“For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (Romans 11:32, NIV). Really? That has to be a typo or a misquote or something. No, it’s right there; I just read it in my Bible.
So we don’t have a choice but to sin, but our sin is the reason we are condemned. The gospel’s central message is that Jesus came and eliminated the guilt of believers, but the above passage seems to be saying that if God hadn’t bound me over to disobedience, I wouldn’t have needed Christ’s atonement to begin with. Is that what is being said here?
The way I understand it, we all stand condemned because of original sin. If I were to somehow get it together and manage to obey God’s commands across the board, I would still be unacceptable without Jesus because of the stain of Adam. Maybe God has bound us over to disobedience because if He didn’t, we might well do a fair job of cleaning up our own lives.
But isn’t that the idea? Aren’t we supposed to be obeying God’s commands? Yes, but the essential problem remains: separation from God because of original sin. It’s eternity we really need to worry about. Nevertheless, how does God’s binding us over to disobedience help us? “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21).
So how does subjecting us to frustration bring us “into the glorious freedom…” Because maybe, if we didn’t have these pesky issues with lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, drug addiction, alcoholism, insanity, homicide and all manner of dread diseases, most of us wouldn’t give God the time of day. And, I suspect, that might have a lot to do with why God allows Satan to operate in the world. If the devil weren’t around and we could manage our problems without God, would we ever find the answer we need in Jesus?
My take on all the sorrow and tumult in the world is a mixture of sadness and acceptance. I have often felt as though I received far more than my share of hardship, and I was opposed to anything that caused me pain or thwarted my own plans. But as I grew to appreciate God’s sovereignty and the corruption of my own way, I began to see that the extinction of my will was a good thing, regardless of the pain and frustration involved.
Most people believe that they suffer more than others. Some people really do encounter unimaginable tragedy. So what if I got hit harder than the next guy? Is that a reason to grieve, or should I rejoice? I have to say the latter, because life’s prodigious thrashings got me to the point where I gave up on the idea of running my own life. My perspective is one of profound gratitude. If I had been able to flourish in this world without God (as many people do), my moment of truth would have occurred at the worst possible time: when I was standing before my Maker at the Judgment. For some inscrutable reason, I was given truth at a time when I could make the best use of it. Such is the mystery of election.