5. God’s Pleasure in Election
Here we are at the great doctrine of election and God’s delight in it. That’s what we’re doing in this seminar. We’re trying to see God’s excellency more clearly by the things he delights in and how he does it, how he delights in them. So now we’re at God’s pleasure in choosing us.
The Election of Israel
Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
Now, the reason for him saying “to God belong the heavens and the heaven of heavens” is lest we think he’s a tribal deity. All the tribes — the Canaanites, the Jebusites, the Hittites, the Amalekites, etc. — all had gods. Is Yahweh a tribal deity, as if he has his own people, Jewish people, and then the other gods have their peoples? Is it that God chose to have the Jews because the other gods had the others? The point of beginning the statement with “to him belong the heaven of the heavens, and the earth and all that is in it” is that he’s not a tribal deity. He owns the earth, and he owns the heavens. All the other gods are his. He can do with them what he pleases. With all of that, it says, “He set his heart in love on your fathers, and chose them, you above all the peoples, as you are this day.”
So God chose Israel. It’s just amazing. God chose Israel. He came to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldeans. Abraham was a moon-worshiper probably, and he saved him. He made promises to him. And Abraham believed God and he was justified by faith. He had a personal relationship with God through faith. It says, “He set his heart in love on your fathers.” Literally, it says, “The Lord loved to love your fathers.” Or it could be translated that he seized and embraced to love your fathers. There’s no reason in Abraham. He didn’t look around and say, “I don’t like those folks. I don’t like those folks. I don’t like those folks. But I really like the way Abraham lives, so I’ll choose Abraham.” It wasn’t like that at all. It was free.
If you read the story of the Old Testament, isn’t your mind boggled that God sticks with these people? If we would ever be encouraged that he could be patient with us, it would be reading the story of Israel. Good night, how quickly they murmur after he’s done them another favor. Then they murmur again, and he does them another favor, and they murmur again, and he does them another favor, and he just keeps going and going and going.
He was acting in the overflow of his joy. He was not constrained by anything outside himself to choose this people. He acted freely. His election was unconditional.
God’s Unconditional Choice
Look at these words in Deuteronomy 7:6:
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you . . .
That’s the election of Israel. So we’re starting with Israel in our doctrine of election. We’re not starting with us, or starting with the church. We’re starting with Israel. That passage continues:
The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you . . . (Deuteronomy 7:6–7).
Now, I think the reason he said this isn’t because maybe there were other virtues that brought him to choose them. I think this was just one way of saying, “It wasn’t you. It wasn’t because of you that he chose you — you, who were the fewest of all the peoples. But it is because the Lord loves you.” He loves you because he loves you. He chose you because he loves you. His love was free. It was unconditional. And he’s keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, which was also free (Deuteronomy 7:8). He chose Abraham freely. Abraham didn’t earn his being chosen. The passage continues:
The Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:8).
God stays free in choosing who are his. He’s not locked into the ethnicity of Jewishness once he chooses Israel. Look at this. He stays free. Matthew 3:9 says:
And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
Evidently, he could sense that election of corporate Israel was starting to feel like a right, so that if he comes pronouncing judgment, they say, “We have Abraham as our father,” meaning, “We escape. We’re the chosen ones.” To that, John says, “Don’t say, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able to raise up from stones children for Abraham.”
They had the mindset, evidently, “Since we’re born into the elect, chosen people, Israel, God must be faithful to his covenant, so we’re safe no matter what we do or believe. Because if he throws us away, he’s got no people. And his covenant won’t come true, and he will be unfaithful to his name, and he can’t be unfaithful to his name, and therefore we’re safe.” John says, “Excuse me? You’re forgetting something. You’re right. God is faithful. He keeps his covenant. He honors his name. And if he needs to, he’ll do it with rocks, and throw you away.” And guess what? We’re the rocks. The sons of the kingdom have been hardened. But that’s another seminar.
Israel’s Place in God’s Purposes
Matthew 8:12–13 says:
I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.
Scary. I stand at my window and I pray for the Jewish people. Oh, how we should pray for the Jewish people. If you have Jewish friends, love them, because they are temporarily under the judicial hardening of God, according to Romans 11. But they will not always be. When the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, then all of Israel will be saved. The hardening and the blindness will be lifted. Who knows when that may prove to be? In the meantime, Paul says, “I magnify my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles in order to make my kinsmen jealous” (Romans 11:13–14).
Now, how might you do that? By enjoying the inheritance of Abraham. You inherit everything the Jews were promised. You are a Jew. If you lived in the fullness of being the new and true Israel, which you are, perhaps some of your Jewish friends — if you understood that Abraham is your father and all the promises made to Abraham are yours as a Gentile, a rock — might watch and say, “That’s mine. Those are my promises.” And you say, “Yes, they are. Come on in. Come on in. Be grafted into the tree. I’m only saved because of your father. I’ve been grafted into the tree of the Abrahamic promise. It’s only because I became a Jew by faith in the Messiah that I have any hope, and I would like you not to stand on the outside like the older brother. Just come on into the party. We could have a good time here. It’s meant to be Jew and Gentile together.”
Oh, how I pray. I hope as a church we have more fruitful ministry among Jewish people. Don’t ever, ever participate in antisemitic talk or antisemitic activity. Evangelicals have been and ought to be the best friend of the Jewish people. Now, I don’t necessarily mean that determines our political stance in the Middle East. That’s complicated because Palestinians are also Christians. That’s another seminar, also. I’m getting sidetracked here.
The point is, God remains free in his electing work so that nobody can, for ethnic reasons or any external reasons, say, “I’m safe because I’m in the elect people, and it doesn’t matter what I do or what I believe. I’m secure.” At any point, God can raise up a stone to take your place.
Romans 9 shows the freedom of God in electing eternally within the elect covenant people. Paul says, “It is not as though the word of God has failed,” when the Jews rejected Jesus. He had just said in Romans 9:3, “I wish that I could be accursed and cut off from Christ for my kinsmen,” which means they are cursed and cut off from Christ. So now you have the elect people hellbound. It’s just terrifying to Paul. How can this be? He had to wrestle with this. Jewish people, Pharisees, are rejecting the Messiah.
In fact, there’s something in the sermon tonight that I’ll just allude to:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:14).
I would love to preach a whole sermon on it, but I’ll just pass over it quickly and ask the question, who lifted up the Son of Man? Moses lifted up the serpent. As Moses lifted up the serpent, so must the Son of Man, passive voice, must be lifted up. Who was the Moses?
How would you answer a question like that? You’re not told that in the context. Here’s what you do. If you have a computer, you click on the passive-voice word hypsōthēnai, which means “be lifted up.” You click on it, and you find all the uses in John. There aren’t many. All of them refer to the lifting up of the Son of Man. In only one place are we told who did it. The Pharisees did it. They’re the Moses.
Paul was one of those, opposing the Messiah. He was of the most religious, the most Bible-oriented members of the covenant community rejecting the Messiah. Unthinkable. His struggle was, “I don’t know what’re we’re going to do with this. The word of God has fallen. The promise made to the patriarchs is over. The people of Israel, he’s come to them and they’ve rejected him, almost lock, stock, and barrel.” This was a mammoth problem. And this is Paul’s way of dealing with it right here in Romans 9. He says:
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel . . . (Romans 9:6).
Election takes a people, the Jews, and then inside that people, there’s an elect among the elect. He continues:
It is not as though the word of God has failed. Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring . . . (Romans 9:6–7).
Some are, some aren’t. Some are children of Abraham who are children of Abraham. Some of the children of Abraham are not children of Abraham, meaning not elect, not saved, not born again, not eternally secure. And then he says:
But “Through Isaac (implicit, not Ishmael) shall your offspring be named” (Romans 9:7).
The Elect Within the Elect
What he’s getting at is that there’s a narrowing here. There’s a narrowing going on. Within every generation, there is the ethnic corporate entity of the elect people, the covenant people. Then within that, there is the elect, who are truly God’s.
This means that it is not the children of the flesh (naural birth) who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring (Romans 9:8).
That opens the possibility that Gentiles might be in there. He’s not talking about that yet. But he did back in Romans 2. It’s not those who have the circumcision of the flesh who have the true circumcision. Gentiles are of the true circumcision, and he’s talking to Gentiles. So here we are, and by virtue of having the faith of Abraham, we are the children of Abraham. So implicit there in that counting is that Gentiles can be included here in this offspring of Abraham.
For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated (Romans 9:9–13).
Now there is the clearest statement, I think, in the Bible about unconditional election. Though Jacob and Esau had not yet been born, and they had not done anything good or bad, God chose the one over the other. It says, “The older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). Why did he do it that way? Why did he choose before they had done anything to earn it or became worthy of it? It’s so that it would not be because of works but . . . And it doesn’t say, “but because of faith.” That’s usually the opposite of works. Works and faith. It’s usually “not works but faith.” Instead, it says, “But because of him. . .” He’s just tracing it straight back to God. It’s not of works but of him who calls. This is the sovereign call of God. She was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.”
Now, just a little autobiography here. When I was teaching at Bethel and we would get to the sovereignty of God — and we’d get there in every class, even when I didn’t want to. It would always come up. Every single class I taught, students would see implications for the sovereignty of God in election, and they would push on me. When all my arguments were done, I would end here in Romans 9, and not just here, but the rest of the chapter.
Some of the folks who had given a lot of thought to this, and were getting other messages in other classes besides the one I had, would say, “That’s just corporate election. That has nothing to do with eternal election. That’s just dealing with peoples. It doesn’t have anything to do with individuals. So it’s not eternal, and it’s not individual. It’s corporate and it’s temporary and historical, so you can’t use Romans 9 to defend any of that talk about individual unconditional election.”
So I spent an entire sabbatical on this. I asked them, “Look, I have to work this through. I have to settle, for my mind, the meaning of Romans 9. Romans 9 is just massive in its implications, depending on how you go.” So they gave me a sabbatical after my sixth year at Bethel, and I took from January through August and did nothing but study Romans 9:1–23, and I wrote a book about it called The Justification of God] (https://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-justification-of-god). I settled it in my mind that this does indeed relate to the eternal and individual destinies of people. I’ll just give you one argument why this reference here to Jacob and Esau, even though Jacob and Esau are heads of peoples — Jacob is head of the Jews, and Esau is head of the Edomites (Malachi 1:2–3) — why the point is about individuals.
It’s for this reason. In Romans 9:3–4, the problem that is setting up the whole chapter is that Paul is experiencing grief every day about his kinsmen according to the flesh. He said, “I could wish that I were accursed and cut off from Christ on their behalf, because they have the promises and the kingdom and the oracles. The problem is that my Jewish kinsmen are accursed and cut off from Christ.” So he’s setting up the problem as a problem for individuals. Within corporate Israel, elect corporate people Israel, some are lost. He is saying, “I’m a Jew and I’m not lost. The 12 apostles were all Jews and they’re not lost. Jesus was a Jew, and he’s not lost. Not all Israel is lost. But most of them are lost, because they’re rejecting the Messiah.” The issue of Romans 9, set up in Romans 9:3, is that some, not all, of the people are lost. How do you account for that? That’s what the point of the chapter is dealing with.
God’s Purpose in Election
So when this narrowing down of the elect people is being described here from Abraham to Isaac, not Ishmael, and from Isaac to Jacob, not Esau, when you see that narrowing down, the point is, that explains the bigger picture of why some Jews believe and some Jews don’t, which is why the rest of the chapter talks about the fact that it is not of him who runs or who wills, but of God who has mercy (Romans 9:16). He hardens whom he wills, and he has mercy on who he wills (Romans 9:18). Who are you, a man, to answer back to God and say, “Why then does he still find fault, Paul?” (Romans 9:19). Paul’s dealing exactly with our issue of individual, eternal, unconditional election here. But that took nine months and 250 pages, if you want to look at it.
What was God’s purpose in free, unconditional election? It was the praise of his glorious grace, which you see here in Ephesians:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him (Ephesians 1:3–4).
He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world — that’s before we had done anything good or evil — so that we should be holy and blameless before him. It continues:
In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:5–6).
That’s one of the most important phrases in the Bible right there. Some of you guys are studying Ephesians, and you can see this in Ephesians 1:6, Ephesians 1:12, and Ephesians 1:14. I remember seeing that for the first time in about 1977 and being blown away by the one sentence that begins the book of Ephesians, which is about 14 verses long. The main point of that sentence is Ephesians 1:6, which is repeated in Ephesians 1:12 and Ephesians 1:14. We are chosen and predestined to the praise of his glorious grace.
The Wonder of Sovereign Grace
You will not praise him as you ought until you feel the wonder that he chose you for absolutely nothing in you. Nothing. It’s very hard to get your mind around because we’re wired to merit things. To get something freely is just incomprehensible. To know that we’re loved with a love that begins in eternity, and that he chose to set his favor upon us is stunning. Isaiah 43:20–21 says:
The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
This is a praise in particular for his grace. Grace is the apex of his glory in election. What election does is make grace shine most gloriously and make us humble. Look at how Paul spells that out. He says:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose (so this is election) what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:26–29).
As long as there is some conditionality to your election — that God waits to watch you do something, whether it’s to believe or love, and then he chooses you because of what you did, having foreseen it — there will be an undermining of this purpose.
Because of Him
Now, Arminians, if they heard me say this right now, they would totally disagree with that. They would say, “We don’t boast that we grabbed onto the life jacket that was thrown to us. We don’t. No person would boast that if they were drowning, and they admit they’re drowning, and they’re humbly brokenhearted, and they’re crying for help, and God throws them a life preserver and says, ‘I’m going to watch to see who grabs it, and then I’ll save that person,’ and we grabbed it. We don’t boast in our grabbing it.” I would say, “I’m deeply thankful that you don’t boast in your grabbing it. I am very thankful. But this text says they grabbed it because God helped them grab it. God enabled them to grab it, and God put their arm around it.”
Because even though they may be gasping with gratitude on the Coast Guard boat, a year later, as they thought about all the people who were going down, and all of them were thrown life preservers, and many of them didn’t grab it, they might think, “Why didn’t they, and I did?” Either you’re going to chalk it up to yourself or to God. You might think, “I was strong enough. I was smart enough. I did it and they didn’t.”
In heaven, when God asks you why you’re there someday, you’ll say, “Because Christ died for me.” And then he could ask, “But how did you relate to that?” And you could say, “I believed in him. I put my trust in him. I despaired of myself, and I trusted in your Son and nothing in me.” And he could say, “You did. Why did you do that, and your brother didn’t?” Now, right at that point, I just want you to give the right answer. You’re going to say, “Grace.” You’re not going to say, “Because my brother was stupid,” or “Because my brother wasn’t as smart as I was,” or “Because I was more spiritually sensitive,” or anything else. None of those answers are going to give glory to God. You’re going to say, “Thank you.”
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Even your faith was the gift of God.
Because of him, you are in Christ Jesus . . . (1 Corinthians 1:30).
That would be a good way to put the answer. You could say, “I’m in Christ today because you have put me in.” And the passage continues:
Who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30–31).
You have a negative statement in 1 Corinthians 1:29, which says, “so that no human being might boast,” and this is a positive statement in 1 Corinthians 1:31, which says, “so that we boast only in the Lord.” That’s the goal of election. He chose unconditionally, contrary to human expectation, in order to silence our boasting in ourselves and awaken our boasting in him. That’s why he did it.
In What Does God Delight?
Let me just step back and give the big answer here in view of the way we’re asking the question. What does God delight in when he delights in electing unconditionally? Answer: he delights in being boasted in. He does mean for us to enjoy his grace fully, give all the glory to his grace fully, and not take part of the credit for ourselves. So his delight in unconditional election is a delight consistent with everything else we’ve seen in God’s delight in being God.
The implications of that are as follows, as I have written down here. First, it brings all praise to his grace and humbles man.
Second, it bestows on all who will have it the unspeakable blessing of God’s covenant love. He loved us and gave himself for us, like a husband obtaining a wife. You need to know yourself loved with a kind of love that is not ultimately dependent on you, but on God. God chose you freely to be part of his bride, and he’s making her beautiful according to Ephesians 5:25–33.
Third, it assures us of success in evangelism and success of the gospel in missions. A lot of people say, “If God elects unconditionally then there’s no point in evangelism.” Well, that’s ridiculous. That’s like saying, “If God ordains that this nail be in the board, there’s no reason to hit it with a hammer.” Here is the text that shows how successful evangelism will be because of election:
Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold (John 10:15–16).
Notice what Jesus is saying. He says, “I have other sheep.” That means unbelievers who are not yet saved, and they are out there somewhere. They’re the elect. He says:
I have other sheep that are not f this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd (John 10:16).
So he sends Paul to Corinth. Paul starts to have fear. Jesus comes to him in a dream in Acts 18:9–10. It says:
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking . . .
Now, this speaking here is the same speaking referred to in John 10:16. Jesus today does not do evangelism from the clouds. Jesus speaks today, he saves sinners today, and he awakens the dead today, and he does it when we, in his name, in the power of his Spirit, speak his word. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ coming through your mouth (Romans 10:17), not by a megaphone from heaven. Nobody gets saved with megaphones from heaven.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14–15).
Be missionaries, here and around the world.
The Means of Awakening
This is what’s going to happen:
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people” (Acts 18:9–10).
That’s the sheep. That’s like when Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” (John 10:16). Some of them are in Corinth. He says, “I have many people in this city.” They’re not yet saved. They’re his, they’re elect. So he says, “You go speak, and I will awaken them. I will use your voice as a means.”
I was listening to John Alexander at Urbana in 1966 talk about predestination and missions, and he said, “When I first went overseas, I thought, ‘If I believed in predestination, I wouldn’t become a missionary. God’s going to get them saved any way he wants if they’re already predestined to eternal life.’” Then after 20 years, he said, “Now I say, having been there, if I didn’t believe in predestination, I’d never be a missionary. Because I’m powerless. I am absolutely powerless to save hardened unbelievers. If I didn’t believe that God sovereignly conquers the human heart, and he always does it according to his plan and purpose, namely election, then I wouldn’t be a missionary.”
That’s what hundreds and hundreds of great, historic, fruitful, sacrificial missionaries have believed — William Carey, Adoniram Judson, John Paton, Alexander Duff. The line is many. They totally believed that God saves sinners sovereignly according to his electing grace, and he uses human beings, and therefore there’s hope that I might be used to save sinners who need to be raised from the dead.
An Unbreakable Chain of Security
Here’s the fourth implication: it brings security to the heart of the believer because of the chain of certainty connecting election, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.
Oh saint, listen to this:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:28–31).
Now, what I mean by security — it brings security to believe in our unconditional election — is that this election unleashes a chain of certainty that moves from predestination to calling to justification and glorification, and none of those links in the chain can be broken, because it says, “Those whom he predestined, he called.” None of the predestined are not called. And then it says, “Those whom he called, he justified.” None of the called are not justified, which means this call is effectual. It awakens the faith that justifies, absolutely and securely. It is irresistible. It overcomes all human resistance. None of the called fail to be justified. And it preserves, because none of the justified fail to be glorified. Those who are justified are glorified. That is glorious.
D you want security in your life? Do you want rock-solid assurance in your life? Then preach to your soul, “The predestined are called. The called are justified. The justified are glorified. Nobody drops out. God sees to it.” So the question is, are you justified? You hear the testament:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).
We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16).
Then everything boils down to this: will you believe? Will you trust him?
6. God’s Pleasure in Brusing His Son
This is the heart of the gospel. This is where you start with an unbeliever. This is where you end a seminar. It’s not a bad place to end. But it’s a hard thing to think of the Father delighting in the crucifixion of Jesus. Is that right? Should we think that way?
Isaiah 53:10 says:
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief.
It was the will of the Lord. Literally, the word for “it was the will of the Lord” is the word hafetz, which means “it pleased.” That word usually means “rejoice” or “delight.” It pleased the Lord to bruise him, to crush him.
Ephesians 5:2 says:
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Really? Just think of it. He gives himself up on the cross, and the Father stoops down to watch. Believe me, according to Romans 8:32, this was not easy for God the Father, because it says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all . . .” That little phrase, “did not spare,” means he would’ve gladly spared. But he didn’t. When he didn’t, and the Son obediently went to the cross, and God stooped down and smelled it, it was fragrant in his nose. It was beautiful. Though it was visually horrible, it was spiritually, morally magnificent. You could make a long list of the things about the death of Jesus that the Father loved: his meekness, his love, his sacrifice, his patience, his yieldedness to the Father. I mean, the list would be quite long. You don’t have to say God is sadistic to make sense out of this.
In the complexity of the mind of God the Father, it is possible to weep and rejoice at the same time. To grieve over the pain and the exquisite suffering of his Son’s body and soul, and yet to say, “What a Son! What a Son! What an obedience! What faithfulness! What patience! My boy!” Now, you have to say both. God’s wrath is being poured out on his Son, and as he beholds the Son’s patient endurance of his own wrath, he loves what he sees. He never stopped loving his Son. He never stopped delighting in his Son.
The Accomplishment of the Cross
How can that be? What’s behind it? God has chosen sinners for his own love possession, but sin is dishonoring to God, therefore it looks like God is discounting his glory, which contradicts his highest value and would be unrighteous. Therefore if sinners are to be elect and saved, God’s glory must be upheld, and his righteousness must be vindicated. We’ll stop with this. I’ll just give you this final passage. We’ll work our way through this, and we’ll be done.
This is the most important paragraph in the Bible, perhaps, because it explains why God put Christ his Son to shame, his beloved Son in whom he delights infinitely, and why he put him to such horrible rejection and pain. What’s going on there? Romans 3:23 says:
All have sinned (that’s us) and fall short of the glory of God . . .
So the glory of God is the issue in our sin. What do we do? We behold the glory of God in the world, we behold it in the word, and we choose food, television, money, power, fame, and all kinds of things besides God. We dishonor him. We make him look like he’s not worth the time of day. Paul continues:
And are justified by his grace as a gift (it couldn’t be any other way), through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).
Now, what did God do in putting him forward to redeem, to buy us back from our horrible bondage and slavery and being under his wrath? He continues:
Whom God put forward ( so God did this) as a propitiation (a means of appeasing and removing God’s wrath) by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness . . .
Oh, so what’s at stake in God putting Christ forward and being pleased to bruise him in saving sinners is that if he didn’t do it this way, it would look like his righteousness is called into question.
God’s Righteousness Upheld
Now, do you remember a couple of sessions ago when I said that defining the righteousness as God’s relentless upholding of his glory was going to be important? This is where it’s important. God is righteous only to the degree that he continues to vindicate and uphold and display his glory. Sin in you and me has trampled the glory of God, and made it look like he’s not worth the time of day. That’s what we do all day long. We belittle the glory of God because we’re not ravished by it. We’re ravished by other things. God saves us, justifies us, and declares us to be absolutely perfect and righteous, in spite of that. So it looks like he’s saying, “My glory doesn’t matter very much. I’m going to save people who trample it all day long.” In order not to say that, in order to be righteous, he puts Jesus in our place, and displays, by his wrath on Jesus, how much he hates God-belittling sin. That’s what this says:
This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25–26).
He passed over sins. He’s passing over your sins right now. He’s treating you 10,000 times better at this very moment than you deserve, and therefore it looks as though he doesn’t consider your sin very important, or that he doesn’t consider the glory that you have belittled very valuable. The solution to that problem of justice and righteousness is Christ crucified.
When Christ came into the world, he came into the world to magnify the glory of the Father, and he took on himself all the indignation of God against our God-belittling sin and said, “It matters this much to God.” And God, in delighting in crushing his Son, is ultimately delighting in the vindication of the worth of his glory, which is where we began and where we should end.
You can work through the rest of the book and the rest of the issues yourself. What we’ve tried to see is this: the excellency of a soul, God’s soul in this case, is determined by (shown by) the object of its love, the object of its delight, passion, and satisfaction. We’ve worked our way through God’s delight in his Son, God’s delight in his display of his glory, God’s delight in doing all that he does in history, God’s delight in creation, God’s delight in election, and now God’s delight in the crucifixion of his Son. In every case, what we’ve seen — and what we would if we kept on going — is that ultimately what God is delighting in in all those things is the way they display the glory of God.
So God created the world to move out from the intra-trinitarian enjoyment of himself and created beings who, if they will have it, may enter into the joy of their master and participate in glorifying him by enjoying him forever. So yes, he is the most excellent of all beings, and we’ve seen it in what he delights in, namely himself, in everything he does and everything he has made.