Baptist, What Do You Believe #9


In this lesson we are going to look into the purpose of God in saving sinners. This article naturally flows out of the one that came before it, namely the article on salvation. Even at first glance, a common theme stands out in these two articles. The four terms that are defined at the end of article 4 are the same four terms that make up the gracious purpose of God in the first paragraph of this article. Those four terms are regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. We saw in last lesson that the process of salvation is made up of these four acts, and that all four of these acts are brought about by God and not man. That is why the two paragraphs in this article occur together. Salvation that begins with God, ends with God.

One of the questions we asked in our last study concerned the nature of salvation as respects time. Are we saved all at once, in an instant, or is salvation a process that takes our whole lives? The basic answer to this question is yes. We are saved in an instant when God pronounces “Not guilty.” at our justification, as our regenerate hearts believe in Christ, and we repent of our sins. We are also being saved the rest of our lives as the Holy Spirit is working in us, sanctifying, conforming us (Romans 8:29) to be more like Jesus, until one day, either at His return, or glorified in heaven, we will be like Him (1 John 3:2). In this lesson we will try to explain this mystery.

V. God’s Purpose of Grace

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners.

God has a purpose, and it is to save a people for Himself. Why and how He saves is His business, and we really don’t have the right to question Him(Romans 9:20,21 and 11:34) You cannot get around the word election because both the word and the concept are there in Scripture many times.

Now, many people try to get around the election of God by arguing that God’s foreknowledge allows Him to look down the corridor of time and tell who will and who will not believe in Jesus, thus determining who He will elect. That would be fine, but who would God see if He were to do such a thing? Would He see some with faith and some without faith? This simply does not work. Ephesians 2:8 tells that even the faith that we exercise is a gift of God. Romans 3:9-18 tells us that no one seeks after God. If God used his foreknowledge to elect, then nobody would be saved.

Note that this purpose of God is gracious. God does not have to save any one, yet He does, and at the highest price imaginable, the death of His only begotten Son. We are all rebellious sinners, guilty of cosmic treason against God, and deserving of hell, yet God graciously is saving a people for His own possession from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

It is consistent with the free agency of man,

So how do you square God’s sovereignty with this free agency of man? The basic answer is that God is Sovereign, and man is free, but not autonomous. Autonomy gets to the heart of original sin. Satan said to Eve “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). This has been the desire of mankind ever since, to be independent, to be autonomous. We want to be the captain of our own ship, the master of our own destiny. The key to it all is that God is God and we are not.

Man is free. Unless physically forced by someone stronger, we always freely act according to our greatest affection. Every moment of every day of our lives our choices are driven by our greatest desires. The only thing that limits us in choosing God is our nature. All of us have a sin nature, which basically amounts to the fact that we are out to please ourselves and not God. The unregenerate individual has no concept of his greatest joy being found in God (Psalm 37:4).

and comprehends all the means in connection with the end.

One of the objections some people raise is that if I am elect of God, then I don’t need to do anything. God is going to save me no matter what I do. The only problem with that is that we are commanded from God’s word to repent and believe (Acts 2:38). We are commanded to come to Jesus (Matthew 11:28). As believers we are commanded to preach the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:19, 1 Corinthians 9:16).

Others will raise the objection that if I am not among the elect of God, then there is nothing I can do to change that situation. The Bible is full of Whosoever‘s (Luke 6:47, John 3:15, Acts 2:21, Acts 10:43, Romans 10:13, 1 John 4:15, Revelation 22:17). As we saw in Article 4 on the doctrine of salvation, the gospel is offered freely to all.

Salvation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We are saved by the gracious act of God, but we are also saved when we hear the gospel of grace, are convicted of our sins, respond to the call of the Holy Spirit, and believe and repent (Romans 10:14-17).

One of the counter objections that I would raise is that if God does not elect some, if salvation is up to us and not to God, then why should we ever bother to pray? Why pray for the salvation of a friend or loved one? Why ever pray for the Holy Spirit to come down and save? Why should we ever pray for revival and renewal?

It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

The best commentary on this is found in the first chapter of Ephesians and the eleventh chapter of Romans. If salvation is all of God and none of man, then it naturally excludes boasting, and promotes humility. All we can do is fall on our faces and worship a great God who graciously has saved us.

All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

This is the easy part. Since salvation is not a date on a calendar – the day you walked forward and gave your heart to Jesus – but rather the gracious four-part action of God spoken of in the article on salvation, then the God who regenerates you is the same God who justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies you. The God who has the power to bring the spiritually dead to life also has the power to faithfully keep us to the end.

This endurance is not a passive thing. Surely it is God who saves us and keeps us saved, but we are also commanded to see to our salvation on an ongoing basis (Philippians 2:12, Hebrews 4:1, and 12:15). As I have said before, salvation is not a date on a calendar. Saving faith involves the ongoing question you must ask yourselves constantly: “What (Who) am I trusting in right now for my salvation?” Salvation is who you believed in and on back when you first believed, but salvation is also who you believe in and on right now.

This paragraph emphasizes the firmness of our salvation to the end, but also points out the consequences of sin. Sin brings misery, always. That misery can come in a multitude of forms, but that misery always includes lost fellowship with God, and that is the worst misery the true believer can experience. Note the causes of sin in the believer: neglect and temptation. We must always be diligent to use the means of grace given to us. We should not neglect regular worship (Hebrews 10:25), prayer (Luke 21:36, Luke 22:40, Ephesians 6:18), and the regular reading of God’s word (2 Timothy 3:16).

What about those who once “followed Christ” but no longer do so? John says that those who no longer walk with us were never one of us, else they would never have left us (1 John 2:19). So, those who are God’s children, God will keep, and God’s children will be careful and diligent and use the means of grace to endure to the end. The old tongue twister I learned years ago was The faith that fizzles before the finish was never firm at the first. May we all be diligent and be found faithful in that great day.

Previous Lessons:
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #1 (An Introduction)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #2 (On the Doctrine of Scripture)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #3 (On the Doctrine of God)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #4 (On God the Father)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #5 (On God the Son
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #6 (On God the Holy Spirit)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #7 (On the Doctrine of Man)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #8 (On the Doctrine of Salvation)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #8 (Continued) (On the Doctrine of Salvation)

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