A good question has an answer that can be true. A bad question has no answer that can be true. Imagine a loving husband being asked the question: When did you stop beating your wife? This is a bad question. Any answer carries the damning assumption that this husband is guilty of mistreating his wife. Since the assumption is false, no answer to the question is possible. No answer can reflect the truth of how this husband lovingly treats his wife.
While the unanswerable character of this question is easy to spot, there is a question often raised by Christians and even some theologians that is equally unanswerable. Why are some saved, and others are lost? While it might seem to be a good question, it is not. Let’s examine it more closely.
To shed more light, let me offer another example. John loves Marsha and is committed to winning her heart. Alas, however, all of his advances and efforts to woo her prove fruitless. Marsha spurns all of his affections and rejects all of his gifts. The closer he gets just makes her skin crawl.
On one occasion, however, John came calling when Marsha was not at home, but her roommate was. Her name is Mary. Upon opening the door, Mary took one look at John and fell madly in love with him. John and Mary became quite a number, and a wonderful love relationship developed.
At night Mary and Marsha often shared a meal together and their conversation invariably would turn to John. Marsha would explain how she could never accept John and rejected all his advances. Her explanations all began with the word “I”. I can’t stand the sight of John. I could never have him in my life. I want nothing to do with him – I, I, I. Mary’s explanations of her love for John always began with the word, “John”. John swept me off my feet. John captured my heart - John, John, John.
Why are John and Mary a loving couple, but John and Marsha are not? This is a bad question. It erroneously assumes that a single reason can explain Mary and Marsha’s relationship to John. However, if we ask: How is it that Mary has a loving relationship with John, but Marsha does not? This is a good question and the explanation that each woman offered the other provides the answers. Notice their words described causes not some abstract reason. Marsha explained that she is the cause of having no relationship with John. She would have nothing to do with him and said so. Conversely, Mary credits John for capturing her heart, nurturing a returning love. Both women spoke the truth.
With this insight, let’s return to our question: Why are some saved, and others are not? Notice the same assumption is embedded in this question as above. Both assume that some reason can explain relationships that are created and those that are not. This is a false assumption. It renders the question unanswerable and therefore a bad question.
However, if we ask: How is it that some come to faith in Christ and are saved while others do not and are lost? This question assumes that causes are involved, not some singular reason. It is a good question and one that the Scriptures readily answer. God alone is the cause of the saved being saved. The Apostle Paul explained that the Holy Spirit creates faith by the power of the saving word of Christ (Romans 10:16, I Corinthians 12:3). The grace by which sinners are saved through faith is the doing of God, not the sinner, lest anyone take credit (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, concerning the lost, Jesus offered both tears and blame. For instance, he wept over a disbelieving Jerusalem, crying out: Jerusalem, how I longed to gather you, but you were not willing (Matthew 23:37).
As Marsha was unwilling to have John, unbelievers are unwilling to have Jesus. And as Mary with John, it is God who has swept us off our spiritual feet and saved us by the power of His Gospel (Romans 1:16).
Here is another question you might ask when fearful of some great challenges you must face from the world, the flesh, and the Devil: am I going to be able to persevere in my faith and ultimately receive the crown of glory? This is a good question for two reasons. First, Jesus addressed the concern. He who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matthew 22:13). Many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14). Secondly, the Apostle Paul declared that no one and nothing can separate believers from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-39).
The assurance he offers of this security is based on the reality that those whom he called and justified by the Gospel, he foreknew and predestined them also to be glorified (Romans 8:29-30). So, being one whom he has called by the Gospel and justified through faith, the Lord through his apostle provides you a comforting answer to your very good question. Can you be confident about this assurance? Absolutely! Paul elaborated on this assurance when he declared that God chose you to be his own before the foundations of the world, having predestined you to be holy and blameless according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:4-7).
Regarding your good question, be at peace and trust the Lord’s good answer. The good news concerning salvation is that God has good answers for good questions. Not bad. Not bad indeed!