How could God use a man and not save him?

Q. How is it fair to a person born to be put through hell in life because he is used by the devil and God. Is this like the story of Job? How could God use a man and not save him?

I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking about here, but let me reassert, as I’ve said often on this blog, that I believe God gives everyone the opportunity to trust in Him and be saved, and in fact God makes every effort to bring each person to salvation. As the Bible says, God “doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed. Instead, he wants all people to turn away from their sins.” So I don’t believe that God would “use” somebody for His purposes and then just discard that person afterwards. Any purposes God pursues through our lives are subservient to the purpose God pursues for our lives, which is to bring us to know and trust Him and enjoy His presence forever.

In terms of the story of Job specifically, in my study guide to that book I note, “The book of Job has much to say about the ‘problem of evil,’ that is, why there is so much suffering in the world if it’s governed by a good God. But [in the opening story] the Adversary [the name for Satan in the book] begins by raising a different problem, the ‘problem of good.’ If apparent goodness is always rewarded and bad conduct is always punished, how can we ever really be sure that a person is genuinely good, and not just trying to win rewards and avoid punishment? It turns out that the only kind of universe in which genuine good can be known to exist is one in which good people sometimes suffer undeservedly, but still demonstrate continuing loyalty to God.”

This is what God “uses” Job to demonstrate over the course of the book (if we may use that term). And there’s no question that at the end he’s “saved,” that is, fully returned to God’s tangible favor and blessing.

I hope this helps address your concerns.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

4 thoughts on “How could God use a man and not save him?”

  1. Alternate take: the question implies that God might be wrong to harden Pharoh’s heart and then condemn him. There is no law or standard of justice above God. He is good because that’s what he is. He defines it. He is the definition. There is no reason God should not do all his holy will.

    1. Here’s an earlier post with my reflections on the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. “It’s the character of Pharaoh, as a merciless, despotic ruler, that starts the whole chain of events in which Yahweh is required to demonstrate his might in order to free his captive people. Through the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (which didn’t require much divine intervention to start with), Yahweh is effectively saying, ‘If you insist on a demonstration of power, I’m going to make sure you get a real one.’”

  2. Perhaps the question was about John the Baptist?

    Mat 11:11  Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 

    This says to me that John is not a part of the “kingdom of heaven” which I understand to be the Jesus movement, that is, Jesus and believers.

    1. Given the clear testimony that John the Baptist bore to Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” I’d count John as a follower of Jesus. I think what Jesus is saying in the statement you quote is that in earthly terms (“among those born of women”), no one is greater than John the Baptist. But in heavenly terms (those “born of the Spirit,” as Jesus says in the gospel of John), anyone who belongs to the kingdom is greater, because the kingdom of heaven is greater than the kingdom of this world.

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