God's Magnificent Salvation Plan
An Indepth Biblical Study of
God's Salvation Plan for Mankind
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1God's Magnificent Salvation Plan
God Declares Himself to Man
No Man Will Accept God's Offer of Salvation
God Will Save a People for Himself
Anyone Can Be Saved
A Summary of What We Have Learned
God's Elective ProgramChapter 2T = Total Depravity
The Gospel Is Preached to Dead People
The Doctrine of Free Will Is Antithetical to the Bible's Teaching of Our Spiritual Deadness
The Danger of the Doctrine of Free Will
But What About Those Passages That Apparently Teach Free Will?Chapter 3U = Unconditional Election
When Did God Elect Those Who Were To Be Saved?
The Biblical Doctrine of Predestination
Our Election Is Unconditional
But Doesn't the Idea of Election Foster Fatalism?
God's Will Concerning Salvation Is Completely Sovereign
God Gives Us Repentance
God Gives Us FaithChapter 4L = Limited Atonement
Christ Prays Only for Those Who Are To Believe On Him
Only Those Who Are To Be Saved Are Justified
Mankind Whose Sins Have Not Been Paid For Must Be Judged for Those Sins
But Doesn't the Bible Teach That God Would Have All Men Saved?
But Doesn't the Bible Teach That Christ Paid for the Sins of the Whole World?
In All the World Christ Is the Only Way to Salvation
Did Christ Pay for All Our Sins Except That of Rejecting Christ?
But Doesn't the Bible Speak of Those Who Are Sanctified and Yet Remain in Unbelief?Chapter 5I = Irresistible Grace
Those God Plans To Save Must Be Drawn to Him
The Raising of Lazarus Shows How Our Will Is Involved
in Our SalvationChapter 6P = Perseverance of the Saints
From What Has God Saved Us?
We Have Eternal Life
But What About Those Verses Which Seem To Teach That We Can Lose Our Salvation?
Israel - an Example of God's Corporate Body
The Teaching That We Can Lose Our Salvation Is a Dangerous Doctrine
Peace with GodChapter 7Conclusion
"Good evening. Welcome to the Open Forum."
"Yes, go ahead, you're on the air."
"Well, I just had to call after that last caller.... I mean, really, the very idea that not all can be saved.... I mean, when the Bible is so clear, "...whosoever believeth in Him should not perish...' and sir, I want you to know that my Lord does not send people to Hell!" Click the conversation was abruptly ended.
Over and over, this scenario is repeated on the nationwide evening radio program called Open Forum -- people, sincere students of the scriptures, struggling with the enigma presented by the issue of divine election.
The caller had captured his position to his satisfaction with the verse he quoted from John 3:16. Others reach for the passage in II Peter proclaiming, "...He is not willing that any should perish..."
But the simple truth is there are other passages which seem to declare that only the elect who have been chosen before the foundation of the earth will be saved. Take, for example, Ephesians 1:4, which states, "...He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world..." And how about Romans 11:5, where God speaks of "...a remnant according to the election of grace"? The caller's frustration was focused on the implication that only an elect group of people is going to be saved and conversely that those not among this elect group would be sent to hell. Since he views God as a benevolent, loving Creator, to him such an election not only seems grossly unjust, but downright unworthy of decent men or God!
For five centuries this issue has been a battle cry. There was a time when Renaissance minds were causing an intellectual dawn to quell the Dark Ages with humanism's insistence that all life questions be seen from the human perspective. This insistence crept into the theological arena. From that perspective such questions naturally arise..."If those not elected by God are not going to be saved, how can it be true that God's offer of salvation is truly honorable? Whatever happened to the fairness we associate with God? How dare we tamper with the `free will of man'?"
However, this issue is best served by looking at the question from the proper perspective -- the divine viewpoint. Once we capture a clear insight into God's identity, in His nature and work, it will not be difficult to see that His program of salvation is entirely fair and equitable.
And for those Bible students willing to struggle objectively to see the whole issue from this perspective, they will make two exciting discoveries: (a) this enigma can be resolved; (b) this resolution will foster a new appreciation of the incomprehensible love of God in providing such a magnificent program of salvation.
But make no mistake, whether your humanistic outlook is due to the secular classroom of today's education system or gleaned from a pulpit under the cloud of theological humanism some 500 years old, all such viewpoints must be abandoned.
True enlightenment and joy is attainable only by viewing this issue from the divine perspective; i.e., looking over God's shoulder.
CHAPTER 1As we begin our study concerning the nature of salvation, we must begin by understanding who man is. We see that the Bible teaches that man was created to worship and serve God, that men of their own volition have rebelled against God and will never wish to come to Him. Therefore, because it is God's desire to have a people for Himself, God sovereignly chose the individuals whom He planned to save.
GOD'S MAGNIFICENT SALVATION PLAN
Going back to the very beginning in Eden, we see that man was created in the image of God. To be created in the image of God included the fact that he loved righteousness and truth just like God. Moreover, Adam could choose whether to obey God or not. He was free to obey God voluntarily because this desire was inherent in him as part of the image of God. Thus he stood before God as a responsible creature accountable for his actions. Therefore, he was also warned that he must bear the consequences of disobedience -- "...for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17).
The results of his disobedience are well known. Mankind was sentenced to death, physical death as well as spiritual death, which meant eternal separation from God in a place called Hell. There he would eternally endure the wrath of God for his disobedience.
The impact of that initial sin was so terrible that man's very nature was corrupted and disobedience to God became normative for his life. Like an adulterer senselessly and stupidly returns repeatedly to the harlot, so man continues to disobey God. It was so far reaching that the whole human race, which issued from Adam and of whom Adam was head, remains in this awful corruption. Thus Romans 5:12 declares, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned..."
In I John 3:8 we read, "He that committeth sin is of the devil." In Colossians 1:13 God declares that when He saves us it is that "He hath delivered us from the power of darkness."
In the parable of the wheat and the tares Jesus informs us that "the tares are the children of the wicked one." This enslavement to sin is described by the language of Romans 6:16, where God warns, "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey."
We see therefore that man in his very nature continues in constant rebellion against God. Because he lives in this enmity toward God, the awful curse of God's wrath continues to rest on him. He became a slave of dominion of sin and spiritual darkness which ruled over by Satan, who vanquished man in Eden.
IS MAN RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS SIN?
But now a question of great importance must be faced. Did this corruption of man's nature and this enslavement to Satan, which together produce an ever mounting condemnation for man, minimize or reduce in any way God's demand upon him to be without sin? Had he in any sense become so helpless in his sin that God could no longer hold him accountable? This is a key question, for in its answer one will be able to resolve the apparent paradox of God's gracious offer of salvation to all men and God's elective decrees whereby only God's elect will be saved.
The answer to the question of man's continued accountability to God after the fall is found in analyzing the reason for his hopeless condition of slavery to sin and Satan. His frightful condition did not result from a whim or caprice of fate. It did not result from irrational anger by God as God lashed out at man for his disobedience.
Rather it was altogether the result of man's own action. God had created him good, with every conceivable blessing; and because he was created in the image of God he was fully responsible for the consequences of his disobedience. Thus, the fact that his very nature became corrupted and that he became a slave of Satan did not diminish in any way his accountability to God for his sins. Even to the present day, because he is still man created in the image of God, however shattered that image may be, he continues to be answerable to God for his actions.
Therefore one is not surprised to read that at the judgment man must render account to God for all his works. Matthew 12:36 states, "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." Romans 2:5,6 declares, "...after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God: Who will render to every man according to his deeds..." Thus God is emphasizing that an answer must be tendered.
Romans 14:10-12 makes it clear that "we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ...for...every knee shall bow...and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." II Corinthians 5:10 cites that "...we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
Moreover we read in Revelation 20 that at the judgment throne Christ will have on record all the deeds of those who stand there. And they must answer to God concerning these deeds. Revelation 20:12 declares:And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
That God looks upon man as being fully answerable for his sins is repeatedly taught in the Bible. Consider, for example, the words of Jesus in Luke 13:34:O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her own brood under her wings, and ye would not! (Cf. Matthew 23:29-34, 21:23-41)
Christ is speaking in these passages to people as responsible humans created in the image of God. He is not demeaning them by suggesting that in any way they are no longer accountable. His declaration is that they are fully answerable for their rejection of God's overtures of grace. Actually it is more than an offer. It is a command from God to the human race that they are to repent of their sins and turn to Christ for salvation (John 6:29, Acts 17:30, I John 3:18-24).
Thus the Bible gives ample evidence that mankind is fully answerable to God for his actions. Even though the entire human race is altogether in rebellion against God, each and every human stands accountable to God.
GOD DECLARES HIMSELF TO MAN
In this sad context, God comes with His gracious offer of salvation. First of all, He gives plentiful evidence to man that God exists. By placing man in a creation that is so filled with incomprehensible impossibilities and delightful wonders, man cannot escape the knowledge that only an infinite being could bring this to pass. The stars, the newborn baby, the fragrant rose, all testify to the power of God (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:18-23).
Moreover, because he was created in the image of God, there is a witness within man. Intuitively he knows that murder and adultery and stealing are sins because to some degree God's law is written on his heart (Romans 2:14,15). Intuitively he knows that there is a judgment coming when he must account for his sins (Romans 1:32).
Furthermore, God shows him that He is a merciful and loving God as He provides man with so many undeserved blessings such as health, the benevolent sunshine, and fruitful seasons. (Cf. Acts 14:17, Romans 2:4.)
But man's response to these evidences of the existence of God, to the knowledge that he is a sinner who must some day be judged for his sin, to the kindness of God as He surrounds man with His blessings, is one of even greater rebellion against God. But because man himself is the sinner, man himself must bear the full consequences of his actions.
Finally, God comes with His supreme offer of love. God has fully outlined this in that marvelous written declaration of God's will, the Bible. He covenants with man that if he will only throw himself on God's mercies, if he will only repent of his sins and entrust his will to Christ as Lord, if he will only trust in Christ as Savior for God's forgiveness for his sins, God will make him His child, God will give him eternal life, God will free him from slavery to Satan and make him a citizen of God's kingdom. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
To do this for man, to make this offer possible, requires an enormous sacrifice by God. It requires complete satisfaction of the price demanded by God's decree, "the wages of sin is death," for all who will accept this gracious offer of salvation. This price was paid by God Himself, as He came as the God-man, to bear the wrath of God on behalf of those who would trust in God's offer of salvation.
If ten men out of the whole human race would believe in Christ as their sin-bearer, Christ's suffering must be equivalent to the punishment deserved by these ten men. If a million people would trust in God's offer of reconciliation, Christ's suffering must be equal to an eternity in Hell for a million men. However many turn to God's offer of love, Christ would obediently endure God's wrath on their behalf. For only then can God's holy justice be completely satisfied (Romans 3:24-26, Romans 5:8-9, Romans 5:21).
NO MAN WILL ACCEPT GOD'S OFFER OF SALVATION
But man in his perverseness, in the corruption of sin which has enveloped his whole being, will not accept this wonderful offer. He will not be obedient to God's command to repent of his sins and believe in Christ. His natural enmity towards God, his unconscious allegiance to Satan, his pleasure in his sin, all work together to encourage him to ignore, to spurn, to ridicule this offer. It is indeed a well-meant offer by God. There are no strings attached. It is given to man, who originally was created in the image of God to think God's thoughts after Him, to love God, to worship God, and to fellowship eternally with Him. The fact that man in his willful disobedience has become totally corrupted and has become a slave of Satan does not diminish or in any sense invalidate the gracious and marvelous intention of God's salvation offer. Man is still accountable to God. The fact that not even one man would be obedient to this offer does not make it any less a gracious offer of love.
Even so, the offer of God's love, the Gospel, with its command to mankind to believe on Christ, is sent forth into all the world. But no man of his own volition will respond to it. Rather, in his lusting after sin he will do all that he can to silence and reject it. The deadness of man is so succinctly outlined in Romans 3:10-20 and Ephesians 2:1-3. "There is none that seeketh after God," we read in Romans 3:11. Man is as spiritually dead as Lazarus was physically dead after his body had decayed in the tomb for 4 days. No wonder the Bible declares in John 6:44, "No one can come to Me except the Father draw him." No man is able to come because he is spiritually dead.
GOD WILL SAVE A PEOPLE FOR HIMSELF
But God is not thwarted in His desire to have a redeemed people. If man left to his own volition will not respond to His gracious, well-meant offer and command of salvation, God will reach down into the mire and misery of human sin and save a people, whether they want to be saved or not (John 6:37). He will take for Himself as many as He wants, and precisely those whom He wants, so that He will be the Redeemer. He will build His church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail. Read, for example, the beautiful description of God's salvation plan in Ezekiel 34:11-16.
Therefore, in sovereign righteousness and justice God chooses, even before He creates the world, those whom He will save (Ephesians 1:4). They are not to be saved because they are in any way, to any degree whatsoever, more holy or more worthy of salvation than those who remain unsaved. Rather it is totally God's sovereign grace that He saves one and leaves another under His wrath (Romans 9:11-13).
For those whom He does save He must provide payment of the penalty required by God's perfect justice. And so Jesus became sin. He took upon Himself the sins of all whom God planned in His elective decrees to save. Based on God's declaration of John 3:16 that "whosoever believeth on Him should not perish," we might declare that Christ was prepared to pay for the sins of anyone in the whole wide world throughout time who might turn in faith to God and accept this offer of forgiveness. This is perhaps one truth inherent in the Biblical statement that Christ died for the sins of the whole world. In all the world Christ was the only possible sin-bearer. He would pay the price for anyone who believed. This principle is surely suggested by the promise of I John 1:9, which proclaims, "...if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
As a matter of fact, He did die only for those who were elected of God. For only they will obey God's command to believe in Christ. And this includes both the believer of the Old Testament as well as all those who will believe right up until the end of time. This truth is surely evident in the declaration of the angel to Joseph, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins." The phrase "His people" cannot refer to the whole human race. If it did, double jeopardy would occur, inasmuch as the Bible clearly teaches that the unsaved must pay for all their sins (Revelation 20:12-15).
Christ died for those who believe, but not one of these believed of his own volition. Only because God inclined their wills and opened their eyes did they respond to the Gospel. This gracious intervention of God occurred only in the lives of God's elect. These God irresistibly drew unto Himself (John 6:37,44). These were given to Christ by the Father (John 6:37,39,John 17:9,20), who were born not of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13).
Therefore, while in principle the atonement is available for each and every individual in the whole world, in actuality it covers only the sins of the elect. For only they will believe in Him. The dead Lazarus responded to the command of Jesus to come forth from the from the tomb because with the command Christ qualified him to come forth by giving him ears to hear, life to respond, and the will to obey (John 11:43,44). So likewise God qualifies those who are spiritually dead so that they will respond to the Gospel call.
Sorrowfully, the Bible declares that the rest of mankind remains under the wrath of God. When Christ went to the cross to pay for sin, He was ready to pay for anyone of mankind who would trust Christ as his Savior. But no penalty was paid by Jesus for those who would not respond obediently to God's salvation command. Therefore, they must stand before God's judgment throne on their own behalf when God judges the nations at the end of time. God declares, "The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness" (Romans 1:18), and "There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil" (Romans 2:9). Furthermore, in Romans 2:5 God ominously decrees:But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
In Revelation 20:12,13 we read:And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Had their sins been paid for, they would never have to stand for judgment and answer to God for each and every sin they had ever committed. God's wrath could never come upon them. Such condemnation, after Christ had already paid for their sins, would be double jeopardy. It would be a violation of God's perfect justice.
ANYONE CAN BE SAVED
Who then can be saved? Anyone can who surrenders his life by faith to Christ as Savior and Lord. There is not one who ever honestly sought for Jesus who will be cast out. There will be no one at the judgment throne of God on the last day who will be able to argue with God that he had earnestly sought for salvation. While he may have sought salvation, it could not have been the salvation of the Bible. Rather it would have been a salvation of his own design. No one will stand before the judgment throne who had been following the Biblical prescription of a broken and a contrite heart, which is the beginning of true salvation.
Wonderfully, anyone can know he is one of God's elect by repenting of his sins and hanging his whole life on Jesus. God warns man to make his calling and election sure. By turning to Christ without reservation, in child-like trust, he is proving he is one of God's elect. After he has turned in obedience to Him and knows that he, too, has become born from above he will discover from God's matchless Word that his salvation was all of grace (Ephesians 2:4-10). It was altogether the work of God. If God had left him to himself, he would never have turned to Him.
That the Father decided to save some and let the rest go to Hell for their sins is God's business (Romans 9:14-23, Ephesians 1:4,5). He is the sovereign Creator and Redeemer, who is glorified by the salvation of those who believe (Ephesians 1:6). He is also praised by the wrath of man (Psalm 76:10).
The real wonder is not that He failed to save every last person in the world. The real wonder is that He saved even one out of the human race. The fact that He saved a vast company of believers from every nation and tribe and people is gracious love and condescending grace that no man will ever understand. This wonderful salvation is possible only because...My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith Jehovah...(Isaiah 55:8)
A SUMMARY OF WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED
We have discovered that God indeed comes with a gracious offer of salvation to mankind, a gracious offer whereby He declares that He will save anyone at all who will come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed it is more than an offer. It is a command to believe on Jesus as Savior. Our salvation of course can be accomplished only through our Savior because there must be someone to pay for our sins. Jesus as our substitute did provide Himself as that payment. Because of His sacrifice of Himself, God comes with the gracious offer of salvation to this world.
We learned that because man is desperately wicked, because he is dead in his sins, he does not want to accept this offer of salvation; he does not want to be obedient to the command to believe in Christ as his Savior. He refuses to surrender his will to God. In the hardness of his heart he wants to go his own way. "There is none that seeketh after God," the Bible sorrowfully declares.
We saw that even though man is dead in his sins he remains accountable to God. Regardless of his spiritual blindness, regardless of the fact that he is a slave of sin and Satan, he still has the responsibility to face God at the judgment throne and answer for all his sins.
Then we saw that God, in His mercy, in His sovereign will, declared, "But I will build My church." It is God's purpose to have a people for Himself even if no one of his own desire will believe in Christ as his Savior. We saw that even before the foundation of the earth God named those whom He would save; and these He drew to Himself, opening their spiritual eyes that they might respond to the Gospel offer, so they did indeed become saved.
Then we examined the question, "Well then, can anyone be saved?" And the answer was, "Yes, indeed, anyone can be saved who will respond to the Gospel." But we learned that the only people who will respond in submission to God's Word, the Bible, who will obediently follow God's program for salvation, will be those whom God has drawn to Himself. There will be nobody facing Hell at the judgment throne who will be able to argue, "I wanted to be saved on God's terms but I am not saved because obviously I was not one of God's elect." Anyone facing judgment and Hell is there because he did not want God's salvation program. He may have wanted salvation on his own terms, but he did not want God's salvation, and therefore he still has to answer to all his sins.
GOD'S ELECTIVE PROGRAM
As we go on in our study of salvation, particularly as it relates to predestination and God's elective program, let's look at these questions again on a little more formal basis, following the outline that the church has followed, under the acronym TULIP:T = Total depravity U = Unconditional election L = Limited atonement I = Irresistible grace P = Perseverance of the saints
Certainly the acrostic principles behind the acronym TULIP sound intriguing; but unless they are altogether Bibical, they shall not stand. In that view, we focus altogether on scriptural foundations.
T = TOTAL DEPRAVITY
The matter of total depravity is a very ugly concept, and it is this doctrine that divides the church as no other teaching concerning salvation. Many, many people in the church can agree, "Yes, I believe that God draws us to Himself: I believe that once we are saved, we are always saved."
But they have difficulty crossing that line where they would acknowledge that man is so depraved, that he is so spiritually dead that he is incapable of taking that first step toward God. They really insist on the possibility of free choice or free will on the part of man to choose for Christ. They conclude that God has done all that He can do, and now it is up to man to take the next action.
Let's examine the Bible very carefully in regard to this matter because we want the Bible to speak to us. We are interested in knowing God's truth on this. Some of the verses we will look at will be a repetition of what we have already covered in this study, but they bear repeating because they are so very important.
In Ephesians 2:1-5 we read:And you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, among whom also we all had our conversation (conduct, behavior) in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us even when we were dead in sins hath quickened us together with Christ. By grace ye are saved...
In these verses God is speaking about someone who has become saved. He is not talking about the desperately wicked of the world who remain in their wickedness and end up in Hell, but He is talking about someone who actually has become a child of God.
And what does He say about him? He was dead. He was spiritually a corpse, without any spiritual life of any kind. Notice the description, "walked according to the course of this world." In other words, he had been living exactly like the world that remains in unbelief.
Then God adds, "according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." By these words God is declaring that this person was a slave of Satan, walking after the ways of Satan. Remember that Jesus said to the Pharisees, "Ye are of your father the devil."
Moreover, verse 3 declares he was living "in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others." This is the terribly rebellious condition in which God finds us when He saves us. The description fits any unsaved in the world, even the most wicked. This is the way we are, the way God sees us before we are saved.
How can this person exercise free will? How can this person decide to come to God? He is spiritually dead, his will sold out to Satan. He is a corpse. While he might argue that he has the freedom to choose for God, in actuality he will never choose to come to God through Christ. In the freedom of his will he will always choose against God because in his depraved nature he is altogether in rebellion against God.
The terribly rebellious state of man's heart is further described by the language of Jeremiah 17:9, where God declares, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jesus pointed out the awful depravity of man's heart by the language of Mark 7:21,22:
No wonder Jesus said of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27:Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
In these words our Savior was pointing out the unsaved condition of these church rulers. But the description of their hearts fits the heart of every unsaved person.
In Romans 3:10-18 God emphasizes and underscores the sorry state of mankind when measured by the standard of God's holiness. In verse 10 God declares, "As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one." Thus we are made to realize there is no one in the world who is righteous, not a single individual. God has in view here the whole human race, including those who will become believers. The Bible continues, beginning with verse 11:There is none that understandeth. There is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way. They are together become unprofitable. There is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre. With their tongues they have used deceit. The poison of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
This is an awful indictment of the human race. God is showing us what miserable sinners we really are compared with holiness of God. This language shuts the door on any possibility that anyone of his own free will would turn to God..."There is none that seeketh after God..." The language is that of a desperate sinner, one who is spiritually dead. His throat is an open sepulchre. That is, all the words of his mouth proceed from a grave of decaying flesh. What an ugly statement declaring our spiritual deadness. How can we say that any person would turn to God of his own free will? We have to absorb this terrible truth. It is God's truth, that we are spiritually dead before we are saved. We are so depraved in our nature that we would never seek Him of ourselves.
Our spiritual deadness is further emphasized in John 5:24, where God says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My Word and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death into life." We are dead in our sins. Only God can give us life.
THE GOSPEL IS PREACHED TO DEAD PEOPLE
This same truth comes to light in I Peter 4:6, where we read, "For this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead." Of course we don't preach to the physical corpses; we don't go into a cemetery and preach to the bodies that are in the graves. We preach to someone who has life and breath, who has conscious existence. But God says here that the Gospel is preached to those who are dead. You see, we are spiritually dead before we are saved. Therefore, we of our own volition will never come to God.
Wonderfully, this verse tells what happens to those who do respond to the Gospel as they are experienceing God's salvation love. Verse 6 goes on, "...that they might be judged according to men in the flesh." That is, they still will experience physical death. But then the next phrase declares, "...but live according to God in the spirit." In their spirit or soul existence, where they have experienced the resurrection at the time they were saved, they will live to God.
In John 6:44 Christ declared, "No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him." The word "can" in this passage is a word that signifies that no one has the power to come to Christ. No one has the strength to come to Him. Why? Because we are dead. Only because our Heavenly Father draws us, do we come to Him.
Remember, earlier in our study we mentioned Lazarus. Lazarus was in the tomb, and he had been dead for 4 days. He was a stinking corpse. Yet Jesus spoke to that dead man just as we speak to the spiritually dead, according to the language of I Peter 4:6. Jesus said to Lazarus, "Lazarus, come forth." Did Lazarus have the ability to come forth? Could he come forth because he heard the voice of Jesus? No, he couldn't even hear the voice of Jesus. He was dead. He could never come forth. One might go to a cemetery and call for a thousand years for people to come forth. But not even one person will even come forth because all in the cemetery are dead.
That is how dead we are spiritually. The corpse of Lazarus in the tomb is a picture of our spiritually dead condition before we are saved. God is using this particular historical event to teach us the spiritual truth of the nature of salvation.
That the death and resurrection of Lazarus is a picture of salvation is shown by the language describing this miraculous event. As Jesus is talking to Martha and Mary about the dead Lazarus, He said to them in verse 25 of John 11, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall live." This beautiful promise relates altogether to salvation. Jesus is going to raise Lazarus to prove that this promise is trustworthty. Even as Lazurus was raised physically, we who believe in Christ are to be raised spiritually. Lazarus had no power in himself. He was dead, so that he of his own will could not rise physically. Yet he did rise physically. So also we are spiritually dead before we are saved. We have no power whatsoever. Therefore we cannot rise spiritually. Nevertheless, as the Gospel comes to us, we will rise if it is God's will to raise us, even as Lazarus was raised from the dead.
This is the teaching of the Bible. We are dead, and our actions cannot contribute in any sense toward our salvation. There is no such thing as free will insofar as the Bible is concerned.
THE DOCTRINE OF FREE WILL IS ANTITHETICAL TO THE BIBLE'S TEACHING OF OUR SPIRITUAL DEADNESS
I am afraid that the idea of free will is clung to so tenaciously by some because it affords them a little bit of credit for their salvation. Oh, we know that it is by grace that we are saved. We are ready to admit that. But oh, how we want to receive a little credit at least. Can't we have a little bit of recognition that we have contributed something toward our salvation? This is our nature.
Suppose we have baked a beautiful cake, or done something else that displays our handiwork. We have slaved over this, and our work is very lovely. Indeed then, we are very disappointed if our friends fail to commend us on the work of our hands. This is the way we are designed; we want some kind of commendation. And so we also want some kind of commendation with regard to our salvation.
If it was my free will that caused me to turn to Christ, then somehow I am a little bit better than my unsaved neigthbor. After all, somehow I responded to the Gospel while he didn't, and therefore I can receive a tiny bit of credit, even though I know that basically my salvation depends upon what Christ has done.
But the Bible says no. We are dead in our sins, and there is no way that we can be saved except that God will draw us. It is God's work altogether. Therefore, God declares, "A broken and a contrite heart I will not despise."
THE DANGER OF THE DOCTRINE OF FREE WILL
I might point out something very ominous in connection with this doctrice of free will. Really, it is a very serious matter that we are discussing. The Bible shows why.
In Numbers 15:32-34 we read about a person who picked up some sticks on the Sabbath Day:And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath Day; and they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation, and they put him in ward because it was not declared what should be done to him.
This man apparently has committed a very, very incidental sin. He has picked up a few sticks. As near as we can tell, he has kept the Sabbath Day as was commanded, but he just picked up a few sticks. Certainly that isn't a very grievous crime, is it? But God indicates in verse 35...And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp; and all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died as the Lord commanded Moses.
What a horrible penalty for such an incidental sin! Why is this? Why did God put this in the Bible? You see, this is a dramatic warning to us not to mix work with God's grace. Let me explain.
The Old Testament Sabbath Day was a picture of our salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. When the nation of Israel rested on the seventh day from all its labors, they were not to do any kind of work at all. So, too, when we are saved, we are to rest altogether in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has done all the work required to bring us to salvation. The Old Testament Sabbath Day therefore was a figure of the salvation that God would provide through our Savior. Until we are saved, we are working so that in some way we might obtain entrance into Heaven by our own actions. But once we are saved, we rest from our labors altogether and simply trust in Christ, who has done all the work. It is by resting in God's grace that we have been saved, just like the children of Israel who rested on the Sabbath Day.
Therefore, when this man picked up a few sticks, his action paralleled the action of someone who is saying, "Yes, I am saved by grace, but my work has contributed just a tiny bit. I can do a little bit of work toward my salvation." God ordained that the man who picked up sticks was to be stoned to death. To be stoned to death in the Old Testament was the equivalent of coming under the damnation of Hell. This is the grievous thing that happened to those who were particularly sinful. Their death was a picture of God's wrath that comes upon sin, that results in damnation in Hell. Thus by this account of the man picking up sticks God is really teaching that if we have a salvation program that is mostly grace, but also requires a little bit of our own work, then we still are under damnation.
This is an ominous thought. This is a terrible thing. But we don't have to worry about this if we'll just follow the scriptures, if we'll accept what we read in Ephesians 2 and Romans 3 and John 5:24 and these other passages, that we are dead and we don't have free will. It is God Himself who does the saving altogether. Only He is to receive all the glory for our salvation.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THOSE PASSAGES THAT APPARENTLY TEACH FREE WILL?
I know there are passages that seem to indicate that we do have free will. For example, in Revelation 22:17 God declares, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." But this verse isn't indicating that anybody will of himself turn to the Gospel, which is the water of life. This verse is simply indicating that God's gracious offer of salvation is available to the entire human race. If any person does turn to Him, God will save him. When we read this verse in the light of the rest of the Bible, we know that no one of his own volition will turn to Christ. There is none that seeketh after God. Thus, while Revelation 22:17 stands as a promise of God, it will never prompt a response in anyone unless God Himself is drawing him.
Revelation 3:20 is frequently used by those who want to retain some aspect of free will. There God declares, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me."
This verse to seems to indicate, when we read it quickly, that the action by the one responding to Christ is doing so of his own free will. But when we read this verse very carefully, we'll notice it says, "He who heareth My voice..." Can a dead man hear the voice of God? Could Lazarus hear the voice of Jesus? And the answer is, "Of course he couldn't hear the Savior's voice. He was dead." But he did hear the voice of Christ, didn't he? He did hear Christ's voice, and he did come forth.
Likewise there are those who are spiritually dead who of themselves cannot hear with understanding the Gospel call. Those who respond do so only because God gives them spiritual ears to hear. Even as He gave the dead Lazarus physical ears to hear so that he could respond, and gave him the strength to respond, so God gives us spiritual ears if He is drawing us to Himself. Revelation 3:20 is not teaching free will in any way. It is simply indicating that if we have ears to hear, then we will respond. But we know that those ears to hear must come from God Himself.
It is very significant that repeatedly in Revelation God declares, as He does in Revelation 3:22, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Only those whom God is drawing, those whom God is saving, will have that kind of ear. We see therefore that this verse also gives Biblical corroboration to the historical treaching to total depravity.
We must conclude therefore that the principle of total depravity is altogther Biblical. It is a teaching that will stand the closest scrutiny of the scriptures. But it is absolutely antithetical to the idea of free will. Any Gospel program that promotes the idea that I have a free will to choose God is contrary to the Bible. When we are unsaved, our will is sold out to sin and to Satan.
We might insist our will is free, but in our unsaved condition our will is always contrary to the will of God. We shall never will of ourselves to come to God because "there is none that seeketh after God." This is what the Bible insists. If you want to call that free will, that we shall always of ourselves go against the will of God, so be it.
Call that free will if you like, but that is not the meaning ascribed to free will when people say, "I, because of my free will, decided to become saved." Their meaning is that by an act of their will, which is under no constraint of God, they can come to Christ; and indeed those who are saved did become saved because of an action of their will. Likewise those who remain lost of their own free will reject Christ, and God will never impose His will upon them to make them want to come to Christ. But that idea or doctrine is a Biblical impossibility. Moreover, it is a very, very dangerous doctrine, as we have seen.
But doesn't the Bible teach that we are to choose for Christ, that we are faced with the choice of believing or rejecting Christ? And doesn't this imply free will on the part of those who do make the right choice? When Joshua commanded ancient Israel to "choose you this day whom ye will serve" (Joshua 24:15), was Joshua suggesting that man has a free will? When we read Joshua 24:15 carefully we discover that Joshua's command to choose was not to make a choice between God and Baal. Rather it was a choice between one false religion and another. This verse reads:And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
God does not give us a choice to believe in Christ or not. He commands the human race to believe in Christ. We read in I John 3:23:
And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the Name of His Son Jesus Christ...
If any verses in the Bible do imply a choice is to be made, God always commands what that choice is to be. It is always that we should turn back to God. As we faithfully bring the Gospel, we should present this command of God that should be obeyed.
However, as we bring this command to believe on Christ, we must fully realize that the only ones who will obey this command are those whom God is drawing--those whom God has chosen to salvation. They alone will respond to the Gospel offer. We must fully realize that we have been commissioned by God to make this Gospel offer so that God's salvation program will come to fruition in the lives of those whose wills are being inclined by God to respond to the command to believe.
Therefore we must never add to that Gospel presentation the statements that are so frequently made to the effect that the final choice is man's rather than God's.? Too many preachers add such concepts as, "God has done His part and now it's up to you;" or "God by His grace has paid for your sins but it's up to you to accept His pardon;" or "God has done all that He must do; the rest is up to you;" or God is a gentleman. While He has provided for your salvation, He will not force you to accept."
All these statements imply that our salvation is based on God's work plus our work, that God's work will never be complete without our work. These statements are part and parcel with the concept that man has a free will. They do not recognize at all that our salvation is "not of works" (Ephesians 2:9). They do not recognize that man is dead in his sins. They do not recognize the awful import of a works/grace gospel.
I am afraid that the common assertion of many today that man must "accept" the Lord Jesus as his Savior is based on the premise that man has a free will. The fact is, we receive Christ because God has given us Him as a gift. God inclines our will, God draws us, God gives us salvation. We receive this gift of salvation without any work or effort on our part.
Now then, which of these two hymns are you ready to sing?'Twas not that I did choose Thee,
For Lord That could not be;
This heart would still refuse Thee,
Hadst Thou not chosen me.
'Twas not that you did choose me,
For Lord that could not be;
Your heart would still refuse me,
Hadst I not chosen Thee.
The first of the two verses is the Biblical one. When "we have decided to follow Jesus," it is actually God's action moving us. We can take no credit whatsoever. The phrase accrues to the precious Lord Jesus Christ. God gives repentance! To God be the glory!
Let us now see what the Bible has to say about unconditional election. What does this phrase mean?
U = UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
Thus far we have examined the first principle that is suggested by the acronym TULIP, a word that outlines five principles that relate to the nature of our salvation. That first principle is the matter of total depravity. We have discovered as we looked in the Bible that indeed, we are dead in our sins. We are incapable of ever deciding to come to Christ. We are slaves of Satan. We obey the lusts of the flesh. We are as spiritually dead as Lazarus was physically dead in the tomb before he was raised.
But now we are going to examine the second principle that is a part of this acronym TULIP; namely, the principle of unconditional election. The subject of election is not a happy idea to many who are concerned with salvation because it brings with it the fact that God is the one who did the electing, rather than the fact that we have chosen for God. Man by nature does not like this particular point of view. This is so because it underscores the spiritual deadness of man. It robs him of any self-pride. It reminds him that he is not the master of his fate, the captain of his soul. But this is the point of view that the Bible very clearly teaches.
In examining this question of election we see first of all that it is required. That is, it is a necessary part of God's salvation program. Without it, no one would be saved. Let us see why this is so.
We have already discovered that man is altogether dead in his sins. He will not seek after God. Of his own volition he will never elect to come to God. Therefore, if Christ had gone no further than offering salvation to the world, there would be no body of believers. This gracious, loving offer of salvation could be proclaimed for a thousand years to mankind, but not one individual in the whole human race would respond of himself. As we have already seen so clearly, man is dead in his sins. He loves his sin too much. In his very nature he is altogether in rebellion against God. And so no one seeks after God. Therefore, if God had not acted in man's heart no one would become saved.
But Christ has determined that He would build His church. The gates of hell would not prevail against Him. Therefore, in order to build His church, He elected certain ones who were to be saved. Thus the truth of election is absolutely essential to God's whole program of salvation.
WHEN DID GOD ELECT THOSE WHO WERE TO BE SAVED?
We might wonder when God elected or decided whom He would save. When did this election take place? The Bible tells us in Ephesians 1:4 that He chose us in Christ from before the foundations of the world. In other words, God already decided whom He would save as part of the salvation program before man had ever been created, before man had ever fallen into sin.
In Revelation 17:8 God speaks of those whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. He is speaking here of the wicked, those who are slaves of the Beast or of the kingdom of Satan. The fact that they were not written in the Book of Life from before the foundations of the world implies very strongly that the believers in Christ, who are not slaves of Satan, were written in the Book of Life from before the foundations of the world. That accords altogether with Ephesians 1:4, where we are told that "we are chosen in Him from before the foundation of the world." Therefore the Bible shows us that this election did take place before time, before God had begun His creation.
Because God knows the end from the beginning, He knew that man, whom He would create perfect and without sin, would of his own volition rebel against God and be plunged into sin. Therefore our Heavenly Father made provision for this eventuality by giving to the Lord Jesus Christ those whom He planned to save. We read in John 6:37, "all that the Father giveth Me..." These were the elect who, before the foundations of the earth, had been chosen by God and had their names inscribed in the Lamb's Book of Life.
The next logical issue we should face concerns the nature of this election. We find this word election in some fifty places in the New Testament. It is found in the Greek language as three different greek words... ...ekloge, eklektos and eklego. These three words are translated either as elect or chosen in the New Testament.
We find, for example, that God says in Romans 11:5, "There is a remnant according to the election (ekloge) of grace. In II Peter 1:10 we read, "Make your calling and election (ekloge) sure."
Again He declares in Colossians 3:12, "Put on, therefore, as the elect (eklektos) of God..." or in Titus 1:1, "According to the faith of God's elect (eklektos)." We find this idea of election in Matthew 22:14, "Many are called, but few are chosen (eklektos);" and in I Peter 2:9, "But you are a chosen (eklektos) generation..."
And again, we read in Ephesians l:4, "According as He has chosen (eklego) us in Him..." He has elected, He has chosen those whom He planned to save.
THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION
A corollary doctrine of the Bible describing God's elective program is predestination. Predestination, like the word election, is a very uncomfortable word for many. Many are hoping that the word predestinate is not in the Bible, that it is some kind of theological word rather than a Biblical word. They want nothing to do with it.
But the fact is that the Greek word proorizo, from which predestination comes, is found six times in the New Testament. We find it in Romans 8:29, where God declares that "those whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son." We read it in Romans 8:30, where He says, "Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and those whom He called, He justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified."
Further, we read of this predestination in Ephesians 1:5. There God declares, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." Again, in Ephesians 1:11, "In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."
This word predestinate is found in two other places in the New Testament. In one, Acts 4:28, it is actually translated in our English language as "determined before." There God is speaking about the will of God that Christ would suffer for our sins, and so He is indicating that as part of His divine plan Herod and Pontius Pilate and others were gathered together against Him. In that context He declares in verse 28, "For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel (God's counsel) determined before (predestinated) to be done." So we see, God's counsel had predestinated beforehand what was to be done.
The last place we find this word proorizo (predestinate) is in I Corinthians 2:7, where it is translated "ordained:" "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained (predestinated) before the world unto our glory." Here He is speaking of the whole Gospel plan that was predestinated by God.
You see, in these verses we find that God has predetermined from before the foundations of the world, not only every aspect of the salvation program, but also who were to be saved. He did not predestinate those whom He saw would of themselves come to Him. That's an impossibility because all mankind are dead in their sins. There is none that seeketh after God. But as He looked down the corridors of time and saw the miserable human race as it would become after the fall of Adam, He chose some of these miserable, rebellious sinners and elected them to salvation. He predestinated them to be saved. This is what the Bible teaches concerning salvation.
We must realize, if God had simply looked for those who would come to Him of their own free will and saved them, then He could never speak of them as being chosen. This would be incorrect language for it would not have been God's choosing but man's choosing. It would have been man who had elected to come to God and God would simply be recognizing those who would be saved. He could only speak of them as being the recipients of the grace of God and could not speak of electing those who were being saved.
But no, God uses the word elect because He chose out of the rebellious human race those who were to be saved. We read in John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you." This, you see, is what the Bible teaches concerning our salvation. We are the elect of God if we have begun to believe in Christ as our Savior and Lord.
OUR ELECTION IS UNCONDITIONAL
We must remember, even as the acronym TULIP suggests, that the principle that is laid down in the Bible is unconditional election. That is, God elects us regardless of how terrible our sin really is. He does not elect us because we were good. He does not elect us because we were beautiful people. He elects us in spite of our sins. Remember, in Romans 3:10-18 we saw that God speaks about the whole human race, without any exception, in the most ugly language, to indicate the natural wickedness, the murderous, viperous nature of man. It is these kinds of people whom He elected to be saved.
The Bible does not teach that Christ came to save those who were good but that Christ came to save sinners. The Bible declares in James 2:5, "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?" We are rich in faith, of course, because that faith is given to us as a gift. We read in Ephesians 2:8, "By grace ye have been saved through faith, but that not of yourselves. It is a gift..." In I Corinthians 1:27 God declares, "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world and things which are despised hath God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are."
In these verses God is very clearly indicating that in His choice of those whom He would save He is speaking of that which is despised, that which is of no value in itself, that which is foolish. That is our state when God saves us. Our election is absolutely and altogether unconditional. We did not deserve to be elected of God in any way.
Remember that we looked several times at Lazarus as he was in the tomb. There were many people in cemeteries in that day, as there are at any time in history. Christ could have gone to any one of those tombs and called to the dead person within the tomb to come forth, and that person would have come forth.
But Christ in His sovereign will decided to raise up Lazarus. He came to the tomb of Lazarus, and He said, "Lazarus, come forth." Lazarus did not meet any conditions at all in order to respond to this command, or to be the one who was elected to be raised from the dead. He was simply one of the dead. His body was corrupting. There was nothing that qualified him to come forth, nothing whatsoever; yet he did come forth when Christ elected to raise him and then commanded him to come forth.
Thus in the raising of Lazarus God gives us a dramatic picture of unconditional election. We are elected of God to be saved by Him. We come as we are, in our rebellion, in our perverseness, in our spiritual rottenness and spiritual bankruptcy. God declares, "A broken and a contrite heart I will not despise." That's the doctrine of unconditional election.
BUT DOESN'T THE IDEA OF ELECTION FOSTER FATALISM?
Of course the question might be raised, "If God has elected from before the foundations of the earth those whom He would save, and if there is nothing that I can do about my election, then what is the use of trying to bow to command of the Bible to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? If I am elect, I will believe. If I am not elect, I won't believe. There is nothing I can do to make myself elect because this is altogether God's sovereign plan."
The fact is that when God commands us to believe, we are to obey that command. Occasionally, there is someone who does obey that command. Whether he is elect or not is none of his business at that point in time. When we hear the Gospel, we are to be faithful in obeying the Gospel by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those who do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will afterwards begin to wonder, "Why did I believe? Why did I turn to the Lord Jesus Christ when many others around me did not?" Then, when they examine the scriptures to find out why, they will discover it is because God had elected them. It is because God had drawn the sinner to Himself so that he became a believer. God had opened the spiritual ears and heart of this individual. God had qualified this person so that he would respond to the Gospel, even as He qualified the dead Lazarus in the tomb so that he would be obedient to the call of Jesus, "Lazarus, come forth." This is the doctrine of election.
Moreover, as we send forth the Gospel, it's not our business to know who are God's elect. We know only that there are those amongst the unsaved who are God's elect. These are the lost sheep that the Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and to save. Christ knows who they are; and as we witness to the Gospel and send forth the Gospel, there will be those whom God will bring to Himself as they hear the Gospel presented by us. God will draw them through this Gospel. God will draw them as we pray for them. We don't know whether they are elect or not, but God knows. We will only discover the elect as we see those who indeed do become born again.
This is a wonderful doctrine, a marvelous promise. This insures success as we bring the Gospel. The success of our Gospel presentation does not depend upon our winning ways; it does not depend upon the splendid rhetoric that we can offer; it does not depend upon our salesmanship. Rather it depends upon God's faithfulness to His own Gospel. Through the Gospel He will seek and save those whom He has predestinated to be saved. He will call them, He will justify them, and He will glorify them (Romans 8:30). This is the absolute promise of God. This is the teaching of unconditional election. What a wonderful doctrine this is! A pity it is that there are those who are afraid of this teaching.
If the doctrine of election and predestination is so beautiful, why then are so many afraid of it? I believe many do not like this doctrine because they would like to believe that God does not predestinate against the will of man. That is to say, man would like to believe that God predestinates those persons whom He knows will turn to Him. Man wants at least a bit of the credit for his salvation.
Moreover, man desperately wants to be sovereign in his own right. This was the nature of Lucifer when he fell into sin. He wanted to be a king. He wanted to be like God, as we read in Isaiah 14. So man, too, wants to be king on the throne of his life. It is reprehensible to him by nature to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. Howerver, the doctrine of unconditional election, which the Bible very clearly teaches, underscores that God is sovereign. He saves those whom He will save! Under no circumstances is it man who does the choosing. It is God who is doing the choosing.
GOD'S WILL CONCERNING SALVATION IS COMPLETELY SOVEREIGN
God insists in Romans 9, for example, as He uses Esau and Jacob as a figure of His doctrine of predestinating election:For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand; not of works, but of Him that called us; it was said unto her: the elder shall serve the younger; as it is written: Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Now there it is, you see; God is indicating that He was completely sovereign in this. Again in verse 15 of Romans 9 He declares, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." We have here emphasized all these "I wills" because this is what God is emphasizing. He is the One that Makes the decision, and He adds in verse 16 of Romans 9, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." This verse pointedly and plainly excludes man's will.
Further reinforcement for this marvelous doctrine is seen in verse 18: "Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth." There is the doctrine of sovereign grace as it works out in God's elective program.
In Romans we were reminded of the hymn, "Thou art the potter; I am the clay; Mold me and make me, after THY will." This plea is based on the teaching of Romans 9:20-23:Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?' Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
Here, you see, God emphasizes the fact that He is supreme; He has the power, the right to save those whom He wished to save. God is under no obligation to save a single person in the whole human race. We deserve to go to Hell. We deserve to spend eternity under His damnation. The fact that He has saved some according to His divine choosing, His elective program, is God's business altogether.
Futhermore, in John 1:13 God insists that we are born, not of the will of man. John 1:12 introduces this truth: "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." If we stop right there, it would appear as if the choice is altogether man's, those who received Him. But notice the qualifying statement in the next verse, "which were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." God is insisting that He does the electing. It is His will that decides who is to be saved. It is not our will that we would want to be saved because our will is altogether sold under sin.
The doctrine that salvation comes only to those who are elect of God is further taught in Acts 13:48. As the Gospel is going out producing converts in the early church, we read, "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." That says it all over again, does it not? Not everybody was believing, but only those who were ordained by God to believe.
GOD GIVES US REPENTANCE
It is true that God commands men everywhere to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30). It is easy to assume, therefore, that even though our salvation is all of grace, at least it is a product of my independent will that I have repented. I am the one who turned away from my sins. Logically I might conclude that because I have turned away from my sins, God will save me. Somehow I want to believe that repentance has to do with my will altogether, apart from any action on God's part.
But even this thought of independence apart from God's action will not be tolerated by the Bible. In Acts 5:31 we read:Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
How plainly God declares that even our repentance is given to us of God. God requires that no conditions be met before we can be saved. God takes the most unworthy, rebellious, wicked sinner and gives him repentance so that God's salvation program can proceed in his life. Small wonder then that Ephesians 2:8-10 declares:For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk them.
Can we see now that even the good work of repenting of our sins is also a gift of God?
GOD GIVES US FAITH
Amazingly the Bible further strengthens the total role of God in our salvation as it discusses our faith. When we read Romans 4:3, which declares, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness," we might conclude that even though our works are not at all meritorious toward our salvation, in some way at least our faith must be counted toward our salvation. However, when we look at the Bible more carefully, we will discover that it was not Abraham's faith that was counted for righteousness, but it was God Himself who was counted for righteousness.
Let us develop this thought a bit. In Galatians 2:16 we read:Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law.
Reading this verse very carefully, we see that God declares that it is by (Greek dia - through) the faith of Jesus Christ," and "we might be justified by (Greek ek - out of) the faith of Christ." In other words, the basis of our salvation is not our faith but Christ's faith. Because He was perfectly faithful in caring out God's salvation plan, we are saved. No wonder Christ is called "Faithful and True" in Revelation 19:11.
Moreover we see that in Galatians 2:16 God is declaring that we are not justified by (Greek ek - out of) the works of the law. In John 6:28 the Jews asked Jesus, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered them in the next verse as He declared, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." In this declaration the Lord Jesus is very definitely teaching that our faith whereby we believe on Christ as our Savior is a work. Therefore we know that we can be justified only by Christ's faith and not ours. For, as Galatians 2:16 has indicated, we cannot be justified by works of the law.
The grand truth of Galatians 2:16 is further strengthened by the language of Galatians 2:20, where we read, "the life which I now live in the flesh I live by (Greek en - in) the faith of the Son of God." See also Romans 3:22 and Philippians 3:9.
Returning to Romans 4:3 and Abraham's salvation, we should now read Romans 4:5, where God declares:But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for (Greek eis - into) righteousness.
The phrase "his faith" can only refer to God's faith, that is, God's faithfulness which brings the believer into righteousness.
This then explains to us the meaning of the phrase we find in Romans 1:17, where we read:For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from (Greek ek - out of) faith to (Greek eis - into) faith.
God is teaching us here that the salvation of Jews and Greeks is out of faith (Christ's faith) into faith (our faith), which is a reflection or result of Christ's faith.
Thus we can understand the language of Ephesians 2:8, where God declares:For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
In every aspect of our salvation we merit nothing at all. To God must go all the honor and glory. It is by virtue of Christ's faithfulnss that we are counted righteous. His faith is given to us as a gift, so that we have begun to trust in Christ as our Savior.
One last verse, and then we'll be through with this principle of unconditional election, and that is John 6:37. Jesus declared there: "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and Him that cometh to Me I shall in no wise cast out." Christ is here insisting that it is those whom the Father has given Him that will come to Him. There is no implication here that the whole human race would come to Him, but God has chosen out of the human race those whom He would save.
Therefore, the logical question follows, "If God has decided by His sovereign will to save some, leaving the others to face the Judgment Throne on their own account and be sentenced to eternal damnation in Hell because of their sins, then did Christ go to the cross on behalf of every last human being? Or did He pay only for the sins of those who actually would believe on Him--those whom He had chosen to be His own--a limited number?"
Historically, the church has spoken of this third principle as limited atonement or particular atonement. That is, Christ's payment at the cross was effective for only those who were elect of God. There was no provision made for those who would not believe on Him.
You see, there are those who teach that Christ actually paid for the sins of each and every person in the whole world, and it is only our rejection of Christ that sends us into Hell. It follows along with the idea that it is by our own free choice that we turn to Christ. This supports the erroneous idea that God has done all that He could, and now it's up to us. These are some of the ideas we shall explore in the next chapter.
Go To Chapter 4