God Has Elected Us out of Grace. From eternity God has freely, and of His mere grace, without any respect to men, predestinated or elected the saints whom He wills to save in Christ, according to the saying of the apostle, “God chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). And again: “Who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 1:9-10).
In chapter 9 of the Second Helvetic Confession (SHC), the teaching that the free will of the sinner is the cause and origin of salvation was rejected. Now in chapter 10, the confession becomes positive, identifying that which is the cause and origin of our salvation. Not man’s will but God’s eternal and unchangeable will determines who are, as well as who are not, included in the “company of the elect.” This is the doctrine of predestination, which was defended by all the Protestant Reformers. Without exception they identified the ultimate cause of the salvation of lost sinners as the foreordination of God. The Reformed confessions echo this teaching. The contrast could not be sharper. Not man’s determination, but God’s determination; not man’s choice, but God’s choice; not man’s decision, but God’s decision; not man’s will, but God’s will is decisive in salvation.
All the emphasis of this first paragraph is on God: “From eternity God…of His mere grace…predestinated or elected the saints whom He wills to save….” Both Scripture passages that are appealed to in support of divine predestination emphasize the activity of God and of God alone. Ephesians 1:4 is a classic passage in Scripture that the church has always understood to teach sovereign predestination. There the apostle teaches that God chose us before the foundation of the world. In II Timothy 1:9 and 10, the apostle teaches that it is God who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, according to His purpose and grace.
The fact that the one who predestinates us is God and that His sovereign will alone is the cause of our salvation underscores the grace of God in salvation. From beginning to end, the work of the salvation of sinners is the work of God’s grace. They are unable to save themselves. He alone is able to conquer death and hell, overcome sin and Satan. They are unworthy of being saved. In His grace, He determines to save them although they are unworthy.
This underscores that God’s salvation of sinners is due to His grace alone. “Of His mere grace, without any respect to men,” the SHC says, God predestinated those whom it was His will to save in Jesus Christ. Repeatedly, the Scriptures exalt the grace of God in salvation. Ephesians 1:4 and 5 teach the truth of predestination. Verse 6 sets forth the purpose of election, that we might be “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” In I Corinthians 15:10, the apostle declares, “But by the grace of God, I am what I am.” In Romans 11:5, the apostle speaks of the “remnant according to the election of grace,” directly joining God’s grace and predestination. And in Ephesians 2:5, the apostle affirms that “by grace ye are saved.” The truth of sovereign predestination ensures that our salvation is of grace, all of grace, of grace alone!
We Are Elected or Predestinated in Christ. Therefore, although not on account of any merit of ours, God has elected us, not directly, but in Christ, and on account of Christ, in order that those who are now ingrafted into Christ by faith might also be elected. But those who were outside Christ were rejected, according to the word of the apostle, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (II Cor. 13:5).
We are not predestinated to salvation because of anything in us. Rather, we are elected in Jesus Christ.
There is no worthiness in us who are elected, but all our worthiness is in Jesus Christ: “[A]lthough not on account of any merit of ours, God has elected us, not directly, but in Christ and on account of Christ.” Our salvation is not due to our work, but it is due to the perfect work of Jesus Christ. We do not make ourselves worthy of salvation, but all our worthiness is in Jesus Christ. God’s grace to us is always His grace “in Christ and on account of Christ.” Outside of Jesus Christ there is no grace of God, the advocates of common grace notwithstanding. All who are outside of Jesus Christ are outside of God’s grace. And all who are outside of God’s grace are doomed to perish everlastingly. For them there is no salvation and no possibility of salvation. Outside of Christ, they are lost in the guilt of their sins.
In His grace toward us, God gives us to Jesus Christ, making Christ our Head and legal representative. That we are in Jesus Christ is just another way of saying that Christ is our Head. This is the point of comparison between the headship of Adam and the headship of Christ according to I Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam [our first head] all die, even so in Christ [our second Head] shall all be made alive.”
The Scriptures emphasize that God has predestinated us in Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1:4 Paul says that God “hath chosen us in him,” that is, in Christ. In verse 6 he goes on to say that God “hath made us accepted in the beloved.” “The beloved” is the beloved Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Romans 16:13, Paul salutes Rufus who is “chosen in the Lord.” Rufus has not only been chosen by the Lord but in the Lord, that is, in the Lord Jesus Christ. Like all who are predestinated by God, Rufus was chosen in Christ. In I Corinthians 1:27-29, the apostle teaches that God has chosen the foolish, the weak, the base things of this world, and things that are not so that no flesh should glory (boast) in His presence. He concludes the chapter in verse 30 by saying, “But of him [that is, of God] are ye in Christ Jesus.” He means that of God we are chosen, or, predestinated “in Christ Jesus.” God’s election of us is always in Christ Jesus. That truth is confirmed by what we read in Ephesians 3:11, “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The second paragraph of chapter 10 of the SHC is the explanation for the exclusiveness of the Christian gospel. It sets forth the reason on account of which the gospel of grace is an offence in our day, as it has been in every age. For the gospel proclaims a salvation of God that is not wider than Jesus Christ and those who are in Jesus Christ. That teaching is offensive in our age of toleration— toleration, that is, for everything but the truth and for everyone but those who confess the truth. The truth of the gospel proclaims God’s salvation of those, all those, but only those, who are in Jesus Christ. All who are outside of Jesus Christ are not and cannot be saved: “those who are outside Christ [are] rejected.” The distinctiveness of the Reformed faith is not long going to be tolerated in our omni-tolerant, broad-minded age. Even now, persecution looms on the horizon for any who dare to teach that outside of Jesus Christ there is no salvation.
We Are Elected for a Definite Purpose. Finally, the saints are chosen in Christ by God for a definite purpose, which the apostle himself explains when he says, “He chose us in him for adoption that we should be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption to be his sons through Jesus Christ that we should be to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:4, 5, 12).
Election has a purpose. All that God wills and does He wills and does with a view to accomplishing His purpose. As the all-wise God, He does nothing randomly or by mistake. He always has an end or goal in view. And all that He does and determines is to reach the end that He has determined. Nothing stands in the way of the goal that He has decreed. Nothing frustrates His sovereign purpose. Not the warfare of the Devil, nor the assaults of the world, nor even the opposition of false brethren can hinder the realization of God’s purpose.
God is God! He is the almighty God, who is absolutely sovereign in all His works and ways. He says through the prophet Isaiah, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Is. 46:10). Solomon says in Proverbs 19:21, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” And in Proverbs 21:30, he goes so far as to say, “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” Obviously, there are those who take counsel against the Lord and against His church. But ultimately, they cannot frustrate God’s purposes. God’s counsel stands.
Often in Scripture predestination is referred to as the purpose of God. In Romans 9:11 God’s election of Jacob and His reprobation of Esau is referred to by the apostle Paul as “the purpose of God according to election.” In Ephesians 1:11 he speaks of those who are “predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Writing to Timothy, Paul says, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Tim. 1:9).
Fact is, God often works in and through His enemies to accomplish His purposes, particularly His purpose of predestination. The salvation of the elect and of the elect church is secure. Just as the purpose of reprobate Judas Iscariot and the wicked leaders of the people did not frustrate God’s purpose in the Elect, our Lord Jesus Christ, so do the reprobate wicked also serve the ultimate purpose of God. That may not always seem so to us, as it did not seem so to Jesus’ disciples. They were baffled and despairing over the apparent frustration of God’s purpose when Christ’s enemies nailed Him to the cross. Nevertheless, God was working out His purpose and using those who seemed to be set against God’s cause to accomplish exactly what He had determined, as Acts 4:27 and 28 teach clearly: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.”
The purpose of God in predestination is twofold.
Above all else, the purpose of God is His own glory. In reality, there is no truth like the truth of predestination that ascribes the glory for salvation to God. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36). That is the conclusion of the apostle to the God-inspired instruction concerning and defense of sovereign predestination in Romans 9-11. God has mercy on whom He wills to have mercy, and God hardens those whom He wills to harden that all the glory for salvation may be His and His alone. Those who are saved do not distinguish themselves from those who are not saved. The elect do not show themselves to be more deserving of God’s election than the reprobate. The distinction between elect and reprobate does not lie at all in those who are chosen or in those rejected. The difference between them is due to the eternal will of God in predestination.
At the same time, God in His goodness has joined the purpose of the glory of His name to the everlasting goodness and glory of the elect. Already in this life, the comfort of the truth of predestination is that nothing can frustrate our salvation. Nothing can be against us, but all things are for us, as the apostle assures the people of God in Romans 8:31, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” And in the end, we shall be glorified together with Christ, our Head and the Elect of God. That is how the golden chain of salvation ends in Romans 8:29 and 30. It begins in verse 29 with God’s foreknowledge and predestination. And it ends on this exultant note: “Them he also glorified.”
God’s predestination in eternity past, reaches its glorious climax in eternity future—glorified! Now suffering and sorrow, being evil spoken of and enduring scorn, rejected and misrepresented, persecuted and killed. But the end? Life and glory. Everlasting life and heavenly glory.
Indeed, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36). Amen and amen!