Contend Earnestly: Sola Gratia: Part III

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sola Gratia: Part III

As we left off in our last post I stated that Romans 9 answers some key questions for us while dealing with this idea of God choosing who He gives His grace to. Romans 9:11, in my mind, completely destroys any notion of God choosing based on “looking down the portal of time.”

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls

Notice that the whole of God’s choice is NOT based on anything the boys did or would do, but only on GOD’S PURPOSE! Then Paul tells us that God loved Jacob and hated Esau. If you know the story of these two boys, and this is really the hinge on Calvinism and Arminianism, these boys were both evil. Just as we are all evil. God chose one of the two evil boys for His purpose. Is this not the great story of redemption? God in His grace, instead of allowing all evil people go to hell, chose some to worship Him forever. This is Calvinism. Arminianism says, “this isn’t fair, God should have chosen both boys then.” So, Paul answers their question before it is asked by saying in Romans 9:13 that, “there is no injustice with God is there? May it never be.” Paul then tells us this reason, why there is no injustice, notice God didn’t say anything about being FAIR!

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Romans 9:15,16

What is grace based on? God’s mercy and choice alone, not on ANYTHING we do or don’t do. Not on the man who wills or runs, but on God's mercy.

Paul continues to answer another question, “Why do people go to hell to pay for sin and disobedience they couldn’t help but do? If they aren’t chosen and can’t choose God, why does God make them pay for their sins in hell?” Basically, the question is focused on Esau instead of God’s grace in Jacob!

Here is Paul’s answer, Romans 9:19-23:

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 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? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

Notice why Esau and all others that are the reprobate were created: so that God’s children, His sheep would know the riches of His glory. How do you know a good day is a good day? Because you have had bad days. How do you know a sunny day is a sunny day? Because of the rainy days. How do you know the surpassing riches of God’s grace to you? Because you know that you did absolutely nothing to earn God’s favor, yet He chose you for His grace and left some in their sinful state.

You see Sola Gratia states that not only is the actuality of the gift of salvation free but so is God’s choice of you: He freely gives the free gift

The Provision of God’s Grace

I am going to stay in one passage that really shows the provision that God granted to us: Ephesians 2:5-9

Notice first the stark contrast we see here. Why are we dead? Because of our transgressions. Why are we ever rescued from that death? Only by God and His grace through Jesus Christ.

You see when we realize that God, while we were yet sinners, sent His Son to die on the cross to save us and if we realize that the entire work of Him saving us through Grace is by His kindness and not what we have done, the provision of God’s grace becomes something to be marveled at, not scoffed at.

We can see in Ephesians 2 that:

He made us alive
By Grace we have been saved
He raised us up
He seated us with Him

If we realize these things there are two things that this should do:

Verse 7 tells us that we should understand the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness and verse 9 tells us that we will not boast.

The definition of grace is receiving something that you don’t deserve. If this is true how can you say that the provision of the Son was applied to you because of the goodness and knowledge in you to believe in Him?

The provision of the Son has taken us as Ephesians says, from death to being made alive together with Him. This starts now. We were once a people with no hope, not a nation and under God’s wrath. But, now we have a hope, we are a nation and our eternal life has started on the day of salvation.

This understanding of provision should drive us to our knees with thanksgiving and this is truly why Paul could say, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.

If we understand that God freely gives us this grace, not based on works and we understand these surpassing riches and kindness, will we not be transformed to a life denying ourselves and worshiping Him? But, this point must be saved for Soli Deo Gloria.

The love of God to us in Christ is here proved, or again declared, to have had its origin in mercy. That he might shew, says he, the exceeding riches of his grace. How? In his kindness towards us, as the tree is known by its fruit. Not only, therefore, does he declare, that the love of God was free, but likewise that God displayed in it the riches, the extraordinary pre-eminent riches of his grace. It deserves notice, also, that the name of Christ is repeated; for no grace, no love, must be expected by us from God, except through his mediation.
John Calvin


Sola Gratia is not only talking about the gift itself, but also the reasons behind the gift. God’s freedom.

This was completely against Rome and their Aristotelian beliefs. To them, man is good enough to respond and God’s choosing is based on God looking to see who would believe and then choosing them. This gives too much credit to a dead man.

Ravi Zacharias said it best:

Jesus Christ did not come to make sick men healthy, but to give dead men life

The actuality is that Luther wrote his 97 Theses just one month before his 95 Theses stating the heresy of believing in free will and Aristotelian theology. It never took and Luther was upset that this thesis was not given more attention.

The clincher for me was. Do I believe more in myself choosing God or do I believe that God sovereignly chose me? I know myself and my sin. I know how wretched of a sinner I was and I cannot imagine that I would have ever chose God unless He first chose me.

1 John 4:19 states that; we love because He first loved us.

Sola Gratia states that God so loved us that He sent His Son to die for us, and He freely gave that grace to whom He freely chose.

God is not a beggar: He is a chooser.


Jailer said...

Seth -- I fully agree, but again I bring a different perspective, perhaps since I regularly operate within a less theological and more diverse field.

Recently I've been teaching Sunday school on this topic to a class full of folks who knew very little about it. In anticipation of the inevitable questions, I also highlight Romans 10, in which Paul follows his very clear teaching on predestination with a clear statement of man's responsibility to choose, and also to preach so that they might believe:

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
So amen and amen to Sola Gratia, and also amen to our need to choose to believe, follow, and preach so that others might believe.

What makes this so difficult for people to comprehend is that God's infinite, eternal, omniscient perspective is beyond our comprehension, and at some point we must agree to accept the mystery at the intersection between our experience and God's sovereignty.

More of my thoughts (and a few of John Piper's) are here:

Related Posts with Thumbnails