God is God. He is sovereign. He is not responsible to anyone. He is before all
gods, nor shall He ever yield His place to another. To get glory to Himself is the end of
all things. Everything has its source in Him, takes its course through Him, and will
finally endorse Him in highest excellence.
He brings all things into line with the advice offered by His own determination.
"Who directed the spirit of Yahweh? or, as His counsellor, taught Him? With whom took
He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him the path of judgment, and taught Him
knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?" And not only could He go to no
one else for advice, but He yields to no one in the execution of His will. He said to
Moses, "I will succor whom I will succor; and I will pity whom I will pity."
"So, then, it rests not with the resolute or the swift, but is for those whom God
succors." All else is confusion--causeless, incurable chaos.
Thus He deals in grace. He is as solitary and supreme as ever He was before the ages
began, when there were no wills that dare dispute His own. So, also, in judgment.
"Even for this reason I raised you up: that I might point to you as a sample of My
power, and that I might publish my Name abroad in all the earth" (Rom.9:17). Truly,
then, whom He will He succors, but (just as truly) whom he will He hardens (Rom.9:18).
Some of His creatures would drag Him from His throne omnipotent, if they could. And,
failing this, they find fault with Him, because they can't. If no one can thwart His will,
are they responsible? Why does He find fault?
And the only answer lies in this: That God is God, and man is man. God is
the Potter; man is the clay. If His glory cannot be fully manifested by one kind of a
vessel, but requires two to contain it, who can question His right to fashion the clay
into fit receptacles? He has a mind to display His wrath and His invincible power, so He
fitted some for destruction, bearing long with them. But why was this necessary? So
that He might make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of pity, made ready
beforehand for glory, even us" (Rom.9:20-24).
We are not saved from a mock wrath; God is quite able to punish all who cross His will.
This is proven by the vessels of wrath. They were necessary, or His glorious grace must be
O, the gratitude which wells up to Him when we, who are of the very same clay, the very
same kneading, as the vessels of wrath, find that the excellence of His Name is the aim of
both, and that He chose us to contain His glory! And how solemn is the thought that the
dark background of wrath alone could reveal the brilliancy of His grace!
This adoration is deepened when we find that He selected us, even before sin
entered the world. Let us not miss the preciousness of God's loving choice. It is founded
upon, but quite distinct from, His sovereign Godhood. That affected the vessels of
wrath as well as the vessels of pity. But He does not deign to choose them. He only
chooses His own. The people of the United States do not hold an election for each citizen
to determine that he shall not be President. They hold an election to select the
one who shall. It is a title of surpassing dignity. The "Chosen of God"
is Messiah. Israel is His chosen earthly nation. And we, who are in Christ, are the choice
of His primeval love.
The love that chose has also marked out our final destiny. By love He has brought us
into the relationship of sons. He had one Son; His elect. He was so well pleased with Him
that He determined beforehand that all others whom He had chosen shall become like Him.
Our final state has already been marked out, and it is nothing less than conformity to the
image of God's Son!
"In the case of everyone whose acquaintance He had previously formed, He also
decreed beforehand that they should become a facsimile of one Pattern--His Son--that He
might be the First born among many brethren."
That is the point! Not merely our blessedness, but His glory! He is the
First born of Creation, because of the many creatures of which He takes precedence. But He
could never be the First born of many brethren unless there were many other sons besides
Him. Each one adds to His dignity and prestige. No wonder God did not wait until we were
called to find out what to make of us! We are essential to the supremacy of His Son.
It is quite possible to know much about some public personage, yet if asked
"Do you know Him?" we might be compelled to answer "No." So God knows all
things, even before they come to pass. But, in another sense He does not know some men,
even as they are not acquainted with Him. "I never knew you" will be the
Master's word to some who posed as His disciples, but lacked the heart-acquaintance which
alone receives His recognition (Matt.7:21-23).
So, God was acquainted with us long before we knew Him. Otherwise He would never have
brought every detail of our circumstances into active co-operation for our welfare, and
bent the whole into line with His purpose.
Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called. Is not this a great
comfort to the gospel preacher? "There is none that seeketh after God," writes
utter failure upon the proclamation of the good news, unless God calls those for
whom He had prepared a place among the "many brethren." Sovereignty, election,
predestination, are not enemies of the glad tidings. On the contrary, they are its
guardians and provide the only force by which it may become effective.
"Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should
betray him, and He said, "Therefore, said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me,
except it were given unto him of My Father" (John 6:64,65).
He knew who the elect were, and could have preached to them alone. But the glory
of God demanded that all (even Judas) should hear, so He preached to all. If we knew who
"the elect" were, we would forget God's glory, consider only man's comfort, and
preach only to the elect. How wise is the provision that keeps this knowledge from us?
The rejection of God's message only changes His golden sceptre, graciously extended,
into the iron rod that rules out all opposition. He is extolled by both.
If God left every man to follow his own will--exercise his "free will
agency"--all would refuse to hear; all would turn their faces to
But since God is behind His message, fulfilling the decrees He established before even
the earth was, it must ever be the power of God unto salvation to those who believe.
"I have much people in this city" encouraged Paul to proclaim the gospel in
Corinth. They were God's people, even while they worshipped their demon divinities.
"My Spirit shall not always strive with man," is used by some as though God tried
to woo some by His Spirit, but fails at times. But they do not add: "for yet his days
shall be a hundred and twenty years!" It would be a great comfort to many who refuse
the Spirit's voice to know that their lives are to be extended that long! The passage,
however, does not refer to the sinner at all, but to the man, Adam. Grace wins its
greatest trophies from God's most malignant enemies, and no amount of opposition can
resist God's call. Saul of Tarsus found it so upon the Damascus road.
"Whom He called, them He also justified." Some would reason
justification as the result of a dead Christ upon a cross. They would have it that God is
in bondage to His own Messiah's work, and must forgive everybody's sins. Not so. We
may say, with all reverence, that while the cross of Christ binds God to reward Him
as He deserves, it only condemns man. God is not bound to save any man because of
it. It is only those whom God calls whom He justifies.
Justification is immeasurably beyond "the forgiveness of sins." A governor
may pardon a criminal, releasing him from the penalty due his crimes; but he dare not
justify him. Only a judge can do that--in case the man is not guilty. For a judge
to justify a guilty man would ruin His own reputation. But God, through the redemption
which is in Christ Jesus, is justified Himself, first of all, in justifying
those who believe. Pardon for sins was proclaimed to those who repented, and were
baptized: justification comes without a cause.
All of Israel were baptized and pardoned by John the Baptist (Luke 3:21). But they
turned traitors when the King came. Pardon might be recalled (Matt.18:21-34), as in the
case of the ten thousand talents debtor. This likeness of the Kingdom shows why many of
those pardoned at Pentecost (Acts 2:38; Heb.6:4-8) apostatized, were zealous of the law,
joined the crowd which tried to kill Paul (Acts 20:20-22) and were finally strewn along
the wilderness (1 Cor.10:6). They did not forgive the hundred pence debtor, the other
Nations. Now they are in the hands of the tormentors.
The authority to pardon sins was delegated to others, such as John the Baptist, and the
apostles: God reserves justification for Himself.
The great difference between God's call and justification is very marked in the case of
Abraham. He was called in Ur of the Chaldees. He was not justified until he
believed God about the Seed, many years later. justification is always connected
with the Seed, Messiah.
"It was not recorded for his sake only, but for our sakes, too, to whom it shall
be attributed, who believe on Him that raised up Jesus, our Master, from the dead, Who was
handed over as a consequence of our offenses, and raised again as a consequence of our
Whom He justified, them He also glorified." How marvelous this golden chain
whose unbroken links bind the edges of eternity together! God asked Job where he was when
He laid the foundation of the earth? And where were we? before these
foundations were laid? What part had we, then, in His choosing? Did we mark out our
own destiny? Did we call ourselves? Did we justify ourselves? Did we glorify ourselves?
But, you say, glory is future. On the contrary, glory is, in a most important sense, a
thing of the past. It is the capstone of a building which is almost finished. But if there
were no foreknowledge, no predestination, no call, no justification,--or were any single
one of these missing--where were the glory?
Let us be thankful that we do not need to bear the glory now, for its weight
were more than mortal man could endure.
But, none the less, even now our gaze may be satiated with the unseen, eternal,
supernal glory which is our present and everlasting portion.
And what shall all this teach us?
Is not this the lesson with which we started?
From Him, and through Him and to Him, are all things. To Him be glory throughout all
the cycles of the ages! Let us bid our hearts acknowledge, as we bow in adoration, that
GOD IS GOD