Rev. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”
Even though men and women can and do bring forth children, they cannot and do not by their acts give these children spiritual lives. They cannot cause their children to love God. In fact, in the text quoted above, we say that we are wonderfully and fearfully made because of God’s marvelous works.
Being honest and thankful to God, we rightly confess that the spiritual life that appears in our children is God’s gift, for which we owe Him everlasting thanks. That we read so clearly in Ephesians 2:8, 9. There Paul, as used by God, declares: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Faith is God’s gift to every one of His elect. We cannot and do not receive from our parents strength that makes us want any part of salvation. In I Peter 1:23 we read that we are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” That is why we sing Psalter number 383, as based on what our God wrote through David in Psalm 139:14: “All that I am I owe to Thee, Thy wisdom, Lord, hath fashioned me.” Then also we add: “I give my Maker thankful praise, Whose wondrous works my soul amaze.”
The fact is that this work of God is presented very clearly in the life of the first two children who were born to Adam and Eve. Cain, that first child of them, hated God, and therefore hated his brother Abel, who revealed by his sacrifices his love of God, shedding the blood of his flock, manifesting that awesome truth that we deserve death, and that salvation comes only by the death of Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God. Just read Genesis 4:1-7.
We praise God because we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, in His grace. Our salvation is legally possible because God had His Son Jesus Christ, our Savior, sacrificed upon the cross. That, indeed, is a fearfully and wonderfully performed work of God’s grace, for our salvation.
Every elect child of God is the special work of God’s grace. God causes all those whom He has eternally chosen in Christ to be His spiritually reborn children. Most often this happens to the children of parents who do in love believe in God, as their Savior; but He does also give spiritual life to children born of unbelievers. However, all those whom it pleases God to save and bring to heavenly glory were eternally designed to be such. Strikingly, we read in John 3:2-8 that Christ Jesus, our Savior, said: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Parents do not cause their children to be born again. Those children receive a spiritual life which comes only by God’s grace. Believing parents may desire to have spiritually righteous and holy children; but whether their children do receive this blessing is eternally decided already by God.
Look back again at the text quoted at the beginning of this article. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” as God’s elect children. And our calling is to praise God from whom all blessings flow. Even that desire of believing parents to have born-again children of God is because of what God does in them. They can and will teach their children. But whether these children believe in God is determined by what God does for them and in them.
Those who are born again have a spiritual life, which God eternally decided to give them by His Spirit. Go back, once again, to that basic truth quoted a moment ago. “All that I am I owe to Thee.” The spiritual life that enables us to love God and want to walk according to His law comes from and by God’s grace. We do not change God’s eternal mind. He does not depend upon us, or upon our parents, in order to get His way. We do not make Him become our Savior. As David wrote: “Marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”
God does not offer salvation. We cannot ask God to give us physical life, because we do not yet have it. And by all means we cannot ask Him for spiritual life before He has already given it to us. We ask for spiritual life because God has already implanted it in us. We do not change God’s mind and will. We do not move Him to do us good.
Indeed, we do pray to God. We do come to Him with spiritual requests. But we do that only because He has moved us to ask Him for it, as those to whom He eternally planned to give salvation. Every bit of our salvation depends upon what God eternally planned, and at the right moment realizes in us. In I Corinthians 12:12 we read: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” He has a perfect body, namely His church, planned by God eternally. And in time all its members are not merely born physically by God’s hand. They are by God caused to know that they are members of Christ’s body, as mentioned in the text just quoted.
Let us also bear in mind that in the church world Satan is working hard today. He is interested in, and is striving cleverly to destroy the faith of church members. What is more, we should bear in mind that the church world is divided into many factions that fight against each other. Satan is very, very subtle; and we must take careful heed of what Scripture presents to us concerning Satan. In Scripture we are warned: “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” The awesome truth is that God, in His grace, causes us to be born again spiritually. Even as we were not born physically because we wanted it, so we are not born again spiritually because we wanted it. Rightfully we sing: “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.” Among those blessings is the desire to receive salvation as the gift of His grace.
We do not desire salvation until God has already given us the desire for it. We do not change God. His name means I AM. It presents the truth that He, and He only, is God. It also presents the truth that He, and He only, is the One who saves us, even giving us the desire for salvation from the spiritual death into which Satan got us through Adam and Eve.
Satan is working very, very hard today. As we read in Genesis 3:1 he is very, very subtle. He came to Eve with a lie. Yes, his lie was that God had lied to Adam and Eve. And in the church world today Satan comes with many clever lies which are false doctrines. The awesome fact is today that, just as in the days of Adam and Eve, Satan is striving to get church members to become “gods, knowing good and evil.” Just look up Genesis 3:5. And in some churches today salvation is presented as merely a physical blessing, which God offers us, and asks us to want and seek. Salvation is presented merely as a removal of the pain and misery which we deserve.
Indeed, that blessing will come upon all of God’s elect children the moment that they die, and will be very wonderful in the day when all the elect will with body and soul enter the New Jerusalem. But the basic and the awesome fact is that today, just as in the days gone by, Satan gets church members to go against God by their false doctrines which he gets into churches. They teach and believe that God waits to see what men will do. He, God, offers salvation, and will give it to those who accept His offer. In some churches it is taught that God offers salvation, and that He will give it to men if they ask Him for it. Deliverance from sin is brushed aside, and deliverance from the punishment of sin merely means deliverance from the punishment that God warned would come upon sinners. He will change His attitude towards sinful men if they fulfill a condition, which He presents, and by which He invites men to get relief and bodily glory.
Indeed, God will deliver His elect from their punishment and hellish agony. But the basic element of our salvation is deliverance from the love of sin, and a spiritual change. Men will commit suicide, thinking that they are going to get away from what they are expecting to come physically upon them. But they do not escape. They enter into God’s wrath, which brings them hellish agony, a misery far above what they experience in this life. And what the child of God, being born again, will receive, even before he dies physically, is that wonderful and marvelous work of God’s grace, that he receives a new spiritual life of love of God. The basic element in the salvation which God gives His elect is his deliverance from Satan, and the sin he wants us to perform. If that is not taken from us, punishment cannot be removed from us. The blessed part of our salvation is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made as those who love God, and in that love want to serve Him with heart, mind, and soul, in every act which we perform.
Only when we find in our souls the desire to walk in love of God do we have evidence that we are “wonderfully made.” And we must hold on tightly to that truth in the text above, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Being born spiritually dead we have no power or desire to cause ourselves to become spiritually alive. Salvation is one hundred percent God’s gift to us. All that which we have and can do physically is because of what God enables us to do. Every heartbeat is caused by God. Similarly, every desire and ability to praise and serve God is His gift to us. We give Him thanks; but we do so only because He has worked thankfulness in us.
What a beautiful truth we have here presented to us by God. By God’s grace we marvel at His work of salvation. Having that marvelous gift we praise Him, and thank Him from whom all blessings flow.