Perhaps all you know about the doctrines of grace (aka – Calvinism) is that they’re used as subjects of debate on Facebook or Twitter among your friends. Is that really why Paul penned the first two chapters of Ephesians in his letter to the church in the city of Ephesus? Is that why Paul wrote the ninth chapter of Romans? Was his goal to provide an opportunity for theological debate or to spur on division among the church? Absolutely not.
Have you paused to consider why God has chosen to reveal the mysteries of his sovereign work of salvation to us? He could’ve kept it a secret and never revealed it to his people, but the things that have been revealed to us, he does have a purpose in revealing them to his people. Consider three key blessings that come to us in the knowledge of God’s sovereignty in salvation.
Assurance of Salvation
Many people have a favorite text or portion of Scripture that has been a great blessing to them throughout their lifetime or in seasons of difficulty and darkness. For me, that text is Romans 8. I remember curling up in a hospital bed and reading that text to my daughter who was very sick and was diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes. That text has been a great comfort to me through the years.
In Romans 8:29-30, we find these words often referred to as the “Golden Chain of Salvation” by theologians throughout church history.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Notice the language of the passage. The elect people of God are referenced by “those” whom God foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. In other words, every last person God foreknew and predestined before time will be glorified in eternity future. The same group is in each of the references to “those” people. It’s not as if the group was really large in predestination and far smaller at the end stage of glorification because many fell away from God’s grace. This passage actually links the exact same group from foreknowledge and predestination to the future work of glorification, which hasn’t happened yet, and there is not one person lost along the journey.
God’s electing love and the doctrine of predestination actually reinforces the fact that every last one of God’s people can have great assurance that salvation is of the Lord from the beginning to the end. That’s one of the reasons why Paul pens Romans 8-9 is to demonstrate the great love of God for his people which spans back before time and is accomplished according to his sovereign will. What a truth. What a great assurance such love delivers to God’s people.
Confidence in Evangelism
We have all witnessed bad techniques and methods in evangelism as if the preacher needed to use manipulation techniques in order to get people to respond to God’s call of salvation. While that’s certainly shameful and should be avoided, we must likewise avoid the trap of believing that our ability to close the deal in evangelism is what determines whether or not a person comes to faith in Christ. If we approach our conversation with friends and family members in this way, it will lead us to a lack of confidence in evangelism, poor manipulative techniques, and in some cases an avoidance to evangelism altogether.
When we share the gospel, we can do so with great confidence that God will use the gospel shared for his divine purpose. We spread the seed, water the seed, and God is responsible for the harvest (1 Cor 3:6-9). While we do not know who the elect of God are, we share the gospel indiscriminately and trust God for the outcome. It was Charles Spurgeon who once said the following:
If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn’t I must preach “whosoever will” and when “whatsoever” believes I know that he is one of the elect.
Salvation is a work of God’s grace and it is God who calls sinners out of darkness into his marvelous light. In Romans 1:16, Paul describes the gospel as the “power of God unto salvation.” As we share the gospel, we must have confidence that the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to call sinners to repentance and faith. As Jesus described clearly in John 10, the sheep hear his voice and they follow him. This provides us with great confidence as we engage in gospel conversations with unbelievers.
Truth that Leads to Passionate Worship
The worship of God should be based upon truth which then leads God’s people to respond in humility and passionate worship. Sadly, much of what we call worship within evangelicalism is based upon emotional feelings and man-centeredness rather than the grand truths of God’s saving grace.
The next time you’re in a worship service and everyone suddenly throws their hands into the air, is that based on the arrangement of the music or is it based on the truth of God’s Word? When Paul writes about God loving Jacob and hating Esau and that such love was not based on anything they had done since it was before they were born—he is pointing the people to worship God as he builds to a climax in this section of the letter at Romans 11:33-36:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Paul is making it clear that all things are from God and through him—which includes the choice to save his people according to his divine will as described in chapter nine, ultimately for his glory. When we gather together weekly for worship on the Lord’s Day, we should think about the grand doctrines of salvation in such a way that causes us worship God and praise him and adore him for his saving power and sovereign grace.
Before entering into a theological debate on the doctrine of limited atonement on Facebook, ask yourself how this doctrine should impact your worship of God. Before surveying the entirety of Scripture to find verses to support your view of limited atonement to debate with your friends over pizza, ask yourself why John the Apostle said what he did in John 1:11-13. How do these grand passages help us worship God who raises the dead spiritually, gives sight to the blind, and calls sinners out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ?
Be encouraged as you study the doctrines of grace and find encouragement in these truths as you consider the assurance of your salvation, as you engage in evangelism of your friends and family, and as you gather each Sunday to worship our Triune God.