Embarking on the task of defining God’s sovereign grace would be somewhat like the christening of a thimble to circumnavigate the globe. Our human limitations account for, at a minimum, a diminished capacity for understanding such a massive doctrine, as well as allowing our experiences and limited perspective to cloud our judgment. If, however, we break this doctrine up into it’s essential elements, these manageable bites, might be able to help us overcome not only the depth of this doctrine, but also our natural propensity to kick against it. The brevity of the following points therefore is to serve this aim. A.W. Tozer said it well of our perspective; “Salvation is from our side a choice; from the divine side it is a seizing upon, an apprehending, a conquest by the Most High God. Our accepting and willing are reactions rather than actions.”
Before the Foundations of the World…
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:4-6)
The Scriptures uniformly teach that God’s will is immovable, it’s immutable (changeless), and it’s eternal. There has never been an instance when the Father’s will was ever up-for-grabs. Because this is true, and because the Scriptures teach that we had been freely chosen by God before the foundation of time and the world, the gift of God’s grace is a sovereign, eternal gift to only those whom He determined to grant it. Sovereign grace is the eternal choice of men and women for the purpose of making us holy and blameless before Him. This choice was based not arbitrarily or flippantly, but as the Scriptures say, “In love He predestined us to adoptions as sons…”
Just and Justifier…
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. (Rom. 3:25-27)
Sin is high treason against God. Sin is that which God detests. Sin is that which God has already passed judgment upon and that judgment is eternal and perpetual destruction. Sin deserves quenchless unbridled wrath. Mankind is the perpetrator of sin and therefore rightly deserves eternal punishment. While we were still sinners, while the wrath of God was still rightly aimed and affixed on our head, Christ sacrificed Himself for us. Although Christ was the Lamb slain before the foundations of the world (Rev. 1:3), in time, then, we went from those under wrath to those under God’s sovereign grace. At the cross Christ justified God’s elect, and Christ justified God for permitting sinners of any number access to His most holy presence. Therefore Christ is, “…just and the justifier of the one who has faith…”
At the Right Time…
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:6-8)
In time then this justification becomes ours. It becomes ours not out of obligation but love. Nor is this justification only applied in time. This justification was purchased before the foundation of the world. This justification was applied even before the physical death of Christ, as displayed by those saints of old. But in time, our regeneration would take us from spiritually dead to spiritually alive. In time, we experience our justification and grow in holiness through the work of the Spirit and our obedience to the work of the Word on our hearts. Sovereign grace is that which is issued forth from before time and is experienced by the sinner in time through regeneration and sanctification.
He First Loved Us…
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:16-17)
Finally, we come to the great motivation of this sovereign grace. Surely God’s grace ought to be easily seen as flowing down-hill from the throne of God toward man from this verse. In spite of the clear language however, we still often times get caught up in the feeling of our love for God having done something. We can feel as though we have effected some change in His disposition toward us and therefore our love finding completion in His. We mistake the romance of salvation however. We miss that Christ is the husband who has wooed His bride. We are not the lover, but the beloved. In this is a special kind of joy, a joy that has found it’s completion not in the chase, but in the capture of our hearts. Those who have this point mistaken feel strongly opposed to sovereign grace as it seemingly destroys their apparent love for Christ. It calls into question the feelings they have toward their God, and therefore they fight and kick against it. The real difference between those who accept God’s sovereign grace in salvation and those who do not, has nothing to do with their intelligence or their doctrinal acuity. The difference lies, at least in part, with their understanding of Christ’s love for His Bride.
We did not choose Christ, He chose us, while we were still sinners. He justified us, redeemed us, and in time regenerated us so that we might be holy and blameless before Him. In love he planned our surrender to the gospel. In love He predestined us as His children by means of satisfying the just demands of the law on our behalf. He atones for our sins, He propitiates our debt to the Father by His death on the cross. Though we were sinners and deserving of eternal punishment, the Father’s love could not be assuaged. Therefore, He sent His only begotten Son––so that––he who believes––would not die––but have everlasting life. This is Sovereign Grace.
From the desk of Josh Bishop
Faith Covenant Church