Does God play favorites with people? Why are some saved and some not?
No Partiality with God
From the beginning to the end the Bible teaches that there is no partiality with God and He “shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands” (Job 34:19). Peter said at the council of Jerusalem, after the gospel had been preached to the Gentiles, that God “did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9) “For God does not show favoritism” (Rom 2:11) and before God, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). Paul asks a rhetorical question, “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too” (Rom 3:29). It’s not about race…it’s always about grace. God looks at your heart, not your lineage.
No Partiality in the Church
When Paul was bringing the gospel to the Gentiles he upset a lot of the Jews but he declared “As for those who were held in high esteem–whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism–they added nothing to my message” (Gal 2:6) and since with God “there is no favoritism with him” (Eph 6:9c) neither should there be any with us. James also wrote to the church, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism” (James 2:1) because “if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (James 2:9). Because Israel was such a huge nation, they needed to set up judges in the nation but Moses was careful to warn them “You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it” (Duet 1:17) for “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes” (Duet 10:17).
It is human nature to complain that some will be saved and some will not. Can we judge God? Paul asks, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use” (Rom 9:21) because “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile” (Rom 3:22). Just as with Israel, God said “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel” (Jer 18:6) so “who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this’” (Rom 9:20? He told Moses that it is His right to choose who to save and who not to save, saying “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Rom 9:15) and so our salvation “does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Rom 9:16).
Hate verses Love
The passage written by Paul in Romans 9:13 trouble many because it says “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Why did God hate Esau? It wasn’t really hate as we typically think of the word but it was the contrast between the great love He had for Jacob (Israel) to that of Esau who despised his birthright (Gen 25:34). In other words, Esau had such little regard for his God-given birthright blessings that he sold it to satisfy his hunger and so God loved Jacob more than Esau, which by comparison, it might look like hate. Jesus gave another such apparent discrepancy when He said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Naturally, this doesn’t mean we should hate our family because we’re commanded to honor our father and our mother (Ex 20:12) but our devotion to Christ will look like hate when the relationships are compared to our relationship with Christ.
The lesson for believers is to “let the fear of the LORD be on you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery” (2nd Chron 19:7) since God looks at the heart and not the outward man or woman (1st Sam 16:7). Why does He save some and not others? I don’t know but Paul wrote, “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use” (2nd Tim 2:20). God says “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’” (Isaiah 45:9)? God is the Potter and we are the clay vessels and so God asks, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this’” (Rom 9:20)? It’s not amazing that only a few will be saved (Matt 7:21-23; 22:14) but that anyone is saved! God does not play favorites. He will save anyone that repents and believes in Christ.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.