The Sovereignty of God in Salvation
That God has an eternal purpose is beyond dispute
(Eph. 1:9; 3:11). This purpose is based upon His infinite
wisdom (Eph. 1:11; Job. 12:13). It is a purpose that includes
"whatsoever comes to pass." Psalm 135:6 is clear on this point:
"Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in
earth, in the seas, and all deep places." God's purpose even
includes the wicked actions of sinful men (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28;
Psa. 76:10; Prov. 16:4). We cannot understand how such
actions can be according to God's purpose while men
are yet responsible moral agents who are held answerable for
their own sin. However, we believe that no act or event in
all creation falls outside the decree of God. God's purpose is,
therefore, universal. Theologians have spoken of some decrees
being decrees to permit such things as the fall and subsequent
sins. This explanation helps our understanding, but it still
leaves a mystery beyond our comprehension. God's purpose
is also unchangeable (Mal. 3:6; Num. 23:19; Isa. 46:10) and
absolute--that is, unconditional. It does not depend for its
fulfillment on anything not decreed by God. He works "all
things" according to His purpose (Eph. 1:11).
The sovereignty of God is seen in creation (Rom. 11:36; Rev. 4:11;
Prov. 16:4). It is equally seen in providence (Psa. 103:19). He
controls the elements (Luke 8:25) and the animal creation
(Gen. 2:19; 6:19, 20), as the plagues He sent upon Egypt
powerfully prove. He controls all men (Prov. 21:1; Jer. 10:23).
Angels and even demons obey His pleasure (Psa. 103:21;
Mark 1:27; Job 1:6-12; Matt. 4:11). Isaac Watts properly said:
There's not a sparrow or a worm, but's found in
What is true in creation and providence is also true in salvation:
God is sovereign. "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9).
He raises monarchs to their throne and sinks
them as He please.
The Bible is clear that God chose a people unto salvation
(Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9). This
divine choice is unconditional; that is, God did not choose
some because He foresaw they would believe. Faith is not the
cause, but the result of God's choice in election. Peter makes
this clear when he says that Christians are "elect according to
the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification
of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of
Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:2). Obedience is the obedience of faith
(Rom. 1:5), and election is unto it, not because of it. Also,
foreknowledge is not merely foresight or prescience. The
syntax of Acts 2:23 indicates that God's foreknowledge is
His "determinate counsel." Thus repentance and faith are
gracious gifts of our sovereign Lord given to us on the merits
of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 5:31; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 1:29).
God's sovereignty does not destroy man's moral responsibility.
Man is God's rational creature. He is a sinner willfully. He is a
willing slave to his depravity. He does not sin because of God's
election. He sins because of his own willful wickedness. God
holds every sinner responsible for his actions and attitudes.
Such is the depravity of man that he is incapable of spiritual
good (Rom. 8:7; 3:10-19). Left to himself, he would never choose
God or obey the gospel. His carnal mind is enmity against God.
His only hope lies outside of himself in the God of all grace.
ELECTION AND EVANGELISM
That is why we believe a biblical emphasis on the sovereignty
of God is essential to true evangelism. It certainly does not
hinder evangelism. Romans 9:1-3 shows that a strong belief in
God's predestinating and electing purpose goes hand in hand
with a burning passion for souls.
We have no time for a dead, intellectual Calvinism that
refuses to offer Christ freely to sinners with the assurance
that "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be
saved" (Rom. 10:13). Some of the greatest revival preachers
in history have been strong asserters of God's sovereignty in
salvation, men like John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, Asahel
Nettleton, George Whitefield, Robert Murray McCheyne, and
Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
We stand in that historical and honored line that is traced
directly from Scripture through the most glorious ministries
God has ever given to His church. We refuse to "democratize
the gospel," as one writer put it, by saying, "God did His part;
now it is up to you to do yours." Salvation is not a joint effort.
It is a divine work received by faith without works.
MAY I COME TO CHRIST WITHOUT KNOWING I AM ELECT?
Scripture never instructs a sinner to try to discover if he is
elect and then come to Christ. In fact, it forbids prying into
the secret counsel of God (Deut. 29:29). God's instruction to
a sinner is, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15).
He assures all that obey this instruction that He will in no
wise cast them out (John 6:37), but will give them eternal life
Every sinner's duty is to obey God. That means every
sinner should come penitently to Christ. Once he has come
and received eternal life as a free gift, he has a biblical ground
of assurance that he is one of God's elect (1 Thess. 1:4).