“By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners”, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 5:19, Romans 6:23). Therefore, “as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). This means that “there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12). Furthermore, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). These means that sinful man cannot keep God’s law. Man is “carnal, sold under sin. “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Romans 7:14-20). This means that “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin”, “because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
This is why Jesus said “You must be born again”, and “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 3:7). “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63).
This is how it happens:
Election by the Father, before the foundation of the world:
God, the Father, “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:4-6). God made his choice of election “according to the counsel of His will”, and “according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself” (Ephesians 1:9-11). Those whom God “foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). That is why Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out”, and “this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6:37-39).
Called by the Father through the preaching of the gospel:
God, the Father, reveals himself through the preaching of the gospel of his Son, Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus said, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him”, and “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (Matthew 11:27, John 6:44-45). Therefore, God’s elect are drawn by God, the Father, and taught by him, as the gospel is being preached. That is how they receive faith, and call on the Lord with a heart of repentance, and of faith in Jesus. That is why Paul said, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:14). Therefore, it is through preaching that God gives his elect faith to believe the gospel, so that they will turn to God in faith, and repentance. It is through the preaching of the gospel that God’s elect are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit.
When the gospel is preached, God’s elect people are born again. That is why James said “of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth”, and Peter said, “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever.’ Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (James 1:18, 1Peter 1:23-25).
The gospel makes God’s people clean when they hear it, and that is why Jesus told his disciples “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you”, and Paul said “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word” (John 15:3, Ephesians 5:25-26). That is why Jesus said “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8). Therefore, the water is the word of God, and sinful man is not reborn by his own power. Instead, the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the word regenerates sinners; making them believers. That is why John said, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”, and Paul said “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (John 1:12-13, Ephesians 2:1-5). This is why Paul also said “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2Corinthians 17:5). This newness of life cannot be abandoned by believers, because God’s word has regenerated God’s elect, and his word is eternal. Therefore, those who has been born again cannot live a life of rebellion against God, but can only live holy lives for God. They have been forever changed. That is why John said “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (1John 3:7-11).
Therefore, those who are reborn are the one’s whom are justified.
Justified by Faith:
Faith in Christ, apart from keeping the Old Covenant law, and apart from following man-made traditions, justifies sinners. It is by God’s grace, through faith in Christ’s propitiation for sinners. That is why Paul said “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” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Nevertheless, their is a work, which works together with with faith, that causes a person to be justified. That is why James said “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” and ‘But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only(James 2:14-24).
Therefore, when Christ came preaching the gospel, he command the people saying “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). The work that works alongside faith, which leads to sinners being declared righteous is “repentance”. Therefore, sinners are not justified by merely having a change in perspective, and belief, but a change in action as well. They must turn from their life of sin, and believe the gospel of salvation in order to be justified before God.
However, this act of repentance is no grounds for boasting in one’s decision to follow Christ, because repentance would not have been possible without God grace of calling, regenerating, and even predestining the hopeless sinner, who was bound by the slave master, called “sin.”
Repentance & Baptism:
Part of the command to repent, and believe the gospel is Christ instruction of baptism to newborn believers. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” That is why Peter compared it to the ark of Noah and the flood when he said “There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (Peter 3:21). This is because baptism is an act that shows the spiritual reality of the, newborn, believer’s death to the old life of sin, and the resurrection to a new life of righteousness. That is why Paul said “…as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:3-7). So hearing, and obey the command of the gospel, which is to repent, and believe the truth of the gospel, sets sinners free from their slavery to sin. That is why Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
However, this does not mean that every believer is free from the presence of sinful desires, which still tempt them. That is why John said “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us”, and Paul said “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1Corinthians 10:12-13, John 1:8-10). Therefore, believers are, at present, fighting against sinful desires, thought patterns, and habits; while the bondage to sin has been broken. Believers, therefore, are living through a life-long process of purification, which is also called “sanctification” (1Thessalonians 4:1-7).
Sanctification was described by Paul as believers presenting their “bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service”, and not being “conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of their mind, that they may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). This is a life of abstaining from the sinful desires of the flesh, and walking into the Spirit, by submitting to the word of God, and abiding in it (James 7:10, Galatians 5:16-25, John 15:3-8). This life of abiding in the word of God is how believers live under the power of the Holy Spirit, and the result is the fruit of love, goodness, truth, and righteousness, which makes believers more like Christ (Ephesians 5:8-10).
Sanctification also requires believers to love other believers, just as Christ loved his church. This is Jesus’ command. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). John also said “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him” (1John 3:14-19).
“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1John 2:3).
Glorification is the promise to God’s elect, as though it happened already. That is why Paul said “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:30). The glorification of believers is when God raises them from th dead to live forever (1Corithians 15:12-26).
General Calling by the Holy Spirit:
God calls everyone to repentance by the preaching of the gospel, by the church (Acts 17:30-31). This preaching convicts the world of sin righteousness, and judgment, by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit convicts everyone, because God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Petr 3:9). As displayed within the parable of the sower, the preaching of the word is preached to the hearts of everyone. That includes the elect, as well as the non-elect. Yet only one kind of soil produces fruit, some 30, some 60, and some 100, fold (Matthew 13:18-23).
Therefore, Jesus is the “Savior of all men, especially of those who believe”, because “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1John 2:2, 1Timothy 4:10). So those who repented, and believed for a time, and later turned away, were never God’s elect (John 2:18-19). Also, those who claim to be believers, yet return to a life of sin, are no longer sanctified by Christ’s blood. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people” (Hebrews 10:26-30).
Therefore, the gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. Yet, only God’s elect will remain faithful to it until the end. The rest will resist it completely, or fall away from it in time.
God’s Sovereign Choice of Election & Man’s Protest Against it:
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!
15 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.”
16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”
20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”
21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
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