Concerning the Sovereignty of God in the Election of Some to Salvation

This is from a longer sermon by Ray Stedman, based primarily on Romans, Chapter 9:

The simple truth is that if God did not move upon man’s will to make us believe, not one man in all of time would ever be saved. Jesus said, “No man can come unto me except my Father draw him, and all that my Father had given me shall come unto me,” {cf, John 6:44, 65}. That is the same thought, the same teaching.

“Well,” someone says, “you are teaching that God elects some to be saved and others to be damned.” No, not so. All are lost already, and God is not responsible for that. God never elected man to be damned, that was man’s own choice. The only time that man ever exercised his own free will was when Adam chose to accept the principle that the Devil set before him and to act independently of God. The moment that man made that choice he plunged himself — and the entire race of men following — into the natural results of that decision.

If I had sitting before me here this morning a glass of poison that I knew would kill me, I would have the choice of whether to drink it or not. But once I drank it I no longer would have any exercise of free will — I must reap the results — and this is the condition that God says the human race is in. Having drunk of the dregs of independence from God, at the instigation of Satan, man is plunged into the darkness and the depths of fallen humanity, and it is only God’s saving, electing grace that calls any out at all. It is not God’s hardening that deprives a soul of salvation; that merely leaves him in the state that he is already in. But if God did not move in mercy, we would all be like Sodom and Gomorah — blasted, corrupted, ruined, and burned.

Think about that for awhile when you think over this matter of God’s electing grace.

You see, if we find fault with God for saving some but not all, we are really asserting that men have a right to be saved, that they deserved to have mercy shown them. But the truth is that we deserve nothing but hell — all of us! As long as we demand that God consult us about our salvation, we slam the door to discovering his grace. But if we are willing to let God be God, and be sovereign in the exercise of his will, then we begin to see what it costs God to save men — not only the darkness and the anguish and the loneliness of the cross, but, as Paul points out, even today God is long-suffering in his patient dealing with evil men. God is putting up with all the foulness and hatred and enmity of man.

Listen to a conversation around you sometime, listen to people talk about God, listen to the way they take his name and cast it into the dirt and walk over it — the very one in whose hand is their very breath, listen to the way they speak in arrogant independence of him, and act as though they have the right to do whatever they want to with the very body he created, and died to redeem, listen to that, and then think of how many centuries God has been waiting patiently with that attitude! God could stop evil any time he chose. With but a flick of his finger he could wipe out the whole human race, but he doesn’t do it. And why doesn’t he? Because, as Paul says here, he desires

… to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, {Rom 9:22b-23 RSV}

Those verses suggest that, in order that some might be saved, there must be some who are lost. I don’t understand this. I don’t think anyone does. But I leave this with the sovereign choice of God who is willing to put up with all that man throws at him, century after century, in patient endurance, in order that he might bring to fulfillment the desires of his heart in the salvation of some.

Now, you will notice that it doesn’t say that God made men fitted for destruction. No, he didn’t. Adam did that, and men have helped him along ever since. But wherever man feels a hunger for God, wherever he finds faith in his heart to believe the record of the Scripture concerning Jesus Christ, wherever man grows weary of his selfishness and of evil, there is where the wind of the Spirit of God is blowing, wooing and fitting the man or woman, little by little, “to be a vessel of mercy prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom he has called.”

This is NOT about John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius. It is about the teaching of scripture concerning the state of the ‘natural’ man and the sovereignty of the God of all mercy. Until I read scripture for myself, I also defended the “free will” of man as adamantly as many do today. After considerable study concerning the nature of man in his fallen state, both inside and outside of Holy inspired scripture, I can only conclude, at this point of my life, that the overwhelming preponderance of scripture supports the plain teachings of Calvin (not the man-invented ‘hyper’ variety) concerning the total sovereignty of God and the total depravity of the natural man. While my ‘natural’ man loathes (vehemently!) certain biblical truths that Calvin taught, my regenerate man embraces them with the same fervor.

My heart grieves for those who have been ‘abused’ by those who claim to be Calvinists and have taken his biblical teaching to extremes Calvin himself never intended.

The entire sermon transcript can be found here.

One response to “Concerning the Sovereignty of God in the Election of Some to Salvation

  1. Ray Stedman is a very clear teacher.

    It’s correct that this is not “Calvinism” vs “Arminianism”…it’s just well…

    biblical.. 🙂


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