Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

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god instilled unbelief

8/20/12

 

Since the emphasis of the church has always been on the necessity of belief in order to please God, it is amazing to read passages in the Bible indicating that God initiated unbelief in people. We see examples of this in Exodus7:13; 9:12 and John 12-39-41. The passage in John is associated with a prophecy in Isaiah 6:9-10. This same prophecy is mentioned by Paul when he speaks to the Jews in Rome in Acts chapter 28.

 

If God demands belief as the method to gain His acceptance, why would He impose unbelief on Pharaoh and the Jews of Jesus' day? If He imposes unbelief, why can't or wouldn't He impose belief, if that is really what He desires? These are very pertinent questions for the church.

 

The passage in John 12 dealing with unbelief is particularly revealing because it potentially addresses the question of God's motivation.

 

John 12;37-41 But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

 

Several observations are in order here. Notice that unbelief was prophesied. Thus the Jews could not believe. Their lack of faith was directly caused by God. The passage alludes to God's reason to instill unbelief, but the wording is a bit nebulous. It first glance it seems to say that God wanted to prevent the Jews being converted and healed and therefore caused their unbelief. That is exceedingly strange if one considers belief as essential to pleasing God. Why would God work to cause what would otherwise lead to His displeasure? Strange indeed.

 

For me the key to understanding this passage is verse 41, These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. God's actions in using unbelief was a factor in His glory. Somehow demonstrated unbelief would actually glorify God. How could that possibly be?

 

A second key point for me involves verse 40, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. It is relatively easy to read this verse to say that God blinded the Jews so He could not convert and heal them since belief is essential. Of course, this understanding challenges the integrity of God; but many just overlook that fact, saying God can do as He pleases without question.

 

It occurs to me, especially after noting that this unbelief contributes to God's glory, that verse 40 really means that God intended to convert and heal the Jews in spite of demonstrated unbelief. If the word "yet" is seen as implied before the words "be converted" and before the words "I should heal them", the meaning then becomes this: God planned to heal and convert the Jews without regard to their faith and faithfulness, in accordance with His divine promise. In operating in this unconditional fashion, God would be glorified.

 

The implication of standard church doctrine is that God is glorified in the judgment and destruction of evil, unbelieving peoples worldwide. How the destruction of men by an omnipotent God could ever contribute to His glorification is little considered. Am I glorified in destroying a bug? I hardly think so, and the analogy seems apt. If God loses most to Satan and has to destroy His creation to finalize His plan, I fail to see the glory. If I act to bring about my salvation, do I glory along side God? Why not?

 

What actions on God's part in relation to mankind could conceivably bring Him glory? What about unconditional love and forbearance even in view of man's malfeasance and unbelief? What about an unending commitment to His promise to bless all men? For me at least, conversion and healing without man's participation is the only legitimate source of God's glory.

 

 

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