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What Is Sovereign Grace?

by Elder Greg Wilson


Frequently I am asked to explain the meaning of the expressions: Godís Sovereign Grace or the Doctrines of Grace.

These phrases describe the doctrine of Godís Absolute Sovereignty in ALL THINGS. Particular reference is made to Godís Sovereignty in the salvation of those whom He chose in Christ from before the foundation of the world.

(Eph 1:4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

These doctrines are commonly, though erroneously, referred to as Calvinism. I say erroneously, for these truths are far older than John Calvin. These are the very truths taught by Christ and His apostles. These are the doctrines recorded in the Holy Scriptures. These are the essentials of that faith that was once delivered to the saints and which has been maintained by historic Baptists since the Lord founded His church on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.

I realize that these doctrines are now neglected and even vehemently denied by most that call themselves Baptists. This in no way detracts from their importance, nor does it diminish their truth. Indeed, the Scriptures warn of just such a latter day falling away.

(2Ti 4:3-4) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; {4} And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

I present these truths as simply as I know how. I only ask that you prayerfully consider them with an open Bible and, if the Lord willsóan open heart.

Godís Choice of His Elect is Unconditional and Eternal

The Scriptures teach that salvation is not dependent upon the choice of man, but rather upon the choice of God. God chose certain individuals in Christ BEFORE the foundation of the world, based solely upon His own good pleasure.

(Eph 1:4-5) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: {5} Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

Christ plainly told His disciples:

(John 15:16) Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

So, contrary to todayís popular theology, the choice is not manís, the choice is Godís; and that choice was made before the world was. That choice was made without reference to anything of merit found in or "foreseen" in the creature.

(Rom 9:11-13) (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) {12} It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. {13} As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

(2Th 2:13) But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

Natural Man is Spiritually Dead and Incapable of Positive Action in the Spiritual Realm

All men fell in Adam, and fallen man is totally depraved, having neither the ability, nor the desire to receive the things of God.

(Rom 5:12) Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

(1Co 15:21-22) For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. {22} For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

As a result of that universal fall all men are born spiritually dead. This includes even the elect of God, for Paul writes to the saints in Ephesus:

(Eph 2:1) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins:

Being spiritually dead, man can do nothing positive in the spiritual realm. Indeed, it has been aptly noted that the only thing a dead man is capable of is stinking. Apart from Godís electing and regenerating grace, all men are a stench in His holy nostrils.

(1Co 2:14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

(Rom 3:10-18) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: {11} There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. {12} They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. {13} Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: {14} Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: {15} Their feet are swift to shed blood: {16} Destruction and misery are in their ways: {17} And the way of peace have they not known: {18} There is no fear of God before their eyes.

The Scriptures tell us that unregenerate man is dead. Were his salvation dependent upon him doing something (such as exercising godly repentance and "saving" faith) he would be entirely without hope. The unregenerate sinner is not simply weak, or sick, or injuredóhe is DEAD! There is no hope for him apart from unconditional divine intervention.

(Col 2:13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

Apart from the immediate and unconditional imparting of spiritual life by the Spirit of God, man could not and would not come to God. A dead man CANNOT come to God for life. He can only come if God first gives him life.

Godís Spirit Imparts Life and Grants Repentance and Faith to Godís Elect

God quickens (gives life) to whom HE will. In particular, He gives life to those whom He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world.

(John 5:21) For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

(John 3:8) The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Salvation is not in any sense by the will of man; it is by the sovereign will of God.

(John 1:13) Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

(Rom 9:15-16) For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. {16} So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.

Regeneration is NOT the result of repentance and faith. A spiritually dead man is incapable of such acts in the spiritual realm. Repentance and faith are the results and evidences of regeneration.

Christ Died for His People and His Death Assures Their Salvation

Christ died for His elect sheep and for them ALONE.

(John 10:11) I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Not all men are His sheep. Contrary to most modern preaching, it is NOTbelief that makes one a sheep, rather belief MANIFESTS (or reveals) one to be a sheep.

In addressing the religious leaders who rejected His testimony, the Lord said:

(John 10:26-28) But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. {27} My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: {28} And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

Note that Christ DID NOT say: "ye are not my sheep because ye will not believe." NO, He said: "ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep."

Christ did not shed His blood in vain for ANY. ALL for whom HE died SHALL be eternally savedónot because of anything they do (including repentance and faith), but solely because of what HE did.

The words that the angel spoke to Joseph before the birth of Christ are of great significance here:

(Mat 1:21) And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

He SHALL save HIS PEOPLE from their sins. Not that He shall TRY to save EVERYBODY from their sins. Rather, He SHALL save HIS PEOPLE from their sins.

We do not worship a God that is "trying to save everybody," but CANNOT, because they will not cooperate with Himóbecause they will not LET Him! What blasphemy!! God is Sovereign. He does ALL that He desires. He does not TRY to do anything. I cannot speak for the god you may worship, but my God is not "wishing and hoping and trying" like some impotent mortal. My God is accomplishing all His will. No man can stay His hand! No man can thwart His will!

(Dan 4:35) And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

(Eph 1:11) In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

When it pleases Him to do so, God gives life to ALL whom he chose from the foundation of the world and to ALL for whom Christ died. ALL of these, and these ALONE, shall come to Christ in God-given repentance and faith:

(John 6:37) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Those That are His Will Persevere Unto the End

Most will acknowledge that there are many false professions of faith made today. Often these professions are made in response to the false gospel of easy-believism. Some even seem to outwardly receive the true gospel for a timeóbut without inward acceptance. These ultimately reveal their reprobation by a final departing from the faith.

(Mat 13:20-21) But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; {21} Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

Such that fall away were never regenerated by the Spirit of God. They were never amongst the elect of God. They were never the children of God. Those that are Godís elect are marked by their perseverance in the faith. This perseverance is accomplished by the preserving grace of God. It is not accomplished by their own efforts or merits, though they must indeed strive diligently against sin in their own flesh.

The reprobates are marked by their abandonment of the faith that they outwardly embraced for a time.

(1 John 2:19) They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

As shown above, coming to Christ does not MAKE one a sheep, but REVEALS one to be a sheep. So this falling away does not UNMAKE one a sheepórather it REVEALS those who never were amongst his sheep. Such was the case of Judas Iscariot, that son of perdition, and such is the case with many others.

Godís People Are Charged to Proclaim His Gospel

God ensures that all of His elect hear and receive the good news of their redemption by Jesus Christ. He accomplishes this through the proclamation of the gospel message. This proclamation brings the knowledge of that which Christ has ALREADY accomplished on the behalf of His people.

The Gospel is not Godís OFFER to do something if man will only do something first. The Gospel is the bold proclamation of that which Christ has ALREADY done for the sheep.

Those for whom the gospel message is intendedóGodís quickened electóreceive it in reality and with great joy and persevere by Godís preserving grace. The remainder finally reject it as foolishness or a stumbling stone.

(1Co 1:22-24) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: {23} But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; {24} But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

(1Co 2:12-14) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. {13} Which things also we speak, not in the words which manís wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. {14} But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The gospel reveals to the quickened elect sinner that which has already been accomplished on his behalf. God-given faith brings him to embrace his Savior and imparts the comfort and peace that such knowledge alone can bring.

The Lordís church is charged to proclaim the gospel unto all whom the Lord gives them opportunity. In so doing God is glorified whether the message is received or whether it is rejected.

(2Co 2:14-17) Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. {15} For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: {16} To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? {17} For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

Conclusion

From the foregoing, it is evident that the "faith" of most so-called "Independent, Fundamental, Soul-winning Baptist Churches" IS NOT the faith once delivered unto the Saints, nor is it the faith of Godís elect. It is certainly not the faith for which the ancient Baptists contended and for which they were persecuted and slain.

(Jude 1:3) Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

(Titus 1:1) Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of Godís elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;

May the Lord be glorified in this feeble and all together inadequate presentation of His glorious gospel. We realize that most will not embrace this unpopular message. However, we are not ashamed of those things that the Lord has been pleased teach us. We believe it is our duty to honestly proclaim them as He gives us opportunity.