The Sovereign, Eternal and Free Nature of God’s Grace

9 02 2008

In this post you will find a continuation of the discussion of God’s sovereign grace in regards to the salvation of mankind. With so much teaching these days following the lines of “free will” Arminianism, this decidedly Calvinistic stance in regards to the “doctrines of grace” will run counter to the understanding of many people regarding election, predestination, God’s sovereignty, etc.

But my goal here is not to be strident or extreme in presenting these views concerning the working of God’s grace. Indeed, it is more important for someone such as myself to actually “live in a manner that pleases the Lord”, “carrying every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”, “putting to death the deeds of the flesh”, than to obstinantly demand complete and full acceptance by others of these Calvinistic doctrines of grace.

However, I would also say that what a person believes regarding their biblical theology in general, and about the doctrines pertaining to the grace of God in particular, are the very foundations of our views and faith toward God, of how our lives are to be lived before Him, and of how He and we view other people (both the saved in Jesus Christ and the unsaved). It is of no small importance that we correctly understand what God has revealed to us in this written Word in regards to who He is and what He does and how we should respond to Him. Forever, forever, and forever we need to resist the continually creeping disease of the effect of man-centered humanism upon our view of God and His dealings with us. “To God be the glory!” is not meant to only be an idle, emotional exhortation among us Christ-believing church-goers. It is a call to all of us as Christians to have an accurate understanding of God, and in the living of our very lives to acknowledge God and bring honor to Him.

My personal conviction is that having a grace-oriented view of God and His workings in bringing about our salvation brings honor to Him. Conversely, man-centered viewpoints of how our salvation comes about (i.e., Arminianism, works salvation, new-age teaching, etc.) ultimately seek to allow mankind to gain some credit in the endeavor (credit that should all belong to God alone).

So, I encourage you to read through these passages, and to pray about and think upon the sovereign role of God in the effectual carrying out of our salvation in Christ Jesus.


In A.W. Pink’s book “The Attributes of God” (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan – 2001) (click here), the author discusses the Grace of God (Chapter 13, pages 66-71). This post continues to draw upon Pink’s explanation of the grace of God…


A. God’s Grace is Eternal, Free, and Sovereign

B. God Sovereignly Exercises His Unmerited Favor (Grace) Toward Sinful Man

C. Eternal Life is a Gift from God

D. Natural Man’s Resistance Toward Acceptance of God’s Sovereign Grace

D. God’s Distinguishing Choice of His Elect Children

Ephesians 5:1-21 (Be Imitators of God)

(1) Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; (2) and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

(3) But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; (4) and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (5) For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (6) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (7) Therefore do not be partakers with them; (8) for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (9) (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), (10) trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (11) Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; (12) for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. (13) But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. (14) For this reason it says,

“Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”

(15) Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, (16) making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (17) So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (18) And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, (19) speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; (20) always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; (21) and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.


Coming posts will continue to focus on the doctrines of God’s grace. Lets examine them together.



God’s Love for His Elect and His Goodness toward All Mankind

15 12 2007

A question: How broadly does God’s love extend to mankind, and what is the breadth of His goodness towards all?

  • Again: Does God love everyone, both His elect and those that are not His elect?
  • So, if He does not love those people that are not His elect, then how do we understand His purposes in providing good things, good provisions for life for all people?
  • Is the breadth of God’s love and of God’s goodwill or His goodness the same in regards to mankind? How do we reconcile the intersection of God’s love for His Children and God’s goodwill toward all of mankind?

These big questions, these big topics of Christian doctrine have lead many people of faith to have strong differences of opinion. In pursuit of the answers to these questions a person eventually finds themselves seeking to understand the extent of the atoning work of Christ on the cross. These can be complex issues to understand, but it seems good to hold to the following Biblical principles…..

God loves His elect. Yet He is good to all in His provisions. He is carrying out His sovereign plan – His eternal decree.

God indeed is love, and God indeed is good. Amen!


A. God’s Love for His Elect

1 John 4:8-10

(8) “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (9) By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. (10) In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”


In his book Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois – 1993), J. I. Packer discusses the Goodness of God (pages 45-47)…

“When John says “God is love” (1 John 4:8), what he means … is that the Father through Christ has actually saved us formerly lost sinners who now believe. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God” — we didn’t — “but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:9-10).”

“As always in the New Testament, “us” as the objects and beneficiaries of redeeming love means “us who believe.” Neither here nor elsewhere does “we” or “us” refer to every individual belonging to the human race. New Testament teaching on redemption is particularistic throughout, and when “the world” is said to be loved and redeemed (John 3:16-17, 2 Corinthians 5:19, 1 John 2:2), the reference is to the great number of God’s elect scattered worldwide throughout the ungodly human community (cf. John 10:16; John 11:52-53), not to each and every person who did, does, or shall exist. If this were not so, John and Paul would be contradicting things that they say elsewhere.”


John 3:16-17

(16) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”


2 Corinthians 5:18-21

(18) Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, (19) namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (21) He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”


1 John 2:1-2

(1) “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; (2) and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”


B. God’s Goodness Toward All Mankind

J. I. Packer goes on to say….

“This sovereign redemptive love is one facet of the quality that Scripture calls God’s goodness (Psalms 100:5; Mark 10:18), that is, the glorious kindness and generosity that touches all his creatures (Psalms 145:9, 15-16) and that ought to lead all sinners to repentance (Romans 2:4). Other aspects of this goodness are the mercy or compassion or pity that shows kindness to persons in distress by rescuing them out of trouble (Psalm 107; Psalm 136) and the long-suffering, forbearance, and slowness to anger that continues to show kindness toward persons who have persisted in sinning (Exodus 34:6; Psalms 78:38; John 3:10-4:11; Romans 9:22; 2 Peter 3:9). The supreme expression of God’s goodness is still, however, the amazing grace and inexpressible love that shows kindness by saving sinners who deserve only condemnation: saving them, moreover, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary (Romans 3:22-24; 5:5-8; 8:32-39; Ephesians 2:1-10; 3:14-18; 5:25-27).”


Psalm 100:5

(5) For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.


Psalm 145:9-16

(9) The LORD is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.
(10) All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
(11) They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
(12) To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
(13) Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
(14) The LORD sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
(15) The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time
(16) You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing


Romans 9:22-23

(22) “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (23) And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, (24) even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.”


2 Peter 3:3-10

(3) “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, (4) and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” (5) For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, (6) through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. (7) But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (8) But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”

(9)”The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (10) But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”


C. God’s Faithful Goodness to Us Inspite of Our Sin and Failures

Packer goes on further to state……

“God’s faithfulness to his purposes, promises, and people is a further aspect of his goodness and praiseworthiness. Humans lie and break their word; God does neither. In the worst of times it can still be said: “His compassions never fail. …. Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-24; Psalms 36:5; cf. Psalm 89, especially verses 1-2, 14, 24, 33, 37, 49). Though God’s ways of expressing his faithfulness are sometimes unexpected and bewildering, looking indeed to the casual observer like unfaithfulness, the final testimony of those who walk with God through life’s ups and downs is that “every promise has been fulfilled; not one of them has failed” (Joshua 23:14-15). God’s fidelity, along with the other aspects of his gracious goodness as set forth in his Word, is always solid ground on with to rest our faith and hope.”


Joshua 23:14-15

(14) “Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the LORD your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed. (15) It shall come about that just as all the good words which the LORD your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the threats, until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.”


God’s Foreknowledge and Unconditional Election unto Salvation

12 10 2007

What we understand and believe about the nature of God’s foreknowledge directly affects whether we believe that election is “conditional” or “unconditional“.

Following are definitions of Unconditional Election and Conditional Election provided by the online Wikipedia (

“In Protestant theology, election is considered to be one aspect of predestination in which God selects certain individuals to be saved. Those elected receive mercy, while those not elected, the reprobate, receive justice.

In Calvinism, this election is called “unconditional” because his choice to save someone does not hinge on anything inherent in the person or on any act that the person performs or belief that the person exercises. Indeed, according to the doctrine of total inability (the first of the five points of Calvinism), the influence of sin has so inhibited the individual’s volition that no one is willing or able to come to or follow God apart from God first regenerating the person’s heart to give them the ability to love him. Hence, God’s choice in election is and can only be based solely on God’s own independent and sovereign will and not upon the foreseen actions of man.

The Reformed position is frequently contrasted with the Arminian doctrine of conditional election in which God’s eternal choice to save a person is conditioned on God’s certain foreknowledge of future events, namely, that certain individuals would exercise faith and trust in response to God’s offer of salvation.”


If two Christian brothers disagree on the doctrine of election, it is likely that the root of their disagreement is in their respective beliefs and understanding of the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge. The person who believes that God’s election of persons unto salvation is conditional on His foreknowledge of whether they will choose to have saving faith in Jesus Christ typically has a vigorous disagreement with the one who believes that God in His foreknowledge chose or elected some of all of mankind who are lost in sin to be saved (for His divine purposes and good pleasure). Generally, the former leans more toward Arminian or “free will” oriented theological positions emphasizing man’s responsibility to “choose” to believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation. The later leans toward “Calvinistic” or “predestination” oriented theological positions emphasizing God’s sovereign choice in electing people unto salvation through Jesus Christ. At the root of this difference in understanding about the nature of divine election unto salvation is a difference in our understanding of the nature and effect of God’s foreknowledge.


Those such as myself who are Calvinistic in their beliefs emphasize the doctrines of God’s grace in regards to salvation. We believe strongly in unconditional election flowing from the sovereign decree of God over all things.


Since it is beyond my capabilities to adequately explain this Calvinistic view of God’s foreknowledge, again I am turning to A. W. Pink’s explanation in The Attributes of God (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan – 2001). (Any bold or underlined text in what follows are my own efforts to highlight certain points for the reader.)


A. Confusion and Disagreement about the Nature of God’s Foreknowledge

“When the solemn and blessed subject of Divine foreordination is expounded, when God’s eternal choice of certain ones to be conformed to the image of His Son is set forth, the Enemy sends along some man to argue that election is based upon the foreknowledge of God, and this “foreknowledge” is interpreted to mean that God foresaw certain ones would be more pliable than others, that they would respond more readily to the strivings of the Spirit, and that because God knew they would believe, He, accordingly, predestinated them unto salvation. But such a statement is radically wrong. It repudiates the truth of total depravity, for it argues that there is something good in some men. It takes away the independency of God, for it makes His decrees rest upon what He discovers in the creature. It completely turns things upside down, for in saying God foresaw certain sinners would believe in Christ, and that because of this, He predestinated them unto salvation, is the very reverse of the truth. Scripture affirms that God, in His high sovereignty, singled out certain ones to be recipients of His distinguishing favors (Acts 13:48), and therefore He determined to bestow upon them the gift of faith. False theology makes God’s foreknowledge of our believing the cause of His election to salvation; whereas, God’s election is the cause, and our believing in Christ is the effect.


B. Scriptural “Foreknowledge” is in reference to Persons, not to their Actions

“The fact is that “foreknowledge” is never used in Scripture in connection with events or actions; instead, it always has reference to persons. It is persons God is said to “foreknow,” not the actions of those persons. In proof of this we shall now quote each passage where this expression is found.”

  • The first occurrence is in Acts 2:23. There we read, “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” If careful attention is paid to the wording of this verse it will be seen that the apostle was not there speaking of God’s foreknowledge of the act of the crucifixion, but of the Person crucified: “Him (Christ) being delivered by,” etc.
  • The second occurrence is in Romans 8:29,30. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image, of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called,” etc. Weigh well the pronoun that is used here. It is not what He did foreknow, but whom He did. It is not the surrendering of their wills nor the believing of their hearts but the persons themselves, which is here in view.
  • God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). Once more the plain reference is to persons, and to persons only.
  • The last mention is in 1 Peter 1:2: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Who are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father? The previous verse tells us: the reference is to the “strangers scattered” i.e. the Diaspora, the Dispersion, the believing Jews. Thus, here too the reference is to persons, and not to their foreseen acts.


C. People are the Object of God’s Foreknowledge in Scripture – Not their Actions

“Now in view of these passages (and there are no more) what scriptural ground is there for anyone saying God “foreknew” the acts of certain ones, viz., their “repenting and believing,” and that because of those acts He elected them unto salvation? The answer is, None whatever. Scripture never speaks of repentance and faith as being foreseen or foreknown by God. Truly, He did know from all eternity that certain ones would repent and believe, yet this is not what Scripture refers to as the object of God’s “foreknowledge.” The word uniformly refers to God’s foreknowing persons; …”


D. God’s Sovereign Decree is evidenced in God’s Foreknowledge

“Another thing to which we desire to call particular attention is that the first two passages quoted (i.e. Acts 2:23 and Romans 8:29) above show plainly and teach implicitly that God’s “foreknowledge” is not causative, that instead, something else lies behind, precedes it, and that something is His own sovereign decree. Christ was “delivered by the (1) determinate counsel and (2) foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23). His “counsel” or decree was the ground of His foreknowledge. So again in Romans 8:29. That verse opens with the word “for,” which tells us to look back to what immediately precedes. What, then, does the previous verse say? This, “all things work together for good to them. . . .who are the called according to His purpose.” Thus God’s foreknowledge is based upon His purpose or decree (see Ps. 2:7).”

God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be. It is therefore a reversing of the order of Scripture, a putting of the cart before the horse, to affirm that God elects because He foreknows people. The truth is, He “foreknows” because He has elected. This removes the ground or cause of election from outside the creature, and places it in God’s own sovereign will. God purposed in Himself to elect a certain people, not because of anything good in them or from them, either actual or foreseen, but solely out of His own mere pleasure. As to why He chose the ones He did, we do not know, and can only say, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” The plain truth of Romans 8:29 is that God, before the foundation of the world, singled out certain sinners and appointed them unto salvation (2 Thess. 2:13). This is clear from the concluding words of the verse: “Predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son,” etc. God did not predestinate those whom He foreknew were “conformed,” but, on the contrary, those whom He “foreknew” (i.e., loved and elected) He predestinated to be conformed. Their conformity to Christ is not the cause, but the effect of God’s foreknowledge and predestination.


E. The Final Humbling Point Regarding God’s Foreknowledge and Our Salvation

“If then the reader be a real Christian, he is so because God chose him in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), and chose not because He foresaw you would believe, but chose simply because it pleased Him to choose: chose you notwithstanding your natural unbelief.”


Another source of grace-oriented teaching in regards to God’s Foreknowledge can be found at the Grace To You website authored by Pastor John MacArthur, Jr. ( The following references address the issue in a direct manner.


Pastor Bob DeWaay addresses the critical theological issue of open theism and the foreknowledge of God in one of his “Critical Issue Commentaries”:


Our understanding of theological issues such as God’s foreknowledge, election, predestination, the person of Christ, the attributes of God, etc., etc. are not just arcane exercises in intellectual gymnastics. What we believe about unconditional election affects our approach to telling others about the gospel of Christ. If we believe in unconditional election and predestination, we should preach the gospel message faithfully – trusting that God will bring all His elect to salvation through the preaching of God’s word by ourselves and/or others. If we instead believe in conditional election without reliance on God’s independent predestination of His chosen ones unto salvation, then the responsibility for saving people is upon ourselves. They are lost in sin and we as Christians are inadequate  to fulfill our responsibilities in this view of God’s workings. With careful thought a person can figure out the impact these two divergent beliefs have upon church ministries and how the Christian life is lived. Those believing in conditional election will tend more and more toward the use of every “gospel-marketing approach” they can possibly construe of (biblical or not) to “fulfill their responsibility”as they see it to bring others to Christ.  Much more can be said on this, but it will wait for another time.

God is much more reliable than we are in bringing His elect unto saving faith in Jesus Christ! I will cast my lot in reliance on God’s abilities and sovereignty in the matter of people’s (including my own) salvation rather than on any abilities I may have in this area. Calvinist or not, we as Christians are called in obedience to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8), and to carry out the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:21). Evangelism for someone who is Calvinistic in their theological understanding is an issue of obedience and loving service to God, trusting Him for the ultimate results and fruit.