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241a Pottery Road,  Dun Laoghaire,  Co.  Dublin, Ireland

, County Wexford, Ireland

Miles McKee Ministries

Chapter 2: Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound


Ye have not chosen me, I have chosen you" (John 15:16).


The late S. L. Johnston used to tell a story about an old covenanting woman who lived in Glasgow. Her minister, Dr. Norman McLeod, of The Barony, used to visit her. The poor thing was deaf, and she sported one of those old fashioned ear trumpets that deaf people sometimes used. The old lady used to confront Dr McLeod and demand, "Gang ore (go over) the fundamentals, Doctor, gang ore the fundamentals." The dear sister wanted him to go over the fundamentals of the faith because she so thoroughly enjoyed hearing them.


One of the fundamentals of our faith is the amazing grace of God revealed in the election of His people.


Every believer holds to the truth that there is a people the scriptures call the Elect or the chosen ones.  In the Old Testament it was Israel (Deuteronomy 14:2}; in the New Covenant, it’s the Church (1 Peter 2:9). Yet the subject of election is fiercely debated. The argument over election, however, is not over the existence of the Elect, but over how one becomes a member of that group. To elect means to choose. Indeed all of us are familiar with the word ’election’ in a secular sense. At election time we go to the polls and vote for those whom we want to represent us in political office.


However, when it comes to Biblical election we must ask, does God choose his family or does man? That’s the question!


We are saved by Amazing Grace; saved by something which and someone whom we do not deserve. We should not, therefore, be surprised to read in Ephesians 1:4-5;


“God has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world . . . …. having predestinated us into the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (Ephesians 1: 4, 5)


We could end this chapter now. The matter is plainly stated and settled by scripture. God chose us!


But, when did He choose us?  He chose us; ‘before the foundation of the world’.


This means that before there was a moon or sun in the sky, we were chosen. Before we were born, we were chosen; before we ever did right or wrong, we were chosen. This is amazing grace!


But why did God choose us?  Was there something in us that moved Him to choose us? No! The scripture says, it was ‘according to the good pleasure of His will.’ In other words, it was because He wanted to choose that He chose us. This is amazing grace!


We must ask ourselves, however, before we look at the next scripture, did God save us by accident or on purpose?  Consider this, if He saved us by accident then there is no grace, but if He saved us on purpose, in spite of ourselves, then salvation is all of grace. We read in 2 Timothy 1: 9; “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling . . . according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”

When did He give us grace?  Was it when we asked for it?  No, quite the opposite; grace was given to us in Christ before the world began. This is amazing grace!


The love of God for us is eternal.  It did not begin in time.  Because of His eternal love for us, God chose us unto eternal life and glory. This grace; “is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: (2 Timothy 1:10). We are saved amazing grace.


But yet some want to argue that they chose God and not vice versa. Even if they tripped over 2 Thessalonians 2:13; “God has from the beginning chosen you unto salvation,” they dust themselves off and continue as though nothing happened. Notice, however, how God's choice was from the beginning. The word ‘chosen’ here is a word that means to take to oneself. God loved us and took us to Himself at the very beginning. This is amazing grace! He chose us in the beginning. God’s love and grace towards us is manifest in His choice of us. This fact is confirmed by Jesus when He declared in John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen me but I have chosen you." The scriptures are as clear as a bell on this subject! There should, therefore, be no confusion about this matter. Salvation is by amazing grace!


So what does ‘Election’ mean?


By ‘Election’ we mean that the Father has purposed that He would chose a people, a bride, and give that bride to His Son. In doing so, He chose to give the bride grace to believe the gospel. As we discovered, in the previous chapter, man’s will is so depraved that he chooses darkness rather than light.  People “will not “come to the Lord.  Their wills are set against God.  They cannot enter into the Kingdom unless they are born from above. If God, therefore, had not chosen a bride for His Son, the wretched truth is this----- no one would ever have chosen Christ. To our depraved eyes, there was no beauty in Him that we might desire Him (Isaiah 53:2).  We loved our sin and hated the light (John 3:19).  Our carnal mind was set against God (Romans 8:7). Left to our own free will, apart from grace, we would have rejected the gospel every time. All men, by nature, refuse the invitations of the gospel, but God, in the sovereignty of His grace, makes a difference by moving the Elect, by the power of His Spirit, to see their wretched condition. Faith is birthed in them, by the Spirit, so they can see the mercy and grace of the cross of Christ. That is why we read; "We love Him, because He first loved us"(1 John 4:19). That is Election in a nutshell!


That is amazing grace!


Why do folks get mad when we talk about the amazing grace of God in election? They read in the Old Testament, that God chose some and left others yet they don’t seem to have a problem with that.  They don’t get mad when the Bible says that God chose Abraham (Genesis 12:1-9)… an idol worshipper (Joshua 24:2), and didn’t choose Abraham’s neighbours. In fact, all of Abraham’s neighbors were left to perish, but nary a peep is heard from the opponents of election on this one!


The Bible also tells us that God chose Isaac over Ishmael and chose Jacob over Esau.----for no other reason than it was His good pleasure and purpose,---still not a peep.  Furthermore, the free will folk don’t seem to mind that God chose the Jews and no other race in Old Testament times!  Why didn’t He choose the Italians to be His chosen people?  Why not the Irish? Hey, what’s wrong with the Irish? Why did He choose Israel? ……were they any better?  No!  All God’s choices were made according to the good pleasure and purpose of His will.  But that is okay with the dear folks who stubbornly hold to free will.  They don’t get upset that He chose to provide an atonement for Israel exclusively.  I’ve never heard any of them complain that there was no offering made for the sins of the Egyptians. Apparently it was fine for God to choose in Old Testament times, just don’t let him sovereignly choose anyone in the New Testament!  It seems that, now that we have arrived in the New Covenant times, the free will folks demand that God change His M.O.


But Surely Man has a Free Will in Salvation?


Instead of rejoicing in the amazing grace of God, people object when we say that the elect have nothing to do with how they are elected or chosen.  These objectors insist that becoming chosen has to do with our free will.  But isn’t it a bit illogical and silly to say that we can choose to be chosen. Besides that, what free will does a dead, unregenerate sinner have when it comes to spiritual things?  His spiritual understanding is so non-existent that He cannot even see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). Yet nowadays the majority of preachers teach that man can chose his way into God’s family by his own free will. What anti-grace nonsense.

I, however, agree with Luther when he says;


‘If any man ascribes anything of salvation, even the very least thing, to the free will of man, he knows nothing of grace, and he has not learned Jesus Christ rightly.’

(Martin Luther, quoted by C.H. Spurgeon - New Park Street Pulpit, Sermon 52, Free will - a Slave.)


The Bible plainly teaches that Jesus is the Author of Faith (Hebrews 12:2).  In other words, He started it all. It has to be that way because man cannot start anything due to the inconvenience of being dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians2:1). Man is also spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4), and deaf (Deuteronomy 29:4). In His mercy, however, God chooses to save some! “But that is unfair” say the free will folks.  Why is it unfair, I ask? God is under no obligation to save anyone.


 If we insist that God must save everyone we are denying the guilt and sinnerhood of man and the just nature of God’s holy character. If there were a million guilty people gathered before Him and the Father decided to give mercy to none of them, would He be unjust? No…all gathered before him would be are all guilty and hell deserving.  He’s a just God. If there is to be such a thing as justice, the guilty must be punished.


So when the Lord chooses to save some condemned people we should not get upset at Him.  Why object because He had mercy on some but not all? No one unjustly goes to Hell. All of us justly deserved the Lake of Fire! As John 3:17 - 18 say specifically,

"God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world. . . He who believes not is condemned already."


The unbeliever is already condemned. The unbeliever is not suddenly condemned for his refusal of God's salvation. He merely remains under an already existing condemnation. That God should choose to save any is a matter of Amazing Grace.


Salvation must be by grace for no one has the inclination to choose Christ. Jesus taught this in our text when he said; "You have not chosen me, I have chosen you" (John 15:16). What He is saying is; “You would never have chosen me, if I had not chosen you.” Adam’s sin had left us spiritually dead. We needed the arm of God to reach down and raise us to life otherwise we would never have chosen Him.


On the other hand, it is true that, when God opens our hearts to the gospel, it seems to us as though we were the ones who did the choosing. But, the truth is that, the will to embrace Christ was given to us by God.  We had neither the ability nor inclination to make such a choice until God stepped in with amazing grace.


People often get confused about who does the seeking and the finding.  In John 1:43 we read that Jesus went into Galilee, found Philip and commanded him to follow.  Then in verse 45, Philip found Nathanael and said; “We have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets did write.” Do you see how Philip got it wrong?  He said that he had found the Lord but v 43 expressly informs us that it was Jesus who did the finding. However, we can excuse Philip.  He was young and unschooled in the faith. He would soon grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord.  Those we should not excuse, however, are those who claim to be mature and who teach others that it was man who found and chose the Lord. This blatant error is nothing that can be smiled at.


It may have been very humbling to the disciples to be told that they had not chosen Christ.  But, what a comfort for them (and us) to know that He is the One who has done the choosing.  His choice shows us that His love came first — He loved us even when we were his enemies and dead in sin. We are saved by Amazing Grace!


Some people contend that we became believers and then were added to the Elect. Again this is far from the truth. Notice, again, Jesus didn’t teach it that way.  He said, 'You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you'.  In other words, Christ insists that He began this whole business. Notice again how this truth is illustrated in Acts 18: 4-10.  In verses 9-10 we read;


 'Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee; for I have much people in this city.'  


Corinth was known as one of the most sinful and wicked cities in the ancient world. Drunkenness, idolatry and rampant immorality filled the place and yet Christ said to Paul; 'I have much people in this city'. They had not chosen Christ, but the Lord had already chosen them; they had not yet repented; yet Christ called them His people. They had not yet believed, but Christ claimed them as His own. This plainly shows us that Christ Jesus has chosen His own before they even seek him.


On what Basis does God Choose?


Now, that is a very good question, why did he choose me? Let’s do an experiment. Take a blank piece of paper and write---‘God chose me because_____________.’  Now fill in the blank. Whatever your answer, be sure that it is an answer based on scripture.


If you pointed to some reason within yourself or some action you have done, you have still not grasped that salvation is by sheer and amazing grace.  If, however, there actually was something in you, whether it be some goodness or choice that you made, that caused God to respond to you, then you cannot be saved by grace.


The reason why He chose us was that it was the good pleasure of His will to do so. You will see this illustrated in Mark 3:13. There we read, 'And he went up into a mountain, and called unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.' There was a great crowd round about him; he called some, but he did not call all. The reason given as to why He did it this way is that He called, ‘whom he would.' There is no reason found in those He called; the reason for the call is found in Himself. We see this also in Malachi 1:2-3;


'1 have loved you, saith the LORD; yet you say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau'.


Why did He love Jacob and hate Esau? The only reason given is this, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy' (See Romans 9:11-23).


The only reason given in the Bible as to why Christ loved us … and if you study till you die you will not find another … is, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.'


Is His Choice Based on Foreknowledge?


 Grace Believers and free-will folk alike accepted the fact of Election unequivocally. It is not the fact of Election that is in question between them, but the basis upon which that Election is established.


Free-will folk hold that Election is based upon foreknowledge. In other words, they teach that God looks out of eternity and sees how man will respond to the gospel.  If the sinner responds positively, by believing, then God elects him. Grace people on the other hand, hold that, if this were the case, then salvation would not be a matter of amazing grace.  If a man is chosen based upon what he does, then salvation is of works and not of grace. Grace believers, however, hold that the basis of Election is entirely secreted in God. It is undisclosed; it is one of those matters concealed in the private counsels of the Almighty (Deuteronomy 29:29).  This we do know, however, election is not based upon any foreseen worth or quality in the individual. It can only be said to be; "according to his good pleasure" (Ephesians 1:5). Why it should please God to elect some and pass over others is not ever revealed.


So according to the dear Free-Willers, God has to wait on certain information before he decides who the elect will be.  But wait a minute, doesn’t the Bible teach that God is Omniscient (Psalm 147:4-5)? He knows everything! But how can that be so if He had to look down through the years to obtain the knowledge of just who exactly would believe of their own free will? Logically, this implies that there was a time when God did not have certain information but when the information arrived He gained in knowledge. However, any one who can gain in knowledge is not omniscient!


The wonderful truth is that there never was a time when God didn’t know everything. He has never had to increase in knowledge. He has known all things eternally. His elect have been elect from eternity (Acts 15:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). He sovereignly, according to his purpose and good pleasure elects. He does not elect the good or the worthy. He does not elect those whom he foresees would believe. He only elects those whom He has purposed to save. This is why, if we are saved, we don’t deserve it. That is why, if we are saved, we are the recipients of Amazing Grace.


Let’s look further at this matter. Those who insist that Election is based on God’s foreknowledge say this is clearly taught in Romans 8:29-30. These are key verses in their argument and indeed the only verses which ‘seem’ to support their thesis: we read as follows;


"For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”


Note, if we look carefully at the sentence in verse 29, we see that it does not say; "what" God foreknew, but "whom" he foreknew. Paul is not talking about a well-informed God, but about something which God did. He "foreknew" these people in the same sense that he "called" them and justified them.


Notice the chain of God’s saving acts.  The very first thing in this passage is ‘Foreknowledge.’ Those who think that man has something to do with his salvation latch onto this word.  


So what does ‘foreknowledge’ mean?


Let’s first ask, does God predestine and justify all whom He foreknows or merely some?  Evidently, according to the text, it is all. So are we to believe that God looks into the future and sees who will choose him and on the basis of this knowledge, predestines, calls, justifies and glorifies!  


Wow!  If this be so, all I can say to my free-will friends is, well done gentlemen, what a heck of a choice you made!  You are to be congratulated! You played as much part in your salvation as did the Lord! Wonderful stuff! Now then, take Amazing Grace of the list of songs you sing: evidently you don’t believe it!

Look at this word ‘calling’, it is important.  What does it mean in this verse?  Consider this; there are two types of calling in scripture.


A) The general or external call:

B) The inward call.


Both are found in the scripture.


Let’s look first at ‘A’ the external call. In gospel preaching all are called by the external calling, but not all get saved.

  

The internal or inward calling, however, is the calling whereby under the gospel, God draws, persuades, brings alive by His Spirit and brings us to faith in Christ Jesus.


So then, all that are called by the ‘inward call’ are brought to faith in Christ Jesus.  But how did it start?  In this context, it started because of foreknowledge. For whom He foreknew, not what He foreknew, whom He foreknew He predestined, called and justified.  The calling comes after foreknowledge.  


But notice how those who oppose the grace message, totally change the clear order of Salvation taught in Scripture. They begin with the call of the gospel.  This is, according to them, the first cause. Man is called, then decided to accept the Gospel. After that, man was chosen because God now has foreknowledge as to how man will respond. The way they now read Romans 8:29- 30 is “Whom he called and who made the right decision, them he foreknew and those he foreknew, them He predestined.”


They totally reverse of the order of Romans 8:29-30 by placing Predestination and Foreknowledge after Calling. They make a mock of grace by adding man’s response into a beautiful God given order of salvation. Yet on a Sunday morning they stand up and sing Amazing Grace!


So what does Foreknowledge Mean?


To be Foreknown is to be ‘Foreloved’ The Bible often uses the word ‘knew’ as a term for intimate love. Adam, for example, ‘knew’ His wife! He didn’t just know about her existence, he loved her intimately. Furthermore, Jesus says to a group of people in Matthew 7; “Depart from me I never ‘knew’ you ye workers of iniquity.” Never knew?  He’s omniscient, He knows everything!  It doesn’t, therefore, mean He didn’t know of their existence.  It means that He never loved them. Many of the modern versions of the Bible in fact translate foreknow as forelove, pre-approve and foreordained.


I am not much of a supporter of the modern Bible translations, but I here quote them as many folks put much stock in them. As will be observed by those who know the backgrounds of these translations, they were by no means all produced by evangelicals, much less by men of Sovereign Grace persuasion.


Romans 8:29

1. An American Translation: "For those whom he had marked out from the first he predestinated to be made like his Son."

(Smith and Goodspeed, University of Chicago Press, 1923)


2. The Emphasized Bible: "For whom He fore-approved He also fore-appointed to be conformed unto the image of his Son."

(Joseph B. Rotherham, Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1959).


3. Good News for Modern Man: "For those whom God had already chosen he had also set apart to become like his Son."

(London British and Foreign Bible Society, 1966):


4. The Holy Bible in Modern English: "For He previously knew them, and appointed them to conformity with the image of his Son."

(Ferrer Fenton. London. Black, 1903)


5. The Jerusalem Bible: "They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son."

(edited by Alexander Jones, New York, Doubleday and Co., 1966)


6. The New English Bible: "For God knew his own before ever they were, and also ordained that they should be shaped to the likeness of his Son." (Oxford University Press and Cambridge, 1970)


7. The New Testament: A New Translation: "For long ago, before they ever came into being, God both knew them and marked them out to become like the pattern of his Son." (vol. 2, William Barclay, London, Collins, 1969)


8. The New Testament: A New Translation: "For he decreed of old that those whom he predestined should share the likeness of his Son." (James Moffatt, New York, Hodder and Stoughton, no date)


9. The New Testament: An Expanded Translation: "Because those whom He foreordained He also marked out beforehand as those who were to be conformed to the derived image of His Son." (Kenneth S. Wuest; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961)


10. The Twentieth Century New Testament: "For those whom God chose from the first he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." (Chicago, Moody Bible Institute, 1967)


11) New Living Translation For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And he gave them right standing with himself, and he promised them his glory.

New Living Translation © 1996 Tyndale Charitable Trust


12) The Amplified New Testament "For those whom He foreknew  (of whom He was aware and loved beforehand) He also did predestinate from the beginning (foreordaining them) to be molded in the image of His Son (and share inwardly His likeness)."


The Amplified New Testament (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1958)

The fact that so many modern translations, written by men individually or in committees, translate Romans 8:29 in a way which shows that the sense is not that which the free-will people have favoured is another very powerful argument against the Free-Will claims.


Certainly many of these translations, if they do have a bias, would tend to be towards non-grace viewpoint. Yet the translators have refrained from allowing their bias to guide their translation.


There is no Biblical reason to support that Election is based upon God foreknowing how we will respond. In this non biblical scheme of things, God foresees a willingness on the part of certain people to be saved.  God does not elect them, they say, until He sees that they are willing to be saved.  Salvation, therefore, depends upon man’s will to be saved. Man’s will, not God’s, is, therefore, seen as the determining factor in Salvation.  The individual determines his own destiny by his response.


This is not Amazing Grace!


Then, we must ask further, why do some respond and not others? And the only answer we can give, if the free-will folks are correct, is that those who respond must be in some fundamental way better people. Outwardly they may have looked bad, but inwardly they had enough sense or spiritual light to decide for God. If, however, this is so, it entirely demolishes the grace of God.  Man’s goodness is now the foundation of his salvation. We can throw out the scripture that says, “Not by works of righteousness that we have done but according to His mercy He saved us.”  While we are at it throw out the scripture that says, “Saved by Grace”….It’s not grace…God foresaw that we were willing enough, wise enough and good enough to respond to Him so He predestined us.  Listen to me, you can’t have it both ways. Either God is sovereign and Election is an expression of God's will, or man is sovereign and Election is a result of man’s will.


Free-willism breathes out the sovereignty of man, and a certain inherent goodness and merit in all those who become the elect of God. God knows who will come to Him, the Free-Will folk reason, and on the basis of this foreknowledge makes His plans for them. He decides what He will do with them after they have decided what they will do with Him. The ultimate decision for the Free-Willer rests with the individual, not with God.  As Spurgeon says;


"Free-will doctrine—what does it do? It magnifies man into God. It declares God’s purposes null and void, since they cannot be carried out unless men are willing. It makes God’s will a waiting servant to the will of man, and the whole covenant of grace dependent on human action. Denying election on the ground of injustice, it holds God to be a debtor to sinners."

C.H. Spurgeon; A Jealous God; Sermon (No. 502)

Delivered on Sunday Morning, March 29th, 1863, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. London England.


It is alarming to me to find professing Christians who cannot grasp the plain truth of scripture.  Jesus was direct enough when He said, "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you" (John 15:16). It is vital that the new-born child of God should be taught that it has not been his own faith, his own decision, his own repentance, his own yielding, his own commitment, his own earnestness, his own sincerity, his own anything that brought about his new birth. His new birth is entirely the result of the sovereign grace of God from whom he received his faith, his repentance, his yielding, his everything. Salvation is by amazing grace. It is the gift of God.


The truth, however, is this, everyone really believes that God is Sovereign in Salvation.  Often times they don’t know it, but they really are Sovereign Grace believers.  Spurgeon illustrates this well. He recounts an incident which I will retell here. He says,


“I was preaching, not very long ago, at a place in Derbyshire, to a congregation, nearly all of whom were Methodists, and as I preached, they were crying out, "Hallelujah! Glory! Bless the Lord!" They were full of excitement, until I went on to say in my sermon, "This brings me to the doctrine of Election." There was no crying out of "Glory!" and "Hallelujah!" then. Instead, there was a great deal of shaking of the head, and a sort of telegraphing round the place, as though something dreadful was coming. Now, I thought, I must have their attention again, so I said, "You all believe in the doctrine of Election?" "No, we don't, lad," said one. "Yes, you do, and I am going to preach it to you, and make you cry 'Hallelujah!' over it." I am certain they mistrusted my power to do that; so, turning a moment from the subject, I said, "Is there any difference between you and the ungodly world?" "Ay! Ay! Ay!" "Is there any difference between you and the drunkard, the harlot, the blasphemer?" "Ay! Ay! Ay!" Ay! there was a difference indeed. "Well, now," I said, "there is a great difference; who made it, then?" for, whoever made the difference, should have the glory of it. "Did you make the difference?" "No, lad," said one; and the rest all seemed to join in the chorus. "Who made the difference, then? Why, the Lord did it; and did you think it wrong for Him to make a difference between you and other men?" "No, no," they quickly said. "Very well, then; if it was not wrong for God to make the difference, it was not wrong for Him to purpose to make it, and that is the doctrine of Election." Then they cried, "Hallelujah!" as I said they would.

(C H Spurgeon: The Sum and Substance of all Theology; Delivered at Bethesda Chapel, Swansea; On June 25th, 1861. From The Sword and Trowel.)


God grants the grace and mercy of election to some and justice to others. No one is the victim of injustice. Absence of mercy is not unjust treatment. God is under no obligation to grant grace and mercy to everyone — in fact, He is under no obligation to grant mercy to anyone at all. He says, "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy" (Romans 9:15). The divine prerogative to grant mercy voluntarily cannot be faulted.


As we have already seen, the grace of God does not search for men who are willing to accept it, ---- The grace of God makes unwilling men willing. It is as Romans 9:15 -16 says: "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then, it is not of him that wills nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy."


And that’s the Gospel Truth!


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