Before we answer some common questions like, where does God want me to work or who does God want me to marry, we have to take a step back. We have to understand the maze and its Maker before we figure out the various twists and turns. When we understand our Maker -why He made the maze of life and how He relates to us in it -we will better understand our place and how to navigate through. We will do this by first examining God’s will for salvation. In view of it, we will gaze down from three perspectives: what God desires, what God determines, and what God demands.
What God Desires and Determines
[God] “Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Tim.2:4).
The first way to examine God’s will for salvation is by what He desires; what He takes pleasure in, or His attitude toward His creation. The verse above gives us an example of this. God desires to save sinners. He doesn’t hate humanity, He loves humanity (John 3:16). In that love, He desires to save men and women.
The next way to examine God’s will for salvation is by what He determines. Has God determined before the foundation of the world to save “all” men and women? Will everyone go to heaven? No. That is called Universalism. Universalism teaches that nobody goes to hell because the atonement of Christ is applied to all men and women -whether received or rejected.
So how should we understand it when scripture says that He desires “all” men to be saved? Paul frequently breaks down the barrier between Jew and Gentile (Eph.2:14). He shows us that salvation was always meant for every race, not just the Jews. This same theme is carried on by the Apostle John and others. For instance, John says, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours but also for those of the whole world” (1 Jn.2:2). When John says “our” sins, he is referring to His fellow Jews; and when he refers to the “world” he is referring to the Gentiles. He is making an intentional comparison. So, when Paul says, “all men”, he is referring to humanity -people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. He is continuing the theme that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile.
If it is God’s will -in the individual sense -to save all men and women, then all men and women will certainly be saved. For who can resist God’s will. However, it is not God’s will to save every individual. Elsewhere, scripture says that it is within God’s plan to condemn sinners to hell (Pr.16:3, Rom.9:22). And, frequently throughout, does Christ refer to sinners as going to hell: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” God knew, before the foundation of the world, that people would reject His offer of grace, live in sin, and that in His justice, He would send them to hell.
When the Bible says that God desires all men to be saved, or that He takes NO pleasure in the death of the wicked (Eze.18:23), it is giving us a glimpse of God’s attitude toward humanity. Though God is a God of wrath and justice; and though He will display these attributes, for His glory, by condemning sinners to hell, He does not take pleasure in it. To an extent, it grieves God. He is angry at the sinner. But He is not like a twisted child holding the magnifying glass over the ant hill. He doesn’t get some sick pleasure in death and eternal torment -though it is necessary to satisfy His justice.
So, it is God’s will to save sinners without favoritism towards race, gender, or social ranking; men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation. God’s heart races when He thinks of delivering sinners from the Wrath to come. This He determined and desires. It is also God’s will to condemn sinners. Before the foundation of the world, He planned to administer Justice, in wrath, towards sinners. This He determined but does not desire. Nevertheless, in both instances, God gets glory by displaying His perfect love and perfect wrath; His perfect mercy and perfect justice.
What God Demands
God has determined to save sinners because He desires to do so. But the way that He accomplished this is by demanding that all men repent and believe the gospel (Acts 17:30). He not only invites us to Christ, He commands us to come. In accordance with who He is -a loving and gracious God -He has made a narrow path that leads to a narrow door (Matt.7:13-14). There is one way. It is the only way. His name is Jesus Christ.
God is holy and we are not. We have committed innumerable sins and if He was to count our sin debt, we would have no strength to stand; our knees would buckle before Him. In His perfect Justice, God must punish the sinner for their sin. This is why He created hell. It was part of His plan and He will get glory in it. If we all get what we deserve, then we will go to hell.
But God is gracious and merciful. He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin (Ex.34:6a). He desires to save and delights in redemption. Therefore, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take His wrath against our sin. Jesus is the eternal Son of God; without beginning or end, equal with the Father in power and glory. He left His throne in heaven and became a man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He never sinned. He kept the law of God perfectly (1Pet.2:22) and succeeded where Adam failed (Rom.5). Adam failed to keep God’s one law but Jesus obeyed God’s many laws, as commanded in the law of Moses. Not only that, He fulfilled the law by becoming a substitutionary sacrifice for sin. On the cross, He took God’s wrath against our sin upon Himself. “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt” (Isa.53:10). Jesus took our guilt so that we would be declared righteous before God.
This is the truth: “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1Tim.2:5-6). This is the only truth by which you can be saved. You are a sinner. There is no other payment that has been provided. You cannot erase what you have done. No amount of good deeds will do. God is just, He will punish you, but He does not desire to.
God will save you when you repent of your sins and believe the gospel (Mk.1:15). If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved (Rom.10:9). If you trust in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins, He will save you. Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved (Acts 2:21). This is the will of God: the salvation of sinners!
God is weaving all events around Christ. It is THE plan of God to get Himself glory through His Son. In the condemnation and salvation of the sinner, God makes Himself known. All kingdoms, nations, communities, families, and people have been placed within this story. And there will be a glorious finale.
When trying to consider God’s will, step back and consider the mega-theme: God sent Christ to save and judge the world. Jesus offers salvation now and judgment later. God has determined, according to His good pleasure, to save men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation. As the Sovereign King of the universe, He demands that we repent and believe the gospel.
I found that the best way to complete a maze is to start from the finish. Starting from the finish eliminates many chances of a wrong turn. Salvation is similar: those whom God would save were written on His heart before the world was (Eph.1). It was finished before it began. As Christians, this should give us confidence in Christ our Lord and Savior!
When Christ died on the cross He sealed the deal. He did not die for the possibility to save all; He died for the certainty to save some. For His wayward bride and wandering sheep, He shed His blood (Jn.10, Eph.5, Matt.20:28, Heb.9:28). Of course, Christ’s blood is sufficient for all; but it was God’s plan that it would only be efficient for some. If you have trusted in Christ, you can know that your name was on His mind when He died. He knew that His blood was for you. Not one drop was wasted. You are saved by grace. Give Him glory and rejoice that your name is written in heaven.