2 Corinthians 4:1-6
The Light of the Gospel
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart But we have renounced disgraceful ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. . And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:1-4, ESV)
Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth were meant to deal with specific issues facing the young church. His first letter dealt with destructive divisions in the church, along with issues of immorality and carnality in the church. His second letter dealt, at least in part with having to answer the criticisms of false teachers who openly opposed him. In the short passage above Paul speaks of three things, his ministry, the gospel he preached being veiled (hidden) from some hearers, and ‘blind’ minds incapable of understanding the gospel.
We will briefly discuss each of these, in the order presented, with an eye to their application to personal evangelism.
The Apostle Paul
“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor 4:2)
In this verse Paul renounces of disgraceful underhanded ways, asserts his refusal to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word in presenting the gospel, and reaffirms his intent to merely speak the plain truth of the gospel. Paul’s message to this church, as well as to the others he planted was simple – “Christ and him crucified” for the sins of men. (1 Cor 2:1-4) No slick marketing campaigns, house to house surveys, or twisting of scripture in order to please itching ears.
A Veiled Gospel
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” (2 Cor 4:3)
Here Paul, at his hypothetical best, tells us that if the message of the gospel is “veiled”, or hidden from anyone it would be those are who are “perishing” in their sin, Jesus referred to these unbelievers as “condemned already”. (John 3:18). Nowhere does Paul ever tell us not to preach the gospel, but he does tell us that the gospel we preach very likely won’t be understood by some of our listeners. Talk about a tough job! There’s an answer to that problem, and we’ll get to it.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4)
Here Paul tells us exactly WHY unbelievers cannot understand the gospel message. Their minds have been completely blinded to the spiritual truths underlying the message! Not only that, we are told that the one who has blinded the minds of unbelievers is “the god of this world”, or Satan himself! In John 12:31, he is called “the prince of this world.” In Ephesians 2:2, he is called “the prince of the power of the air.” And in Ephesians 6:12, the same bad influence is referred to under the names of “principalities, and powers,” “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” and “spiritual wickedness in high places.”
How should that impact personal evangelism?
1. Stick to the message – stay on point. And the whole point of the gospel message is that Christ died for the sins of men. Don’t sugar coat it. The gospel is a bad news/good news story. Present the problem (sin) followed by the solution (Jesus Christ).
2. Realize that there are those from whom the good news is veiled, or completely hidden. They cannot even understand it (1 Corinthians 2:14). Trust God to open hearts to hear it, understand it, and receive it.
3. Recognize that it is Satan who has blinded the minds of everyone who has yet to believe in Christ. We would probably equate having a ‘blind mind’ with a complete inability to process information. By all means use kind and persuasive speech as you share an ‘offensive’ truth, but let God open cold and spiritually dead hearts to hear and be saved.
In the above quotation from J.I. Packer’s book,Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. we can see the work of the Holy Spirit in at least there ways.
1. The Holy Spirit Empowers the evangelist. While it is true that the message of the Gospel can be presented as if it’s a matter of mere facts, or an intellectual exercise, the sharing of the Gospel message In the power of the Holy Spirit carries with it certain Divine authority that is not lost on the hearer.
2. The Holy Spirit opens the heart of the hearer to receive the Gospel message. While it is also true that the Gospel message can be heard by anyone at all, a God-opened heart guarantees that it will be taken to heart, received with gladness, and a lost soul saved for eternity. No better example can be found than the woman Lydia in the 16th Chapter of the book of Acts.
3. The Holy Spirit no only empowers the evangelist and opens the heart of the sinner, He also empowers the new born believer to live for God and serve Him from that day forward.. It is the Holy Spirit that works in the Christian both to desire and to do what is pleasing to his Lord. (Phil 2:13).
Food for thought………….
From The Cripplegate
“I am a Christian.” “I am saved.” “I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
I wonder if we grasp the fullness of what that means. Though we cannot know all the fullness of salvation until we are with the Lord, Scripture escorts us in to the beginnings of salvation’s glory. Truly, ours is a great salvation.
The diagram above and list below briefly describes actual, historical expressions of God’s sovereign grace. Above is a historical timeline of God’s loving grace in the salvation of a Christian. We can kind of think of it like our biography, but it’s stuff God did for us, before we were born, after, and still after. These 16 aspects of salvation are 16 marks of God’s work in redemptive history. They are expressions of God’s love towards the Christian. They are each a river flowing from God’s sovereignty combining in the deluge of God’s grace to those in Jesus Christ.
The following is a brief description of our great salvation. As we consider our salvation, let us recall that, regardless of what we are going through, nothing can rob us of any of these aspects of God’s love in salvation.
In Eternity Past
Prior to creating all things, God architected his plan of salvation.
1. Election (Rom. 8:29-30, Eph. 1:3-6).
Before God made the universe by the power of his word, he chose for himself a people who would receive the gift of salvation. He did so, not motivated by any merit or action of the recipients (for they were not yet created and would only sin), but based solely upon his own will for his glory.
After Creation, at the Cross
Christ accomplished critical aspects of our salvation when he died on the cross.
2. Atonement (Eph. 1:7).
God the Father decided to redeem a sinful people and set his love upon elect sinners whom he had predestined for salvation before he made all things. Consequently, he sent his Son to quench his judicial wrath aroused by their sin. The punishment and penalty that the elect deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of them, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.
3. Propitiation (Rom. 3:26, 1 John 4:10).
Propitiation refers to the act where God’s righteous wrath is appeased or turned aside by the death of His Son on the cross. As such, it is a supreme act of love on the part of the Father and Son. If there is a God of justice who redeems a people who are imperfect, then salvation and forgiveness can thereby only occur through propitiation. All such systems which propose a theory of forgiveness and salvation, and yet do not feature an impeccable propitiatory sacrifice, break down and offer at best a fictitious salvation.
The Moment You Become a Christian
Many glorious things happen to us, in time, the moment that we become a Christian.
4. Effectual Call (John 6:44, Eph. 4:1).
The moment in time at which God applies his work of salvation. God will effectually call to salvation all whom he has predestined before creation for salvation. All whom God elects, he will effectually call to salvation such that they will be saved.
5. Regeneration (John 3:3-6, Titus 3:5).
Regeneration answers the question, “How can individuals dead in sin, unable and unwilling to please God, respond to the gospel?” Regeneration, or the new birth, is the work of God’s Holy Spirit in which He changes the spiritual nature of a person, bringing him from death to life. It is the beginning of all true heart change, as it is a change of nature. It results in a life of ongoing transformation (sanctification) and ends in the complete transformation of the believer into the image of Christ (glorification).
6. Faith (Eph. 1:13, 2:8-9).
Faith is the gift of God that enables the elect to believe what He says, to trust Him with our lives, and to live upon His Word. Apart from regeneration it is morally and spiritually impossible for someone to repent and put faith in Christ. Similarly, when God regenerates a person, it is impossible for that person not to repent and put faith in Christ. Regeneration is the act of God alone. But faith is technically not the act of God. The ability to believe is a gift of God in regeneration. But it is not God who puts faith in Christ. It is the regenerate sinner. Faith is the God-appointed means by which the benefits of God’s saving work are appropriated.
7. Repentance (Mark 1:15, Acts 11:18).
Repentance is the gift of God that enables the sinner to turn from sin and self in order to turn to God. It involves a real change of heart/mind that results in a change of life.
8. Justification (Rom. 3:24-28, 5:1).
Justification answers the question, “How can condemned, guilty sinners stand righteous before a holy God?” Appropriated by faith alone, it is the legal action by which God declares the believer to be freed from his guilt and made right before God’s law. Unlike regeneration, it does not change the nature of the believer. Justification alters the believer’s legal position before God, changing it from guilty to innocent. It is the outcome of atonement and the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to the believer.
9. Imputation (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 5:19, 2 Cor. 5:21).
Imputation can be thought of as a subset of justification; of God’s justifying work on behalf of the sinner. It is God’s act of placing one person’s sin or righteousness upon another’s account in a manner which does not violate justice. Adam’s sin was imputed or transferred to all humanity. The believer’s sin was placed upon the account of Jesus when He was crucified. Christ’s righteousness is placed on the account of the believer. Thus, the believer’s sin was reckoned to Christ, and the Savior’s perfect obedience was reckoned to the believer.
10. Redemption (Col. 1:14).
Redemption is purchasing someone’s freedom. It speaks of a transfer of ownership by payment. The sinner is freed from his enslavement to sin and from the curse of God’s law by Jesus’ substitutionary atoning death on the cross. Christ does not redeem us from Satan, but from the just wrath of God. Upon regeneration, every elect sinner is freed from the slavery to sin and the penalty of the law.
11. Adoption (Eph. 1:5).
Adoption describes the new relationship the believer has to God by using a family-related term. God, subsequent to the new birth and justification, makes the believer His adopted child. The believer enters into all the responsibilities and joys of being in God’s family. Adoption is permanent. The elect, regenerate sinner will never be disowned from God’s family because his adoption depends on the irrevocable saving work of Jesus Christ—in his substitutionary atoning work on the cross. There is no more privileged place to be than all the universe than a child of God.
12. Reconciliation (Col. 1:22).
Reconciliation is the restoration of the relationship between God and man. It includes a change in man’s attitude toward God. Man is brought from being at enmity with God to friendship and sonship. God’s righteous anger is turned aside by the cross of Jesus, thereby removing the offense of sin and making it possible for God to bring man into fellowship with him.
13. Union with Christ (Rom. 6:5).
Union with Christ is the biblical description of the believer’s relationship to his Savior. By faith, the believer embraces Jesus as presented in the gospel. God unites the believer spiritually to Jesus as his Mediator. This personal connection to Jesus is the source of all the believer’s privileges. All that Christ accomplished for the believer is shared by virtue of this unbreakable union. The regenerate can no more be fractured from Christ than Christ himself can be split in two.
From Regeneration until Death/Presence with Christ
Two additional aspects of our salvation occur from regeneration until we are with Christ.
14. Sanctification (John 15:2, 2 Cor. 3:18, Phil. 2:12-13).
This is a glorious process where God transforms the regenerate into the most wonderful Person in the universe. Consequent of regeneration, the believer is daily conformed in thought, worship, motivation, and deed by the work of the Spirit, making the believer holy in his practice. As the regenerate engages in Scripture, prayer, the local church, and God’s providence, the Holy Spirit transforms him progressively into the image of Christ.
15. Perseverance (Phil. 1:6).
The regenerate will not fall away from his relationship to God. Rather, he will endure until the end and go to heaven. All who are elect will end up in heaven. Jesus will not lose even one of the Father’s elect. The golden-chain of salvation, as it is often coined, means that the elect are as good as glorified. God finishes what he begins. Those who appear not to persevere were never regenerate notwithstanding a previous appearance of belief.
From Death/Presence with Christ to Eternity Future
The final step of our salvation occurs once we enter the presence of Christ.
16. Glorification (Rom. 8:29-30, 1 John 3:2).
Glorification refers to the completion of all aspects of the believer’s salvation. It is the final step of his rescue that comes when, in heaven, he sees Christ face to face and is ultimately transformed into a sinless being. Upon death, the elect will be permanently rid of sin. The battle with sin will be over. Glorification will mean the inability to ever be contrary to God in motivation, thought, nature, desire, word, and deed. We will be unable to sin. We will only perfectly obey God’s law in fullness; perfectly loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and, perfectly considering others more important than ourselves.
This is not all that could be said about our great salvation. But, these touch on the wonder of God’s sovereign love towards every single one of his children. Considering that all believers entered this world dead in sin, hostile towards God, and loving unrighteousness, this 16-fold grace of God teeters on the edge of blasphemy. It veers close to a shameful scandal that such wretched sinners would be the recipients such titanic love. Nevertheless, this is the case. A Christian is someone who can say, “By the grace of God, I am saved.”
Dear Christian, is our salvation not great?! Are these not reasons to lift our chin up? We are saved!
Is this not cause to keep going during our brief sojourning when it feels like we can go no farther? We are saved!
Are these not reasons to press forward in a dreadful world that pushes back? We are saved!
Is this not cause to walk in hope?! We are saved!
Glory to God! We are saved!
Not long ago we wrote a blog post titled “The Most Precious Golden Chain?, the Golden Chain of Redemption, also called the ‘Ordo Salutis’, or ‘Order of salvation’, from Romans 8:29-30. Here are those passages with the links in that unbreakable Golden chain underlined:
29 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.” (Rom 8:29-30)
The ‘links’ in this chain are foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification, to use the noun forms of what we are told that ‘he’ (GOD) ‘did’ for each and every one of his remnant people (the ‘whom’ in the passages). Once you understand God’s foreknowledge the remaining links are easier to understand.
The topic of this post is the first link in the chain, God’s foreknowledge, perhaps one of the most contentious issues in Christendom, right up there with ‘election’ and ‘predestination’. The intent of this post is a bit like the Fox News motto, ‘We Report, You Decide. This is not about convincing anyone of a personal opinion – that’s God business. J
Having said that, let’s tackle the first link in our chain, ‘Foreknowledge’.
The Definition of Foreknowledge
The meaning of the term is simple – it literally means ‘before’, or ‘earlier’ knowledge’ (Gr. ‘prognōsis’). In our passage of scripture we are told that God, based on knowledge He had beforehand, God took actions on behalf of those whom he would save from their sins. (see Matt 1:21).
The two definitions of foreknowledge in view here is that 1) God simply knows everything, which for most of us is true, and/or 2) God knows ‘His people’ in a much more intimate way. The question for us is “What does the Bible tell us about God and His knowledge? We’ll report and you can decide.
By far, the most prevalent definition among Christians in our day is the first definition, meaning that God looked down the corridors of time, saw those who would freely choose Him, then chose them to be the recipients of the other actions in our Golden Chain (predestination, calling, justification, & glorification). Let’s look at foreknowledge in Scripture.
First of all, the term foreknowledge/foreknow does not appear in the Old Testament, but it does appear in the New Testament:
In reference to Christ:
“this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge (prognōsis) of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (Acts 2:23)
In reference to believers:
“ Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (1 Pet 1:1-2)
In reference to Christ again:
“He was foreknown (progonisko) before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” (1 Pet 1:20)
Note that the same term is used in 1 Peter, verses 2 & 20, in reference to both Jesus Christ and believers. That might be rather significant.
But our question remains, “What does “for those whom he foreknew” mean in Romans 8:29? Which definition of foreknowledge is at play? Is it definition1, definition 2, or BOTH? Since we know what ‘fore’ means’ let’s now take a look at the term know and how it is used in Scripture. Here are just a few examples from both the OT and the NT, Hebrew (yada) & Greek (ginosko):
- “Now Adam knew (yada) Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” (Gen 4:1)
- “Before I formed you in the womb I knew (yada) you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:5)
- “You only have I known (yada) of all the families of the earth;” (Amos 3:2)
- ”And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew (ginosko) you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt 7:23)
- “But if anyone loves God, he is known (ginosko) by God” (1 Cor 8:3)
There are more examples, but these verses clearly tell us that God’s ‘knowing’ of His people is much more intimate than just knowing about them or what they will or will not do.
So again, does the ‘foreknowledge’ of God simply mean ‘know beforehand’, that God knows beforehand the actions of men and acts in light of that knowledge (by far, the prevailing view these days), or does it mean more?
How we answer that question has implications concerning evangelism:
If we believe God saves based on the foreseen faith/free will decision of men, we can be prone to appeal to that ‘free will’ and share Christ in such a manner that that is appealing to the lost man, who is by nature at enmity with God, who dwells in darkness, hates the light and loves sin. What that means is making the gospel that is offensive to those whose hearts have not been opened by God, actually appealing. So we leave out the bits that talk about sin (they love theirs) and the need for confession and repentance because of it, and instead talk about how much Jesus loves, loves, loves and wants to make their lives better. Everything we do, from personal discussions about Jesus to our church services needs to become attractive in order to elicit a free will decision to follow Christ.
If we believe that God saves based on His intimate foreknowledge and predetermined will we need only lovingly share the gospel that Christ died for the sins of his people.
Regardless of what we believe, it is our great privilege to share the gospel far and wide!___________________________
There is much more that can be said about the foreknowledge of God, and I hope this short summary will stimulate your spiritual thinking.
And as always I like feedback:
1. Did I accomplish my goal of just presenting the facts? I’d love to hear your opinion.
2. What’s your belief concerning God’s foreknowledge and why? No answer necessary, just think about it.
In a future post, I’ll share some thoughts about what I believe and why. I believe it.
Thanks for stopping by!
We tend to think that ‘successful’ evangelism means a sinner makes a decision for Christ after we share the gospel. If the decision is based on sincere repentance from sin and belief in Christ, it was. However, no all decisions are based on repentance and faith, but on other things, some of which represent material gain and some of which are based on all sorts of supernatural shenanigens we can experience.
On the other hand, I suggest that the Soverein reign of God over the salvation of sinners absolutely guarantees a 100% success rate for all of our human efforts at evangelism. Jesus WILL save all whom he came to save. The angel who spoke to Joseph in Matthew 1:21 told him, concerning the child in Mary’s womb, “. . . He WILL save his people from their sin, not that Jesus would only make salvation ‘possible’ for everyone who ‘makes a decision for Christ’.
Food for thought early on a Tuesday morning.
Romans 10:9-10 & 13 are three of the most often used passages to encourage nonbelievers to confess Christ as Savior and Lord that we evangelicals use in our witnessing.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Rom 10:9-10, 13
These passages are found at the end of a witnessing method known as the Roman Road, offering the ultimate relief from the problem of our sin, that the preceding stops along the Road made abundantly clear (Rom 3:23, Rom 6:23, Rom 5:8).
Some of us might even ponder the order of ‘believing and confessing’, in a ‘chicken and egg’ manner. That might be because verse 9 speaks of ‘confessing then believing’, but verse 10 speaks of ’believing then confessing’.
I think the answer to that is found in verse 10, which begins with the preposition ‘for’ indicating that what follows further explains the preceding phrase. Therefore I suggest to you that ‘believing in one’s heart’ ought to precede ‘confessing with one’s mouth’. Also, note that when one someone believes, he/she is also justified. If being ‘justified’ equates to being saved, the confessing is a result of having believed. On a more down to earth note, don’t we tend to see it to believe it and believe it before broadcasting it on social media? Just a thought.
Having said all that, perhaps want is most important here is the ‘character’ of the ‘believing’ – ‘heart’ belief. It’s one thing to assent to something mentally, but something quite different to believe in your heart that something is true. In the case of salvation, it is one thing to merely assent to a historical fact about Jesus – that he was crucified on a Roman cross and that perhaps the reason was because of human sin. It is another thing to realize at the depths of my being that I should have been the one hanging on a tree that day because of MY sin – that Jesus died in MY place. And by MY sin, I don’t just mean the sinful things that do, but the condition I was in at birth – dead in trespasses and sin and by nature an object of God’s wrath (Eph 2).
The Apostle Paul gives us an example of what God does in the matter of ‘heart’ belief:
“On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” Acts 16:13-14
Several women were listening to Paul preach, but we are told quite clearly that God opened Lydia’s heart to ‘hear’ the words of Paul. Lydia believed with her heart Paul’s words and was saved.
If what I have said above is true, it leaves us with a question:
Why do we so often ask others if they have made a ‘confession’ of faith but rarely ask them if they ‘believed in their hearts’?
Something to think about. . .
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” – Rom 10:9-10
What a silly question! Of course you do! What believer doesn’t?
Now that we’ve answered the silly question, consider the following words of Jesus:
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” “ – John 6:37-40
Without trying to explain away anything we find troubling in the above passage, what is Jesus saying?
1. There exists a group of people given by the Father to the Son.
2. All those given to the Son by the Father will come to the Son.
3. The Son will lose none of those who come to him, but will accomplish His mission on earth.
4. All who believe in the Son have eternal life and will be raised up on the last day.
Do you STILL believe Jesus?
by James Smith, 1859
"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth." 2 Thessalonians 2:13
That God has chosen his people in Christ, is plainly asserted in his holy Word. That he chose them to salvation, is as clearly testified. It is not therefore for us to cavil at this doctrine — but believe it, improve it, and draw comfort and encouragement from it. All have sinned. Every sinner deserves to be punished with everlasting destruction. To prevent this, God chose some of the human race to be his own people. His choice of them, was an act of grace. He fixed salvation as the end — and chose them to that. He fixed on holiness as the medium — and chose them to that. He fixed on the sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, as the means of salvation — and therefore he chose them to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. Election therefore is the act of God, making choice of his people, and giving them to his Son, to be preserved in him, and saved by him.
Election is the fruit of divine love, and flows from the most free, sovereign, and eternal love of God. Election is eternal — the people were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Election was to the means as well as to the end, we are not only chosen to be saved — but chosen to believe, to be sanctified by the Spirit — and so saved. When we believe the gospel, and experience the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within us — then we have proof and evidence, that God has chosen us to salvation.
For the election of the Thessalonians, Paul felt himself bound to give thanks unto God. And for the election of God’s people in general, and for our own election in particular, we ought to feel ourselves under the deepest obligation, to praise and bless the Lord. We are bound to bless God for every mercy — because we are totally undeserving of the least. But we are especially bound to bless him for spiritual mercies, and particularly for this of our election to salvation; because without it, there could be no salvation. For if God had not chosen us — we would never have chosen him. If he had not chosen to save us, and to make us willing to be saved by his grace — we never would have been saved.
And then, it is such a marvelous expression of his love. To choose us out from others. To choose us before time. To choose us in Christ, and to choose us to be the care, charge, and social companions of Christ. O wondrous love! O amazing grace!
More, it is such a merciful exercise of his sovereignty. Angels fell — and were all allowed to perish. Man fell — and some of the fallen race were chosen to salvation before they fell. If left to themselves — all must have perished. But sovereignty interfered, and many of the fallen human race are saved.
Besides this, election is a source of blessing to all, of injury to none. None are the worse for God choosing his people in Christ — but all are the better. For the elect’s sake, the days of earth’s tribulation are shortened. For the elect’s sake, innumerable mercies are showered down, and innumerable privileges are conferred on this poor fallen world.
Election does not prevent the salvation of one — but it secures the salvation of millions. It lays no stumbling block in the path, it puts no difficulty in the way of any. The fountain of salvation is open, and whoever will may come — come and obtain a full and free salvation. The door of mercy is open, and whoever will may enter in and be saved. But no one will come to Christ that they may have life. Therefore God in the exercise of his adorable sovereignty, determined to dispose his elect — to make them willing in the day of his power — so that they may believe and be saved.
But for election — all would be lost! Through election — countless myriads are saved! No man is lost, because he is not elected — but simply because of his sins, and inveterate enmity to God. But many are saved, who otherwise would have been lost — because they are chosen to salvation.
If any one disposed to cavil reads these lines, to him I say — you may be saved if you will — but if you will not, do not find fault with God, because he chooses to save myriads of others, and just leaves you to your liberty, and allows you to do as you like. He never decreed to damn you as a creature — but only threatened to damn you as a sinner; nor yet to damn you as a sinner, except you refused to repent, rejected the Savior, and chose death in the error of your way. Would you have God force you, treat you as if you were a horse or a mule? If he offers to save you, and you refuse to be saved — if he opens the way of escape, and you refuse to walk in it — if he allows you to use your own will, pursue your own course, and have your own choice; while he warns, invites, and threatens you — then on what ground, on what principle, can you find fault?
Do you say, "Others are saved." True — but you do not want to be. Do you say, "God wrought for others." True, and he offered to do so for you. But you preferred sin, preferred being the servant of Satan, preferred having your own way — and now at least you ought quietly and patiently to suffer the due desert of your deeds, the result of your own deliberate choice.
Believer, the doctrine of election should be preached by us; should be believed by you; and should be loved by all. It should engage our minds, win our affections, and draw out our gratitude to God. We should not cavil at it — but praise God for it, realizing that we are under obligation to do so.
We should trace our election through faith and holiness, for only those who believe in Jesus, are devoted to God, and are actively employed in the performance of good works — have any evidences of election. For God chose his people to save them from sin — not in sin; to make them holy on earth — in order to make them eternally happy in Heaven. If therefore people are unholy and unbelieving, there is no proof of their election, however confidently they may talk.
Paul knew that the Thessalonians were elected of God — but it was because the gospel came home to their hearts with power, and they turned from their idols, to serve the living God; and in the exercise of a working faith, laboring love, and a patient hope, he found them waiting for God’s Son from Heaven.
If the gospel thus comes home to us, turning us from sin — to holiness, from self — to Christ, from the world — to God; if in us appears the work of faith, the labor of love, and the patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ — if we become imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ — if our faith grows exceedingly, and if our love to all the saints abounds — then, then there is no doubt but that we are the beloved of the Lord, and that he has from the beginning chosen us to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.
"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you — because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 1:3-6