In this short post, Dr. William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith answers a tough question about God: why doesn’t he just forgive everyone? If we are all sinners, and he went to the trouble to come to earth to pay the price for our sins, why wouldn’t he just forgive all the sinners (everyone) and let them all into Heaven? Dr. Craig responds by saying that Christ’s forgiveness must be accepted for it to take effect, so if one rejects the offer of forgiveness the offer will not be applied.
Dr. Frank Turek makes a similar point when people ask him why God sends people to Hell: God will not force people to be in his presence forever in Heaven if they don’t want anything to do with him. Those who would rather stay in their sin and face the consequences of that decision are allowed to do so. Not everyone wants to be forgiven based on God’s rules or spend eternity with him forever in Heaven. According to Dr. Turek, only those who accept Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s one and only rescue plan, will be forgiven and brought to Heaven, because due justice and respect for our autonomy must be applied to our relationship with sin by virtue of God’s character. Those who reject Jesus’ sacrifice will not be forgiven because Jesus is the only one who fixes the problem of sin.
One point here can be agreed on by everyone. Those who receive God’s forgiveness are forgiven and those who reject it are not, regardless of exactly how central God’s guiding hand is in the decision making process. Whether God pre-selects us to receive Christ’s sacrifice or we accept it of our own free will, acceptance is required for forgiveness.
It is for this reason that we should always be prepared to offer others good reasons for why we have hope in Jesus; accepting his sacrifice is a crucial turning point for their eternal destiny.
“If anyone refuses the pardon offered by God, then Christ’s sacrifice avails him nothing, for he has rejected the satisfaction of God’s justice wrought by Christ. Thus, ‘those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ’ (Rom 5.17).”