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Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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October 6, 2022 12:01 am


Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 6, 2022 12:01 am

God does not merely extend the opportunity for people to be saved. He unfailingly accomplishes His purpose to redeem some and pass over others. Today, R.C. Sproul studies the implications of the doctrine of predestination.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

But if it pleases the Lord to choose me, it's His good pleasure in that choice. And if it pleases the Lord not to choose me, not to give me His grace, and to let me perish in my sin, then that pleasure of His will would be equally good. Well, that's not the way some people view salvation. They wonder how that part of God's character lines up with His love. Hello, and welcome to Renewing Your Mind.

I'm Lee Webb. More than 30 years ago, you could count me among those who raised an eyebrow at the doctrine of predestination. I viewed it as unfair. But over time, I began to see that God is anything but unfair, and I discovered that election is something that permeates all of Scripture. It was the historic Westminster Confession of Faith and the faithful teaching of men like R.C.

Sproul that helped me understand and embrace this glorious truth. And it's my prayer that his message today will bring that kind of understanding for you. As we continue now with our study of the Westminster Confession, we're still studying in chapter 3 on the eternal decrees of God. And in our last session, we began to examine perhaps the most difficult dimension of those eternal decrees, and that is the whole question of predestination. We looked at the historic understanding of double predestination and showed that God does not work in the same way to bring the elect to Himself, and in a similar fashion, working unbelief in the hearts of the reprobate.

He doesn't do that. And we tried to get into that question a little bit. Now the Confession continues its focus now on this issue of predestination, and there are several aspects that are brought up in the Confession that I'd like to examine at least briefly with you. Now in section 4, we read, These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished. Now this has to do with what we call the doctrine of particular redemption, which in the initial stages of it simply affirms that not every person in the world is saved by the work of Christ. We make a distinction between universalism, which teaches that all people all people ultimately will be saved, and particularism, which teaches no, not each and every person that ever lives will be saved, but only some individuals, some particular individuals will ultimately be saved. And so the basic difference between particularism and universalism is, as I just explained it, whether or not all people are saved or only some people will ultimately be saved. Now when you get to the question of election and predestination, then we raise the much more serious question about why it is that only some are saved ultimately and not that all are saved ultimately.

Some have answered that question as to why redemption is particular on the grounds that there is a defect in the human response and that ultimately our salvation rests totally upon what we do with the grace that's made available to us. And in the final analysis, those who exercise faith will be saved, but since not everybody will exercise faith, not all people will be saved, but only those who believe. But again we ask the question, why is it that all people don't come to faith? Why is it that only some people come to faith?

And here is where we see the classic line of demarcation between historic semi-Pelagianism and Augustinianism. And the Augustinianism that is found here in the Westminster Confession answers that question by saying that the reason why redemption is particular and not universal is because only some come to faith as a result of God's eternal decree of election, that we don't make ourselves elect by exercising faith, but rather we are elected unto faith, and that God gives the gift of faith to some and not to all. And I think that's the thing and I think that's the thing that is most difficult for people to deal with, with respect to the Reformed doctrine of predestination, because it has God intervening mercifully to grant faith to some, to work faith in the hearts of some, and He gives that gift of eternal life to some but not to everybody. Now other people say, no, He gives the opportunity to everybody and leaves it in the hands of the person whether they believe or not. Now we will see later on in our study of the Westminster Confession a radical difference in understanding the degree to which human beings have fallen in Adam.

Semi-Pelagians believe that though sin has influenced and affected all human beings and has affected human beings to a serious degree, there still remains a little core or island of righteousness in the soul whereby that fallen corrupt human being still has the power or ability when excited or confronted by an external wooing, as it were, of the grace of God that that sinner, unregenerate, before he is born again, still has the ability to say yes to the gospel and come to Christ. And those who exercise that marginal ability within their souls in the right way are numbered among the elect, and those who don't exercise that ability and say no to the gospel, of course, are not saved and they're not numbered among the elect. So again in this view, election is determined by God's knowledge in advance of who will respond positively to the gospel and who will not. Again in the final analysis, the choice is ours rather than God.

God chooses us because He knows that we will, when offered the grace of the gospel, that we will choose Him so that His choice is based upon something that we do or will do. Now that's probably the majority report among evangelical Christians that I've just given. That's not the view of classic Augustinianism or of Reformed theology or certainly wasn't the view of Martin Luther. What we're getting into here is one of the solas of the Reformation. We've heard a lot of the solas of the Reformation, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christus, Sola Deo Gloria, and so on, but the sola that we're encountering here is sola gratia, which means by grace alone. Now Luther, who was luminous in his publications, considered his most important work, his work on the bondage of the will in which he answered the diatribe of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. Erasmus was distressed with Luther because he thought that Luther's view of election annihilated human free will, and so Luther penned his response to Erasmus to answer that objection. And in the midst of that book on the freedom of the will, Luther made the observation that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Sola Fide, is not really understood and grasped unless or until a person understands that beneath the surface of the question of by faith alone is the doctrine of sola gratia, by grace alone. And so if Luther were alive today, he would see, you know, millions of Christians who would affirm justification by faith alone, Sola Fide, who would not affirm sola gratia. And Luther is saying, if you don't affirm sola gratia, you don't really understand Sola Fide.

You don't really understand the gospel. So let's see what this is about. In section 5, we read these statements. Those of mankind that are predestinated on to 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, has 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. Here you see in this terse, compact affirmation in section 5 of chapter 3 one of the most precise and clear statements of the doctrine of what is called unconditional election. When we think of the classic acrostic that describes the five points of Calvinism that the remonstrants remonstrated against in Holland in the seventeenth century that led to the Synod of Dordrecht, the acrostic is the acrostic tulip, t-u-l-i-p, the most beautiful flower in God's garden, and the tulip stands for… t stands for total depravity, the u is unconditional election, the l is limited atonement, the i is irresistible grace, and the p is perseverance of the saints. And we'll look at all those different aspects as we go in the Confession, but right now we're concerned about the u in tulip of unconditional election.

And very simply, what unconditional election means is that God's choice of us in Christ unto salvation was not based upon any conditions that we have met or that we ever will meet. But from the foundation of the world, before any of us were ever born, before we ever did anything right or wrong, God was pleased according to His secret counsel that the greatness of His mercy may be made manifest, that He has unconditionally and immutably chosen to save a certain number of people from Adam's fallen race. Now notice in this section it says that this was done according to God's eternal and immutable purpose.

Well, let me ask you this. Do we believe that God is a God of purpose? That certainly God does not do anything willy-nilly. Anything that God does, He does it with a purpose. And if He purposes that something should come to pass, at what point in history does He decide upon His purpose? Does God ever come up with a new purpose? Whatever God designs, He designs eternally.

As I've said before, there's no plan B in the mind of God because all of history is open to Him to His mind from all eternity. And whatever He designs to do, whatever He plans to do, whatever He purposes to do, of course it'd be something that He purposed to do from all eternity. And so the authors of the Confession aren't really saying a lot when they say that the divine purpose is eternal. Of course it's eternal.

How could it be anything less than eternal? And it also adds to the other qualifier that what He purposes, He purposes immutably. If He really purposes to do something, if He decrees that a certain thing will come to pass, that decree is not done contingently.

It's done immutably. This is His plan. He's not going to depart from His plan because the only thing that would change His plan would be if He had new information that He lacked initially.

But He has all the information when He draws up the plan, and there's no reason that would ever cause Him to deviate from that plan. And so they say, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose and according to the secret counsel of His will. Now this is very important that the concept of the secret counsel of the will of God is introduced here to a discussion about predestination. One of the things we're going to look at later is the question, how can I know if I am numbered among the elect?

Is it possible to have the assurance of salvation? I certainly believe it is, and the New Testament makes it clear that we are to work to that end to make sure of our election. Now I think that I can be sure of my election. You can be sure of your election. What I can't be sure of is anybody that I ever meet's non-election. Now I know that not everybody's elect, but somebody will come to me and say, well, according to this doctrine, you know, I'm not a believer, so I might as well forget about it because if I'm not elect, I'm, you know, I'm cooked.

I say, well, you don't know that. You may discover your election tomorrow afternoon at four o'clock. You may not come to faith until the last breath that you breathe in this world. You can't know for sure until you're on the other side of the grave that you're not numbered among the elect. And so don't jump to the conclusion and rush to judgment that you're a reprobate.

You may be at the present time an impenitent unbeliever, but we all were at some point in our lives in that condition. And so since we don't know, we know that whoever is numbered among the elect belongs to that aspect of God that Luther called the deus absconditus, the hiddenness of God because God has not revealed to us in sacred Scripture or any other way the names of all of those whose names are in the Lamb's Book of Life, all of those who are numbered among the elect. That belongs to His secret counsel.

And the reason why it's His secret counsel is because He's not pleased to reveal it to us. And lots of times people say to me, well, how can I know the ultimate will of God? And I said, you mean like the hidden will of God? And they say, yeah. I said, well, you can't unless God is pleased to reveal it at some time.

Yeah, but I need to know it. I said, let me tell you something. The hidden counsel of God is none of your business. It's God's business.

And here's where Luther again stands up and says, let God be God. God has things that He has planned that He has not yet revealed to us. You remember what the Old Testament said, that secret things belong to the Lord our God, but that which He has revealed belongs to us and to our seed forever. And so again, the idea of the secret counsel of God is mentioned here.

But the next part is the part I really want us to grasp. And it said that this was done, this predestination was done according to God's eternal purpose, according to God's immutable purpose, according to His secret counsel, and according to what else? According to the good pleasure of His will.

Now this is just language taken right out of the Bible, right out of the New Testament. In Ephesians and so on, in Romans, Paul talks about God's electing according to the good pleasure of His will. Now every time I've taught this in seminary or anywhere, inevitably somebody says, well that makes God arbitrary, or that that makes God whimsical. Is there any arbitrariness in God?

No. We say, well if the reason for His selecting me rather than that person over there is not in us, then it's like God is just throwing darts, you know, and wherever the dart lands and whoever's name it is, is numbered among the elect, and it is arbitrary. It is capricious. It is whimsical. And when people say that, I say be careful now.

Be very, very careful. Because if this doctrine of election is true, and you start accusing God of being whimsical and capricious, you're on the very edge of serious blasphemy. Because to accuse God of being arbitrary is to accuse God of being evil.

Now here's the thing. To be arbitrary is to do something for no reason. What we've already heard here is that what God does in election is for a reason. It's to accomplish His eternal purpose. It's to accomplish His eternal plan. The point is that though the reason is not in us, it does not mean that there's no reason for His doing this. And He's doing it out of the good pleasure of His will.

And they say, well there it is. He just does it because He gets His jollies out of doing this. One of the things we have to understand is that when the Bible speaks of the pleasure of God's will, it always is qualified with the single word that should be a redundancy, should not even be necessary to be included in the sacred text when speaking of the will of God or of God's pleasure. But to condescend to our weakness, knowing that you and I are creatures whose pleasures are often anything but good, want to project upon our Creator the same kind of tendency of tendency to exercise His pleasure in a way that is less than good. But God being God only has one kind of pleasure, and that's a good pleasure. There's no such thing as the evil pleasure of His will.

Now I can say that, and you can nod your head and say, well that's right. But I would like you to really contemplate that, that if it pleases the Lord to choose me, it's His good pleasure in that choice. And if it pleases the Lord not to choose me, not to give me His grace, and to let me perish in my sin, then that pleasure of His will would be equally good, because there would be no unrighteousness whatsoever in God if God overlooked me and withheld His grace from me. That's the hardest principle in this doctrine and in the whole Christian life that we have to grapple with, because somehow we think that if God is truly good, He'll save us all. If He's truly righteous, He'll give equal grace to everyone and distribute His executive clemency to all human beings.

But the one thing the Bible is very clear about is that He does not do that. That's R.C. Sproul with a message from his series on the Westminster Confession of Faith, and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Thursday. Thank you for joining us.

I'm Lee Webb. Why are we studying something that was written so long ago in the early 17th century? Well, as we heard R.C. say today, it's because this confession so clearly explains the deep truths that we find in Scripture. And we'd like to help you continue your own study by sending you a copy of R.C. 's book, Truths We Confess. It's a helpful introduction to this remarkable confession, explaining its insights and applying them to our lives.

He walks through the confession line by line and shows how the doctrines of the Bible, from creation to covenant, sin to salvation, fit together to the glory of God. Contact us today with a donation of any amount, and we will send you the hardbound edition of Truths We Confess. You can find us online at, or you can call us here at Ligonier. Our number is 800-435-4343. And let me thank you in advance for your generous donation. It is the faithful support of our listeners that allows us to provide the kind of clear teaching that you heard today on theology, apologetics, Christian worldview, and church history. If you do appreciate what we're doing, I hope you'll contact us today with a generous donation of any amount and request Dr. Sproul's book, Truths We Confess. Our number again is 800-435-4343.

Or if you prefer, you can make your request online at If we're going to be biblical in our theology, it's not a question of whether we have a doctrine of predestination. We have to have a doctrine of predestination. The question is, is our doctrine of predestination the correct one, the biblical one?

Because obviously there is a biblical doctrine of election and predestination. That's our preview of what you'll hear tomorrow, and we do hope you'll join us for the Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-26 00:33:26 / 2022-12-26 00:41:51 / 8

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