Let’s review briefly what we have seen up to this point. First we considered how salvation is accomplished. We considered this question: “Is it by our acceptance of Christ’s work, or is it by the work of Christ in the shedding of His blood?” These questions may appear at first glance to be the same, but they are not. The first idea would contend that Jesus came and died in order to make salvation possible for all who believe. However, the actual death of Christ saved no one in particular. That person who is saved must make the work of Christ effectual by exercising faith. This exercising of faith is what the sinner does in and by his own power. At the end of the argument, whether it wants to be admitted or not, Christ’s work isn’t really the deciding factor in salvation. It is the person saving himself/herself by the exercise of faith. Christ isn’t ultimately the Savior; the individual person is.
The other view is that Christ actually saves sinners by His work as their Substitute. He came and earned righteousness for His people. He took the place of His people on the cross. He absorbed the full wrath of God against sin for every one of those whom the Father gave Him (John 6:37-39; 17:6-12). Jesus purchased everything necessary for the salvation of His people, including the very faith that receives His work. Jesus actually atoned for sin and redeemed His people by His blood. Christ is the Savior, not man.
You can see that one view exalts man and his ability; the other view exalts God and His amazing grace. People try to cloud the issue, but when you boil the arguments down, you cannot truly escape the fact that these are vastly different messages. Either God saves sinners by the work of Christ alone, or sinners save themselves by their work of exercising faith. One view is good news, and the other is not.
In our second post we considered why the first view described above, namely man saves himself by the choice he makes in his own natural ability, is simply at odds with Scripture. We noted that man is in dire straits because of the fall. Every fiber of his being is under the influence of sin. The biggest problem he faces isn’t Satan or the world. It is the fallenness in his own breast; that is man’s great dilemma. His mind is at odds with a holy, righteous, sovereign God. What fallen man wants is to earn His own way; he doesn’t want God to save in His sovereign, gracious way. Man’s greatest need, before he will ever accept the work of Christ and view Christ as precious, is a new nature, a new mind, and a new heart. Left to his natural ability and natural choice alone, no one will ever be saved because no one desires it. That is what Scripture says!
At this point, many people see the direction of the argument. If no person has the natural, inherent ability to be saved, but some are saved, who is the One who makes the determination who is saved? Scripture is very clear on this issue. The real question for each of us is, “Will we let Scripture say what it does or would we rather Scripture say what we want it to say?” Let’s again look at Scripture to see exactly what it says.
Immediately after the Fall, we see a sovereign distinction being made. Genesis 3:15 states, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” There are two seeds described, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The ultimate fulfillment of the seed of the woman is Jesus. He bruised the head of the serpent. However, we see that God made a distinction here between two lines or seeds.
When we trace this thought throughout Scripture, we see it time and again. I will highlight just a few instances. Out of all of the pagans in the world, God chose Abraham to be the patriarch of His people. Out of Abraham’s sons, God chose Isaac and not Ishmael. Out of Isaac’s sons, God chose Jacob, not Esau. Out of Jacob’s sons, God chose Judah and not the other sons. God chose David and rejected Saul as King. Out of all of the nations of the earth, God established and chose the Jews to be His people. Why did God do this? Scripture answers this question.
Deut. 7:7-10 – “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.”
God chose Israel because of His love, mercy, grace, and promises made to Abraham. God sovereignly chose Abraham and gave Him great and precious promises. These promises go all the way back to the Garden of Eden where God promised a coming Redeemer that would crush the head of the serpent. God would bring His promised Messiah through this earthly lineage.
Did God owe anything to the Egyptians? Did He owe anything to the Amalekites, Amorites, Hittites, etc.? The answer is NO! In all honesty, what did He owe to the Jews? He owed them nothing! He owed Adam and Eve nothing. They all, as well as we all, have broken His laws, turned to our own way, and become self-absorbed, self-focused, self-centered, arrogant, prideful, etc. If God did not save anyone but judged and condemned us all, we could not bring an accusation against Him.
Nevertheless, God sovereignly chose to bestow mercy and grace. He chose to make gracious promises, and then He providentially and sovereignly began fulfilling these promises. How glorious is our God! What should amaze us is not that He doesn’t save everyone but that He saves anyone!
Although our culture screams, “Thou shalt not discriminate. You must treat everyone equally. Everyone deserves the same respect and opportunities. Etc.,” we dare not impose that upon God and Scripture. God is NOT bound by our sense of right, wrong, justice and injustice.
In speaking to the wicked in Psalm 50, God says, “These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself (v. 21).” Numbers 23:19 says that God is not a man that he should lie or son of man that he should change His mind. Isaiah 40:18 states that God has no comparison or likeness with which to compare Him. That means we should never try to form our own ideas, views, or conceptions and then seek to hoist them upon God or box God in by our sense of right and wrong.
The Bible overwhelmingly teaches that God is holy, righteous, good, just, and yes, sovereign. Look at just a small sampling of Scripture:
Job 9:12 - Behold, he snatches away; who can turn him back? Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’
Psalm 115:3 - Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Psalm 135:6 - Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
Daniel 4:34-35 - His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
Is God not sovereign to make distinctions? Is it not His prerogative to look at all of guilty humanity and choose to raise some up and leave others to live with the consequences of their own actions and choices? Does God owe any rebellious, sinful creature anything other than judgment? Did not God warn Adam and Eve about the results of disobedience being death? Does not God tell us the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)? When we freely choose to ignore His commands and sin, how can we turn around and say God owes us or anyone else a thing?
“Ah yes,” you say, “but what about second chances?” Does God owe second chances? He does graciously give people second, third, hundredth chances. He is patient and longsuffering, but does He owe them? Is He obligated?
Look at it from a human perspective. Is a convicted child-molester owed the right to work in pre-school? Is a convicted felon, like a Robber, owed the right to own a gun? Is a convicted thief owed the right to oversee and manage your household goods and finances? Would you not use discrimination in these situations? Has not the person in each illustration forfeited certain privileges by breaking the law? How much more have sinful creatures forfeited any claim of rights or obligations in the courtroom of God? If God chose never to save anyone, He would still be completely just, holy, and righteous because all mankind is guilty of breaking His law and spurning Him, His glory, and His holiness.
“I thought God treated everyone the same across the board,” someone may ask. Let’s consider this again from a human analogy. Do you treat everyone the same? Do you treat every man or woman you know in the same manner you treat your spouse? How do you think my wife would feel if I treated every female the way I treat her? How about your children? Do you treat every child you know or have known exactly the same way you treat your own kids? Do you see how normal and common distinctions are, and we make them all of the time. Is it not God’s right to do this also?
As I close this post, I can imagine many people may have never really considered these texts or thoughts before. Objections rise, and I fully understand that. This all used to be new to me. I am going to close with Scripture quotations and allow God the last word. Please direct your objections to Him because it is His word against which you are objecting, if you are objecting.
Isaiah 45:5-12 - I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. 'Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout'; I the Lord have created it. Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? Woe to him who says to a father, 'What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’ Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him: 'Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands? I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.
Romans 9:20-21 - But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?