Exodus 33:19, Salvation is of the Lord: The Glory of Unconditional Election

16 Nov

Exodus 33:19 And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

God promises to answer Moses prayer by having His goodness pass before Moses and by proclaiming His name to Moses. Moses had heard this name before at the burning bush, Yahweh, “I am that I am.” What meaning it must now have held for Moses as he thought of all the ways God had brought him through, all the ways God had been gracious to him and to the people of Israel. I am who I am and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and I will have mercy on whom I will show mercy. I am who I am and I am free to do what I will do. This is what makes me God. This is the electing grace of God. God calls people to Himself and God does this without any conditions on the part of those He calls. We are not saved because we are good or faithful or wealthy or kind. We are saved because God sets His love on us. God’s choice to love originates in God, not us.

We see this idea in many places in the Bible . . .

Romans 9:14–18

Paul asks, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God who has mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for this very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”

Acts 13:48

When Paul is preaching in the beginning of his missionary journeys in Pisidian Antioch it says, “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Who ordained them to believe? God did. Because He is gracious.

John 10:26

In John 10:26 Jesus says, “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep.” So believing does not make you a sheep, being a sheep allows you to believe. You don’t have it in yourself to be a child of God by your own doing. John 1:13 says that those who receive Jesus, who believe on Jesus were not born of the flesh or the will of man, but were born of God. When we think about Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, you must be born again, we realize that Jesus’ illustration of a baby and birth is an illustration of a being with no ability on its own to be created or to be born. So it is the ideal illustration of what happens with us and the Lord in salvation.

Ephesians 1:4–5

Ephesians 1:4–5. “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He predestined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace.” This idea of predestination before the foundation of the world throws all the spotlight on the glory of God’s grace toward sinners. And Ephesians 2:1 tells us why this so great.

Ephesians 2:1

For you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you formerly walked. Dead people don’t make themselves alive. And in the same way, unsaved people don’t save themselves. No, God awakens the soul and we trust in Jesus and are saved. God makes us alive that we may believe, we don’t believe in order to be made alive.

2 Peter 1:10

Finally, 2 Peter 1:10. “Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall.” Our faith is real, our obedience is real but it is not what makes is God’s children, it is what confirms that we are God’s children. God doesn’t choose us because of our faith. God gives us faith because He has chosen us. The great I am in sovereign freedom will be gracious to whom He will be gracious.

Now a lot of people in the world don’t like what I just said. So I want to deal with the main objections to unconditional election and then look at the blessings of unconditional election.

The chief objection is really simple . . . “That’s not fair.” If God is the One who saves and He has mercy on whom He has mercy, what about the ones on whom He has no mercy? They never had a chance. How can that be good or right or loving? The answer to this objection is really simple as well. First, we don’t get to define fairness, God does. Second, even if we use our definition of fairness, we wouldn’t want God to be fair, for then all would justly deserve eternal hell for their rebellion against God. Third, if God left our salvation to us, we would be utterly lost because we are dead in our transgressions and sins. We can’t make ourselves alive, we can’t save ourselves. Fourth, we can’t know for sure who is saved and who is not. We do know from the book of Revelation that in the end there will be a multitude from every tribe, tongue and people who will be so numerous so that they can’t be numbered. So God is not going to save this pitiful little group of people and have the rest go to hell. He is going to save a massive multitude of souls. Fifth, we are the clay, we can’t tell the potter how to do His thing. Sixth, I would rather trust in the grace of God than in my own ability to be saved. Finally, when we think of the character of God, we know, as Abraham said in Genesis 18, that the “judge of all the earth will do right.”

The second objection is this . . . if we believe in unconditional election why share our faith? Why do missions? Again the answer is simple. God uses certain means, like prayer and evangelism to open blind eyes and raise dead people to faith. God does the saving but we are instruments God uses to do His saving work.

The third objection is this . . . doesn’t this just make us robots? And I say to that that if you take the biblical description of who were are, we are already robots from that way of thinking, for we are sold as slaves to sin. In other words, our hearts are depraved, we are always going to go down the path of sin to one degree or another unless God intervenes and the good news of the gospel is that God has intervened in His Son. The cross doesn’t take freedom away from our lives, it brings freedom. Far from being robots, having been made alive in Christ we now have the ability to choose righteousness over sin, love over selfishness, good over evil. As Paul says in Galatians 5, “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free, stand firm then and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” We were enslaved to sin but now we have been set free.

The final objection is this . . . are you saying we don’t have to believe? And my answer is “No, I am not saying that. I am saying you must believe to be saved. No one is saved who does not believe in Jesus. But the truth I am bringing out here is that you cannot believe unless God graciously draws you and raises you from the dead and opens your eyes. But having done this for you, you must believe in order to be saved.

So why is this all important? Let me finish with four benefits that come from believing the Bible teaching about election.

First, unconditional election humbles us.

When we realize that we have been bought with a price and that there was no way we could be saved but that God had been gracious we see that there is no place in our lives for pride. Everything we have is a gift of God so our hearts are humbled knowing that no blessing is because of our own goodness. We see God as big and ourselves as small. And when we have a high view of God and a right view of self, we will take holiness before God and love for others seriously.

Second, unconditional election brings us hope.

These stiff-necked Israelites were going to receive the mercy of God. These who had just committed idolatry and rebelled against God were going to experience the presence of God in their midst. When God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious” it is a word of great hope because it means that no one is too evil to receive grace. Your background does not figure in the equation of God’s electing work. Your past is not a hurdle God can’t get over. God often saves the worst kinds of people to show just how gracious and glorious He is.

Third, unconditional election empowers missions

John Piper says, “If this doctrine means hope for the worst of sinners, then it also means help for the cause of missions. David Brainerd, the young missionary to the Indians in New England 200 years ago, drew strength from this doctrine again and again, as have hundreds of other missionaries.

On Monday, June 25, 1744, Brainerd wrote in his journal, “I was enabled to cry to God for my poor Indians; and though the work of their conversion appeared impossible with man, yet with God I saw all things were possible. My faith was much strengthened.” Missionaries never need to despair as though any people or tribe were too hard or evil for God to revive. He will be gracious to whom he will be gracious. And so it does not finally depend on the will or the running of the missionary or the people, but on God. There is always hope for the worst of sinners and so there is always help for the cause of missions.”

So many of us are hopeless about the souls of our family members because we trusting in our own ability to say the right things or if only the preacher would talk to them or if only the right thing would happen to them. But we can trust the sovereign grace of God far more than our own efforts.

Finally, unconditional election glorifies God

When our salvation rests on God and not on us, we get the benefits of God’s saving work but God gets the glory. God is glorified and we are satisfied. Satisfied in Him. And motivated from the joy we have to go tell others of this grace, that God might open eyes in all nations. And we know He will. We don’t know who but we do know He will, for Revelation tells us the nations will worship Jesus for eternity. God is going to win all His people. He won’t lose a single one. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that? A mission that will not fail.

**The Scripture references and closing applications in this message are based loosely on a message by John Piper on the same text. Piper’s sermons can be found at http://www.desiringgod.org

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