Why Does God Save Some People and not Others?

By David
Published September, 23, 2016

This question has been asked in some form or another for probably about 2000 years. We know that God is sovereign in salvation Ephesians 1:4 says, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." So if God chooses who will come to Him and believe, this question can be separated into two further questions. Why doesn't God save everybody? And, why does God save anybody? Think about that second one for a minute.

Belief in Christ is our responsibility (Acts 16:31) but we also know that no one can come to Jesus unless God draws him (John 6:44). Election is hard to understand, but we know that God must bring about repentance in a person's heart before they can turn to Jesus, so the question stands, why is it that some are saved and others (most people) are not? The simple answer is that it's God's will that some should come to Him and that some won't. Paul writes in Romans 9:15, "For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'"

But let's get back to the earlier questions. Why doesn't God save everybody? Why does God save anybody? The answer to these two questions is that God has certain attributes that He desires to exercise and make known. These attributes are justice, wrath, power, love, mercy, and grace. Paul continues in verses 22-23 of Romans chapter 9, "What if God, although wanting 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."

Attributes of God – Justice, Wrath, and Power

Paul is saying in verse 22 that justice is part of who God is, and that it is His will to make His wrath and judgment known. How does God demonstrate His justice? The only way He can do that is to judge sin. 1Footnote 1
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If God can do whatever He wants, why can't He just decide that everyone can go to Heaven? For more information see my article "Why is the Wages of Sin Death?"
How can you tell that law enforcement is serious about crime? You can see how serious they are by watching how they respond to it. If they give warnings to everyone they catch speeding, it's obvious they don't care too much about speeding. If a judge lets murderers go with a sentence of 6 months of community service, you can tell he's not really concerned with demonstrating justice. You might wonder if he knows what justice is.

One of God's attributes is justice and another one is His wrath towards sin. How do we know that God is just? We can see it in His condemnation of sin. 2Footnote 2
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Proverbs 17:15 says, "He who justifies the wicked is an abomination to the LORD." If that's the case how can God let anyone into Heaven. For more information see my article "How Can God Justify Sinners?"
How do we know that God hates sin with a perfect eternal hatred? He displays His justice and His wrath toward sin by creating Hell. If God saved everyone and all people everywhere went to Heaven, we might start to wonder about God's justice and wrath. Someone might say, "Sure God says He hates sin and hates all who practice sin (Psalm 5:5), but I've never seen His wrath."

And think about it, if God never exercises one of His attributes, is it really an attribute of His? Can you really say that wrath and judgment are attributes of God if He never displays them? Think of this in human terms. If I say I love burritos but have never had one, would you believe me? God is not just displaying his justice in sending sinners to Hell, He is confirming it. Think about the angels who sinned and followed Satan. Revelation 12:4 says that one third of the angels rebelled and were cast out of heaven. Jesus said in Matthew 25:41 that Hell was created for the devil and his angels. And 2 peter 2:4 says that God didn't spare a single one of them when they sinned. God was not obligated to save any of the angels, and He chose not to. His wrath is demonstrated by the eternal condemnation of the demons in Hell. But that's not all. His wrath is further demonstrated by the eternal condemnation of sinful human beings in Hell.

And if that were it, He would be completely justified and worthy of our praise. He's not obligated to save any of us, but thank God, He does. He didn't have to send His Son to die in our place. He didn't have to offer us a way of salvation, but He did, and there's a good reason why He did.

Attributes of God – Love, Mercy, and Grace

Go back to Romans 9:23, "And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory." God made a way for us to be saved. A way that cost Him everything. Jesus Christ, the second member of the Godhead, came to earth, was born as lowly man, never once sinned, and then died on a cross to pay the price for sinful humanity. God sacrificed His Son to provide us a way to be saved. Why would He do that?

Paul says He did that to "make known" the riches of His mercy. Another one of God's attributes is mercy. Everyone you ask will say that God is love, but how do we know that? Paul says in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." How do we know about God's love and mercy? He showed it to us at the cross. He showed us His love by dying for us.

Remember God demonstrates His justice and total hatred of sin by utterly punishing it. Satan will spend eternity in Hell for his sin. Demons will spend eternity in Hell for their sin. Unrepentant humans will spend eternity in Hell for their sin. It's this total perfect justice that gives meaning to His love. Jesus took on an eternity of Hell for us. He drank the full cup of God's wrath in our place (Matthew 26:39). He did that to show that He loves us.

God's love makes no sense without a proper view of God's wrath. If we don't understand how totally God hates sin, how can we understand the depths of love and mercy it took for Christ to bear the punishment of our sins? God wrath and justice are perfect and infinite, but His mercy and grace are even greater. How awesome is that?

Another demonstration of God's mercy and grace can be seen in Romans 9:22-23. "God… endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction… to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy". Paul is saying that though God wants to demonstrate his justice by judging sin, he doesn't do it right away. He instead waits patiently for sinners to repent and come to Jesus. He doesn't need to be patient. Remember the fall of Satan? One sin was all it took and one third of the angels were kicked out of Heaven. Adam and Eve only sinned once and they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. But God is patient toward us, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Out of His grace He gives us time to come to Him.

Conclusion

Why does God choose to save some and not others? I don't know why He chose who He chose to come to Him (His ways are higher than our ways - Isaiah 55:8-9), but I do know why He only saves a portion of people. He allows some people to continue in their sin towards destruction to "to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known." And He causes some to repent and come to Him "to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy."

He allows people to go to Hell to show us that He is just, and He allows people to go to Heaven to show us that he is merciful. If He condemned everyone, He would be perfectly just in doing so, but we would not be able to know God's grace and mercy and love, a fundamental part of His being. And if He saved everyone, we would not know His perfect holiness and wrath toward sin, another fundamental part of His being. And if we don't understand His holy hatred of sin, we cannot truly understand His love and mercy toward us.

That is why God saves some people and not others. If He didn't save anyone, we would know all about his justice, but nothing about His love. And If He did save everyone, we wouldn't understand either of those attributes of God. Jesus says in John 17:3, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." If the most important thing for someone is to know God, then it is good for God to make Himself known. If God concealed His most prominent attributes, how would we be able to truly know Him?

The bottom line is that God always works to glorify Himself and His decision in election always brings about the most possible glory. God is glorified in displaying His wrath and power (Romans 9:22), and God is glorified in Displaying His love and mercy (Romans 9:23). We may not like the idea that not everyone will be saved, but that's the way God designed it, and we know that God is good. But if you want to see someone in Heaven, go share the Gospel with them so that they can be saved (Romans 10:14). Remember whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved. Our purpose as well is to always give God the most glory we can. 3Footnote 3
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The Westminster Shorter Catechism starts out with "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever."

Footnotes

  1. If God can do whatever He wants, why can't He just decide that everyone can go to Heaven? God is just, but God is also holy. He cannot be even be in the presence of sin. That's why He must banish sinners to Hell. For more information see my article Why is the Wages of Sin Death?
  1. Proverbs 17:15 says, "He who justifies the wicked is an abomination to the LORD." If that's the case how can God let anyone into Heaven. How can a just God declare sinners righteous? For more information see my article How Can God Justify Sinners?
  1. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, written in 1646 for the Church of England, starts out with "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever." The Westminster Shorter Catechism