Thursday, May 31, 2007
God's Provision Of Grace In Christ
The doctrines of God's sovereign grace revealed in the Gospel are revealed to establish in the minds of sinners the first principles of grace -- what we do not know and recognize by nature. The doctrine of TOTAL DEPRAVITY or INABILITY is revealed to show us we deserve God's wrath because of sin and to show us our need of free grace and of a righteousness which we cannot produce nor to which we can contribute. It reveals that because of our fall in our natural father, Adam, if left to ourselves, to our own wills, we would surely perish. By nature we are controlled by our own self-love and self-righteousness. We refuse to seek salvation God's way so as to glorify and honor Him, and we refuse to repent of works and efforts of which we think make a difference in salvation, works and efforts that dishonor God and deny God's provision of salvation by grace in Christ.
Now we come to the blessed doctrine of UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION. This great truth teaches that out of this fallen human race, this mass of sinful humanity, again, who by nature reject God and want no part of His salvation, out of this group, God chose a definite number of sinners and conditioned all of their salvation upon His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. God purposed to glorify Himself as the God of redemption by sending His Son to establish a righteousness in the name and nature of all whom He chose. Their union with Christ is so complete that Christ's righteousness demands their whole salvation, from the new birth to final glorification in Heaven. This glorifies God, exalts Christ, and excludes all grounds of boasting in chosen, redeemed sinners.
This union with Christ is heart and soul of election because this union insures that God will be glorified in the salvation of sinners based on the righteousness of Christ. Without seeing this union and the establishment of this righteousness to insure the salvation of all whom Christ represented to the praise of the glory of God's grace, we cannot see the reality of election as taught in the Bible. We may proclaim loudly that God chose a people unconditionally, and that Christ died for them, and that they will be saved, but until we see the heart of election in this union with Christ, and the necessity of His righteousness established to insure God's glory in the salvation of the elect, we have missed the saving value and truth of election.
There is no scriptural argument against election. The Bible teaches that God chose a people before the foundation of the world and that He chose them unconditionally. Some claim that election means that God looked down through the telescope of time and he chose based on what he foresaw man would do. I.E., God foresaw whether or not you would believe the gospel or you would reject the gospel. If he foresaw that you would believe, then he elected you. If he foresaw that you would reject it, then he did not elect you. Consider the implications of such nonsense. First, it makes God a reactionary who responds to things outside himself and therefore mutable -- no god at all. It also depicts God as one who learns things. He is neither omniscient nor all-wise. Then, it makes salvation conditioned on the goodness of men -- the goodness one exercises in believing as opposed to the wickedness another exercises in refusing. It destroys salvation by grace.
The Bible teaches that God is sovereign, omniscient, immutable, all-wise, and that man is sinful, depraved, and ignorant of God's ways. Salvation is by grace, not conditioned on the sinner, but conditioned on the sinner's substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ. If God is to be glorified in every attribute of His character, He must exercise His sovereign choice in unconditional election. Otherwise, He cannot be glorified, Christ cannot be exalted, and no sinner would be saved. Without this union with Christ, and without His establishing a righteousness to demand the salvation of all whom He represented, God would have to send all sinners to hell, because He could not be glorified.
God's elect are going to be saved by promise, based on the imputed righteousness of Christ, and God's preachers beseech lost sinners to be reconciled unto God based on that same imputed righteousness according to the exact same promise (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). These doctrines exclude NO ONE, but sinners do exclude themselves by unbelief, by refusing to seek salvation based upon the blood atonement and imputed righteousness of Christ and by refusing to repent from former idolatry and dead works. God has clearly revealed our disease so that we might seek and find the only remedy. Self-righteous men and women deny the severity of the disease and invent their own remedies. God promises to save the very chief of sinners based on the righteousness of Christ without deeds of the law.
I. GOD'S PURPOSE OF ELECTION IN CHRIST (Ephesians 1:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:9).
A. In order to reveal and honor all the perfections of God's redemptive character in the salvation of totally depraved sinners, God chose or elected a definite number out of Adam's fallen race and conditioned all of their salvation upon Christ, His Son. God the Father appointed God the Son to be the Representative and Surety of each and every individual sinner whom He had elected unto salvation and made them one with Christ in the eyes of His law and justice (Isaiah 42:1-4).
By God's appointment, Christ took on the entire responsibility to do everything necessary to bring each and every one of the elect unto final glorification. Why God chose one and not another is known only to God Himself. All were totally depraved, equally ungodly, alienated from God and aligned with Satan. All without exception, which includes God's elect, were by nature children of wrath, owing a double debt to both God's law and justice. They could not be saved apart from conditioning all of their salvation upon Christ.
B. In Isaiah 45:17, 25, we see one of many scriptures where God uses the absolute certainty of salvation for all of his elect conditioned on Christ alone as an encouragement for sinners, active idolaters, to forsake their counterfeit god who cannot saved and seek salvation based on the imputed righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 45:20-24).
The truth of unconditional election, which includes salvation conditioned on Christ alone, does not exclude or shut out any sinner because all without exception are forbidden to seek salvation in any other way. In fact, we see from this truth that there is a way into the kingdom of God by God's own provision. God's promise is sincere. The Gospel promise is not made to anyone as being elect or non-elect. The Gospel addresses all without exception as sinners who need salvation by grace, as ungodly idolaters who owe a debt to God's law and justice they cannot pay, as those who need a righteousness they cannot produce. God promises to save any sinner who comes to Him pleading the righteousness of His Son. When a sinner believes and repents (2 Peter 3:9), then the Gospel addresses that sinner as elect of God. Then that sinner is told to make his "calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10).
II. GOD GLORIFIED IN ELECTING GRACE (Romans 9).
A. Our first and foremost design in preaching is that God be glorified, that His redemptive character be established, honored, and vindicated in the salvation of sinners. Proud, self-righteous religionists have always brought three dishonoring charges against the God of redemption and His Christ:
(1) That God is unfaithful to His promises (Romans 9:6a) resulting from the false notion that God has promised to save all without exception. But the Bible clearly reveals that God from the beginning had never intended to save all without exception.
(2) That God, then, is unjust and unrighteous (Romans 9:14) resulting the false notion that fallen sinners deserve God's mercy and grace rather than God's just wrath.
(3) That God, then, is severe and cruel (Romans 9:19) resulting from the false notion that men, therefore, are not responsible to believe God's truth.
These false accusations are founded upon false conceptions of both God's character in redemption and His purpose to save, along with false notions of man's character and condition as the result of sin. And this leads to two deadly preconceived notions:
(1) That God has promised to save all men without exception, and
(2) that salvation is conditioned on the sinner.
If God had promised to save all without exception and the majority of men perish anyway, then God is indeed unfaithful to His promise, either because He would not or could not fulfil it. And, if salvation is conditioned on the sinner in any way, to any degree, then it is no more grace and God is a respecter of persons in this matter of redemption. All these notions are dishonoring to the redemptive character of God and they deny both the Person and the atoning work, the very righteousness, of Christ, God the Son incarnate.
B . Election teaches us that all of God's promises are absolute and unconditional towards the sinner, the objects of His electing love (2 Corinthians 1:20). God's love is His purpose to save sinners conditioned on Christ alone. And He promises to justify all the objects of His electing love based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. God from the beginning had never promised to save all without exception. From the beginning God made a distinction. HE IS SOVEREIGN IN SALVATION, and His choice of persons in this matter is totally His own with no regard to the sinner's person nor character and conduct (Romans 9:10-16).
But God has clearly revealed that all of His elect, the spiritual seed of Abraham, SHALL BE SAVED, the entire election of grace, and that they will be saved BY PROMISE. That promise is salvation conditioned totally upon the Lord Jesus Christ. All of God's elect in time will hear and believe this promise wherein the imputed righteousness of Christ is revealed as the only ground of salvation. In time, they will see that God is just to justify the ungodly based on that righteousness. God will be glorified in their hearts as they see Him to be both just and Justifier based on the righteousness of Christ.
C. Self-righteous religionists insist that God try to save everyone, love everyone, and that Christ die for and try to save everyone, no matter how dishonoring to God and to Christ. They insist upon these things because they insist on salvation conditioned on the sinner which is works. And essentially it is that they demand to be sovereign in salvation and not God. They refuse to believe that if God had not purposed to save some, none would be saved because all without exception by nature are void of a righteousness that answers the demands of God's law and justice and by nature opposed to obtaining such a righteousness totally by Grace through a God-sent Substitute.
Why won't sinners believe this?
Is it because they are not elect?
NO! It is because by nature there is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:18). They want salvation but not God's way.
Now if God freely and sovereignly bestows salvation on some out of that number who do not deserve it and leaves the rest to their own self-righteous ways and who want no part of it, who is at fault?
Not God, but sinners who continue against God's promise to seek salvation based on their own righteousness.
God has revealed that He is glorified in the salvation of sinners based on the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. He has revealed that He is not glorified in salvation based on anything else. AND HE WILL NOT SHARE HIS GLORY. God has commanded all without exception, elect and non-elect, to seek salvation based on the imputed righteousness of Christ, and He has forbidden all without exception, elect and non-elect, to seek salvation based on anything else.
III. ELECTION UNTO SALVATION (Acts 13:48; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
A. The unconditional character of election is seen only in the context of the unconditional character of salvation. God elected from the beginning a number of totally depraved sinners to be saved, those who were by nature void of a righteousness which answers the demands of God's law and justice. From the beginning He had determined to send His Son into the world to establish that righteousness for them. So, salvation was conditioned upon Him. So, election and salvation go together and both are unconditional towards the sinner. It is UNTO salvation. As one writer said, "Every departure from the doctrine of election in any degree has been a departure from the Gospel, for such a departure always involves the introduction of some obligation on man's part to make a contribution towards his own salvation, a contribution he simply cannot make." So, where conditions are introduces for the sinner's salvation, Christ must step out of the picture and the sinner is left to his own abilities, which means no salvation.
B. I am confident that if we begin with these Biblical truths concerning election, we cannot help but see:
(1) That election is the blessed fact that God chose a multitude of fallen, guilty sinners out of Adam's race, gave them to Christ whom God had appointed to be their Mediator and Surety, and laid all the responsibility of their salvation upon Him.
(2) That the very heart of election and, therefore, the Gospel, is God's appointment of Christ to satisfy all those conditions of salvation as the Mediator and Surety of the objects of His love, and His actually coming into the world and satisfying those conditions by bringing a righteousness based upon which God could be just to justify them.
(3) That God's election is just as concerned in glorifying Himself in our hearts as it was in our redemption, therefore, the first evidences of election is justifying faith and repentance from dead works and former idolatry.
All of God's elect will in time hear and believe God's promise of salvation conditioned on Christ alone and repent from dead works and former idolatry (1 Thessalonians 1:4). The righteousness of Christ demands that each and every one whom God elected be made actual partakers of all grace here and all glory hereafter. Adam's sin insured that we be made partakers of spiritual death, and Christ's righteousness insures that all the elect be made partakers of spiritual life. This is the effectual call of God the Holy Spirit through the preaching of God's Gospel. God the Holy Spirit is the sovereign Agent who quickens spiritually dead sinners, and the Gospel preached, heard and understood is the means, the very power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17).
God promises to save sinners based on Christ's righteousness alone, and all without exception are responsible to believe this promise and be saved. Whoever God elected or did not elect, He has commanded by clear revelation all sinners to seek salvation based upon the righteousness of Christ. Again, this truth does not shut any sinner out of the kingdom of God. Sinners exclude themselves by refusing to believe these truths which honor the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Election does not keep you from believing God, but self-righteousness, self-love and religious pride does.