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For His Good Pleasure

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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November 24, 2020 12:01 am

For His Good Pleasure

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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November 24, 2020 12:01 am

Some people think that the doctrine of predestination turns God into a capricious monster who saves people at random. Today, R.C. Sproul shows that this idea is a far cry from how Scripture describes the sublime truth of our election.

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I was moved to teach on the doxology and the benedictions, first of all, because of what they mean to me in my own devotional life. I turned to them in my own private meditations for refocus, for worship, for self-examination, for building up a faith. And then, as a result of that, I've been looking for opportunities to teach them to our church, because I believe they aid the people of God in looking up and seeing the greatness of God in these succinct statements of blessing and or doxology that are memorable and meaningful. We take them for granted, but they are there for our blessing and benefit. Blessings and praise by H. B. Charles, Jr. Visit Ligonier.org slash teaching series to learn more.

Today on Redoing Your Mind. If God chooses some people to be objects of His saving grace and does not give that same blessing, that same favor to other people, doesn't that just scream the idea that somehow God is arbitrary or capricious or whimsical? Many Christians will say they believe in the sovereignty of God, but unwittingly they deny it by refusing to see God's sovereignty in salvation.

The objections aren't new. The Apostle Paul addressed them head-on in his letters. And as we continue Dr. R. C. Sproul's series on predestination today, we will learn why God gives grace to some and not to others. When we began our study of the doctrine of predestination and election, you will recall that I started by turning to the pages of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, because the word predestination is used there by the Apostle. And I explained at that time that if we are going to take the Bible seriously, we have to have some doctrine of predestination, because the idea of predestination wasn't invented by Calvin or Luther or Augustine.

It's a New Testament word, and it's a New Testament concept. But as we've been struggling with the question, why does God elect certain people and not others? Why is it that some people receive His grace while other people are receiving His justice? We've seen, I hope, that nobody in this format receives injustice at the hands of God, and that God's mercy or grace is always His sovereign privilege to bestow according to however He sees fit or for whatever reason He's inclined to do it. But I want to move back now to that beginning chapter of Ephesians to explore this idea of why God gives grace to some and not others.

What's the reason for it? Paul's already told us that it's not based on anything that we do. It's not based on our running or our willing or our doing anything, but it is based purely on the purpose of God. And let's see what Paul says again in the first chapter of Ephesians. Let's look again at verse 3 of chapter 1 of Ephesians, "'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined' – there's that word – having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.'"

Again, what's the purpose here? This is to demonstrate the glory of the graciousness of God. That's what is being made manifest because it was by this grace that He made us accepted in the Beloved. And then we read on in verse 7, "'In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, again according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth in Him.' And then finally, "'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, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.'" You know, friends, I really don't see how the apostle could make this any more clear. I'm really befuddled by why controversies over the sovereignty of grace continue on and on and on in the history of the church. But then I have to go back to my own experience in my own life where I fought this for so many years, but I don't think that this is an obscure idea.

I don't see how Paul could spell it out with any greater clarity than he does here in Ephesians and later in Romans. But again the question is, if God chooses some people to be objects of His saving grace and does not give that same blessing, that same favor to other people, and if the reason for His selecting some to receive this tremendous benefit and others not to get it but to be excluded from it, doesn't that just scream the idea that somehow God is arbitrary or capricious or whimsical? He may be not unjust, but He certainly seems to be arbitrary here. Now, let me address that question, and I don't want to just play word games with you, but let's take a moment to define what we mean by the term arbitrary or capriciousness or being whimsical. A person who is arbitrary does what they do without any reason. They just do it. You ask them why they did it, they say, no reason. They just did it on a whim. It's a matter of caprice. Now, we don't have a lot of respect for capricious people who do things for no reason.

In fact, if they really do it for no reason, they belong in the institution because that would be a kind of insanity. Now, are we going to attribute to God that kind of unvirtuous or vicious behavior, that He is arbitrary and capricious? Now, some say, well, you have to, Sproul, because you have been laboring the point that God chooses people for no reasons foreseen or otherwise in them, and that's true. We are laboring to say that the reason why you are chosen by God in no way rests in you. There's no reason that God could find looking in me to save me, is there, unless He finds some kind of merit or righteousness in me that I have in greater abundance in other people, and now we're right back to salvation by works and back to legalism.

No, no. We say clearly that His grace is given not for any reason in us. But the fact that there is no reason in me does not mean there is no reason behind God's action. And what the Bible is saying as loudly on the one hand is that it says that the reason for our election is not in us does not mean that God is being whimsical and capricious and arbitrary because it repeats over and over again that God has a reason for doing this.

And there are a couple of words that recur in this regard. One is the counsel of God's will. Now, this is not C-O-U-N-C-I-L, that is a counsel that is a group of people that deliberate in a meeting as a panel discussion, but C-O-U-N-S-E-L, which has to do with the wisdom or plan or thought processes of God. The very word counsel suggests intelligence and an intelligent reason for acting. God never wills apart from His own counsel. A person who is completely arbitrary has no counsel, takes no counsel, listens to no counsel, just does it. And so the very word counsel should alert us that the biblical idea here of God's sovereign grace is rooted in the wisdom of God in His own thought, which is perfect.

It's not irrational, but it is eminently rational, far from arbitrary. Another word that is used again and again with respect to predestination and election in the Bible is the word purpose, the word purpose. In the Greek, we use the word telos. Some of you may be students of philosophy and know that philosophy studies several different subdivisions of thought. One is metaphysics, one is cosmology, another one is epistemology, another one is ethics. But one of the subdivisions of the study of philosophy is the science of teleology.

Teleology comes from the Greek word telos, which means end, purpose, or goal. Some of you have heard of the various arguments for the existence of God, the cosmological argument that reasons from the world, the cosmos, back to its creator, to God. But one of the persistent classical arguments for the existence of God was called the teleological argument for the existence of God, namely that the universe as we know it exhibits a certain orderliness, a certain design, a certain symmetry to it that suggests an intelligent planner to it, and so on, so that the word telos has to do with ends or goals or, if you will, purpose.

Now somebody that does something completely arbitrarily does it for no purpose. Now, far from God's election being purposeless, the New Testament makes it clear that there is a divine purpose in God's electing grace. And the purposes that are mentioned are first of all to make manifest the riches of His grace, to display His mercy, that is to reveal something about His marvelous character, which His grace certainly does.

It makes manifest His awesome, marvelous, beautiful mercy. There's also another purpose, and that is the purpose of honoring Christ. Remember the promise to Christ that He would see the travail of His soul and be satisfied. The old Pelagian view had Jesus dying on the cross hoping that somebody would take advantage of it and be saved. He said, I'll do the work of atonement, but it's up to you to determine your destiny. And in that schema, it would be theoretically possible that Christ could have died completely in vain, that no one would ever have responded positively to the gospel, and Christ would have died and not been the firstborn of many brethren. But according to the determinant counsel of God, God determined from the foundation of the world that the cross of Jesus Christ would yield its appointed fruit and that Christ would see the travail of His pain and suffering and of His death and be satisfied. Notice that when the New Testament speaks of election and of predestination, it always speaks of our being elect or chosen in the beloved, in Christ. And people ask me, R.C., why are you saved and somebody else isn't?

Again, we'll explore that question later on even more fully. But when I look into my own heart and into my own soul and look at my own life, I cannot give any satisfying answer as to why God would bother to save a wretch like me. I wish we really believed the words of amazing grace. I wish we would properly be amazed by the grace of God. But what really amazes us is His justice. We take His grace for granted. As I say, we've changed Henry Higgins' song just a little bit and sing, I've grown accustomed to His grace.

And we assume it, and after we assume it, we begin to presume upon it. And as I said, the bell needs to go off in our head when we think that we deserve grace. I can't think of any reason in R.C. Sproul why R.C. Sproul has been a brand snatched from the fire. Had God determined to treat me simply according to His justice, as David said, if the Lord marked iniquities, who would stand?

I wouldn't stand. The only way I can ever get in the kingdom, or anybody can get in the kingdom, is through the sovereign grace of God. And by that grace alone, sola gratia was the theme of the Reformation, by grace and by grace alone. Now, the only reason that I can find in the New Testament for anybody being a Christian is so God the Father can bestow His glory and His love and affection on God the Son. The only reason we're redeemed ultimately is not because of our value, but because of the value of Christ, and that God is gracious to me in order to reward one who does deserve a reward, even His only begotten Son.

So do you see the strange intersection there of grace and justice? It is just that Christ should receive an inheritance, and we are that inheritance. That we are that inheritance is grace for us, justice for Christ. Now, that's the purpose, and the New Testament says, why does God elect? Why does He choose that the purpose of God according to grace might stand? Now, we do everything in our power to knock that standing grace over and get rid of this doctrine from our thinking. But it's God's purpose that we understand the graciousness of grace, and that we allow it to stand, and that we're bold to proclaim it in the life of the church among God's people. Now, the other thing I want to call attention to that I read over rather quickly here in Ephesians is in verse 5, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself according to.

Let me just stop there. According to. What does that phrase mean, according to? It means on the basis of, and it's not according to our foreseen work or our merit or our righteousness or our running or our willing or our believing or our anything.

The basis of election is, according to this text, according to the good pleasure of His will, which He purposed in Himself. Now, let's talk about that phrase for a moment. Back to arbitrariness. I do something that seems to be arbitrary and capricious, and you say, why did you do that?

And I say, well, I don't know. I just did it because I like it. Well, that's a reason for doing it, isn't it, to do it because you like it? But we even call that a kind of capriciousness or whimsicalness when people just do what they want to do without any regard for what is right. They're doing their own pleasure.

They're doing it because it's pleasing to them. Now, this is one answer the Bible gives to the why of election, that the why of election is according to the pleasure of God. God chooses to be gracious to some people because He takes pleasure in being gracious to some people and not to everybody, and that God finds election pleasing to Himself.

And I say, okay, now the cat's out of the bag. Now God is demonically, diabolically capricious and arbitrary because this whole game that He plays, choosing some and rejecting others, saving some and damning others, is just a divine comedy where God is just getting His jollies, you know. And again, we have a tendency to darken counsel without knowledge and come perilously close to blaspheming the Holy Spirit at this point because we've missed one word in the text, that God does this choosing and electing according to what kind of pleasure?

According to the good pleasure of His will. That word makes all the difference in the world, folks, because there's no such thing as the bad pleasure of God's will. God does not take pleasure in evil. We take pleasure in evil. In fact, that's why we sin, because it's so pleasurable to us.

If it weren't pleasurable, we wouldn't be enticed to it or tempted by it. But there is no evil will in God. The only thing that has ever pleased God is goodness, and the only pleasure that He's ever had is a good pleasure, and the only purpose that He's ever had is a good purpose. So let us never ever suggest that in the mystery of His grace that He is whimsical or capricious or arbitrary, and that just because the reason for our salvation does not rest in us does not mean it's unreasonable, irrational, or that God is without a purpose, a counsel, or goodness. What a wonderful thought. God is not arbitrary. He was quite intentional in setting His love on us.

I'm grateful that my salvation does not rest in me, but rests on God alone. The message we just heard is from Dr. R.C. Sproul's series on Predestination. We think it's a series that will help you grow in your knowledge of God's sovereignty, and as a result help you grow in your worship of God. We're airing just a portion of the series this week, but we'd be happy to send you all ten lessons on four CDs for your donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries.

This is an online offer only today, so go to renewingyourmind.org. Theologian Lorraine Bettner wrote about this doctrine of election. He said, There is in fact no single member of this fallen race who is not treated by his Maker better than he deserves. And since grace is favor shown to the undeserving, God has the sovereign right to bestow more grace upon one subject than upon another. R.C. 's series this week is helping us gain perspective on this much debated topic.

I hope you'll contact us and request his full series. It's titled simply Predestination, and you can request it with your gift of any amount by going to renewingyourmind.org. Well, before we go today, here is Dr. Sproul with a final thought for us. Sometimes this difficult doctrine of election gets very easy, doesn't it? How hard is it for us to imagine that what is pleasing to God is always good, and that his purposes are always good, and for whatever reason he grants mercy to some and not to others has to be good.

That's not hard, is it? What is hard is to conceive of an evil pleasure in God or an arbitrary action of God, to imagine your sovereign Creator doing anything without a purpose or doing anything without taking into account his own omniscience, his own infinite knowledge, his own perfect understanding of all things. Sure, sure, mystery remains, and it will be there as we look through a glass darkly, but this isn't a mystery. At this point, we know and I think we understand that God is not arbitrary and that God does not act without a purpose or that God does anything unjust or unrighteous. It's just that we don't always like God's decisions. We don't always agree with the counsel of God. And sometimes I've caught myself saying to myself, self, if I were God, I would do this or that. And then I have to stop myself in my tracks and say, wait a minute, what an arrogant thought. And on the other hand, isn't it a good thing that I'm not God?

Things would be a whole lot worse than they seem to be now in this world. Well, when we talk about salvation in the church today, many assume that God has done 99 percent of the work and that even though the sinner's part is only one percent, that one percent is the decisive factor. I hope you'll join us tomorrow as R.C. explains that if God isn't responsible for 100 percent of the work, there's no salvation at all. That's Wednesday on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-25 11:55:45 / 2024-01-25 12:04:09 / 8

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