"For God locks up all together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to all."
I hear it so often in discussions: "If God would force us to believe in Him, than that faith would not be real. Our faith must be from within ourselves."
But, is this true? Is this a Scriptural standpoint?
It is indeed true that God will not force us to believe. Yet, in John 6:44 it is written that we cannot do it by ourselves! See for yourself:
"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him"
From this I draw the conclusion that real faith cannot come from within ourselves, but that it somehow must come from Him.
How does God do that?
For an outstanding example, we must go to the turnabout in the life of one Saul of Tarsus.
In the days shortly after Christ went back to heaven, Saul was the greatest opponent and enemy of the Jewish believers in Christ. He went through the land, bringing imprisonment and death to those who stood by their faith. Whoever he could find, he would throw in prison. Even a stoning wasn't to much for him(read Acts 7:54 - 8:1).
But then, something totally unexpected happened. When Saul is on his way to Damascus for a new mission against the believers, this happens:
"And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."
Saul was put back on his feet and resumed his journey. He entered Damascus and....started to search for believers? Yes, but Saul was a different man now! He was no longer their enemy, he now was a fellow believer. He was visited by a believer and was baptized!! What a difference! The greatest prosecutor of his time, Saul, became the greatest apostle ever, Paul, the apostle for the Gentiles!
How did God do that? Did He use force and power?
Was Saul asked to do all kinds of things?
- Was Saul asked to do something for his salvation? No!
- Did Saul have to make a choice? No!
- Did Saul have to become sin-free first? No!
- Did Saul have to confess his sins first? No!
- Did Saul have to ask for forgiveness first? No!
- Was it necessary for Saul to be baptized first? No!
- Did Saul have to make good for all he has done wrong first? No!
- Was Saul given a "chance"? No!
- Was Saul invited to accept Jesus as His Lord and Saviour? No!
It was God who sent His Son and He spoke gently and calm: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me??" The answer to Saul's question who's voice this was, was simple: "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest".
There was a great light, one short question, one statement about a name, and that was enough! Saul became Paul, there was nothing he can do about it! If there is one good case of "saved by grace", it is Paul!!
Was this done by force and power? Absolutely not! It was not: "Love me, or I'll shoot!" With God it never is.
God does not force anyone, He urges and persuades!!
He does that with a love that is completely irresistible. Saul came in touch with God's Love and had no leg to stand on.
The same method still functions (though not with the same amount of visible light). To whom God gives faith, his or her knees will immediately bend, there is no way to withstand His love. His love is stronger than any force or power in the universe.