[God] Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity. (NASU)
God Saved Us
That sounds quite straightforward. Not many Christians will argue with that. But that’s not the way many act. It is revealed in the words we use, “I came to Christ,” or “I accepted Christ.” Others claim that they have the ability to reject God after salvation or backslide into sin so deeply that they could lose their salvation. In this they claim that continued salvation depends on good work, doing the right things.
Paul addressed this in Galatians 2:17-3:9. In this passage he argues that anyone who seeks to continue to be justified by his works after salvation is nullifying the grace of God. If I try to continue to earn my salvation after I’m supposedly saved, then that brings into question whether I was truly saved in the first place. Did I respond to God’s call on my life because He called me or did I do my own work of faith? Am I, by my dependence on myself to stay in God’s grace, boasting that I came to Christ instead of depending entirely on God drawing me? I don’t think Paul was suggesting that his audience wasn’t really saved. I think he was trying to jolt them out of their self-dependency and back to complete reliance on God.
Not by Works
For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth. (Rom 9:11 KJV)
I heard a person try to explain this by saying that God, in His omniscience, was able to see each person before birth and in fact before the creation of the world. He could see whether or not they would turn to Jesus for salvation and in knowing what they would do, called them for salvation. I agree with the first part, that God was able to see us before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). However the second statement doesn’t agree with Scripture. It is saying God has rewarded us for our works which we had not yet done. Romans 9:11 says that He chose us not based on what we would do but because it is His purpose.
When we make any claim to salvation by works, whether they are our potential before our birth, our actual good deeds, or some potential for goodness within ourselves, we are then boasting that there is something in us that deserves a reward of salvation. That’s not what God says. He says that everyone has sinned and is therefore deserving of punishment. In fact, He goes further in saying that we are slaves to sin (Rom 6:15-23). Without God’s intervention, we have no ability within ourselves to get out of that slavery. It isn’t until Jesus saves us that we are free from sin and able to do anything that God would call good works. Even the good works that we do after salvation are His plan (Eph 2:10).
Because we are slaves to sin, everything we do while a slave is sin. Just as everything an employee of a company invents while working for the company is patented and owned by the company, so everything we do while in bondage to Satan is the work of Satan (Isa 64:6, Eph 2:1-3). No wonder we can’t do anything to save ourselves.
The Lord has made everything for his own purposes, even the wicked for a day of disaster. (Prov 16:4 NLT)
So what is God’s purpose? Some say that God needed someone to love so He created the universe and placed man in it so that He could love us. That’s weird because, if He had a need, it means that God isn’t perfect. It could be rephrased to say that He wanted someone to love other than the perfect love that is within the Trinity. That sounds better, but is that what the Bible says? How does this jive with the rest of the verse that says He created some for the day of disaster? Where is God’s love in that?
But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. (Ex 9:16 NKJV)
God made it clear that Pharaoh was brought to power for only one reason. It was to declare God’s name in all the earth. Another way to put it would be to say that the reason was to bring glory to God. God could have raised up a different person who would have willingly released Israel from bondage. However, that would not have accomplished bringing glory to His name. It would probably never have been noticed by any historians and it would not have brought about the clear foretelling of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins through the Passover.
You may say, along with many, that this is the way God worked in the Old Testament, but He doesn’t work that way anymore. Yet, Paul’s statements in Romans 9:11 shows that He hasn’t changed. To be even clearer, Paul quoted Exodus 9:16 in Rom 9:17 when he summed up his argument that salvation isn’t by works.
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (Rom 9:22-24 NASB)
God’s purpose isn’t about looking for or creating someone to love. While He does love us, His purpose is higher than that. Without the Bible explaining these very hard concepts, there is no way we could know that revealing His glory is a higher purpose than revealing His love. How can that be? We value love so highly because Jesus demonstrated that on the cross. So God’s glory must be something that includes His love, holiness, righteousness, compassion, wrath, justice, faithfulness, and all His other attributes. It is impossible for us to understand. We can only read about it and acknowledge that we are not God and can never completely understand Him.
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 glory for ever. Amen. (Rom 11:34-36 RSV)
We can have our theories and our studies about election, how God has called us, His purposes and motivation, but when it comes down to reality, we can’t understand the vastness of His mind. We can study the Bible and that gives us a partial glimpse into His glory. Since everything comes from Him and through Him, we can only see as much as He enables us. The sum of it all is that all the glory belongs to Him forever and that is His purpose in all creation.
Make no mistake in all this. We are partakers of His grace and His glory through Jesus. There is no other way. When Jesus returns and His glory is revealed, we will also appear with Him in that glory (Col 3:1-4). Now that is something that we can contemplate for a long time without coming close to understanding. Having just commented that His glory is something that we can’t understand, yet there will be a future day when we will appear in His glory.
So I ask those who think that there are other ways to God than through Jesus, where will you be when Jesus is revealed? You haven’t acknowledged that Jesus is God. Jesus said that He wouldn’t acknowledge you before His Father (Matt 10:33). You have not acknowledged that you need to turn to Jesus in repentance (Acts 5:31).
Who else has ever claimed to be able to forgive our sins (Mark 2:7, 10)? Has Buddha, Mohammad, any of the thousands of Hindu gods ever provided a way of salvation that depended not on our ability but on their own sacrifice? No, it is only Jesus who could purchase our salvation and that only by His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” (John 14:6 NASB)
What are you going to do? Believe in what Jesus said or the fantasies of the world.
From All Eternity
Before the ages began (ESV), before the beginning of time (NIV), from all eternity (NAS), before time began (NKJV), before the beginning of time (NLT), ages ago (RSV), before the world began (KJV), before times eternal (ASV), and before the times of the ages (YLT) are all different renditions of the Greek words pro chronos aionios. A literal translation would be, before time eternal. So that really helped didn’t it? For me, this is a fascinating concept that defies human logic. The first word is a word that requires us to have time. Without time how can we say anything occurred before or after something else? Time is critical to everything we say or do. Without it, nothing in our universe could exist. So how can there be something before time? The word eternal doesn’t help. Eternity in the past should go on just as long as eternity in the future. It should not have a starting point or an ending point. Can you see how this defies our logic?
So what does this mean? It means that God and Jesus have no beginning or end even though they describe themselves as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (Is 41:4, Rev 1:8, 21:6, 22:13). When God revealed His name to Moses, He said it was I AM and Jehovah. The translation and meaning is that He is the self-existing one. Jesus used the same expression of I AM to reveal His deity (John 8:58). The only good definition of a god would be a being that needs nothing else to exist and has always existed by causing himself to exist. That defies human logic as well. God has said that there is only one who fits that description and that is Himself.
"You are My witnesses," says the Lord, "And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, And besides Me there is no savior.” (Isa 43:10-11 NKJV)
Our Savior is Jesus. But God says there is no other savior beside Him so He has identified Himself as God along with Jesus. Paul says that we received grace to be saved before time existed through Jesus Christ. He also says that we were chosen in Jesus before the foundations of the earth (Eph 1:4). It was God’s eternal purpose (Eph 3:11). He uses the exact same words in Titus 1:2 as he does here in 2 Tim 1:9 to say we were saved before time began. Peter also confirms Jesus’ eternality in 1 Peter 1:20 as he describes our salvation. The eternality of Jesus is the same as God the Father.
… and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (Rev 17:8 KJV)
Just as God has chosen some to be in Christ Jesus before time began, He also chose some to be excluded from salvation. Twice in the book of Revelation, it is stated that there are some who were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the earth (Rev 13:8, 17:8). In the same way that we can’t really understand what the universe without time could be, we can’t understand how God (who is good, loving, compassionate, and all those other attributes) could write some names in the book of life and exclude others. This is a huge stumbling block for some people.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. (Joel 2:32 KJV)
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Rom 10:13 KJV)
However, the one thing that I do know is that in the Old Testament, God says that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. In the same breath, He says that they are a remnant and that they are the ones He has called. Paul quotes the first part of Joel to emphasize the need to call on the Lord and that you will receive the promise of salvation if you do.
The stumbling block is that many want to know the unfathomable mind of God before they will call upon Him. They charge Him with unfairness and injustice because He has tried to state things about eternity so that we could get a glimmer of understanding of His glory. They have judged God! Instead of looking at our own sins and God’s sinlessness, they elevate themselves above God and become a self-fulfilling prophecy by rejecting the only one that can save them from the just punishment of their sins.
The remedy for all eternity is to admit: we aren’t God, we can never fully comprehend Him or eternity, we need His forgiveness that comes only through Jesus Christ. Then we can call on Jesus to save us then rest assured that we are member of the whosoever.