And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. Matt 11:23
This is one of the most startling statements Christ ever made. Moreover, it is one of the most unnoticed statements as well. People seem to be able to read right over this verse and not even notice what is says, and more importantly, what it implies.
On the surface it seems like a straightforward rebuke of Capernaum for its hardheartedness towards Christ. Jesus says in the next verse that Sodom will have an easier way to go on Judgment Day than Capernaum. So at first glance we can easily see that Jesus was condemning Capernaum as an incredibly wicked city – one that would face severer judgment than Sodom.
But the implications of this verse are amazing. And let me hasten to add that the Arminian is completely unarmed for the handling of this passage. Jesus is as much as saying that Sodom was denied the privilege Capernaum was given. Had Sodom been given a chance to hear Christ they would’ve repented! In other words, they were denied the chance to hear what would have led to their repentance. This can only mean one thing: God is sovereign over perdition as well as salvation. Only those whom He chooses even get a chance to hear the Gospel.
You may be surprised to read that, but look over the passage carefully and tell me this isn’t directly implied. Furthermore, this isn’t the only passage in the Bible where such an idea is openly expressed. In Acts 16, Paul and his companions were traveling about preaching. They were about to enter the area of Asia but they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to do so. In other words, God did not allow them to preach the Gospel in that area. Instead He specifically called them elsewhere (see Acts 16:6-10). They went to Macedonia assured that, “the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.”
Actually though, God’s sovereignty goes farther than just denying the means of grace, i.e., the preaching of His Word. It extends to the personal response of the listeners. Arminians dislike this idea. In fact, their whole system is built on a denial of it. It seems to me that their furor is misplaced. Arminians complain that we should assert that God is sovereign over the wills of men in their response to the Gospel. I say, save your breath. If God so influenced my will that I savingly believed in Christ for my salvation, I would certainly NOT complain: I have been shown an incomparable favor. If the Arminian wants to complain about fairness, he should think about a passage like 1 Samuel 2:25 which says that Eli’s sons refused to hear godly rebuke because God intended to kill them. In other words, God’s plan to kill them was the cause of their refusal to heed their father’s rebuke. There is simply no honest way to get around that.
No one even gets the Gospel preached to them unless God's sovereignty wills it.