May 09, 2024

Augustus Nicodemus Lopes on Sproul’s Chosen by God

Stephen Nichols & Augustus Nicodemus Lopes
Augustus Nicodemus Lopes on Sproul’s Chosen by God

Chosen by God, the beloved book by R.C. Sproul, has helped many Christians understand the Lord’s sovereign grace in salvation. Today, Augustus Nicodemus Lopes speaks with Stephen Nichols about the impact of this book on his life.


Dr. Stephen Nichols: Well, it’s that time again, and it’s a new episode of Open Book. And once again, we are sitting in the studio with Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Lopes, and he’s been walking us through books but also how these books have truly shaped his life.

And we’re on a consistent theme here: we’re talking about the doctrines of grace as understood within the Reformed tradition. We had Spurgeon’s sermons on election. We had the source of all this Reformed thinking: Calvin’s Institutes. And this week, we are moving to the twentieth century, but a text by someone we both were blessed to know: R.C. Sproul’s Chosen by God.

Dr. Augustus Nicodemus Lopes: That’s right. That book also made a very great impact in my life, especially when I was trying to understand the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human freedom. And first, I must tell how I got that book.

Actually, it was given to me by my father-in-law. He’s a very pious Calvinist Dutch pastor. And he was the guy I went for every time I needed to talk to someone about my theological doubts, or even other existential questions and problems in the ministry. And then he, out of his library, he pulled Chosen by God and told me, “Now, you should take a look at this book.”

I was especially interested in free will. As I told in the episodes before, I had a time when I was a very strong Arminian, of Arminian persuasion, having read the Wesleys and Charles Finney and other books in that tradition. And then as I became Reformed, still some questions needed to be resolved, and I was trying to understand actually what free will would mean.

And in that book, even though it’s not Sproul’s main subject, but he deals with the idea of free will. And he makes a distinction that I had not understood so far between we having free will and we being free agents, that we can act, we act according to our will. And in that sense, we are free agents. And that distinction helped me how to harmonize, how to put together the idea of God’s sovereignty and still men being responsible for what he does because what he does, he does according to his nature. He’s free in that sense.

Nichols: Right.

Lopes: So, the way that Sproul put this helped me very, very much. I understood that, and this is what I still believe up to these days. And I think it’s very helpful for one who’s trying to solve—not to solve because I don’t think there is any solving of distinction. Distinction is presented in the Bible and not given a solution in this world. Like once, someone asked Spurgeon: “How do you reconcile”—is that the word, reconcile—“enemies? And how do you reconcile God’s sovereignty and men’s free agency and free will?” Spurgeon said, “I never reconcile friends.” So, they go together. They don’t need reconciliation. They’re both taught in the Bible. So, Sproul was very, very helpful to me.

Nichols: I have a couple thoughts here. The first thought is, I’ve heard Dr. Sproul tell this testimony of people who’ve come to him about that book. I’ve had people come to me and tell me their story about that book, that the first time they’ve read that book, especially if they’re coming from a non-Reformed persuasion, it didn’t end so well. Sometimes it ends with the book being hurled across the room, hitting the wall, landing on the floor, and remaining in that position until months later, when it’s picked up again. It doesn’t sound like that was your experience with reading it.

Lopes: No, no, it was not. Actually, the book came at a time when I desperately needed someone to put in a very straight, very clear way, as Sproul always does this thing. And so, it was very helpful.

Nichols: And your comment about helping you see it’s a matter of being a free agent acting according to your will. You know, I think folks who bump into this see free will as choice, and they make it all about choice. And what I think R.C. is doing there is reaching back to Augustine who says it’s really not about choice; it’s about who you are as a person.

Lopes: That’s true.

Nichols: And in your fallen state, you’re not oriented towards God; you’re not going to choose God.

Lopes: All you do, you do according to what you will.

Nichols: Yes.

Lopes: But then your will is, as Luther said in his book, is a slave of sin—born a slave.

Nichols: Yes.

Lopes: And so, you are free in a sense that you are acting according to what you think, what you like. But then your heart is under the influence and the power of sin and corruption.

Nichols: You know, isn’t this—going back to your original sermon and your first book—this is really the beauty of election.

Lopes: Isn’t it?

Nichols: Because if we are bound to sin and dead to sin, we’re not going to make that first overture towards God.

Lopes: Not at all.

Nichols: God needs to reach down and bring us to Himself.

Lopes: You know, I don’t if we have one minute more to tell you this.

Nichols: Of course.

Lopes: I’ve said here that I was raised in a Christian church, a Presbyterian one, then I left the church. And after I left the church, I did not stop listening to people from the church coming to me and saying: “You need to go back. You are in sin. You need to repent.” There was, not my main pastor, as I mentioned, but there were other pastors who came after me and tried to rescue me. I listened to a lot of sermons and exhortations, and none of them touched my heart. I was just hardened as a rock.

But then that night of September 19 of ‘77, I was desperate. I was going to put a bullet in my head. I went to look for my daddy’s gun in his drawer, where he kept his socks and everything. And when I got up to the room, Mom was sitting there reading the Bible, something I didn’t expect. And then she looked at me and said, “What’s wrong, Son?” And I said, “I think I’m going to do something bad. And then she said, “You sit here with me.” And then she said, “Why don’t you pray?”

And for the first time in my life, Stephen, I really prayed. And as I prayed, it was like if heaven was open, someone was listening to me, and the burden of a hundred tons just fell off my back. And I felt forgiven. It was as if Jesus just came riding His horse in my heart and just putting down everything, breaking everything. I became a Christian from that day up to this day. It was a total conversion and transformation.

The next day, my friends said, “We don’t believe what happened to you.” And they even bet that I would come back to the old life in one month, two months. It has been forty-five years, more or less, that it happened.

So, I looked back and I said, “If God did not have called me through that word—that word that my mama gave me, ‘Why don’t you pray?’” So, those words penetrated my heart in a way that I could not resist. So, this is calling grace—it’s irresistible grace. This is what happened.

Nichols: Amazing grace.

Lopes: Amazing grace!

Nichols: It found a wretch like all of us.

Lopes: Yeah.

Nichols: You know, we say, “Without God, without hope,” and that’s exactly where you were. But with God, we have hope. Thank you for sharing that beautiful story with us.

Books really can impact lives, and we’re thankful for them. And I thank you all for joining us for this episode of Open Book. I’m really looking forward to the episodes to come and just so enjoying this season of Open Book with you. Thank you. We look forward to time with you again next week.

Lopes: Yeah.

Nichols: I’m Steve Nichols, and thanks for listening to Open Book, a podcast about the power of books and the people they’ve shaped. Want more of Open Book? Listen to past episodes at or find the show in any podcast app. Open Book is a listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. We’ll be back in the library next week, so please join us again for another episode of Open Book.