses who to bless and who to condemn.

To some, this is suggested in Romans 9:11. When saying that God chose Jacob over Esau Paul said, “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.”

His point is that when God chooses one over another it is not because that one deserves greater blessings. We are all sinners and no one is more deserving than another.

So when God chooses one group He has a specific purpose in mind. The choices described in Romans 9 are not that one will live and be blessed while the other dies. To know God’s purpose in choosing we have to bring in other scriptures that expand on what God’s plan is all about.

The basis of God’s plan was stated to Abraham back in Genesis. God said, “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 22:18)

The Apostle Paul picks up on this promise in Galatians 3:29, saying, “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” 

Being heir to the promise means that those “in Christ” will be used by God to fulfill His plan of blessing all the families of the earth. That tells us that when God chooses the church to be part of the seed of promise, He chooses them in order to bless the remainder of mankind. That harmonizes with God’s attributes of love and justice.

It explains the wonderful text in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.” 

His plan is to establish an earthly kingdom ruled by Christ and the church in order to educate and bless mankind. This arrangement is described in Revelation 20:4.

“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

The purpose of the 1,000 years is to allow mankind to learn the truth of God without the misguided influence of Satan. Revelation 20:2 says that Satan will be bound during the 1,000 years. Isaiah describes the conditions that will exist in the kingdom.  He says, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9)

At the end of the 1,000 years Satan will be let loose from his prison for a final testing of mankind. He will again endeavor to “deceive the nations.” (described in Revelation 20:7, 8).

Those who then follow Satan will be destroyed with him in what the Bible calls, “second death.” It will be a death from which there will be no more opportunity for life. (Revelation 20: 9, 14; 21:8)

Will the group not chosen by God end up in hell?

Eternal torment is not taught in the Bible and it definitely is in conflict with the character of God. Tormenting someone for eternity could never be considered a just punishment for sin. Neither should anyone claim that it is in harmony with a God of love. It is not. The passages that seem to convey torment in death are strictly symbolic and do not conflict with plain passages that describe death as a sleep where there is no consciousness. (See Ecclesiastes 9: 10)

Should we avoid having children if there would be a potential that the would go to hell?

Remember that God is the Creator of all life. He loves life more than we can understand. In regards to children Psalm 127:3, 5 says that “children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward… Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”

It’s hard to imagine that God would bless us with children only to have a foreordained destiny of suffering planned for them. If you are someday blessed with the joy that children bring, you can trust that God has only blessings in store for them. There is nothing to fear or any reason to hesitate because of what God may do.

“For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creation was made subject to frailty, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,  because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”  Romans 8:19-21

There is a natural desire in the human heart for a time of blessing, prosperity, and peace. Paul says this will happen when “the sons of God” (the church) will be revealed. Then, in God’s kingdom all who accept God’s laws and grow and develop in character will also become “the children of God.”

God does not interfere with free will. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened in response to God’s demand that Pharaoh free Israel. It was hardened further with each plague that was sent. It was Pharaoh’s choice to respond as he did. If God was controlling the will of Pharaoh He would have simply made Pharaoh’s will agree to let Israel go. His free will was never violated.

Paul says Pharaoh was raised up so God’s power could be demonstrated and His name declared throughout the world. (Romans 9:17) Everything God does is meant to accomplish an eventual blessing. That was certainly true with the Exodus. Under Joseph, the family of Jacob had prospered greatly in Egypt. But Pharaoh’s fear and harsh treatment of them led to the eventual creation of the nation of Israel. Had God not allowed Pharaoh to come to power, the family of Jacob may never have returned to the Promised Land.

Sometimes we are just too short-sighted to appreciate what God is doing. The plagues were a difficult time. The Israelites endured the first three plagues along with the Egyptians. But the plagues accomplished something good. So too, God has a plan that will bring great blessings, even if today the world is struggling.  So, when we study Romans 9 and God’s selection of one group over another, we must study it with an understanding of God’s plan of salvation.

To learn more about why we know hell is not a place of torment listen to our series:

“Did God Make Heaven and Hell Humanity’s Destiny?”

“Is the Hell of the Christian Tradition Taught in the Bible?”

To learn more about God’s plan of salvation listen to,

“Are Jesus’ Ransom and Our Salvation the Same?”