A discussion of God’s fairness is often associated with a conversation about the Biblical doctrines of predestination, free will, election, and Divine sovereignty. A large part of the controversy is failure to define what is meant by “fairness.”
According to Webster to be fair means to be in accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate. A person who is fair is believed to be free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice. If fairness is understood in this way, then God is fair for God is incapable of being dishonest, or unjust. He is absolute true and righteous. “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth” (Psalms 119:142).
To some people, fairness is defined as everyone having an equal opportunity to make a decision on a matter without coercion, or a predetermined outcome. To others, fairness means to receive exactly what he or she deserves. If this later definition is insisted upon, if God were completely “fair,” by this definition, then every person would spend eternity in hell to pay for the sins done in their hearts, and in their bodies. The Bible says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The Bible says that the “fair” wages for sin is physical death, and eternal spiritual death (Rom. 6:23). If individuals “fairly” received what they deserved, then every person would be cast in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:14-15).
But God is merciful, and good. In matchless and marvelous grace, God sent His Son into the world to die at Calvary. On the cross, Jesus took the punishment that sinners deserved. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
On the cross Christ died for all people without distinction in that Christ died for the rich and the poor. Jesus died for both the male and the female, the powerful in society, and the common man. However, Christ did not die for all people without exception for then all would be saved in a universal atonement, and the statement of the angel to Joseph would not be true. “Joseph, thou son of David,” said the angel, “fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20, 21).
Who are “His people”, the people for whom Christ died? They are called in Scripture, the elect of God (Matt. 24:24, 31; Mark 13:22, 27; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 5:21; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2; 2:6; 2 John 1; 2 John 13).
If the idea of God having an elect people is found to be offensive, then the controversy is with God, not with those who believe what the Bible teaches on the subject. Clearly the Bible teaches the doctrine of election, in three distinct ways.
First, there is the election of national Israel, and the Church, for special service and privileges.
National Israel is called the Elect. Theologian Loraine Boettner was absolutely correct when he wrote that “Throughout the Old Testament it is repeatedly stated that the Jews were a chosen people” (Boettner, Predestination, 88). Repeatedly throughout Scripture, Israel is referred to as God’s elect nation, His chosen people (Deut. 7:6-8; 10:14-15; Psalms 33:12; 65:4; 106:5; Haggai 2:23; Acts 13:17; Rom. 9:11; 11:28).
The Church is called the Elect. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9).
Second, some individuals have been elected by God to perform a special role. The Bible says that Pharoah was raised to the throne of Egypt for a particular purpose. That purpose was to display the power of God.
The Testimony of the Old Testament. “And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth” (Exodus 9:16).
The Testimony of the New Testament. “For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth” (Rom. (9:17).
Why is this truth presented in Scripture? The Holy Spirit wants the concept to be established that God will have “mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.”
If the heart cries out, “That is not fair!”, be assured, that is exactly what was protested by individuals in Rome in the first century. “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” (Rom. 9:19).
Heaven responds to all such protestations by saying, “Hush!” “Be quiet!” “Who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why have you made me this way? Does the Potter not have power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel, or person, to honor, and another to dishonor?” (Rom. 9:19-21). Indeed, the Potter does have that power. It is not a matter of being fair to each vessel, it is a matter of sovereignty.
There is a third way the Bible speaks about election. The Bible refers to the election of individuals to be children of God and heir of eternal life by faith alone, in Christ alone, on the basis of grace. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).
Every person should embrace the sovereignty of God, and begin to reflect upon their own spiritual condition. Every person who examines themselves can ask. “Am I a vessel made unto honor? Do I love Jesus? Do I obey the Lord? Have I been raised up to receive the mercy of salvation?”
“Am I a vessel unto dishonor? Do I hate the gospel, and despise God? Am I hostile to the Church, and neglect the Bible? Do I resist the Holy Spirit? If so, am I not a vessel, at this point, of dishonor?”
When a person, upon reflection, perceives they are indeed, in their present natural state a vessel of dishonor and destined for hell, they can do something. Like the thief on the cross, a defiled, judged, condemned, and dying soul can cry out and say, “Lord! Have Mercy on me! Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom!” This is something any person can say when confronted with the evil they have done.
But will they?
The elect will cry out, and will be saved. The elect will be wooed by the voice of the Good Shepherd and take their place a sheep of His pasture. Jesus will become their Good Shepherd. Jesus said, “ “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and my Father are one” (John 10:27-30). The sheep of Jesus are His people.
The non-elect shall, of their own free-will, which is bound to the Law of Sin and Death, choose to go to their own place. No one goes to heaven against their will, and no one goes to hell against their own free will. God is under no obligation to draw anyone to Himself, or to woo anyone to salvation. That He does for some, but not for all is a matter of His Divine sovereignty. It is not a matter of fairness. It is a matter of justice.
It is just, it righteous, it is the fair thing to do for the Judge of the Universe to carry out the penalty of the Law. The Law says, “The soul that sinneth must die.” If God did not execute justice on all, then He would indeed unfair, unkind, and unjust.
That God has found a way to show mercy to some, is to His eternal glory, and is rooted in His sovereignty.
If a person is not convinced that God is just to all, believer and unbeliever alike; if a person does not grasp the concepts of Divine sovereignty in creation, service, salvation, sanctification, and damnation, the heart might think that this Great and Mighty God is not “safe.” In his book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis addressed this issue. A discussion has broken out over Aslan, the Lion, a picture of Jesus Christ.
“Who is Aslan?” asked Susan.
“Aslan?” said Mr. Beaver, “Why don’t you know? He’s the King. . . . It is he, not you, that will save Mr. Tumnus. . . .”
“Is—is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
“I’m longing to see him,” said Peter, “even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.”
Unbeliever, take note. You are not safe until you find your refuge in Jesus Christ. Flee to Him now and ask you to forgive you of your sins, take you into His kingdom. If you do that, when you walk through the portals of the door of salvation, you will look up and see written on the door frame, “Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). Do not ask for justice, or quarrel with the Sovereign about fairness, plead for mercy.
“Come, ev’ry soul by sin oppressed-
There’s mercy with the Lord,
And He will surely give you rest
By trusting in His word.
Only trust Him, only trust Him,
Only trust Him now.
He will save you, He will save you,
He will save you now.
For Jesus shed His precious blood
Rich blessings to bestow;
Plunge now into the crimson flood
That washes white as snow.
Yes, Jesus is the Truth, the Way,
That leads you into rest;
Believe in Him without delay
And you are fully blest.”
John H. Stockton