One of the most common objections to evangelical Christianity today is the question of why a “good God” wouldn’t just save everybody. If God was truly loving, why would he let anyone perish?
The Apostle Paul had this objection in mind when he said,
“But who are you, a mere man, to talk back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Or has the potter no right over the clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor?”
– Romans 9:20–21 CSB
If God uses our own free choices—in this case, the choice to reject him—in order to set up a display of his glory, then none of us can accuse him of injustice. And, if we say, “A good God would have had different plans for his creation,” Paul answers, “Really? You think you are as wise and smart as God?”
“What if God, wanting to display his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory?”
– Romans 9:22–23
In other words, the ultimate end that God pursues in all things, including our salvation, is his glory.
Tim Keller writes in Romans 8–16 for You,
“If God had mercy on all or condemned all, we would not see his glory. I don’t think Paul is giving us much more than a hint here, but it is a very suggestive hint. For the biggest question is: If God could save everyone, why doesn’t he? And here Paul seems to say that God’s chosen course (to save some and leave others) will in the end be more fit to show forth God’s glory than any other scheme we can imagine.”
Frankly, that’s hard to wrestle with—and that’s because we’re used to thinking of ourselves and our interests as the most important element in the universe.
But we are not. God’s glory is the most important thing in the universe. If you find that hard to believe, then take a clue from the structure of the universe itself. The human race is a collection of fragile organisms on a tiny speck of dust in a remote corner of a medium-sized, backwoods galaxy that is but one of billions of such galaxies. God is the center of it all.
Go outside at night, and look up. The whole creation is designed to scream at you, “You’re not the point!”
The exaltation of God’s glory is not just the most important thing; it is also the greatest good in the universe. That might offend us in a culture where it’s customary to think we’re special, unique snowflakes. But offensive or not, it’s true.
Astronomers say it is a good thing for us that the sun, not Earth, is the center of the solar system. If Earth were at the center, it would never have the gravitational ability to hold the rest of the solar system in orbit, and we’d all die.
Because the sun is 30,000 times bigger than Earth, and because it is an independent source of heat and light, it can sustain an orderly solar system that enables us to have life.
So, if the sun were a person, the most loving thing the sun could do would be to keep itself at the center.
And so it is with God and us. If God is the pinnacle of joy, then having him at the center, recognized for his worth and importance, is the most loving thing he can do for us.
We are not the point. God’s glory is.