I was reading Follow Me by David Platt, and he was talking about the initiation of God’s saving grace towards us as a juxtaposition to the idea most of us grew up with. That is, that we “got God” by asking him into our hearts.
The idea that spills out of this one is of course why God doesn’t save everyone if salvation is His alone. And it’s this idea that has, as Tony Reinke once wrote, confounded minds much greater than mine in historical Christianity.
But how these two biblical truths (that seem to contradict) actually relate, has perplexed theologians and inquiring Christian minds for many centuries, sparking vigorous debates and (more recently) fiery comment threads on Facebook.
John Piper points to Romans 9:22-23 in his book on whether God desires all to be saved.
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—.” (Romans 9:22-23)
I’m not sure if this makes me feel better about things, but it does provide an answer of sorts. Piper takes it further in this question on whether the Bible contradicts itself when it comes to God’s partiality.
So God’s choice is based on his own hidden wisdom (Ephesians 1:11). God works all things according to the counsel of his will, the counsel of his will. He does not base his choices in irrelevant considerations. He is free to choose whomever he will and his reasons are never owing to our goodness. How could they be? We are all sinners deserving of death. Yet he chooses freely to save some.
And the very meaning of grace in Romans 11:5, the very meaning of grace is that the reason he chooses us is not in ourselves. It is not in our own virtue or our own sinfulness. It is in his counsel and he is wise in all that he does because he is guided by the highest considerations. And what is that consideration? Well, it was hinted at in that text we reads from 1 Corinthians one. What choices will humble sinful men? What choices will keep men from boasting in themselves? And what choices will bring people to praise the glory of the grace of God?
It feels like the answer I always arrive at with this question is, “nobody knows” because all of these decisions God makes are based on the consel of his will.