Why Isn't Everyone a Christian?

By Robin Schumacher

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The Solution of Paul

Paul's answer to the question is this: "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel" (Rom. 9:6).

Paul says it's not that God doesn't get what He wants—He does and God's will never fails. It's that not all those who were born Jews will be saved.

But why aren't all Jews being saved? Is it because many are using their free will to deny God's gift of salvation, thereby rejecting salvation through Christ?

Not quite. In vv. 7-13, Paul instead uses the example of Isaac, Esau and Jacob to make his point. God chose Abraham, then Isaac not Ishmael, then Jacob and not Esau. Why? "So that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls" (Romans 9:11).

Instead of propounding a free will argument, Paul says that not everyone who comes from Abraham gets the same treatment from God. Before they were ever born, God made His choice of individuals. The idea some have put forward that God is talking of nations in this passage and not individual people cannot hold up under serious exegetical scrutiny. [3]

As if anticipating the exact same response given today by people who reject election, Paul proactively responds: "What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!" (Romans 9:14).

Paul's question makes absolutely no sense if he believed in the free will argument of salvation. Instead Paul's conclusion regarding how a person is saved is summed up this way: "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy" (Romans 9:16). In other words, it's not about human free will or works, but God's mercy directed towards those who He chooses (vs. 15) because He is the potter and His creation the clay (vv. 20-21).

The Answer to the Key Question

So Paul first addresses in a direct manner the "Why isn't everyone saved?" question that implicitly arises from 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9, and demonstrates that God does indeed get what He wants. He then goes on to show how God goes about achieving what He wants. But what about the key question we posed earlier: Since everyone won't be saved, what is it that God desires more than everyone's salvation?

Paul provides the answer in the following way: "Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles" (Romans 9:2024).

The answer Paul supplies is the same one given in Jonathan Edward's, "A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World". God's passion for His glory takes priority over the salvation of everyone.

Paul presents two truths in Romans that cause many Christians to bristle. First, that God gets 100% credit for your salvation, even down to who decides if you will follow Him (see vs. 16 again). You're not a Christian today because you're smarter than unbelievers and have figured things out, or because you're more humble and have recognized your sin where others haven't. No, you're a Christian today because God had mercy on you, opened your eyes and heart just like He did Lydia (Acts 16:14), and caused you to receive His gift of salvation. He gets all the glory; you get none (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The second hard truth is that God gets glory when He showcases His justice and wrath in the same way He does when He distributes His mercy. Many think that God is only glorified through the kindness He shows undeserving people, but Paul says in Romans that God also desires to put on display His justice with those He allows to continue in their chosen sin. He receives glory in this as well.

Daniel Fuller describes it like this: "To show the full range of his glory God prepares beforehand not only vessels of mercy but also vessels of wrath, in order that the riches of his glory in connection with the vessels of mercy might thereby become more clearly manifest." [4]

All of us are born sinners and deserve God's justice. By grace, God calls some "not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles" (Romans 9:24) for salvation, and receives glory for His mercy. Others He leaves in their chosen rebellion, and with these, He receives glory for His justice.

This is the answer, then, as to why everyone is not a Christian and what it is that God desires more than everyone's salvation. Nowhere in Romans or the rest of the Bible will you find explicit support for the idea that God values human 'free' will over the salvation of people. But in Romans, you do find explicit text detailing what God desires most—His glory that comes from displaying both His mercy and justice on those He chooses.

3. John Piper says of the 'nations' interpretation: "The interpretation which tries to restrict this predestination or unconditional election to nations rather than individuals or to historical tasks rather than eternal destinies must ignore or distort the problem posed in Rom. 9:1-5, the individualism of 9:6b, the vocabulary and logical structure of 9:6b-8, the closely analogous texts elsewhere in Paul, and the implications of 9:14-23. The position is exegetically untenable." John Piper, The Justification of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), pg. 73.
4. Daniel Fuller, Unity of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), pg. 446.

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TagsBiblical-Salvation  |  Calvinism-Tulip  |  God-Father  |  Theological-Beliefs

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Published 12-13-13