One of the most comforting passages in the Bible is found in Romans 10:9-10 and Romans 10:13 where we see a clear promise to all who call upon the name of the Lord of salvation. This should bring comfort to us each time we read over this section of Scripture. We hear preachers stand and call people to respond to God claiming that God will never turn anyone away. Is that true at all times and in all situation? Is there ever a time when a sinner cannot be saved? Certainly we can all agree that after death, such a time exists. However, what about during the lifetime of a particular person, is there a time when he or she cannot be saved?
God Saves Sinners
In Acts 9, we see the story of Saul of Tarsus and how God humbled the learned Pharisee and brought him to a place of submission. If God can save a Saul of Tarsus (whose names was eventually changed to Paul), anyone can be saved. In fact, the story of the apostle Paul’s conversion should bring us hope that nobody in our family or on the school campus is beyond the saving reach of God. God is capable of saving the vilest offender. In fact, God loves to save sinners.
As we read about the city of Nineveh, we often focus on the story of the disobedient Jonah and his time in the belly of a large fish while completely missing the reality of God’s saving grace for a wicked people. When you study about the deep depravity of the people of Nineveh, it should cause our hearts to swell with joy as we see God save them. They didn’t deserve mercy and grace, but God acted through his grace unconditionally and delivered them from their condition of peril. In short, God loves to save sinners.
God Does Not Always Save Sinners
As we think about the work of God in saving sinners, is there ever a time when God refuses to save someone who requests salvation? Would God ever turn anyone down who called upon his name? Although greatly controversial, it’s true that God doesn’t always save everyone who calls on his name. In Psalm 18, we find the testimony of King David and how God spared him when he was on the run from Saul and his men. Notice what David says in Psalm 18:39-42:
For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed. They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them. I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets.
In this particular case, it’s clear that God was saving David—not his enemies. When the enemies of God surrounded David, he was spared by God’s plan which involved the destruction of his enemies. It could be that their prayer was insincere and selfish in order to manipulate God and avoid defeat. God knows the heats of men and cannot be fooled. We have here a clear example of people crying out to the LORD and he refused to answer them.
In another place in the Old Testament, we find in Micah 3 where those who were opposed to God’s people cried out and he chose not to answer their request for salvation. We see this in Micah 3:4:
Then they will cry to the LORD, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil.
It could be once again that their prayers were insincere and selfishly motivated, but yet again, we find that God refused to answer them and went on to hide his face from them. Although we can say with certainty that God loves to save sinners and even the most vile person can be saved, we must also recognize that God is not obligated to save anyone. Furthermore, we must realize that God is not unrighteous by not saving everyone. God chooses to save sinners unconditionally and acts in mercy to save those who do not deserve it. That includes all of God’s children.
We find other passages in the Old Testament such as Jeremiah 11:11-14 and Ezekiel 8:15-18 where God says, “Therefore, thus says the LORD, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them” (Jer. 11:11). Be sure these are difficult passages indeed, but the difficulty of God’s holy justice and his choice to judge sinners is not removed by the sweetness of his mercy and grace on others. God’s choice to save sinners and God’s choice to judge sinners must never be held up in contradiction to one another (Rom. 9:20-24).
We must never approach God as if he’s merely a genie who offers up grace like a magic potion to overcome our sin. Nor should we approach God as if he’s simply at our disposal like a glorified cosmic bellhop. God is sovereign. God is good. God always does right. God is right to save sinners and to satisfy his justice through the death of his Son Jesus, and he is likewise right to deny salvation to sinners.
If you are a Christian today, this should cause your heart to swell with renewed gratitude. If you are not a Christian and know that you need God’s grace and mercy to rid you of your sin and to reconcile you to God—you should turn to him today and plead for salvation. God loves to save sinners. With a sincere heart, cast yourself upon his mercy trusting that Christ Jesus is your only hope in this life and for all eternity.