“God’s Grace for Today – 03” 
(The Specific Nature of Salvation)
Indien u hierdie boodskap wil uitdruk – Verlig die teks in hierdie venster en kopieer en plak dit daarna in enige Woordverwerkinsprogram (bv. MS Word of Word Perfect) – druk daarna gewoon uit
Brother Conrad shared with us on the topic “The Sovereign Nature of God” and we have seen that God is the supreme authority of heaven and earth and all other authority is lesser authority. Any other authority that exists in the universe is derived from and dependent upon God’s authority. All other forms of authority exist either by God’s command or by His permission – and this is vitally important to keep in mind when I share with you on the topic of “The Specific Nature of Salvation”. Therefore I repeat: All other forms of authority exist either by God’s command or by permission.
We also heard in the previous session that our whole humanity is fallen. That is, there is no part of me that has not been affected in some way by the Fall. Sin affects my will, my heart, my mind, and my body. Total depravity therefore reaches to the core of our being – to the root of our lives.
The contents of our first two messages are the most important concepts for us to understand if we are going to make any sense of the topic that I was given to handle this afternoon – on the one hand – God is sovereign and on the other hand – Man is totally depraved, i.e. man is spiritually dead and the cure for spiritual death is the creation of spiritual life in our souls by God, the Holy Spirit. An excellent summary of this work is given to us in Ephesians.
2. SCRIPTURE READING :
Eph.2:1-10 ~ And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Our text is one of the best known passages in the Bible – and rightly so, for it contains the greatest message that any person can hear. Paul says in v. 8 ~ For by grace you have been saved through faith. When we then look at the topic, “The Specific Nature of Salvation”, it is imperative that we first have a close look at one of God’s attributes: GRACE.
If there was one word that was very close to Paul’s heart – with the exception of the names of his Saviour, it most certainly was the word GRACE. Any believer who has experienced God’s grace in his or her life, will agree.
GRACE is the core concept when it comes to God’s plan of salvation. If grace were to be removed from God’s plan of salvation, it would become cheap. In fact there would no longer be salvation. You may ask, “Why? Why would it no longer be salvation?” My answer would be that grace is the element that distinguishes the Christian faith from all other religions. All other religions teach that man must “climb up to God”; that man is responsible for his own salvation through good works; by meeting certain conditions; by conforming to certain “pillars” that form the basis of that particular religion.
This is not the case with Christian faith because there is only one way in which you can be saved – through grace! It is God that through grace ‘bends down’ to man and draws him to God! If this is not the case, you cannot call yourself a Christian because one of the themes in the Word of God is Grace!
If Christ is the Person around whom all in the Christian faith and Gospel revolves, then grace is the fundamental principle on which everything rests. Why is it so? It is so because God the Father – the Father of Jesus Christ, and the Source of the gospel – is a God of grace. It is one of God’s attributes.
4. SOME POINTS OF DEPARTURE
Up to this point, most Christians would agree with me. There are however, many different points of view when it comes to grace because people do not have the same depth of understanding when it comes to God’s grace. Many people believe things that are contrary to God’s revelation regarding His grace. Why is this true of so many believers? It is because so many believers do not have the fundamental points of departure regarding the dogma of God’s grace, in place. There are at least four truths that a person first must understand and accept before grace can truly be understood. These are truths that man’s sinful nature does not want to accept. If, however, we call ourselves believers, we must submit to God’s Word. Let us now briefly have a look at these four truths regarding grace:
1. Man is by nature a depraved being. All people are born this way – we heard this in the previous message when Brother Theo Soko shared with us about total depravity. This is precisely what we see in Eph.2:1-3 ~ And you were dead in the trespasses and sins ² in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - ³ among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Natural man is actually dead because of his trespasses and sins. He is in actual fact a slave of a worldly system that is completely hostile towards God. If we have a look at v.3b, we see that man is by nature a child of God’s wrath and that is where every person remains except if God intervenes through His grace.
2. Each person is accountable to the Creator who does not allow any sin to go unpunished. This is the central theme of Romans 1-3. God has to punish sin otherwise it would be contrary to His holiness.
3. Sinful man is by no means able to save himself.
4. God is completely free and untouchable in His Sovereignty. He is not dependent on any person and He is not accountable to anybody – no one! Therefore God is free to choose whomever and whenever He wants to save but He is also free to decide who He is not going to save and whether He wants to save someone or not. It is His right as Creator – 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?” ²¹ 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? ²² What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Rom. 9:20-22).
Rom. 3:24 is a great summary of what I have just said ~ For there is no distinction: ²³ for all have sinned an fall short of the glory of God, ²4 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
God’s grace is therefore His free and unforced love which is given in the form of eternal life to guilty sinners. Sinners receive what they do not deserve because EVERYBODY deserves eternal damnation and death.
What makes grace so precious?
1. Sinners do not deserve any grace whatsoever. No, they deserve hell. Romans 1:18-3:20 is very clear about this matter.
2. A person’s unique set of circumstances or the specific state he or she is in, has absolutely nothing to do with whether he or she receives grace or not.
3. Grace cannot cause the receiver – no matter how big a sinner he or she was – to owe God anything.
4. God’s saving grace is eternal.
5. God’s grace is abundant in the lives of those who believe in Christ.
What does this imply? There are only two types of people:
1. Those who receive salvation through grace and true faith in Christ.
2. Those who remain in sin and who do not receive grace through the Grace of God – the unsaved.
Adam’s descendants, therefore all people that include us, are guilty and lost sinners who were born under God’s wrath. God is holy, righteous and perfectly good. Man has no desire or ability in himself to have communion with God. Natural man chooses a life of self-assertion, self-exultation and self-promotion.
It would have been God’s right to leave mankind in this wretched and lost state, not being under any obligation or pressure from anybody to save any person through His grace.
Should all people then be lost at birth and in need of God’s grace to be saved, one of two things can then happen:
· God either saves all people through His grace;
· God only saves some people.
Let us have a look at a few verses that will make things more clear:
· Mark 13:20 ~ And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.
· 1 Thes. 1:4 ~ For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.
· Deut. 7:6-7 ~ For you are a people holy to the lord your God. The lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples.
It becomes very clear from these verses – and various other verses in the Bible – and we cannot but agree, that God in His sovereignty chooses to save only certain people. Because He is sovereign – He can surely choose whom He pleases.
In our theology we call the salvation through grace of only certain people: Unconditional election.
What unconditional election means, in its most elementary form, is that our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God not only before we get there, but before we are even born. It teaches our ultimate destiny is in the hands of God. Another way of saying it is this: From all eternity, before we ever lived, God decided to save some members of the human race and to let the rest of the human race to perish. God made a choice – He chose some individuals to be saved unto everlasting blessedness in heaven and others He chose to pass over – to allow them to follow the consequences of their sins into eternal torment in hell.
When the terms predestination, or divine election, or unconditional election are used, many people will react very negatively and even aggressively, because they picture mankind in the grip of a horrible and impersonal fate. I must immediately say that such an attitude and reaction is totally unbiblical and is based on a lack of knowledge of what the Bible has to say about election. On the other hand, once we as believers understand this doctrine, unconditional election is one of the most joyous and liberating teachings in the Bible. We must always keep Rom. 9 in mind, where we read about the Potter and the clay. Isn’t any potter entitled to the decision of casting away an attempt to make a pot, or to keep his effort and put the clay object in the oven and to glaze it? We are clay in the hands of our “Potter”.
Someone once told this fairytale: One day, long, long ago, a prince travelled to the most far-off and sordid little village in his father’s kingdom. He was travelling in his father’s golden carriage. When he stopped, a couple of dirty children surrounded the carriage. The prince walked to one of the girls – probably the dirtiest and ugliest of all the girls there that day. He took her by the hand and said: “I have chosen you to be my bride!”
We can be certain that she did NOT say: “No, your majesty, it is not fair that you have chosen me! What about Sophie or Maria?”
I also just want to mention one very important aspect that we must keep in mind when we talk about the topic of Election: This doctrine should not only be viewed against the backdrop of human depravity and guilt, but should also be studied in connection with the eternal covenant or agreement made between the members of the Godhead. For it was in the execution of this covenant that the Father chose out of the world of lost sinners, a definite number of individuals and gave them to the Son to be His people. The Son, under the terms of this contract, agreed to do all that was necessary to save those “chosen” and “given” to Him by the Father: the Spirit’s part in the execution of this covenant was to apply to the elect, the salvation secured for them by the Son.
5. UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION:
It is then in this context that the Word of God sets forth the doctrine of election.
As in the case of so many of God’s truths that is revealed to us, the truths about Election are taught to us primarily in the New Testament. And yet, the Old Testament teaches these truths to us, as early as in Exodus. For example:
· Ex. 33:19 ~ And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you an will proclaim before you my name ‘The lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
· Deut. 10:14-15 ~ Behold, to the lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
· Ps. 33:12 ~ Blessed is the nation whose God is the lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
· Ps. 106:5 ~ … that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones.
· Hag. 2:23 ~ On that day, declares the lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the lord of hosts.
When we look at the New Testament, there is overwhelming evidence proving the validity of Election.
When we look at these, it is amazing that there are people who negate the doctrine of Election. Let’s have a look at a few verses:
· John 15:16 ~ You did not choose me, but I chose you.
· 2 Thes. 2:13 ~ But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
· Rom. 8:29-30 ~ For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
6. ELECTION AND THE WILL OF MAN:
Many people, who proclaim to be Christians, go out of their way to under-emphasize God’s sovereignty in the salvation of sinners. They believe that as long as a person remains in control of his own well-being, God’s honour will not be injured. A person does have his own will, they say, and the Bible takes account of this. They also proclaim that the doctrine of election makes a person a mere automaton. This does not correspond with either our experience or our observation and what is more, it blatantly dishonours God’s name!
If the election is indeed a Biblical revelation – as we have already discussed – this is a serious accusation that we have to look at very carefully.
· Man’s inability to save himself is taught time and again in the Word of God. Man simply does not have the ability to save himself. ~ Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil (Jer. 13:23). We have also seen that man is evil and sinful by nature. Listen to what Jesus says in Matt. 12:33:37 ~ Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 the good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by you words you will be condemned. Words and deeds are the fruit of a person’s nature. They reveal his true nature – who he really is in his heart. Just as a bad tree cannot carry good fruit, an evil heart cannot bring forth any good (Matt. 7:18; 12:34). Sinful, bad people are free to do whatever they want – but not what they must do which is the Will of God.
– John 6:44-45, 65 are also insightful in this regard. Verses 44-45 ~ No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. And verse 65 ~ And (Jesus) said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” To believe in Jesus Christ is not only God’s first command to each sinner but it is also the key to obeying all God’s other commands BUT, even this first command is impossible for man. There is only one thing that enables a person to obey, to believe, to be saved and that is: the Father must draw him; the Father must give it to him. Do take note that Jesus says … no one can. Not one person can come to the Father without His intervention.
Why can’t a person save himself?
· Eph. 2:1 states that man is spiritually dead.
· Matt. 11:25-27 makes it clear that man is spiritually blind.
· Rom. 8:7-8 teaches us that man has no love for God.
· Matt. 23:37 says that fallen man is not able to choose the Lord or His will.
This implies that man is completely unable to play a role in his own salvation, except being obedient to God’s will as revealed in his Word and that ónly after God has saved him.
7. IN CLOSING:
In closing I would like to address the question whether we are able to know if we are part of God’s elect – in other words: Can we know if we are saved or not? This is a very important question that we need to answer. According to God’s word, we can in fact answer this question. It is not only possible for us to have a genuine assurance of our salvation, but it is also our duty to seek such assurance. If assurance is possible and in fact is commanded, one would not be arrogant to seek it. On the contrary: it would be arrogant not to seek it.
R.C. Sproul makes it very clear when he asks: Who can know that he is not elect? The answer: Nobody. Because you cannot know for certain that tomorrow you will not be in a state of grace. There are a multitude of people walking around who are as yet unconverted. If you do not know if you are one of the elect, I cannot think of a more urgent question to answer. If you are not sure, you would be well advised to make sure. Don’t ever assume that you are not one of the elect. Make your election a matter of certainty.
Peter writes the following in 2 Pet. 1:10-11 ~ Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice you will never fall. ¹¹ For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Here we see the mandate to make our election sure and to do so requires diligence.
The Apostle Paul says in 2 Tim. 4:6-8 ~ For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
How then can we, like Paul, have true assurance of our election?
1. True assurance is grounded in the promises of God for our salvation. Our assurance comes first from our trust in the God who makes these promises.
2. Our assurance is enhanced by the inward evidence of our own faith. We know that we could never have any true affection for Christ if we are not reborn. We know that we could never be reborn if we have not been elected.
3. Apart from our inward evidence, there is also outward evidence. The question is whether there is real change in our behaviour – in other words, any real evidence of grace.
4. We are told in Scripture about the internal witness of the Holy Spirit: Rom. 8:16 ~ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. The chief means by which the Spirit testifies to us is through His Word. We will never have greater assurance than when we are meditating on the Word of God. If we neglect these means of grace, it would be difficult to have any lasting or strong assurance of our salvation.
If Jesus died exclusively for the elect, it has serious implications that we dare not ignore and I would like to conclude with this.
It is true that ages ago the Jews were responsible for crucifying Jesus. What we must realize is that we are even more responsible for His crucifixion! The Jews that crucified Jesus were not part of the elect and therefore Jesus did not die for their sins – they were merely instruments. But you and I who are elected, were the cause of his terrible death on the cross of Golgotha. It is for us that He was crucified and therefore we dare not and may not ever be arrogant or haughty about our being elected!
Horatius Bonar (1808-1889) wrote a hymn about this aspect of election. He wrote:
“Twas I that shed the sacred blood;
I nailed Him to the tree;
I crucified the Christ of God;
I joined the mockery.”
· BOETNER, Loraine. 1932. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. Phillipsburg, NJ. 440p. (ISBN: 0-87552- 112-6).
· CULVER, Robert Duncan. 2005. Systematic Theology (Biblical and Historical). Christian Focus Publications. Ross-shire. Great Britain. 1258p. (ISBN: 1-84550-049-0).
· ERICKSON, Millard J. 2000. Introducing Christian Doctrine. Baker Book House. Grand Rapids. Mich. 423p. (ISBN: 0-8010-3215-6).
· MACARTHUR, John (Jr.). 1986. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Ephesians. The Moody Bible Institute. Chicago. Ill. p402. (ISBN: 0-8024-2358-2).
· PALMER, Edwin H. 1980. The Five Points of Calvinism (Enlarged Edition – A Study Guide). Baker Books. Grand Rapids. Mich. 132p. (ISBN: 0-8010-6926- 2).
· PETERSEN, Henry. 1968. The Canons of Dort. Baker Book House. Grand Rapids. Mich. p.115.
· RYKEN, Philip G. 2001. The Message of Salvation. Inter-Varsity Press. Nottingham. England. p.311 (ISBN: 978-0-85111-897-0).
· SPROUL, R.C. 1986. Chosen by God (Know God’s perfect plan for His glory and His children). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. U.S.A. 213p. (ISBN: 13:978-0-8423-1335-3).
· STEELE, David N., CURTIS, Thomas C. and QUIIN, Lance S. 2004. The Five Points of Calvinism (Defined, Defended and Documented). Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. Phillipsburg, NJ. 247p. (ISBN: 0-87552-827-9).
 Message deliverded by Kobus van der Walt at the 2010 SOLA 5 Conference (Harare, Zimbabwe) – Friday 03 September 2010.