Friday, May 3, 2013

Salvation by Sovereign Grace

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.  In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory."   Ephesians 1:3-14

In a panoramic sweep from eternity past to eternity future, Paul traces the Father's master plan for the salvation of His elect.  There are basically four options related to the Father's design in salvation:

(1)  He could have provided no opportunity for anyone to be saved.

(2)  He could have provided an opportunity for all to be saved.

(3)  He could have intervened directly, and ensured the salvation of all.

(4)  He could have intervened directly, and ensured the salvation of some.

 In verses 3-6, he focuses on the role of the Father in His gracious electing of His own.  In verses 7-12, the emphasis is shifted to the present, where the Son, the Lord Jesus, and His atoning redemption are highlighted.  Finally, in verses 13 & 14, Paul describes the Holy Spirit's sealing the future of each believer by applying the Lord Jesus' salvation.
From all eternity (II Timothy 1:9), before time, creation, or humanity existed God the Father set His heart upon those He desired to save.  Why those and no others?  It was His will (Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11), and His supreme prerogative to do so (Romans 9:14, 15). 
As the sovereign Judge of all the earth, He could quite justifiably have set His heart upon no one, since (a) He is infinitely sufficient in and of Himself, needing no one (Psalm 50:10-12; Acts 17:25), and (b) man has forfeited any claim upon His favor, from the Fall of Adam and Eve onward (Romans 3:10-12; 5:12).  Indeed, it is against the black backdrop of the Fall that the diamond of God's grace sparkles most brilliantly.  For, permeated by sin's deadly effect, man has lost all ability to help himself, spiritually.  Born into this world with a sin nature, man acts according to that nature.  He cannot do otherwise.  Unless changed, (given a new nature), even the most charitable acts and seemingly-selfless deeds will be tainted by impure motives.  Too, whatever worship may be offered by the non-Christian will not be done in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), for, the Holy Spirit has not changed him into a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17), taken up residence within him (in contrast to the believer: I Corinthians 6:19), nor begun the good work of life-long sanctification (Philippians 1:6).  
It is this total spiritual inability of the natural man that made God's direct intervention an absolute necessity.  Had He taken no initiative, no one would (nor could) be saved.  He foreknew (set His heart upon) those whom He would give to His Son ("Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life," John 17:1,2).  The "all whom You have given Him" go by several names in the New Testament... the elect, God's children, 'sheep', among many others.  It is these for whom the Lord Jesus died as a substitutionary atonement.  He did not die for anyone or everyone in general, nor as a good Example of a sacrificial death...but rather, He took the place (the place of deserved Divine judgment) of those whom the Father had given Him ("I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" John 10:14, 15). 
Thus, we see a Scriptural picture of a wonderful and touching continuity among the Persons of the Godhead:  the Father setting His heart upon a multitude no man can number (but He knows perfectly), the Son agreeing to come to earth to reveal the One Who had sent Him, and to die as a Substitute for that same select group... and the Holy Spirit applying that blood-bought salvation to the same ones elected by the Father and purchased by the Son (the Lord Jesus said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'" John 3:6,7).  So it is the blessed Spirit, in being sent by the Father, who regenerates lost folk, renews believers, and reveals the truth ("And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you,"  John 14:16,17).   
All glory and honor to the God who was, who is, and who shall ever be, for His sovereign grace, His distinguishing love, and condescension in the Lord Jesus Christ!

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