(Article for publication week of 3-12-2015)
"But we are bound to give thanks for you brethren beloved of the Lord, for 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 our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thessalonians 2:13-14).
Once again the inspired Apostle takes us back to the fountainhead of salvation, that is eternal, sovereign, gracious, free and discriminating election. When Paul writes, "from the beginning," he is not pointing us to a specific time, but to the unalterable decree of God from eternity. The salvation of everyone who would ever believe in Christ was settled before the foundation of the world in a time when there was not time, for our Great God is unbounded by what we call "time." Dear Reader, the awful truth of God's word is that if God did not choose you to be saved, you will never be saved. And if you were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, you shall certainly be saved. Now you put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Our text this week declares both the end and the means of sovereign election. The end of God's decree is the salvation of all God's elect. All the devils in hell cannot keep God from saving all His chosen ones. God is absolutely sovereign, and what He has decreed must come to pass. God's decree cannot be altered or changed by men nor devils. Nor will He ever change what He has decreed, for is unchangeable and is of one mind and none can turn Him (Job 23:13).
But now (and note well), God has not only decreed the end of our salvation, but all the means thereunto. By "means" we are not suggesting that God needs any help from puny man to save His people, but we are declaring the plain sense of our text, supported by the whole Bible that God in His sovereignty is pleased to use means to accomplish His purposes. Firstly, God has ordained ordinary means. He has ordained the preaching of the gospel. Our text plainly declares, "He called you by our gospel." Christ has commissioned His Church through her Apostles to preach the gospel in its letter and outward form to every rational creature that we can get to listen. This is the ordinary means by which God outwardly calls sinners as sinners to be saved. That is the reason we preach the gospel in our home church, and wherever we have opportunity, and it is the reason we write this article each week, and the reason we witness to everyone we can get to listen.
But, secondly, God Has ordained extraordinary means to save His elect. Without extraordinary means, the ordinary means of the gospel will accomplish nothing. These extraordinary means are the belief of the truth and sanctification of the Spirit. Belief of the truth is nothing less than extraordinary, for faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). And sanctification of the spirit is indeed extraordinary. It is nothing less than Divine Omnipotence that takes an unholy sinner and makes him a partaker of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4). No one is saved apart from being made holy by the direct agency of the Holy Ghost. Note well, the text says that it is through sanctification that we are chosen to salvation. God will never take any sinner to heaven without first making him holy, and that is the gospel truth.
Our text makes it plain that the doctrines of grace do not in any way tend to licentiousness as we have been charged by our opponents. I am reminded of an anecdote regarding Mr. William Gadsby, who was a faithful Particular Baptist preacher in Manchester, England in the first half of the nineteenth century. One of his Arminian friends said to him, "Mr Gadsby the doctrine you preach (the doctrines of grace) lead men to licentiousness." Mr. Gadsby replied, "do they lead me to licentiousness?" His friend answered, "no not you " (for Mr. Gadsby was a most pious man). Mr Gadsby asked, "do they lead my church members to licentiousness?" The answer was, " certainly not" (for Mr. Gadsby's members were the most pious in Manchester). Mr. Gadsby then asked his Arminian friend, "well, then, do they lead you to licentiousness?" To which he replied, no, for I do not believe what you preach." So Mr. Gadsby said finally, "well if the gospel I preach leads neither believer nor unbeliever to licentiousness, pray tell whom does it lead to licentiousness?!" Enough said!