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GOD IS TO BE PRAISED
FOR HIS CHOICES
Intro: We are currently working our way through the wonderful Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. This precious book reveals to us the riches of Gods grace in Jesus Christ. This book speaks of the great spiritual wealth we possess in Him. In Ephesians, Paul tells us how spiritually wealthy we are in Jesus, and then he tells us how to spend our spiritual wealth for the glory of God.
I would remind that this book is a book about a mystery. It is a book about how God takes lost sinners, saves them by His amazing grace and transforms them into His children. It is a book about the grace of God in action in our lives. This book tells us how God takes lost sinners, saves them by His grace and makes them a part of the body of Christ in this world. Then, it tells us how the Lord Jesus lives through His body to accomplish His work in the world today.
The verses we have read today are part of a long anthem of praise that continues through verse 14. In the Greek language, this is one long 202 word sentence of praise from the heart of Paul to the God of His salvation.
Paul opens his anthem of praise with the revelation that God is good, and because He is good, He shares His blessings with His people. In fact, Paul tells us that we have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.
Everything Jesus has to offer has been given to the children of God. We are a blessed people, and yet we tend to live like spiritual paupers. Paul wants us to know that we do not have to live in spiritual poverty. We can enjoy the deep things of God all the time, even as we journey through this world.
Having told us that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings, Paul proceeds to tell us just what those blessings are and why they flow to us. In verses 4, where we will spend our time today, Paul introduces the great doctrine of sovereign election reminding us that, He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.
To say that the doctrine of election is hated and misunderstood is an understatement. Some people hate this doctrine with a passion. Tim Lahaye, who co-authored the Left Behind Series, which I am sure some of you have read, said, And to suggest that the merciful, long-suffering, gracious and loving God of the Bible would invent a dreadful doctrine like this, predestination, which would have us believe it is an act of grace to select certain people for heaven and by exclusion others for hell comes perilously close to blasphemy.[i]
LaHaye is not alone in his attack on the doctrine of election. Another man said, To say that God sovereignly chooses who will be saved is the most twisted thing I have ever read that makes God a monster, no better than a pagan idol.[ii] Still another writes, This doctrine makes God a diabolical monster and reduces man who was created in the image of God to a mere robot.[iii] Christian author Dave Hunt says, This doctrine's misrepresentation of God has caused many to turn away from the God of the Bible as from a monster.[iv]
If there is a common thread that runs through most of the objections to the doctrine of election is that many people believe this doctrine makes God into a monster. I know that many of you will not be able to accept what this doctrine teaches either.
My desire in preaching this text is not to be controversial. My desire is to be biblical. My desire is to shed light on what the Bible says about this precious, biblical doctrine. For, if you ever understand election, you will not think that God is a monster; you will see that He is a loving, merciful, gracious God Who gives life to the dead and hope to the hopeless.
By way of introduction, allow me to define what the doctrine of election teaches. The doctrine of election declares, God, before the foundation of the world, chose certain individuals from among the fallen members of Adams race to be the objects of His undeserved favor. These, and these alone, He purposed to save His eternal choice of particular sinners for salvation was not based upon any foreseen acts or response on the part of those selected, but was based solely on His own good pleasure and sovereign will. Thus, election was not determined by, or conditioned upon, anything that man would do, but resulted entirely from Gods self-determined purpose.[v]
When the human mind hears that definition, it recoils from what it sees as a divine injustice. People have a great desire to defend Gods honor. Thus, they cry that the doctrine of election is not fair. They say that God is not fair if He chooses to save some and passes over the rest.
Well, if God was fair in the matter of salvation, we would all go to Hell. If God acted fairly in salvation, He would save no one, but He would simply give us what we deserve. He would send us all to Hell. Thank God, salvation does not flow from the justice of God; it flows from the grace of God.
A great many people hold to the idea that man somehow cooperates with God in the matter of salvation. He does His part and we do out part and salvation is the result. This is called synergism. In reality, biblical salvation is monergistic. God brings salvation to those He has chosen in Christ. He does the saving and He does the keeping. As Jonah said some 3,500 years ago, Salvation is of the Lord, Jonah 2:9. It has always been that was and it still is!
The doctrine of election is an affront to human pride. It removes man from the equation. If God chooses and God saves, then man really has no part in his salvation at all. Some would argue that man has the responsibility to believe. Yes, he does, but he is incapable of believing until he is given faith to believe by God, Eph. 2:8. So, it all comes back to divine sovereignty in salvation.
Men reject the doctrine of election because they do not want to believe in the doctrine of absolute inability. This doctrine states that mankind is dead in trespasses and sins, Eph. 2:1, and cannot come to God on his own. This doctrine states that man can only be saved when God first comes to the sinners and calls him to salvation, John 6:44. Again, the argument rests on human pride. Man does not want to surrender his will to the Lord.
Most people have the image in their minds that God is up there in Heaven just hoping that someone will come to Jesus. He sends His Gospel into the world and He anxiously waits for people to hear the Gospel and repent. God is doing His best to save people and sometimes people cooperate and sometimes they dont. When they do, He is happy, when they dont He is disappointed.
This view makes God subject to the will man. If this were true, it means that God wants to save some people, but He really cant do anything about their salvation. Sure, He gave His Son. Sure He gave us His Word. Sure, He opened the door of salvation to men, but He has no guarantees that any will ever be saved. So, He sits there in Heaven, watching, waiting, and hoping that someone will come. He drops His divine hook of grace into the teeming school of humanity, hoping that He will get a bite. Every now and then He get lucky and someone believes the Gospel and is saved.
That is not what the Bible teaches! The doctrine of election says that every person chose in Jesus before the foundation of the world will be saved. God is not just hoping some will respond; He knows they will, and He is purposefully and actively calling them to Himself. He will not miss a single person! Every seat at His table in glory will be filled!
Both of those views cannot be correct. Either God is sovereign in salvation, or man has the final say in whether he is saved or not. Either salvation is rooted in the will of the Lord, or it is rooted in the will of man. We need to find out which it is. So, instead of trusting human feelings or reasoning to help us understand what Paul is teaching here, we should instead look to the Word of God.
I realize as I tackle this topic today, I will not address all of your concerns. I know that some people will reject this doctrine outright. Others will embrace it with reservations. Some may even rejoice in the truth of it. Others may become confused and even bothered by what the Bible teaches about election. My desire is not to foster confusion, doubt or fear. I merely was to focus our thoughts on the truth.
I want you to see what the Bible says about salvation. I want you to forget about what you have heard, what you think, or how you feel. I want you to see what the Bible has to say about this most important of doctrines.
Today, I want to draw your attention to verse 4. I would remind you that we are dealing with verses 3-6. In this section of Scripture, Paul is praising God For His Sovereign Work. In verse 3, Paul told us that God Is To Be Praised For His Charity. In verse 4, Paul tells us that God Is To Be Praised For His Choices. Notice the questions that manifest themselves in these verses as I preach on the subject God Is To Be Praised For His Choices.
I. WHOM DID GOD CHOOSE?
He hath chosen us
· Paul says that God has chosen us. The word chosen means to pick out; to choose for oneself; to choose one out of many. We get our English word election from the Greek word that is translated chosen.
In an election, the candidates do not choose themselves; one is chosen from among the many to hold that office. The same is true in salvation. Certain ones are elected from among the many to be saved.
· The idea of election is seen throughout the pages of the Bible.
Ψ Genesis 12:1 – Out of all the people in Ur of the Chaldees, God chose Abraham.
Ψ Psalm 135:4 – God chose Jacob over Esau, For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure. Romans 9:13, As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Ψ Deuteronomy 7:6-8, For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. God chose Israel to be His special people just because He loved them. In Psalm 105:43, God calls Israel His chosen.
Ψ 1 Tim. 5:21 – This verse speaks of the elect angels.
· In the New Testament, the church is referred to as being Gods elect.
Ψ Matthew 24:22, And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
Ψ Matthew 24:24, For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Ψ Matthew 24:31, And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Ψ Luke 18:7, And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
Ψ Romans 8:33, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
Ψ Romans 9:11, (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
Ψ Colossians 3:12, Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Ψ 1 Peter 1:1-2, Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge 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.
Ψ 2 Peter 1:10, Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
· So, when the Bible speaks of election, it always refers to Gods choice. And, election in the Bible is always to something. When a God chose His elect, He was choosing them to be His in salvation.
· So, the object of Gods elective work is us. It is the redeemed, those who have and will believe on Jesus Christ for salvation.
I. Whom Did God Choose?
II. WHEN DID GOD CHOOSE?
before the foundation
of the world
· Some people hear this and they say, I believe God chooses, but that He does so based on His foreknowledge. They appeal to passages like Romans 8:29, which says, 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. And, 1 Peter 1:2, which reads, Elect according to the foreknowledge 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.
They say, God looked down the corridor of time and saw who would believe and those are the ones He chose in Jesus. It sounds good. It seems to solve the problem. In really, it merely creates another problem altogether.
1 Peter 1:20, says this, Who (speaking of Christ) verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. The word foreordained in verse 20 is the same word as foreknow in verse 2, and it is the same word as foreknow in Romans 8:29.
So, did God look down through time and see that Jesus was going to give His life on the cross for sin and then choose Him to be the Savior? Absolutely not! Jesus Christ is, Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Rev. 13:8.
No, the word that is translated as foreknow and as foreordained does not mean to know something ahead of time. It means to plan something ahead of time. The word always refers to a predetermined choice.
Does that mean that God did not know what we would do? Of course He knew! He knew because He planned it. He knows us intimately, and He knows that we are His sheep, John 10:14-15, 27. He knows us because we were put into His plan before the world was formed.
· Before there was ever a sinner to save, or a sin to save the sinner from, God had already made a sovereign choice to save some in Christ. What God determined would happen in eternity past, is being carried out perfectly in time.
There are several passages that make Gods choice in salvation crystal clear.
Ψ John 15:16, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
Ψ Acts 13:48, And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Ψ Acts 2:47, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Ψ John 10:16, And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Ψ John 10:26-27, But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
Ψ John 6:37, All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
· The Bible is crystal clear in this matter, God chose the elect before He ever formed the world. If you are saved, you have been in the plan of God for a long time!
· Like Charles Spurgeon said, I am so glad that God chose me before the foundation of the world because he never would have chosen me after I was born.
I. Whom Did God Choose?
II. When Did God Choose?
III. WHERE DID GOD CHOOSE?
· We were chosen in Jesus before the foundation of the world. In other words, God sovereignly placed us in Jesus Christ. Thus, when Jesus came to the earth, we were in Him. When He died on the cross, we were in Him. When He rose from the dead, we were in Him.
· When God came to us in conviction and we responded in faith, we were baptized into Christ, 1 Cor. 12:13. Now, we are in Him, Col. 3:3. According to Ephesians 2:5-6, our union with Jesus is absolute and eternal, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
· So, the outcome of Gods elective purpose is us being in Christ for eternity. God purposed this in eternity past and accomplished it in time.
· It was no accident that you believed in Jesus the day you did. It was part of the plan for your life. We will talk about the word predestination in verse 5 later. When we do, you will see that God so structured and ordered your life to accomplish in time what He has purposed to do in eternity.
I. Whom Did God Choose?
II. When Did God Choose?
III. Where Did God choose?
IV. WHY DID GOD CHOOSE?
· Ill. v. 4 – I will just touch on this because I plan to flesh it out in our next message. God saved us so that He might demonstrate His saving grace and power in our lives. There was absolutely nothing good in us that made God choose us. He did not choose us based on our abilities, our good deeds, or any merit in us whatsoever.
He chose us and saved us merely because He wanted to. He set His love on our lives and put us in His plan, saving us for His glory by His grace, Ill. Rom 8:28-30. I would just remind you that God gets glory both from the salvation of sinners and from the judgment of sinners as well. Isaiah 5:16, But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.
· The ultimate reason God chose anyone for salvation is for His Own glory alone, Ill. vv. 5, 6, 12, 14. These verses make it clear that God did what God did because it brought Him the most glory. Again, I will flesh this out in the future, but for now, you need to remember that if you are saved, you are saved because God received glory from your conversion.
Notice this passage: 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord, 1 Cor. 1:26-31
· Before we move on in our study of Ephesians, we need to address some of the objections offered by those who reject what the Bible says about the doctrine of election. So, lets look at a few of the common objections that people offer up in an attempt to refute this doctrine.
Ψ Some hear about election and immediately begin to throw out their favorite proof texts to try and refute this doctrine. They say, Well, I believe that whosoever will can come.
So do I! And, so does Jesus! The Bible is clear, whosoever will can come to Jesus and He will save them all, turning none away, John 6:37.
There is a holy tension in the Bible regarding salvation. On the one hand, we are told that anyone who comes to Christ for salvation will be saved, Rev. 22:17. On the other hand, we are reminded that no one can come until they are called to come by the Spirit of God, John 6:44; 65.
Once a man asked Spurgeon how he reconciled sovereign election and human responsibility. Spurgeon responded, I did not know that friends had to be reconciled. Spurgeon described this seeming contradiction like looking at railroad tracks. As you stand looking down at the tracks at your feet, you see that they are rigid and cannot be made to meet. However, if you look far enough into the distance, the tracks seem to come together. What does not make sense to us here will come into sharp focus in Heaven.
I believe that God chooses people for salvation, but I also believe that He will save anyone who will come to Him for salvation. I cannot explain those things, but I believe them and preach them. Salvation is Gods work, and part of that work is a divine mystery.
Ψ Others appeal to 2 Pet. 3:9. But, they only quote part of that verse. They quote the part that says, God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. If you read only that part then this verse seems to teach that it is Gods desire to save all men.
When considering this verse two words are of supreme importance. It is also of supreme importance that the entire verse be read.
The word willing is an important word. It refers to a determined purpose. According to this verse God has determined that none will perish. If you apply this to the whole of lost humanity, you have a problem, because this verse then teaches universalism. That cannot me true. It is only when you read the whole verse that it becomes clear what Peter is saying.
Look at 2 Peter 3:9 again, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. I told that one important word was the word willing. The other important word in that verse is the word usward.
To whom is God demonstrating this longsuffering? It is to the people to whom Peter is writing. Who is that? The answer is found in 2 Pet. 1:1, 3:1. Peter is writing to the redeemed. He is writing to those he called elect in 1 Pet. 1:2.
2 Pet. 3:9 is not a verse that shoots down election. Instead, it is a verse that proves the eternal security of the believer. Peter is telling us that God is delaying His final judgment on the sin and sinners until all the elect are saved. When that happens, His judgment will fall on the world.
Ψ Others want to throw out 1 Tim. 2:4, which says, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. The word will, in this verse does not refer to Gods eternal decrees. It refers to His wishes or His desires. Surely God desires that all men would repent of their sin and turn to Christ for salvation. God, however, does not save sinners based on His desires. God saves sinners based on His eternal decrees. And, in His eternal decree, God the Father has given certain people to God the Son, John 6:37, 17:6, and every single one of those whom God has chosen in Jesus will come to Jesus for salvation.
The whole point of 1 Tim. 2:4 is that prayers of salvation are to prayed for all men. That is a good and acceptable thing in the sight of God. We do not know who will be saved, but He does, 2 Tim. 2:19. God will save His elect out of sin, and He will abandon the rest to face the consequences of their sin, Rom. 1:18-32.
Ψ Then, nearly everyone trots out the old standby: freewill. They say, If God chooses, then man doesnt have a choice. In their view salvation works like this: God wants to save everybody, so He sent Jesus to die for everybody. Jesus didnt really save anybody when He died, but He did make salvation possible for all people. People get saved when they have the good sense to come to Jesus and call on Him by faith.
This view makes God subject to the will of man in salvation. It gives us the image of God sitting up in Heaven, hoping against hope that someone will be saved. That is not what the Bible says about salvation at all.
What about freewill? Does it even exist? Only God has perfect freewill. He does everything He does out of His own free will.
What about man? Man has a fallen will. The will is tied to the fallen nature, and it is fallen too.
In his natural
state, man cannot and will not choose godliness. Left to himself, man will
never come to God for salvation. Left to himself, man will always choose the
path of sin and rebellion, Eph. 2:2-3.
In fact, it is worse than that. According to Eph. 2:1, man is dead
The whole idea of human freewill is a myth! Mans will is not free; it is fallen. He cannot decide for God because he lacks the desire or the capacity. No one is ever saved apart from God taking the first step, 1 John 4:19.
Election does not negate human responsibility. Both are seen in John 6:37. We will never be able to satisfactorily reconcile divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Both are true and must be accepted as such. The fact is, we are saved completely apart from human will, John 1:11-13.
Conc: Ill. Warren W. Weirsbe had questions about election when he was in college. He asked a professor about it and the professor replied, If you try to explain the doctrine of election you will lose your mind. If you try to explain it away, you will lose you soul.
Having heard me preach this message today, some of you are about to lose your minds, others are about to lose your temper. Let me stop here and say, I know how you feel. The doctrine of election is a hard doctrine to accept. It destroys human pride and ability. It takes us out of the picture. It is a difficult doctrine to accept; it is a difficult doctrine to preach. We want everyone to have an equal chance at salvation. We want to think of God in human terms. We want to say that He is fair. Whether we like it or not, the doctrine of Gods sovereign election is a reality. Whether you believe it or not, the doctrine of Gods sovereign election is a biblical doctrine.
Our humanity recoils at this doctrine, and I understand that. I have struggled with it myself over the years. But, when we elevate human choice over divine election, we make God subject to our will. In effect, we create a God of our own design.
We want to have freedom to think, to choose and to act, but we have to accept the truth that we are fallen in every aspect of our character. So, while we cannot fully understand God, we must accept what the Bible teaches about Him and about His salvation.
We want God to save everybody, but He never intended to, John 6:39. How do I know? I know that because not everyone is saved! If He had intended for all to be saved, then all would be saved.
Does this make God unjust? Never! Ill. Rom. 9:14-23! Instead of complaining that God has chosen to same some, we should praise Him that He has chosen to save any!
God would have been just if He had allowed us all to go to Hell! Yet, He reached into the lost mass of humanity and chose to save some, and we get upset about that. What fools we are! If it were not for His sovereign grace, we would never have come to Christ. But, the fact that we did come and believe the Gospel is proof that we are His elect.
Imagine that I had a dozen eggs in my hands. What if I stumbled and dropped them all, but as they fell, Brother Walter down here on the front row, reached out an caught four of those eggs? Would we worry about the eight that were lost, or would we be amazed by the four that were saved? I rather think we would rejoice that some were saved.
So it is with salvation. All were lost, but God reached out in grace to save some. We should rejoice in that truth! I do, I hope you will too.
Let me say one more thing about this. Some people hear these things and they say, Well, what about those people out there who want to be saved? If they arent elect then they cant come to Jesus. There is no one like that!
If a person comes to Jesus for salvation, they are giving evidence that He is calling them to come. When they come, He will not turn them away. That is His promise, John 6:37. No one who wants to go to Heaven will die and go to Hell. No one who wants to be saved will die lost. Election is always for salvation; never for damnation! Election harms no one!
So, instead of throwing up straw men to attack the doctrine of election, you should thank God in Heaven above that He has chosen you in Jesus. If you have never been saved, and He is calling you to come to Him, you should come. Be saved today. If you are saved, you should rejoice in what the Lord has done for you. If you are saved, He has showered you with His grace and power.