True Salvation: A Sovereign Work of God

True Salvation: The Sovereign Choice of God

All of humanity is separated from God by our sin and though we tend to deny accountability, it is we who separated from God. It is my fault and yours. When Adam and Eve broke relationship with God through willful sin, death entered every aspect of their being and of this world. The result has been catastrophic, creating the chaos and tragedy which define this fallen world.

We all are born into the reality of a death-infused world and we all contribute to this reality through personal sin. This is what the Apostle Paul meant in Ephesians 2:1-3, And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 

Dead in trespass and sins is the result and the condition of people separated from God. We all once lived according to the course of this world, were subject to the corruption and depravity of this world and the powers of darkness which incarnate corruption and depravity into the societies in which we live. We were therefore children of wrath, under the judgment of God.

Furthermore, we are told in 2 Corinthians 4:4, The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Not only is humanity separated from God in our natural state, but we are also blind to saving truth about God. And Paul adds, There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks after God (Rom. 3:11). Our separation from God creates a spiritual apathy. 

But because humanity is instinctively religious, separation from God also creates a need to invent false religions, false philosophies and idols which take the place of the true God (see Rom. 1:18-32).

Left to ourselves, we would never have sought after the true God, much less would we have found Him. It takes a living God to awaken a dead sinner. It takes a sovereign God of light and truth to break through the barriers of darkness that separate lost humanity from Himself.

True Salvation

True salvation begins with God’s initiating activity of grace. From eternity, God chose to shed His grace in our hearts, chose to redeem us. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit working through the word of God, He awakens us to an awareness of our sins. As we are awakened, He then gifts us with repentance, the capacity to realize our sin and turn from it. As we turn to God in repentance, He gifts us with faith in His saving grace, which faith we are able to receive and exercise because our will is awakened. Placing our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, trusting that He has done for us what He said and of which the Bible testifies, we are then cleansed of sin, redeemed from its power, regenerated as new creations, reconciled to God and declared to be righteous, justified before God.

In these next two lessons we will examine true salvation in detail. We begin with God’s sovereign choice to save sinners. This choice was made in eternity past.

Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes (Eph. 1:4, NLT). Before there was a universe God chose to set His grace upon fallen, lost humanity. Notice in the following verses the intentionality of God.

He predestined (foreordained) us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Eph 1:5). Without violating or coercing human will, God chose, willed, ordained, that we would be adopted into His family. This was an act of divine will.

To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (1:6). This was an act of grace, unearned, unmerited, not prompted or necessitated by anything outside of God. Indeed, nothing existed outside of God when He made this choice. The universe was not yet created. We had done nothing to earn God’s unmerited favor because we did not yet exist.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us (1:7,8a). How did God purpose to do this saving work? By what means? By the shedding of blood, the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Again it is emphasized that this was an act of grace.

In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him” (1:8). This lavishing of grace on fallen humanity was not a sudden impulse in the mind of God. It was according to wisdom and insight. It was intentional. The redemption story was purposefully designed from eternity.

With a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will (1:10,11). Again we are told that this work of redemption was predestined according to the purpose of an almighty, all-wise Creator / Redeemer who works all things after the counsel of His will.

Our salvation is the expression of God’s will which He determined from eternity. Jesus said that when He returns and the history of this world is ended, there will be a time of judgment and He will say to the redeemed, Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34). True salvation is a work of God purposed from eternity, actuated in time by the God who is sovereign over this work of salvation from beginning to end. 

Jesus said, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:44). It is not we who find God — how could we if we are separated from God, dead to God and blind to His truth? It is God who draws us to Himself. Jesus said, And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself (John 12:32).

This is not a new thought. Through the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said, I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself (Jere. 31:3).

Jesus said, You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain (Jn. 15:16). Jesus was speaking to His disciples but is this not His word to each of us? From eternity He chose to set His grace upon us, purposefully designed / appointed us that we would live fruitful lives. This speaks of intentionality, the sovereignty of God.

The preaching of the early church was filled with a sense of God’s sovereignty in salvation. After Peter preached his first sermon, the people cried out, Brethren, what shall we do? Peter replied, Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself(Acts 2:37-39).  

Paul wrote, But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth (2 Thes. 2:13). Chosen from the beginning speaks of a salvation purposed from eternity.

Paul reminded Timothy that the Lord has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity (2 Tim. 1:9).

True salvation is a sovereign act of grace which was born in the heart and mind of God from eternity.

Question: How does God accomplish His purpose to make salvation available to humanity? 

Answer: Jesus was born in human form and as the perfect God / Man, offered Himself as the atoning, substitutionary, redeeming sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Speaking of this sacrifice, Peter says, Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you (I Peter. 1:18-20). 

From eternity, before the foundation of the world, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit purposed that the second Person of the Trinity would be incarnate in human flesh and give Himself as the holy, sacrificial Lamb of God. Though Jesus was sinless, He was condemned to death and in this death He took upon Himself our sin and God’s judgment against our sin. Jesus then died the death which sinners should have died. His resurrection was the Father’s vindication of the atonement.

As the Apostle Peter said, And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed ( I Peter 2:24).

As Paul said, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:7)

Among the opening words of the Revelation, John says, To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood (Rev. 1:5).

John heard the choirs of heaven singing a new song to the Lamb, Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev. 5:9)

In eternity past God chose to save fallen humanity. Jesus, Second Person of the Trinity, was incarnate in human flesh to make salvation a reality through the offering of His life.

Question: If we are separated from God in our sin, blind to the truth of our sin and blind to the truth of God’s grace available in Christ, how could we possibly access / enter in to the salvation offered to us in Christ?

Answer: The same God who sovereignly purposed our salvation in eternity past, who was born in human form, who offered Himself as the holy Lamb slain for sinners providing an atonement for sin, a means of salvation — this God comes to us and awakens us to the possibilities of grace. He awakens us to repentance and faith.

Question: What is repentance?

In our next lesson we will answer this question.

Study Questions:

1. What does this mean, “True salvation is a sovereign act of grace which was born in the heart and mind of God from eternity”?