Why Isn't Everyone a Christian?

By Robin Schumacher

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Responses to my recent post on proof that God chooses who will be saved fell down the standard lines of demarcation in Christianity, with some decrying the thought that God chooses who receives His mercy and others nodding in agreement with the idea. Those who don't hold to the Reformed teaching on election normally point to two verses they believe support their position:

"This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:3–4), and "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

These verses raise a question, though, that I highlighted in my prior post: does God get what He wants or not? Outside of Universalists, Christians acknowledge that not everyone will spend eternity with God. So that being true, if God really doesn't choose who will be saved, then why doesn't God get what these two verses say He wants? [1]

There are only two possible answers to the question:

1. There is a power in the universe greater than God's that is frustrating Him by overruling what He wills.
2. God does get what He wants, but He wills something more than the salvation of all humanity, with this 'something' resulting in not everyone being saved and God's purpose still being accomplished.

Some say #1 is the right answer; those who feel, for example, that the evil in this world has grown beyond God's ability to control it. However, the majority of Christians who affirm God's sovereignty reject #1, leaving #2 as the only other option.

If #2 is true, then the question becomes: what is this thing that God desires more than the salvation of everyone?

The answer most give is that God values human free will and a potential love relationship more than saving all people via His efficacious grace. Laced throughout such beliefs is talk of self-determination, how God doesn't create or want 'robots', and assertions that God would never force Himself on people.

However, there's an important problem with those answers. You will not find Biblical support for them anywhere in Scripture.

The two verses highlighted most often as proof that God wants all people to be saved provide no backing whatsoever for that line of reasoning, nor does the context that surrounds them. Instead, they only beg the questions: Why isn't everyone saved? And What is it god desires more than the salvation of all?

But what if…? What if there was another passage in the Bible that brought to our attention the exact same dilemma, but did reveal what it is God desires more than the salvation of everyone?

Would that help solve the endless debates Christians have about these issues?

The Pain of Paul

In Paul's letter to the Romans, he tells his readers what pains him the most—the fact that his fellow countrymen and women aren't experiencing God's salvation: "I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen" (Romans 9:1-5).

The Apostle's agony is compounded by the fact that, if such a thing is indeed true, it means God has failed to keep His promises to Israel and that He has, in effect, failed and not achieved what He wants. This is the exact same quandary that implicitly arises from 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9, but is not answered in those Pauline letters—why isn't God getting what He wills?

John Murray's commentary on Romans articulates Paul's situation this way: "The question posed for the apostle is: how can the covenant promise of God be regarded as inviolate when the mass of those who belong to Israel . . . have remained in unbelief and come short of the covenant promises?" [2]

Fortunately, Paul gives us an answer.

Continue to Page Two

1. Much of this article's content is influenced by John Piper's essay, "Are there two wills in God?" For Piper's analysis of the topic, see:
2. John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), pg. 18.

Image credit: koalazymonkey; Some rights reserved

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

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Published 12-13-13