I have considered again the suggestion that God’s election of sinners to salvation is actually His response to for-seeing faith in some. I would like to provide my current thoughts on the issue.
If God chose to save me because He foresaw my faith in Christ – what a dishonor this would be to the depths of His mercy. For in this you say that Christ would not die for me had I not chosen Him, as the logical prerequisite for God’s choice to save is my choice to love Him. In this, God is said to not love the most wretched of transgressors, but only those who, being less evil than others, chose to love Him.
I must swiftly and firmly deny this because Christ came for “those who are sick,” (Matt 9:12). If there truly are riches of grace in accordance with the merit of Christ, then shameful is he who diminishes such grace to God’s inclination to only save only the healthiest sinners. If God’s mercy isn’t as rich as Ephesians 1:3-2:10 suggests, then what do we make of David’s remarks? “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, that You may be feared” (Ps 130:3-4).
First, I recognize that there are no healthy sinners. All have the same predicament, of Adam’s seed and burdened with Adam’s lot (Rom 5). “There is none righteous, not even one; there is non who understands, there is non who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one,” (Rom 3:10-12). All of mankind is guilty and wicked, the product of sin.
Second, if the hearts of men could in fact be distinguished between evil and not-so-evil, would I not be chief among the worst? I have hated God and loved false-gods. Do I consider myself more holy than Paul? “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24). Still, I think of David’s confession: “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:4-5).
Third, I cannot ignore that such grace isn’t grace at all! God’s mercy in Scripture is that which saves the vilest criminal. But if my choice influenced God’s choice, then I have become a condition for grace. Such grace is disqualified to the realm of wages and God must be counted as a liar, having deceived us when He spoke through Paul: “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom 9:16).
I would stand in awe of such grace but I would not be baffled, for obviously if God saved any it would be those best of sinners. Yet grace worth swooning over, that confounds even the proudest heart, is this: God took no consideration of my state other than my great need, which He met gladly and abundantly. Grace is only worthy of the title if her sole condition is the generosity of the giver.
Having thus considered the notion, I take great confidence in submitting to you that the gospel is only good news if God sees us at our vilest, meets us at our lowest, knows us at our most wretched state, and yet at that time lavishes mercy upon mercy against our souls. Only that gospel is a gospel worth preaching to all people.
A banquet is only good news to a beggar if he doesn’t need good attire. If he must wear decent clothing to the banquet, he cannot come because he has no clothing. The one who set the feast has been very generous to say, “You may come if you have the clothes.” Yet we cannot say this is good news for the beggar, for he is destitute of the condition. Oh, but how rich is that grace which says, “Dear beggar, come as you are. You need only bring an appetite.”
That’s a gospel I am not ashamed of: a gospel solely dependent upon the generosity of God.