Paul gives us a very clear “No”:
- Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 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." (Romans 9:10-15)
But wasn’t it unjust to choose Jacob over Esau? Doesn’t God illegitimately discriminate? Jesus addressed this very question in a parable. The vineyard owner (God) hired several in the morning to work his vineyard. Throughout the day, he hired more workers. However, at the end of the day, he gave everyone the denarius he had promised to give the first workers. However, these were angry with the owner that he had given everyone the same, in light of the fact that they had worked the longest. However, the owner responded:
- "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'” (Matthew 20:13-15)
Certainly, we also have the right to be merciful to only those to whom we want to show mercy. If you only invite your friends to your party, a neighbor would not charge you with being unjust for not inviting him.
If the owner had only given the first workers half a denarius, he would have been unjust by violating the terms of their agreement. But he gave them the agreed-upon wage.
The question then is not about justice but about mercy. While justice cannot discriminate, mercy certainly can and does!
However, for many, the doctrine of election is appalling:
- It is the ultimate act of cruelty to condemn those of us who want to be saved to damnation, simply because we are not among the elect.
In fact, it might even appear that this is what God is doing:
- It [salvation] does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (Romans 9:16-18)
It seems that even before the unfortunate Pharaoh had been born, God had damned him and hardened his heart. However, when we examine the Exodus account, we find that God didn’t harden the heart of an innocent man but one who had already hardened his own heart (Exodus 3:7-10). Besides, the account also reads that “Pharaoh hardened his heart (8:15). The fault then doesn’t belong to God but to Pharaoh and to all who reject His mercy.
Sadly, all humanity rejects God (Romans 3:10-16) and are “without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20) in refusing to come to Him (Matthew 23:37). Therefore, if God acted according to what justice required, we would all be killed. (This might be hard to see, but consider, perhaps we are only seeing superficially!)
It is not a matter that there are seekers who want God, but this “unmerciful” God turns them away. Instead, He cries out for His people to return to Him:
- “Go, proclaim this message toward the north: "'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt-- you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,'" declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 3:12-13)
However, coming into the light and acknowledging our guilt is precisely the thing that we will not do. However, God remains merciful to all who call upon Him:
- For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:12-13)
In light of this, the fault is not with God’s elective decisions to save some of the unworthy but with the unworthy themselves, who have rejected God! Salvation is entirely a gift from our merciful Savior. And this is something that is necessary to acknowledge for the sake of our spiritual maturity – our relationship with our Savior.
Once we take credit for choosing Him – the credit that God alone deserves (Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; John 15:16) – we distance ourselves from Him.