God’s Sovereign Love, Mercy, and Grace
If man is loved, it is because God initiated this by His sovereign decree. God loves those whom He chooses to love (Eph. 1:4,5). It is not because man was so inherently loving or loveable, but simply because God sovereignly choose to love some and save them. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” and, “We love him because He first loved us.” (I Jn. 4:10,19)
Paul recognizes the unconditional character of God’s love when he says, “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” (Rom. 11:35)
God’s mercy to man is likewise sovereignly given to whomsoever He wills. Romans 9:15, 16 teaches, “For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion. So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”
And certainly God is sovereign in manifesting His grace to men. By its very nature, “grace” is undeserved favor–a free gift to enemies. No man can claim the right to grace. Similarly, no man has the right to demand a gift. A gift is not a payment for some good rendered, but, by its very nature, is freely given out of love. What sinful arrogance is expressed if we receive a gift and later claim that we received it due to our own efforts or that we were worthy of it because of some inherent good in us. That attitude destroys the very nature of a “gift” and of “grace.” The Apostle Paul says, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Rom. 11:6) Paul is careful to show the gracious nature of saving faith when he says in Eph. 2:8, 9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Certainly fallen man does not have the right (much less the ability or desire!) to claim salvation as his prerogative or entitlement. Man is justly under the curse of God. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:6-8 NIV)
Every page of Scripture is replete with the teaching that God is a “sovereign” God. Each person of the Trinity exercises this sovereignty. If this very essential aspect of God’s nature is removed, then He ceases to be the God of the Scriptures.
To Deny God’s Sovereignty is Idolatry
Any denial of the sovereignty of God, whether in salvation or in providence, is an idolatrous denial of God and a violation of the First Commandment. If God does not perform all things according to the counsel of His own will, then there must be another power equal to (or above) God. This is idolatry. Any concept of salvation that denies the fact that it is sovereignly administered by God is a perversion of the true gospel.
The nature of this doctrine is such that if any man would remove God’s sovereignty he would then be claiming that very right for himself. The same is true if it is said that God is sovereign only in some areas and not in others. Sovereignty, by its very nature, demands complete and total sovereignty or it has no meaning.
These are critical matters beyond the realm of compromise, doubt, or opinions. Remember when Job questioned the “right” of God to cause his suffering, the Lord said, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). The very foundation and understanding of our salvation rests on this teaching.
Notice how strong a warning the Bible gives in regard to a denial of this teaching. “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (II Pet. 2:1-2)
We also see this urgent warning in Jude 4, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude v. 4, NIV)
Where Do You Stand?
We stand at a theological crossroads here. We must either adopt a theology that is man-centered or God-centered. It will become clear through a study of the Five Points of Calvinism that the Bible presents only one path of salvation–one which rests on the sovereign grace of God alone. In these studies we will attempt to unveil and understand the errors of Arminianism, but not so we can win some theological battle. The real prize in understanding the sovereign grace of God is the comfort and joy that such salvation brings to our hearts. Only when our salvation is properly understood and believed can there be real assurance of it.
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author. If you’ve enjoyed reading it, you can purchase a copy for yourself. If you’d like to read the other blog posts in the series, start here.