(Article for publication week of 9-8-2010 AD)
"But we are bound to give thanks for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, whereunto He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ." (II Thessalonians 2:13-14).
We have in recent articles shown that the scriptures declare that God is absolutely sovereign and that He has chosen from all eternity who will be saved. Our text this week affirms this glorious truth. Paul thanked the Lord for the salvation of the Christians at Thessalonica, because God had chosen them to salvation "from the beginning". No one will be saved unless God chose them to salvation before the foundation of the world, and every one that God chose for salvation will be saved without the loss of one.
Our text this week also says that it was "through sanctification of the Spirit" and "belief of the truth" that we are saved. Furthermore, our text says that it is by the calling of the gospel that we obtain this great salvation. The doctrine of God's sovereignty does not negate the necessity of faith in Christ. Nor does this truth in any sense relieve us of our responsibility to preach the gospel to the whole world. That is one reason I write this column each week, to call by the gospel those of you that I cannot reach in person.
At first glance these two Biblical truths seem to be at odds with each other. Indeed, many professed Christians reject one or the other of these two Biblical truths. Many, having seen the plain words of scripture that promise salvation to all who believe in Christ, and pronounce judgment on all who will not believe in Him, find the truth of God's sovereignty hard to reconcile with the call to faith. Some, on the other hand, seeing election and predestination plainly taught in the scripture, and delighting in it, find it hard to reconcile that with the responsibility of man. Actually, we do not have to choose between the two, because both are taught in the Word, as is seen in our text this week.
The fact is, God has ordained both the end and the means of our salvation. He has ordained that His elect would obtain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has also ordained that His elect should hear the gospel and believe it to the salvation of their souls. God has joined these two together, and let us not try to separate what God has joined. There is a great banner over the door of salvation that says, "whosoever will may come." That is a sincere proclamation. All who will repent of their sins and believe in Christ may be saved. We preach that to every rational creature that we can reach. After you have entered through the door of salvation, you may see the backside of that banner has written on it, "chosen to salvation from all eternity" (Illustration borrowed from Charles Spurgeon). My friend, if you are lost, you do not need to be trying to figure out the high doctrine of predestination, you just need to come to Christ. George Whitefield once said, "no one should try to enter the university of predestination until he has gone to the grammar school of repentance and faith." But after you have been saved, you may rejoice that it was all of the Lord from first to last.