The beauty of God's way of salvation
I have been thinking a lot over a long period of time about how God’s grace operates in saving us. And the more I have thought about it, and considered the biblical evidence, the more I marvel at it.
But the majesty and magnificence of God’s saving grace is not easily grasped. Many fear it, others mock it, some condemn it. It so assaults our desire for autonomy and our westernised views of liberty that we can feel affronted. It takes a work of the Spirit to see what God wanted us to see and that is that divine, sovereign grace in election and predestination is beautiful. It is beautiful, most of all, because it is of God. The person who grasps the character of God as shown to us in Scripture will see, with ever increasing degrees of delight, that God is infinitely wonderful, lovely, merciful, wise, and yet just and holy and righteous. Nothing that he does or plans or considers can be anything other than astoundingly wonderful. In time all will see this, whether they want to or not, but for now it is reserved to those whose eyes have been opened by God to see what they otherwise would have been incapable of seeing. We are told that people are blinded to the truth unless and until “God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:3-6). Notice that the light has to first be shone into our hearts before we will see the truth about Jesus. If we are Christians, truly saved and joined to the person of Christ, then the credit for that does not fall on us for believing because we could not, and would not, believe, until God first did a work of grace within us. And he secures for us all our redemption, our adoption as sons of God, our justification, all of it in Christ. And that is secured for us completely. If we are joined by God to the person of his Son then we are saved indeed.
What an amazing God is this! Can I lose the benefit of him who sent his Son to die for me and joined me to his (the Son’s) person? Of course not! How solid and unshakeable is this love! “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him…” (Psalm 103:11). Digest this if you can! His steadfast love towards those who he saves is so astonishing that it can only be compared to the vastness of space! Oh amazing God! Oh pursuing God! Those who fear him are those he has chosen from before time (Ephesians 1:4). He looked out from eternity and said “I want her” and once said his will is relentless, his pursuit determined and his love settled. If God says he will have a person to be his own he will accomplish it. And he set his love for us, Ephesians 1:4 tells us from before the dawn of time. It was not on condition of anything we did or could do because at that point we had done nothing. Nor was it on the basis of simply foreseeing something good in us, even if that good is faith, because God’s word about us is that “no one seeks for God” and “no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:11-12). God’s choice is his free and sovereign decision based solely upon love. And a love settled upon us before even the first star was formed!
And the Bible expects us to rejoice in this rather than to query it. In Deuteronomy 33 Moses sings a hymn of praise to the Lord and in verse 29 he says, “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord…” It is a striking thing to say because during Moses’ lifetime Israel has more often than not been grumbling and rebelling against God. Yet they are still called “happy” because of their status as God’s people whom he has saved. The Lord had chosen Israel over all the other nations of the world (“who is like you”). He had passed over mighty Egypt and soon to be mighty Assyria and Babylon. He had instead chosen a wandering Aramean called Abram (later renamed Abraham) and made a people from him, and this people became his chosen ones. And his choice was not for any good he saw in them but because of his love for them (Deuteronomy 7:7). And notice that Moses (unlike many of us) did not quibble about the fairness of God’s election. He knew no nation, including Israel, deserved the Lord’s saving kindness. So he does not complain. He simply celebrates the fact. They are a happy nation because they have been saved by the Lord.
And it is the same with individuals. God knows, the Apostle Paul knows, that not one person would turn from unbelief and sin and turn to God if they were left to their own devices. If God sat back and did nothing, no one would be pounding on the door of heaven crying to be let in. But God chooses, out of love only, to gather a people for himself and to ensure that they will come to him. He sends, as Jonathan Edwards puts it, “a divine and supernatural light” into their hearts so that blind eyes now see and closed wills now understand and hard hearts now love and rejoice in God.
Are those who are chosen by the Lord any more meritorious than was Israel of old? Not at all! We too are undeserving recipients of divine election to grace. Ought not we to be a happy people as well?
Oh awesome Lord of astounding love who has loved one such as I! Who am I that you had such regard for me? Glory, glory, glory be to your name O Lord.
And the truth of God’s electing love is a great comfort. True it first kicks away all self-sufficiency and that can sometimes be painful and hard. True it tells us how helpless we are before an Almighty and sovereign and holy God and that terrifies us and we rebel against the idea. We are sure that fairness demands that I did something to merit God’s favour. But God’s Word relentlessly makes it clear. We not only could not do anything but, left to our own devices, we would not do anything. The Word of the Lord is like a scalpel that cuts the cancer of self-righteousness out of us, but it is also a balm that heals the wound. Think of this. We often worry that our sin has cut us off again from God or that our doubts mean we are not really Christians, or that when the crunch comes we might be found wanting. But if God has loved us from before time he did so knowing everything there was to know about us. As the hymn writer, John Newton, puts it:
“Ere he chose me, well he knew; what a heart like mine would do.”
God has seen your worst, your very worst, and has dealt with it in Christ. And he did so for no other reason than that he loved you. How lovely is your Word, O God, and how precious to us!