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Sovereign Election: God’s Loving Choice

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 10, 2022 12:01 am

Sovereign Election: God’s Loving Choice

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 10, 2022 12:01 am

Long before any of them were born, God singled out His people to be the recipients of His love. Today, Steven Lawson observes that the doctrine of election unveils God's tender mercy toward those who deserve only His judgment.

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Before any sinner ever came to Christ, God had already given those to the Son. And the reason God had given them to the Son is because God had already chosen them by Himself and for Himself. We often hear people say that if God chooses who is saved, then He must be uncaring and even cruel, because what about all those people who aren't saved? But that assumes that man deserves God's favor. Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Stephen Lawson takes us to the Gospel of John to show that election isn't simply the arbitrary choice of an unfeeling God. In reality, it expresses the fullness of God's love for a sinful, unrepentant people.

Well, I want to welcome us back to our next session. We have spent the last two times together looking at radical depravity. And it's been a very sobering look, I think we'll all have to admit, because we have seen the state of the human race. And it's not a pretty picture, because of Adam's sin and the imputation of his sin to the entire human race, and then the impartation of his sin nature to every subsequent conception and delivery, the entire human race is spiritually blind, enslaved, bound to sin, bound to Satan, spiritually dead, left in ignorance, marked by spiritual inability. And so here's the question. So how can anyone be saved? If no one can see the truth nor hear the truth, who needs the truth? If no one can come to Christ, even when the Gospel is clearly presented, then the question on the table for all of us is, then how was I saved?

How can anyone then come to Christ? And the answer is, but God. Martin Lloyd-Jones has said, praise God for the buts in the Bible. But God, by divine grace, has intervened in our lives in an extraordinary way, something that He has planned and orchestrated from all eternity past. And what we want to look at in this section is the doctrine of election, sovereign election, that before time began, before eternity passed, from the foundation of the world, God chose those whom He would save. And you may say, well, why didn't God choose everyone?

Well, here's the question. Why did God choose anyone? And even more personal, why would God choose me? Because God is choosing out from among those who are unworthy and who are undeserving and who are under His wrath justly so. It is amazing grace that God would choose any. It is unfathomable grace that God has chosen a vast number whom no one can count. And such is the grace of God. The Bible teaches this truth of the doctrine of sovereign election.

And that's what we want to cover in this session. For reasons known only to God, for nothing that was in us, nothing foreseen of any good in us, because the only thing that God would foresee is that we were spiritually blind and spiritually deaf and spiritually dead. There was nothing attractive nor winsome when we were decaying spiritual corpses in our sin. No, the choice originated within God Himself for His own glory, for the presenting of His grace that there would be a vast number who would praise His Son forever and ever and ever.

God has made this distinguishing choice. And so we want to talk about this in this next session, and we want to go through the Gospel of John once again. To this point, we have made one pass through the Gospel of John, and we have marked those verses that speak to radical depravity, radical corruption. Now we want to press on to the subject of sovereign election. We've looked at the bad news.

Now it's time for the good news. And it all begins with God. So, if you have your Bibles, and I want to just give you some headings as we go through this. I want to begin in John 1, verses 12 and 13, and I want to call this heading, Divine Choice, because salvation is rooted and grounded in the sovereign choice of God in eternity past.

And in John 1, verses 12 and 13, we read, But as many as received Him, referring to Christ, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. Now, that is man's side, man's perspective. That is the free offer of the Gospel. But verse 13 is the other side of the coin.

This is God's side. This is how it is that anyone receives the Lord Jesus Christ. And verse 13 is an extraordinary statement of the sovereign will of God in salvation. And I would also tell you, it's front-loaded on the front porch of this book.

It's not hidden towards the back, and we work our way into this subject. And so this presupposes that even in the first century, this truth of the sovereign will of God in salvation was a very commonly understood doctrine. It was Christianity 101. So look at verse 13. Who were born, and when he says born, he's talking about a spiritual birth, being born again. Who were born not of blood, meaning not of physical descent, not just because your parents were believers. In no way does that usher you into the kingdom of heaven, nor of the will of the flesh, meaning not by man's own efforts, man's own attempts at righteousness, nor by the will of man.

That's a lot to swallow right there. That is saying that our salvation and our believing upon Christ, our receiving Christ, the tipping point, the trigger point is not our own will. We didn't wake up one day and just decide autonomously within ourselves that, you know, I think I'm going to believe upon Christ. He says it is not of the will of man, but of God.

The new birth is of God, and it is rooted in the will of God, the sovereign determinative choice of God. It preceded our choice to believe upon Christ. In fact, it is God's choice that caused our choice to be activated. God's choice is the root. Our choice is the fruit. God's choice is the cause.

Our choice is the effect. It is all rooted and grounded in the eternal choice of God. A couple of other verses make this abundantly clear. Ephesians 1 verse 4 says, He chose us. Notice, it doesn't say we chose Him. He chose us before the foundation of the world. Spurgeon said God would have had to have chosen us in eternity past because He would have never chosen me once He saw me within time. Romans 9 verse 16 is another reference, So then it does not depend upon the man who wills, nor upon the man who runs, but upon God who has mercy. Did you hear that? It does not depend upon the man who wills.

Why is that? Because man's will is dead and bound in sin. So the truth of sovereign election is a glorious truth. God has exercised His will toward us when our will was dead towards Him. When we could have never chosen Him, God chose to act towards us, and He did so by choosing us to be saved and to be in Christ. Now, I want you to turn with me secondly to John 6 verse 37 and verse 39, and I want you to see that not only is it a divine choice, but that it is also a loving choice. That this choice by which God has selected those who will be born again, it is rooted in God's great love. And specifically, not only His love towards those whom He would choose, but also His love for His Son.

These lines intersect far above our head at this point. Yes, God chose us in love, and He predestined us in love, but there is also the love that He had for His Son. And God determined that there would be a worshipping community of people throughout all of the ages to come who would declare the glory of His Son and who would be conformed into the very image of His Son. And so, that's what John 6 verse 37 teaches us, that these whom God chose, He gave as a gift to His Son in eternity past. And this is a marvelous thought, that we would have been entrusted to the Son long before the Son ever came into this world, and for the Son then to receive the Father's requirements that I must go into this world and to lay down my life for these chosen ones. We'll talk about that later, about the nature of a particular redemption. But here in John 6, 37, all that the Father gives me will come to me.

That word, all, is a collective word for all the elect. What this is saying is, before any sinner ever came to Christ, before any sinner is drawn by the Father to Christ, God had already given those to the Son. And the reason God had given them to the Son is because God had already chosen them by Himself and for Himself.

And that choice was made before the foundation of the world. And when God chose us, God the Father gave us to God the Son to become His bride and to become His chosen flock. And the Son, as we have said, would come and lay down His life for these chosen ones. But notice this says, all that the Father gives me will come to me. The giving to the Son precedes these coming to the Son.

Let me say that again. The giving of all of these to the Son precedes their ever coming to the Son. And we can trace this all the way back to eternity past. James Montgomery Boice writes, Who are these who have been given by the Father to Jesus Christ? They are those about whom Paul writes in Ephesians, for He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.

These are the elect of God. So it's impossible to read this verse without recognizing that long ago in ages past, we were given by the Father to the Son, ages before we ever came to the Son. Look at verse 39. This is the sovereign eternal will of God. Jesus said in verse 39, This is the will of Him who sent me.

Meaning, the Father had made a determinative choice according to His sovereign will. And Jesus references this in verse 39. This is the will of Him who sent me.

Of all that He has given me, I lose nothing but raise it up on the last day. Of course the Son does because all of these are the love gift from the Father to the Son. And the Son cherishes these who have been given to Him. The Son also sets His heart of love and unconditional compassion on these who have been given to Him by the Father.

He says, All of these I will raise up on the last day and lose not a one of them. Standing behind these verses is this doctrine of sovereign election, that there is a vast number who have been chosen by God and singled out by His grace to be the recipients of the Son's love. Many other verses, let me just give you a few cross references, Jeremiah 1 verse 5, Before I formed you in the womb, God said, I knew you.

That's foreknowledge. Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Meaning, I chose you. I set my heart upon you. And before you were born, I consecrated you. Meaning, long before you came out of your mother's womb, I had already set you apart to myself.

I have appointed you a prophet to the nations. Romans 9 verse 11, the Apostle Paul writes, For though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls. So before the twins came forth from the mother's womb, God had already made a determining choice to choose one and pass over the other, that all the glory would go to God. 1 Thessalonians 1, 4, Knowing, brethren, beloved by God, His choice of you. I would remind us too, this is the fourth verse of 1 Thessalonians. Again, it just presupposes how this was such a commonly held truth in the early church that virtually the second verse of the book, once you are past the opening salutation, he's immediately talking about the doctrine of sovereign election. 2 Thessalonians 2, 13, God has chosen you from the beginning. Titus 1, verse 1, Paul a bondservant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God.

1 Peter 1, verse 1, Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens who are chosen. 2 Peter 1, verse 10, Brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you. You know, all of these verses speak with one voice.

All of these verses testify to this glorious truth of sovereign election, all that the Father has given me shall come to me. Well, let's wade out a little bit deeper into the gospel of John, and I want to take us to John chapter 10 now. We've been in John chapter 6, these given ones.

Let's look in John chapter 10. I want to call this heading, his previous choice, because long before anyone comes to faith in Christ, these who believe are represented as already belonging to Jesus, and Jesus speaks of them as His own sheep. Before the sheep come to Him, they are already His possession. They are already His flock that have been put into His hands long before they hear His voice and long before they come to Him. John 10, verse 1, Truly, truly, I say to you, He who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way is a thief and a robber. Jesus is talking about the false religious leaders of Israel.

They did not come by way of messianic qualifications. Verse 2, But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. Jesus alone has met the requirements of the coming Messiah by His lineage and genealogy and by the miracles He was performing in all of the fulfillment of prophetic Scripture. Verse 3, To him the doorkeeper opens. Perhaps a reference to John the Baptist and his forerunner ministry. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Verse 3, The doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear His voice. Now, you need to understand this is the community sheepfold, in which there are many different flocks that have been put into the community sheepfold, and the shepherd then spends the night in the inn in town, and early the next morning the shepherd comes back to the large community sheepfold, and the doorkeeper must give him passage to come into the sheepfold, and he raises his voice and he begins to call out for his own sheep. All the sheep have their heads down and the sheep are all grazing and eating away, and when the sheep that belong to the shepherd hear his shepherd's voice, that head pops up, and then that sheep begins to follow and to go to the voice of his own shepherd, but the other sheep just continue to have their head down and continue to eat.

No, there is something that has already transpired. There is a relationship that has already been established by God between the shepherd and these chosen sheep, and within time when they hear the voice of their shepherd, they begin to separate from the other flocks and separate from the other sheep. That's my shepherd who's calling me, and I know his voice, and they begin to go to the shepherd, and the shepherd takes them, this says, and now leads them out into green pastures and out into the beautiful countryside. Standing behind John chapter 10 and this glorious truth is the doctrine of sovereign election, that God had already chosen these sheep to belong to this shepherd, his son, such that when the son would come and lift up his voice and call, his sheep would recognize his voice. James Montgomery Boice, to quote him again, and what a great Bible teacher Dr. Boice has been to this generation, he writes concerning John 10, this is the doctrine of election, which we have already seen many times in John's gospel and which we shall see again.

It is not liked, it is not often preached, but it is in Scripture and must be preached, above all by anyone who is serious about expounding the gospel. For what is the central point of Christ's parable? What is the central point of John chapter 10?

Boice answers with an exclamation point, election, exclamation point. That is the point, he says, it is that God has given some sheep to the Lord Jesus, and Jesus comes to the door of the sheepfold, and knowing his sheep in advance, calls them and leads them out. Jesus says that the shepherd calls his own sheep by name, not whosoever, but by name. Being called by name, Boice writes, they follow him. I want to tell you that's your testimony, and that is your story if you are in Christ, that you were in that community sheepfold, just with all of the other religious people who are religious but lost, having not a saving relationship with Christ until that day, until that time when he called you by name, when he said, Zacchaeus, come down, I shall dine with you tonight, when he said, Lazarus, come forth. If he hadn't said Lazarus, the entire graveyard would have come forth. No, Jesus calls his own sheep by name.

He said to Levi, follow me. Standing behind all of this is this truth that there had been a choice made by God in eternity past, and these who were chosen, given to the Son to be his sheep, so that within time when Christ has come into the world, and through the preaching of the gospel and through the call of the Holy Spirit, these chosen ones would come to faith in Christ. This is the teaching of grace.

It's like Romans 11, 36, for from him and through him and to him are all things, and so is our election and our salvation. Now, all of this, to bring this session to a conclusion, this is very humbling, is it not? This does not cause us to be arrogant, or it should not. Admittedly, some of us who have believed this at times do, obviously we struggle with pride, Romans 7. But this is the great pride crusher.

Why me? God, why did you draw a circle around my name in eternity past? You could have just as easily passed over me as chosen me, but for reasons known only to God according to his own inscrutable purposes. God chose to set his heart of love upon us, his elect to be a chosen bride for his Son, and we were given to the Son long before we ever came to the Son and to believe upon him. There is truly a sense of destiny about our lives, that we have been marked out by God from eternity past, and the beginning of all of this is God's sovereign election. What a freeing, life-giving doctrine! Those of mankind that are predestined unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, and all to the praise of his glorious grace. Dr. Stephen Lawson has been our teacher today on Renewing Your Mind as we continue his series, The Doctrines of Grace in John.

We realize that the doctrine of election can be a point of contention for some believers. Dr. Lawson's series is a helpful resource for you. In 12 lessons, you'll be able to study the doctrines of grace in depth. We'd be happy to send you the two-DVD set for your donation of any amount. You can find us online at, or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343. Your donations support the many outreaches of Ligonier Ministries, including RefNet. That's our 24-hour internet radio station. When you tune in, you'll hear curated Christian content from a Reformed perspective. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, Dr. John MacArthur, and of course our founder, Dr. R.C. Sproul, are among many of the teachers you'll hear.

Listen anytime at or on the free RefNet app. Tomorrow we'll continue our look at the doctrines of grace, turning to Dr. Sproul's series, What is Reformed Theology? Did Christ die for everyone or only for the elect? Dr. Sproul will address that question in a message on limited atonement, tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. I hope you'll join us. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-13 15:53:28 / 2023-03-13 16:02:13 / 9

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