Tuesday, May 23, 2023

God’s Electing Love (Proverbs 15:9; 16:4)

"The LORD works out everything for His own ends" (Prov. 16:4).

John Murray once wrote that it is not surprising that the doctrine of assurance found its true expression in a theology that was conditioned by the thought of divine election, efficacious grace, definite atonement, the irreversibility of effectual calling, and the immutability of the gifts of grace. Your hope in eternal life is not grounded in your own abilities, but in the nature of a God who has chosen you from the foundation of the world. If you have faith in Christ, it is solely God has given you that faith. He set His love upon you while you were still a sinner. If He can do so great a work, can He not bring you, a redeemed sinner, into His kingdom (Rom. 5:8–10)? Has He not promised to do so according to His sovereign decree?

During the Reformation, the Catholic Church declared the doctrine of assurance anathema, stating that no one can know with a certainty of faith that he has obtained the grace of God. This conclusion was inevitable because the Catholic Church argued that when a man “considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition” he can only be subjected to fear and doubt. This is exactly the point. If we look to our own works, we will doubt, but if we base our confidence in the promises and nature of God, we will find assurance. Presbyterian scholar J. Gresham Machen rightly said, “The salvation of the Christian is certain because it depends altogether upon God; if it depended in the slightest measure upon us, the certainty of it would be gone.”

The hope of the righteous is grounded in the assurance that God has set His love upon them by His own choice. This hope would be undermined if we did not have assurance of eternal life. But God has promised to dwell among His people and to live with them. “They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:3–4 NIV). This is the hope of the righteous. How different it is from that of the wicked whose “place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur,” who will gnaw their tongues in agony and curse God because of their pain, but who will refuse to repent and glorify Him.

Consider why it is impossible to have assurance of salvation if you believe your salvation is dependent, even in part, on your own ability. If your coming to faith was dependent on your own decision, what does that do to God’s sovereignty? Thank God for His immeasurable grace to you.