Minister’s Message


Westminster Confession of Faith 3.5

Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto: and all to the praise of His glorious grace.

     Why does God save some men and not others? In His choice of some for salvation, does God look for some outstanding characteristic, such as good works, or faith or perseverance? What is it that distinguishes the saved from the lost?

     Because of the perverseness of sin, many people answer these questions by stating that God looks for faith in a man before He chooses him for salvation. But the Bible does not support such a claim.

     In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul answers these questions with a reference to the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau.

10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Rom. 9:10-13).

     Such words from the mouth of God cause many people to wonder, to be amazed, that God would actually hate anyone. But the amazing thing in this passage is not that God could hate Esau, it is that He could ever love Jacob.

     You see, God does not choose whom He will save from a group of good people. He does not even choose whom He will save from a group of neutral people. Instead, God chooses whom He will save from a fallen, sinful race of humanity. We should marvel, not that God would save some, but that He would save anyone at all.

     God is not being unfair or unjust in this (see Rom. 9:14). He is, after all, the Creator, and as such He has the right to do with His creation as He pleases. But more than that, God is dealing with a race of ethical rebels who do not want Him to rule over them. God is dealing with sinners who have no claim on Him at all, and who, in fact, do not want Him as their sovereign Lord.

     So we should be amazed, not that God could hate any particular sinner, but that He could love and save anyone.

     On what basis does God save us? He does not do so on the basis of good works, for we have none to offer God. God’s view of the very best works of fallen, sinful man is that such works of righteousness are to Him like a pile of dirty laundry (see Is. 64:6). The Bible is clear: “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us…” (Titus 3:5).

     Nor does God save us based on foreseen faith. Some imagine that God looks down the corridors of time with a cosmic telescope to see who will believe and who will not believe, and then, based on that knowledge, He chooses the foreseen believers to receive salvation.

     But this is not the picture the Bible presents. Such an arrangement would make man the final author of his own salvation.

     Instead, the Bible presents salvation as God’s initiative from first to last. Paul writes about the mercy of God which brings salvation to sinful man: “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:16). The point is that God is in charge of man’s salvation; He alone determines who will receive saving grace. Neither man’s will nor man’s work can earn salvation for him.

     Because of their sin, people prefer to believe that there is something, however small, which they can contribute to earning their salvation—just a little bit of goodness; just a little bit of faith; just a little bit of desire or will power. Man wants to be able to boast: “God chose me because I am better than the rest.” But that is not the case. No one is better than the rest when it comes to salvation. You can not earn it, no matter how hard you try. You can only receive it from the hand of a gracious and sovereign God. You receive it by faith in the work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and even that faith is the gift of God so that no one can boast before Him or before others (see Eph. 2:8-9).

     We do not choose God; He chooses us—poor, wretched, blind, ignorant sinners—based on His sovereign will and not on any supposed good in us.

     Are you one of those whom God has chosen? You can know that you are by simply putting your faith in Jesus Christ. Such a response on your part is evidence of the electing grace of God which chose you for salvation before the world began.

Copyright © 2005 by Jones Graphics for First Reformed Presbyterian Church
This page was last updated 19 June 2008.