by Jeremy Walker/
Read all the posts published to date in this 16-part series on the essential truths of the Christian faith.
ON WHAT BASIS ARE WE SAVED? – PART 3
In the previous post in this series, we asked the questions, “On what basis are we chosen?,” and “To what end are we chosen?” We learned form Scripture that we are chosen, not out of merit, but out of mercy, for holiness, and for God’s glory. Today we discuss four appropriate biblical responses to those truths.
God Behind Everything
What hangs behind all these gracious actions and transactions? It is the very being of God and his worthiness to be praised.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33–36 NKJV)
If we resent or deny these teachings, must ask whether or not we have truly grasped something of the revealed glory of the unimaginably glorious God. Are we truly prepared to offer to the Lord of heaven and earth that which is his by virtue of who he is and by right of all that he does? We must let God be God!
Here we have, by all scriptural accounts and testimonies, an act of free, sovereign, gracious, merciful love. Given the heinous disposition and horrible condition of man as a sinful and sinning creature, all the initiative in salvation must come from God. All the saving good that man enjoys must arise from the Lord’s deliberate and determinative love: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Exodus 33:19 NKJV).
Who can deny that this is the prerogative of the holy and almighty and gracious One? It is the expression of his sovereignty considered in a general sense, a sovereignty well-attested by the Word of God:
- Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” (Job 42:1–2 NKJV)
- But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:3 NKJV)
- Whatever the LORD pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places. (Psalm 135:6 NKJV)
- Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,” calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it. (Isaiah 46:9–11 NKJV)
- In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will. (Ephesians 1:11 NKJV)
More specifically, in his saving acts, the Lord is as much his own master as in everything else: “Salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9 NKJV).
Our Proper Response
And so we ask, what can be and should be our response to such glorious truths as these? The Bible sends us in a number of delightful directions.
Comfort. Our first reaction might be comfort, because here is a reminder and an assurance that our salvation hangs upon God’s sovereign choice and does not hinge upon our desperate desires and acts. If salvation depended upon my righteousness, my strivings, my working, then I must be now condemned and forever damned. My life and happiness are secured, for time and for eternity, by a divine determination to save and to bless. There, and there only, can I find comfort in the midst of all trials and troubles.
Humility. There should also be humility, not only because of what we are by nature, in ourselves, but now also because we were chosen for blessing, not because of what we were but despite it. In ourselves, we are last and least of all:
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
(1 Corinthians 1:27–29 NKJV)
We display God’s grace because we are utterly undeserving. Our wretchedness is the stage on which God manifests his graciousness. Salvation never was something that we could claim in our own right, apart from Christ. Mercy is not something you can demand; you can only plead. More than that, we would never even have pleaded for it without being prompted and enabled. Here we lie in the dust, finding our proper place.
Confidence. Then again, there is confidence, because there is no such thing as a likely convert in this fallen world. There is only an election of grace. So we can freely proclaim the saving truth of God in the confident expectation that God’s chosen people must come into his kingdom. He will give willing hearts to those who are in themselves unwilling. He will stir, awaken, and draw to himself all those upon whom he has set his love. Under divine influence, the most wretched, wrecked, reckless, and rotten rebels will come to Christ by God’s appointment and be found among the chosen people of God. Ask Manasseh of Israel if it is so (2 Chronicles 33)! Ask Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9)!
Hope. It also promotes hope, for you and me and others. It means that when the gospel is proclaimed to someone outside the kingdom—when it came to us, if we are now Christians—then despite all that person is, has been, and has done, there is no reason why that one should not repent and believe. There is no reason pre-emptively to conclude that God has shut anyone out of his kingdom, no reason for the worst to despair of salvation. God saves sinners! The gospel offer is sincere and universal, and comes to all regardless of every other circumstance: “Come to Christ and be saved!”
Diligence. It requires of us diligence, that each one of us should make his calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). How will you resolve this matter in your own experience? Simply by believing and then obeying. The Scriptures never call an unconverted person to determine his election and then come to Christ. Rather, the call is to come to Christ and then go on in godliness. As the old illustration has it, salvation is a gate on which, as we approach it, we see written over it, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Passing through, we turn and see something more written on the inside, “Chosen from before the foundation of the world.” If you would be saved, and be assured of it, then come to Christ. If you would have any be saved, urge them to call on the name of the Lord. Trust him and then, trusting, walk in his ways, and all the evidence we need of divine choosing and calling will be before us.
Praise. Finally, let there also be praise. If salvation is of the Lord, then the glory of salvation belongs to the Lord of salvation. All the initiative, the whole accomplishment, all comes from him. Our good is for his glory. Complain at that, if you will, as you look back at where you once were and where you would be still were it not for God’s sovereign, saving choice. All we enjoy from his hand is intended to secure the praise of his glorious grace, and it is right and fitting that this should be so. No true saint would have it any other way. Great love is the only response to being so greatly loved. There is no hardship for a saved sinner in speaking of—singing of!—and serving for the glory of the God who saves.
Part 7 of a 16-part series drawn from Anchored in Grace: Fixed Points for Humble Faith, by Jeremy Walker.
In the next post in this series, we will offer the first of two posts addressing the question “How is this salvation accomplished?”
Jeremy Walker serves as a pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, England, and is married to Alissa, with whom he enjoys the blessing of three children. He has written several books and has blogged at Reformation21 and The Wanderer.