The Power of Unbelief?
(Rom 3:3) For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? Nothing in this meditation is meant to diminish the importance and requirement of the sinner’s faith, for God has commanded all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (ACT 17:30; MAR 1:15; ACT 20:21). The Jews’ scriptures (oracles of God, ROM 3:1-2) had plainly declared the universal condemnation of men under sin (Jew and Gentile alike, ROM 3:9-10) and that the only remedy was “...righteousness of God without the law...witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ...” (ROM 3:21-22). The faith of Jesus Christ Who trusted in God (HEB 2:13) to not leave His soul in hell nor suffer His flesh to see corruption (ACT 2:27) alone produced the righteousness of the saints: “...by the obedience of ONE shall many be made righteous” (ROM 5:19). This salvation was entirely the work of God in Christ for His elect, Jew or Gentile, thus excluding all boasting on the part of the sinner (ROM 3:27-30). God chose sinners (EPH 1:3-7), gave them to Christ to save eternally (JOH 17:1-3) and Christ did so by His substitutionary death, burial and resurrection. He “...hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2TI 1:9). But many of the Jews did/do not believe this and the question arises as to whether their unbelief would frustrate God from faithfully doing what He had planned from the foundation of the world, and for which He sent His Son into the world to perform and perfect. Paul’s answer was, “God forbid...” (ROM 3:4). Sinners’ unbelief does not prevent God from doing what He swears or determines to do. It is commonly taught, though, that the eternal salvation of sinners depends upon the sinner’s faith: all that God planned, determined, and performed in Christ avails nothing unless the sinner believes. Arminians will argue that the sinner has the wherewithal in himself to produce faith/trust/confidence in Christ. Most Calvinists will contend that this confidence, whereby the sinner is justified, is of Jesus Christ in that it is produced in him by Christ. But either explanation being made, both contend that the “faith of Christ” (ROM 3:22; GAL 2:16; PHIL 3:9) means the faith the sinner exercises by believing in Jesus Christ. In both systems, this faith/trust/confidence is deemed indispensable to freedom from sin and its penalty. Both systems overlook that “faith of Christ” means exactly as it appears on the page: the faith which Jesus Christ Himself had in God’s promises, as noted above: a faith He possessed and exercised. Christ always pleased God (JOH 8:29) which cannot be done without faith (HEB 11:6). Is the eternal salvation of sinners something that God absolutely and sovereignly planned to do from the foundation of the world without consultation with the sinner or in consideration of the sinner’s mental, physical or determinative performance? Certainly it is. It was a job delivered to His Son to perform for those He had given to Him to save. Jesus said, “...I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (JOH 6:38-39). He said, “...My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (JOH 4:34). Finish it He did: “...It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (JOH 19:30). The work planned, the work assigned, the work perfomed, the work perfected. He “...by himself purged our sins...” (HEB 1:3). To imply that God is frustrated to save them whom He meant to save because of their unbelief is to imply that the will of the creature is greater than that of the Creator, a form of Luciferian pride (ISA 14:12-14). What about other things which God has designed and determined that He will certainly do, or which He has declared that He alone has done? Will man’s unbelief of such facts frustrate Him? God has declared that He alone created all things out of nothing by His word (HEB 11:3). Guess what? Man’s unbelief of that doesn’t undo it. God entered time and space in the person of Jesus Christ (JOH 1:14; 1TI 3:16), suffered unjustly, died, was buried and rose again three days and three nights later (MAT 12:40). Man’s unbelief of that doesn’t undo it either, nor does it undo the fact of His ascension to heaven and His taking of the heavenly throne (EPH 1:19-23). God in the Person of Jesus Christ has sworn to return to earth in due time to receive His own unto Himself (JOH 14:1-3 c/w 1TH 4:13-17). Of this great day, Paul there says, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1TH 4:14). Could any rational, God-fearing person conclude that if sinners don’t believe Jesus died and rose again with a promise of return with saints that He therefore is frustrated to the point that He can’t do what He wants? Can man’s unbelief prevent Christ’s return? God forbid. You see, if we accept the proposition that man’s unbelief forbids God from doing what He has determined to do (as many hold concerning the eternal salvation of sinners), would not man’s unbelief be able to frustrate Him in other areas? If sinners have that kind of power, perhaps we should be comforting them with a different gospel: the good news of the power of unbelief! After all, God has certainly determined to return and force all mankind before His judgment seat where they will be measured by their condemning works (ACT 17:31 c/w REV 20:11-13). But what if some do not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God in this matter of no effect? God forbid. God has further determined that all those outside of Christ will be cast into hell at death (LUK 16:22- 23) and the lake of fire which is the second death (REV 20:6; REV 20:14-15; REV 21:8). If man’s unbelief can frustrate this determination as easily as it frustrates His determination to save all His elect by Christ, then the best thing we could possibly do for God-hating sinners is to not preach to them or to discourage them from believing if they have heard! Think of how many sinners we could save from fiery damnation by facilitating their unbelief! We could even fund public education to help in this effort. Think of the comfort sinners could enjoy by stopping God from destroying the present heavens and earth (2PE 3:10-12) by their unbelief! By preaching unbelief, we could even eliminate the offense of the gospel! So away with faith: let’s unite mankind by unbelief to preserve the status quo. Of course, these implications of the (so-called) power of unbelief are merely the logical conclusion of a faulty premise, to wit, God cannot possibly save sinners He wants to save unless they believe: the sinner’s unbelief supposedly makes the faith of God in that matter without effect. Certainly, God wants men to believe what He has written, done, and promised to yet perform (and in so doing they gain assurance of eternal life, JOH 5:24; JOH 6:47; 1JO 5:13). This includes believing that He is faithful to save His covenant children by grace (ROM 11:5-6) in spite of their unbelief:
(Rom 11:27) For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. (Rom 11:28) As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. (Rom 11:29) For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (2Ti 2:13) If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.