God is Sovereign in Salvation

by Mike Ratliff

14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:14-16 (NKJV)

When those of us who came from an Arminian or Free Will background come to grips with the reality of God’s Sovereignty, it is amazing how we struggle with letting go of the responsibility to “earn” our salvation. Of course, part of that struggle is rooted in the misconception that “election” happens at salvation. Ephesians 1 makes it clear, however, that God chose His elect before the foundation of the world. An honest reading of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians  shows us that God’s people are His in completion even though many of them have not yet believed and repented. They are our Lord’s sheep.

One of the accusations against Reformed Theology from Arminians, Pelagians, and Semi-Pelagians is that Calvinism kills evangelism. This is not true of course. Often when the proof of the veracity of Reformed Theology is presented biblically to them, some Free Will proponents will say something like, “then why preach the Gospel if the elect will be saved regardless?” The answer to that is quite simple as is the case with most of God’s truths. We are commanded to preach the Gospel to all. We do not know who the elect are. Only God knows that. We are commanded to make disciples from all nations. Therefore, we preach the Gospel leaving the work of regeneration, justification, sanctification, adoption, and glorification in God’s capable hands. We pray for lost souls. We pray that God will draw them to Himself.

Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (John 10:14-16) paying close attention to v16, especially the part I have highlighted. Notice that the sheep are not yet redeemed when our Lord spoke this. He had yet to go to the Cross. Also, they were His sheep, but they had not yet believed. Also, “other sheep” belong to Him as well. Of course, He was speaking of the Gentiles who would make up the bulk of the Church in the years ahead.

 5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.
9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” 11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. Acts 18:5-11 (NKJV)

Carefully read the passage above (Acts 18:5-11), paying close attention to vv9-10, especially the part I have highlighted. Just as our Lord still had to die to redeem His sheep that had not yet believed, Paul was to go on speaking, preaching, and teaching because God said, “for I have many people in this city.” These people were God’s people already, but they had to hear the Gospel in order to believe and repent so God could justify them. The devotional below is from Charles Spurgeon pertaining to Acts 18:9-10.

This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ’s property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of the ale-house, and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them He will have them. God is not unfaithful to forget the price which His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word of God.

Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne. “Neither pray I for these alone,” saith the great Intercessor, “but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word.” Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on His breastplate, and ere long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace. “The time of figs is not yet.” The predestinated moment has not struck; but, when it comes, they shall obey, for God will have His own; they must, for the Spirit is not to be withstood when He cometh forth with fulness of power-they must become the willing servants of the living God. “My people shall be willing in the day of my power.” “He shall justify many.” “He shall see of the travail of His soul.” “I will divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong.” – C.H. Spurgeon

44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us:
‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. Acts 13:44-49 (NKJV) 

Now, carefully read Acts 13:44-49 above. Who is sovereign? Is it man and his Free Will or is it God? God saves those whom He has given to the Son (John 6).  My brethren, the doctrine of election is humbling. No one has any deeds or merit that raises them up in God’s eyes as deserving of grace. No, God elected sinners who actually have nothing to offer God whatsoever. God elected and will save each one. They will bring Him glory as they learn to humbly submit to His will in all things. They will learn that they can only do good by the grace of God. They are nothing without their Lord and can do nothing without His joy.

On the other hand, the vast majority of the visible Church appears to believe just the opposite. They stubbornly hold on to the fallacious notion that they are Christians because of something they did. All genuine Christians believed and repented, but even that comes via God’s grace through faith as a gift from God. No one can do one thing to earn or deserve it.

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 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, 3 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.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10 (NKJV)

Carefully read the passage above (Ephesians 2:1-10). What was the condition of all Christians prior to their justification? They were ALL dead in their trespasses and sins. They were by nature children of wrath like everyone else. However, God mercifully MADE THEM ALIVE. This comes only by His grace through faith. This faith comes as the result of God making them alive. Then they believe by faith. God did it this way that no one may boast. If anyone claims to be a Christian, by his or her own efforts then they do not understand grace nor do they believe what is clearly taught here. Our salvation is a gift of God, not a result of works. Therefore, this faith is part of the gift, which is given to each believer according to God’s grace.

All of the Good Shepherd’s sheep will believe and repent and be saved by Grace through faith. Those of us who are  already in the sheep fold are responsible to preach the Gospel to everyone else that those who belong to our Lord and are appointed to eternal life will receive the gift of salvation by His grace through the faith that comes only to the regenerate heart.

Soli Deo Gloria!

3 thoughts on “God is Sovereign in Salvation

  1. God’s sovereignty in salvation is so plain and prominent throughout scripture that it requires actively engaging in misapplying inappropriate meanings to words and omitting portions of scripture to sabotage the doctrine of election. And many, if not most, preachers boldly participate in manipulating scripture to fit their humanistic ideals and not offend their listeners. The goats prefer the altered message, but Christ’s sheep will attune their ears to the truth of their Shepherd. It is a doctrine of peace and rest in the finished work of Christ. He accomplished it ALL and we are only the recipients of a marvelous gift and heirs with Christ.


  2. Mike, much better than the way most try to explain this. Very useful.
    Sad fact is that after Jesus explained much of this as we read in John 6, even those attracted to or “professing” to follow him, turned away.

    John 6:66  From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.


  3. Pingback: Joseph Farah’s Works Based Salvation

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