May 10, 2009

Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace (pt. 5)

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(Continued from Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace Part 4)

Divine Election and the Role of the Son
In 1 Corinthians 15:25-28, we find a remarkable conclusion to this whole discussion. There Paul says, "For he [Christ] must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For 'God has put all things in subjection under his feet.' But when it says, 'all things are put in subjection,' it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all."

Referring to the end of the age, this passage reveals that there will come a day when Christ, the King of Kings, will take His rightful throne and reclaim the universe that is His. At that time, everything will be put into subjection to Him, including death, and all of the redeemed will be gathered into glory, rejoicing in the fullness of eternal worship. When all that is done, "then the Son himself also will be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him [meaning the Father], that God may be all in all." In other words, when the whole love gift of a redeemed humanity has been given to Jesus Christ, then He will take that redeemed humanity and, including Himself, give it all back to the Father as a reciprocal expression of the Father's infinite love. At that moment, the redemptive purposes of God will be fully realized.

The doctrine of election, then, is at the very heart of redemptive history. It is not some insignificant, esoteric doctrine that can be trivialized or relegated to seminary classroom debates. Rather, it is at the center of how we under- stand salvation and the church. It informs our evangelism, our preaching, and our identity as the body of Christ.

It also helps us understand why Christ takes His bride, the church, so seriously--she is His love gift from the Father. The church is so precious to Him that He was willing to endure great trials and eventually death to receive the gift. "Though he [the Son] was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9; cf. Phil 2:5-11). He left infinite spiritual riches in order that His elect might inherit those same riches (cf. Rom. 8:17). He embraced the most profound poverty possible, divesting Himself of His heavenly comforts and the independent use of His divine attributes, choosing to embrace the penalty of sin through His sacrifice on the cross. As Paul explains, "He [the Father] made him [the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).

Jesus was guilty of nothing. Yet on the cross, the Father treated Him as if He had committed personally every sin ever committed by every individual who would ever believe. Though He was blameless, He faced the full fury of God's wrath, enduring the penalty of sin on behalf of those He came to save. In this way, the sinless Son of God became the perfect substitute for the sinful sons of men.

As a result of Christ's sacrifice, the elect become the righteousness of God in Him. In the same way that the Father treated the Son as a sinner, even though the Son was sinless, the Father now treats believers as righteous, even though they were unrighteous. Jesus exchanged His life for sinners in order to fulfill the elective plan of God. And He did it so that, in the end, He might give back to the Father the love gift that the Father gave to Him.

In contemplating these truths, we find ourselves catapulted into the immeasurable depths of the plans and purposes of God. As Paul exclaimed in Romans 11:33-36:

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.

Awestruck and amazed, those who love God can only respond in heartfelt worship and humble submission. They must praise Him for His mercy, His grace, and His glorious purpose that planned it all from before time began. And they must submit themselves to His sovereignty, not only in the universe at large, but also in the smallest details of their daily lives. Such is their role as part of the love gift from the Father to the Son. To worship and to serve is what they were intended to do from eternity past. And it is what they will continue to do perfectly in the ineffable joy of eternal glory.

The reality, then, is that believers are simply a small part of a much larger divine plan. The Father, because of His love for the Son, determined before time began to choose a redeemed community that would praise the Son for all eternity. And the Son, because of His love for the Father, accepted this love- gift from the Father, considering it precious to the point that He gave His life for it. The Son protects those whom the Father chose to give Him, and promises to bring them to glory according to the predetermined plan of God.

The Long Line of Godly Men
History is the unfolding of this plan of God--as those whom He chose are called, justified, and glorified through the Person and work of the Son. History began when God created time and space according to His eternal redemptive plan. And it will end when all of His purposes for His creation are accomplished according to that same eternal plan.

FOU04_book_3d_web.jpg"Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace" is the title of Dr. John MacArthur's Foreword to Dr. Steven J. Lawson's Foundations of Grace. This essay, reflecting on the unchanging nature of God and the glory of his sovereignty, is more than an introduction to Dr. Lawson's book--it is a theological tour de force in its own right. We are pleased to duplicate it here and are convinced that you will benefit from reading it.