Sovereign Grace - Part 4
Theme: Blessings of Election
This week’s lessons explain the importance of God’s sovereignty for a biblical
understanding of the doctrine of grace.
Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-8
Yesterday we looked at the first blessing of election. Today we look at the other three.
Election gives assurance of salvation. Suppose it were the other way around. Suppose that the ultimate ground of salvation is in ourselves. In that case, salvation would be as unsteady as we are since, if we can elect ourselves in, we can elect ourselves out. It is true that there are choices to make and things for us to. But we are able to make these choices and do these good things only because God has first chosen us and made us to be new creatures. In fact, it is our security in his choice that is the basis for our action.
Election leads to holiness. Ephesians 1 also teaches this, for it says clearly that God “chose us...to be holy and blameless” (v. 4). In other words, election is not concerned only with the end result—that is, that we might be saved and go to heaven. It is also concerned with the steps along the way, which include holiness. Holiness is a direct result of God's determination since he has decreed that those who are being saved will be holy. If we are not growing in holiness, we are not elect. We are not saved persons.
Election promotes evangelism. People have supposed that election must make evangelism unnecessary. They say, “If God is going to save some person, then he will save that person regardless of what we may or may not do.” But that does not follow. The fact that God determines the end does not mean that he ignores the means by which that end will be attained. He ordains the means too. In this case, he has ordained that it is by means of preaching and teaching the Word that people will be converted.
Besides, it is only election that gives us any hope of success as we evangelize. If God cannot call people to faith effectively, how can we? We cannot persuade them. But if God is working, then he can work in us even if we are inept witnesses. We do not know who God's elect are, but we can find out who some of them are by telling them about Jesus. Those who are God's elect people will respond to our witness (or the witness of others), confess their sin, believe on Jesus, and grow in holiness. We can speak to them boldly, because we know that God has promised to bless his Word and will not allow it to return to him without accomplishing his purpose (Isa. 55:11). We can know that all whom God has elected to salvation will be saved.
Electing people to salvation is not the only thing God has done as an expression of sovereign grace. Following the trinitarian pattern of this chapter, we come next to the doctrine of redemption. What God has done through Jesus Christ is to redeem his elect or chosen people (vv. 7-10). Redemption involves all three persons of the Godhead: 1.) God the Father, who planned it; 2.) God the Son, who accomplished it; and 3.) God the Spirit, who applies it to God's people. But redemption is chiefly associated with Jesus, who is specifically called our Redeemer. That is what our passage in Ephesians tells us. In verses 7 and 8, Paul is speaking of Jesus explicitly when he says, “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace, that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”
The reason for this is that redemption is a commercial term meaning “to buy in the marketplace so that the object or person purchased might be freed from it.” Jesus did this for us by dying in our place. To carry the illustration out, we are pictured as slaves to sin, unable to free ourselves from sin's bondage and the world's grasp. Instead of freeing us, the world merely gambles for our souls. It offers everything which is its currency: fame, sex, pleasure, power, wealth. For these things millions sell their eternal souls and are perishing.
But Jesus enters the marketplace as our Redeemer. Jesus bids the price of his blood, and God says, “Sold to Jesus for the price of his blood.” There is no higher bid than that, and so we become his forever. As the Apostle Peter wrote, “It was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18, 19). Charles Wesley was also describing God's sovereign grace in redemption when he wrote, using similar imagery,
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth and followed thee.
- Explain how election gives assurance of salvation.
- What is the relationship between election and holiness?
- Why do some people suppose that election makes evangelism unnecessary? Why is it that the opposite is actually the case?
- We have seen that election is the work of God the Father in salvation. What is the work of God the Son? Explain the concept.