For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
Faith in in the Lord Jesus Christ is, itself, “the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).1 Without this gift from God—and without the saving work the Holy Spirit in the soul—not one sinful, fallen human being would choose to follow Christ.
Once we understand that this is true, we will therefore be constrained to acknowledge that our own faith in our Saviour did not originate within our unregenerate, spiritually dead souls. We will ascribe its origin to God. We will conclude that it must have been given to us by the Holy Spirit.
We will no longer reject the doctrine of unconditional election—in our own case at least—because we know that if God had chosen us on the basis of forseeing that our undeserving, sinful, spiritually dead state would choose to believe in Christ, then we would never have come to be saved.
No, for we could never provide that basis, because this was the entire truth about ourselves: “the carnal mind is enmity against God”. Those who are dead in trespasses and sins cannot make themselves spiritually alive, or make themselves born again. And no matter what we thought we were doing before God called us, “there is none that seeketh after God” (see John 3:3; Romans 3:11; 8:7; Ephesians 2:1.)2.
But what is true of one is true of all. And while Arminianism denies this, the Bible teaches that salvation must in its entirety come from God; and therefore God must have chosen all those whom he will save.
When We Were Dead in Sins
Something happened in our souls which made us trust the Word of God rather than reject it, and to seek the Lord Jesus Christ rather than reject him. There came a day when we found ourselves disposed to believe the Bible.
Some of us had previously known many Bible stories and teachings for decades, while others had only just begun to study the Holy Scriptures. But then—we were enabled to acknowledge that they are true, even while so many people alongside us still reject the Scriptures and reject Christ.
And more: we have been brought to know that we, who were dead in sins until this change happened, would never have believed these things if it were not that we were made willing (see Psalms 110:3) and enabled to believe by God himself.
That is why we now believe what the apostle Paul says: “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye [and we] saved)… For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:4,5,8,9).
These are truths that the natural, fallen mind will not acknowledge, but will only hate and oppose.
But the truth is, “God, who is rich in mercy” has a great love for his people; and it was “for the great love wherewith he loved us”—not for any “goodness” or any “foreseen faith” in us—that he came near to us “even when we were dead in sins” and “quickened us together with Christ”!
If you have come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, this is not your own doing—as you will one day inevitably admit; but “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine [i.e. the true, Biblical Gospel] which was delivered you” (Romans 6:17).
Our salvation, from beginning to end, is all to “the praise of the glory of his [i.e. God’s] grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved [i.e. in Christ]” (Ephesians 1:6).
What If I Am Not Elect?
We cannot know in advance of our coming to believe in Christ whether God has elected us to salvation or not.
Some people are so troubled with this question, “What if I am not elect?” that they are by their perplexity (so it seems to them) immobilised and they cannot bring themselves to believe the Gospel. They are occupied by such thoughts as these:
“What if I am not elect? If I am not elect, and I look to Christ for salvation, and I trust and hope in the great promise that ‘whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life’ (John 3:16), what then? Would I actually be saved (in which case God will have kept this promise, but he will have saved someone whom he didn’t elect to salvation)—or would I not be saved because I am not elect (in which case God will not have kept this promise)?”
Such questions sometimes come from those who have no gracious work of God in their souls, whom God is not drawing to Christ. They use these questions as arguments against turning to God for salvation.
Our answer is simple, and it is a curious thing that these opposers don’t see this answer for themselves before they waste their time in attempting this argument against God’s unconditional election. However, we shall give our answer not so much as a defence of this doctrine as for a help to those who shall be saved.
Our answer is this truth: no person who is not chosen by God will believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (i.e. the true Christ of the Bible).
Such is fallen man’s spiritual deadness that it is only those whom God enables to believe the Gospel that will believe it. In other words—to use the plain words of Christ himself: “No man can come unto me except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44; see also 6:65).
And the converse is also true: no elect person will fail to come to faith in Christ.
Thus Christ says of himself: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;” and to them he immediately makes this promise: “and him that cometh to me I shall in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
Unconditional Election Brings Humility and Comfort
We must also point out that the Biblical doctrine of unconditional election promotes humility, not pride, despite what some people claim.
We know that we are not in the least part worthy of salvation. We always praise God alone—soli Deo gloria—for sending the Lord Jesus Christ to die for our sins, for drawing us to Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and for causing us to believe the Gospel.
No part of our salvation is by our own works, therefore we have no reason to boast at all.
So, in the end we see that the doctrine of unconditional election gives the greatest comfort to the saved soul. Indeed it becomes the foundation upon which our whole faith is built and upon which all our hope rests.
We know ourselves to be unstable, mutable, and even (while we remain in the world) burdened down with our continuing sins. We are without strength in and of ourselves to resist the world, the flesh and the devil. Therefore, if we are our own “saviours” and God’s will had little to do with the matter, then perhaps tomorrow we could lose all and condemn ourselves to hell.
Ah, no: not “could” lose all; for we know that if our salvation were at all dependent upon ourselves, then we definitely would lose all!
But if our salvation is all the work of God from beginning to end, including our unconditional election, then no amount of temptation, distraction, memory lapse, coercion, torture, psychological manipulation, persuasion, affliction, brain damage, dementia or anything else that can happen will cause us to lose our salvation.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39).
To be continued.
- By faith in Christ, we mean that belief and trust in the true Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, who is the Saviour of all who believe and trust in him. Nothing less than this is that “faith” in Christ of which the Bible speaks.↩
- See also Chapter 2 of this book at the section, The Spiritually Dead Soul.↩