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Sovereign Election in Exodus

Divine justice plays no part in sovereign election. It is all of God’s mercy.


God’s choice of undeserving sinners for salvation is an expression of His sovereign will and free grace. God does not owe salvation to any sinner. Saving grace is entirely unmerited; no sinful creature has any claim to it. All that sinful man rightly deserves is divine condemnation. So the lost human race desperately needs what it does not deserve. But because grace is a gift, God is free to bestow it upon whom He pleases without violating His justice. As He is absolutely sovereign, He chooses which sinners He will save:

“I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” —Exodus 33:19b

In this passage, God says nothing about His justice. He speaks only of His mercy. These two divine attributes—justice and mercy—belong to totally different categories. Election is always a matter of sovereign mercy, not justice. Without any obligation to bestow grace upon any individual, God shows Himself to be infinitely loving by choosing to show mercy upon some. Grasping the profundity of this verse, John MacArthur writes, “God is absolutely sovereign and does elect who will be saved without violating His other attributes. He determines who receives mercy.” Albert Barnes adds, “Jehovah declares His own will to be the ground of the grace which He is going to show the nation. St. Paul applies these words to the election of Jacob in order to overthrow the self-righteous boasting of the Jews (Rom. 9:15).” The point is clear—God chooses by sovereign mercy whom He will save.

—Steve Lawson, Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2006), 80.

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Posted  in: Albert Barnes · Foundations of Grace · John MacArthur · Old Testament Gospel · Romans · Steve Lawson
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