Sunday, September 27, 2009

Appreciating God's Grace and Election

We all agree (I am assuming those who will bother to read this essay are Christians) that salvation is not possible by human deeds. Good works would never save us from Hell. It is clear in the Bible that one can only be saved “by grace through faith alone.” We Christians are saved because of God’s grace. We Christians know this as basic truth. What is grace? It is a gift we do not deserve nor earned. It is unconditional. Salvation of unmerited favor.

The doctrine (rather, the truth) of election shows how God really loves us. Consider… We were set apart from the rest of humanity. He chose us regardless of sex, color, race, status and other categories - not because we are the best of the best or we have less sin than others, but because of His grace and saving us gives Him glory! Before time started, He predestined and chose us to be saved (Romans 8:29). We were so dead meat because we were doomed for an eternity in Hell and we deserve this, but, still, God picked losers like us to be saved and be part of His winning team. The Creator of All Things, the Biggest and Most Significant Being in the Universe predestining and choosing and saving unworthy wretched insignificant sinners like us. We don’t deserve these, but that’s just what makes it grace. Isn’t this fact worth appreciating and rejoicing over?

Grace is so amazing because of election. And without election grace can never be grace. If we take away election, this would be the scenario: Christ death was for all and that his death only made salvation possible, so all have equal opportunity to find salvation, thus, Christ’s death did not secure anybody’s salvation, but it is still up to the person’s free will to bring his or her salvation to fruition by making Jesus as his or her Savior (more or less, this is Arminianism). If this is so, this means that God is not perfect because he did not finish what he started, and this is impossible since God is someone who do everything by detail, does what He promises, and finishes what he starts (Philippians 1:6). Not only is it an insult to God’s sovereignty and will if we accept that salvation is up to a person’s choice and not up to God’s choice, but it also makes salvation conditional if it is up to a person’s action, by saying “Yes” to Jesus, to finally be saved. And when it ceases to be unconditional, it ceases to be grace. Though, indeed, it is necessary for one to accept Jesus as his or her Savior to be saved, this action can be only enabled by God. One’s will cannot be separated from his or her nature – same as a cat can not bark or a dog can not mew because of their nature. Thus, our old sinful nature would never allow our will to say “Yes” to Jesus. But when God’s grace opened our eyes and changed our nature, by our own will, we were able to say “Yes” to Jesus. So, the credit of saying “Yes” can’t be ours because it is God who enabled us to say “Yes” to Jesus. Again, our salvation is not up to us, it is up to God! Michael Horton puts it perfectly: “The fact that God would choose, redeem, call, and keep a great number known only to him is amazing grace indeed and of infinitely more comfort than the idea that Christ’s death actually secured the salvation of none, only making salvation possible, depending on the ability of those who are ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ to make the right moves to God.”

Years ago, in a youth summer camp, a worship leader once said in his prayer, figuratively speaking, “Thank you, God. In the 100 steps to get saved, you took 99.” Back then, I was impressed by the creativity of the statement, still thinking that the “step” that is still up to us to make is by making Jesus as our Savior. Now, I know better, grace is amazing because God did not only take 99 steps out of a hundred, but took all 100 of them to get me saved.

Another thing we should dismiss is the argument of “God elected and predestined me because he knows that I would choose him.” If this is so, then what made God choose someone is his foreknowledge that he or she would respond to him. Again, if this is so, this ceases to be grace. It becomes conditional – the ultimate factor that made God choosing someone is based on him foreseeing one’s action of acceptance. Grace is not based on any actions of man, including the action of response, but based on the action of God. Romans 8:29 goes, “For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His son.” Looking at the text carefully, it clearly talks of the individuals and not what the actions of the individuals would be. “Those he foreknew” – it means before time, God has certain individuals in mind he elected to be saved to show His love and glory.

If we continue to think in our human-centered mentality rather than a God-centered mentality, we would say, “If it is true that God elects those he wants to be saved, then it is unfair. All was settled. God should not blame people and doom them to Hell for what had already been predetermined.” (If you hadn’t read my prior essay, entitled “Is God’s election unfair?”, to this one, please do so.) Let us be reminded that all things God does is for the purpose of glorifying Himself (this is not at all arrogance or selfishness, but because this is His right and to do otherwise would be idolatry because there is nothing above God), we cannot ever question God’s actions. Us, Christians, instead should be very thankful of His grace – of God electing and predestining and saving us, opening our eyes, enabling us to say “Yes” to Him, and making us enjoy His presence. All for His glory.

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