He Has Mercy On Whom He Wills

The doctrine of election is an important truth that greatly helps us to properly understand, humbly accept, and greatly appreciate the love of God displayed in Christ’s death.  The emphasis in scripture has always been that God freely sets His special love and affection on particular people.  I know that I’m stepping on toes.  I’m aware that I’m dwindling down my audience, but scripturally it is impossible to avoid this topic if I’m going to discuss the love of God in depth.  Consider God’s chosen people Israel:

“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 and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath the he swore to your fathers… (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)”

The Lord is in and of Himself a loving God, but we are an undeserving people of that perfect love.  Therefore, God is free to choose who He sets His redeeming and electing love upon.

Consider also Deuteronomy 10:15 “The Lord set His heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring…” The NASB translates “The Lord set His love on” as “The Lord set His affection to love them.”  This is an excellent translation.  The word for “set His love” in the original language is “chasaq” which is a powerful word implying a strong desire to cling to, join to, love and delight in another.  The word itself carries with it not just strong emotional desire to be joined to another, but a particular purpose for this kind of love, which is literally: To deliver, to preserve, to hold back punishment, to reserve and to spare.  This is what happens when God saves a person from His wrath.  God’s most intimate, deep, and special love is towards those whom He has spared.

Let’s look at a few of many New Testament verses:

Romans 9:15-16’I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’  So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.”

Ephesians 1:3-6 “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.  In love he predestined us for adoption 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.”

It is my experience that people today seem perfectly fine with God electing Israel while rejecting other nations in the Old Testament, but they are furious that God would remain consistent to His ways in the New Testament.  My purpose in writing is to delve into the love of God and not to hammer you with election.  Nevertheless, it’s everywhere in scripture and I do want you to notice it.

Now I know someone will say that I am saying God doesn’t love everyone.  That is not what I am saying, but I think it is much more biblical to say that God doesn’t love everyone to the same extent or in the same way.  An example of God’s general care for all men is found in Matthew 5:44-45:

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

There are several ways in which God has cared for every person, such as creating us and providing for our practical needs.  God has even blessed all people by allowing them to experience His creation, but to many this evidence will be brought up against them on the day of judgement.  We are to love our enemies as God loves His enemies, which is not with the same measure or type of love as we would love our own children and family members.  I have a special love for my husband that does not belong to anyone else, and no one would accuse me of being unfair.  God has a special love for those whom He has adopted as Beloved Children, and this love is exclusively towards them.

It is essential to keep in mind that at one time we were ALL God’s enemies and He still showed love towards us in practical, yet still amazing ways.  But He is not intimate or close to the wicked who remain in their wickedness.

Proverbs 28:9 “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.”

We are all originally enemies of God.  We are all naturally disposed to be rejected by God, and worthy of that rejection.  As I have already discussed it is not as though anyone goes to Hell having cared about God, but rather we have no spiritual appetite for Him or His truths, and are “not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:13).”  We are not spiritually able to know Him, but neither do we want to: “’Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me,’ declares the Lord (Jeremiah 9:6).” The key is that we need God to intervene or we could never have a hope of personally experiencing His love, mercy, and grace.

Our desperate, helpless, and Hell worthy state is what makes the love of God breath taking.  Don’t dare say He isn’t fair friends.  The fact that He would rescue anyone like us should make us fall on our faces in awe.

The best way I can think to explain this more clearly is to discuss the topic of the pleasure and delight of the Lord.  This is not a topic that is easy to grasp, or for many to accept, but it is wrong to turn a blind eye to the truths of God’s word because they are difficult or uncomfortable for us.  The more we seek God’s word, and His heart in prayer, the more we can understand His truths for the sake of our joy.  Please follow up by reading my next section when it is posted.

6 thoughts on “He Has Mercy On Whom He Wills”

  1. Hey sister, it’s me again (although you probably don’t remember me)

    I fully embrace the doctrine of election. I just am hesitate about the doctrine of Limited Atonement.The reason for my hesitation is because of scripture claiming Christ died for the sins of the whole world.I know Calvinists claim that “whole world” means people of every tribe, nation, tongue, and kingdom that are elect and come to Christ but I just want to be sure that is exactly what the text means.

    Also, there are passages that claim God wants all people to be saved.”This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”1 Timothy 2:3-4
    Again, does “all people” refer to the elect from every nation, tongue, and tribe?Is there a way that God could both want everyone in the world to be saved and yet elect whomever he pleases? I think that would synonymous with the passages of the Bible claiming God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.Obviously I would not put forth the idea that he does.I guess the best conclusion I can think of is in Romans 9 that God has prepared vessels of destruction and vessels that will demonstrate his grace and kindness all to his own glory.

    Third, is there a sense in which God loves all people? Maybe that love could be extended to all people because of God’s nature-he is love-not because of anything they have ever done or will do.In other words, his love is not merited, that is a given.But we know that if we abide in Christ, his righteousness is imputed to us and we escape the wrath of God…it no longer remains on us.So whatever would be left for Christians is intense and incredible love, not wrath or anger.God is no longer just their Creator but their Father.

    I would just love your thoughts on this.
    May God bless and keep you,Love you sister.
    And have a blessed new year.

    1. Great questions! Thanks so much for your thoughts. The next section I am posting will adress Ezekiel 36 which discusses that God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone but rather that they would turn and live, so you may be interested to come back and read this.

      Have you ever seen this dvd? http://www.amazinggracedvd.com/

      It is the best teaching on the subject I have heard. It gives lots of examples of the Bible using language like “whole world” when it clearly isn’t literally the whole world. Kind of like when we say “everyone is going to be there” when really we mean “most of our friends…”

      Limited Atonement: I believe that Jesus Christ literally took the wrath of God for the specific sins of specific people. I believe it’s literal when the Bible says He WILL save His people from their sins. Election- that all that the Father has given to Jesus will indeed come to Him, fits perfectly with Limited Atonement, and I don’t see how they can be seperated. Jesus couldn’t have died for certain people, tried to save them, and then failed. That’s just not consistant with scripture and really doesn’t make sense. I prefer the term “Deffinate Atonement.” Jesus’ blood is guaranteed to purchase whomever it was shed for. It may be “limited” to particular people, but it is not limited in power. It is sufficent. Don’t know if you like rap but this song is pretty good for explaining this- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ_jFO2VzRQ

      Though, I do think there is a sense in which God desires all (literally all) people to be saved. God can desire two things simutaneously- such as that all people would be saved, but also that some people would ultimately be punished and He would display His justice so that people would marvel and be ever more grateful for salvation etc. This is a complicated subject, and I don’t by any means claim to have all the answers.

      One thing we can know for sure is that though God may will a person to remain unconverted, this does not mean He desires it in any sense that gives Him pleasure or delight… henceforth my upcoming topic.

      I think this is similar to topics like suffering… God takes no pleasure in our suffering, yet He has allowed it and even purposed it for greater reasons.

      Do I think there is a sense in which God loves all people? I think that really depends on the definition of love. I would have given an emphatic YES before, but the more I studied this in scripture the more I realized that the verses relating to God’s love generally refer to His adopted children. To be honest, I have not made an absolute conclusion on this yet. However I think it is safe and biblical to say that He cares for all people, though not with the same heart felt emotion and affection as He does for His Beloved. He cares because He has created all people, watches over them, and provides for their needs. He also provides opportunity for people to hear the gospel even if He knows they will freely reject it.

      Another thing we can know for sure is that whatever love God has for fallen people will come to an end if they die without coming to Christ. At this point there will be nothing left for them but wrath and punishment. This thought should get us out there on the streets evangelizing. This should be a HUGE motivator to share the gospel.

      There’s a few of my thoughts. They are imperfect, somewhat uncertain, and to be honest not yet entirely thought through as much as I have tried to make myself completely clear on the issue. I think I am also going to write an article about God as the Author of faith if you would like to check back for this as well. God bless, and Happy New Year!

      1. No, I don’t believe I have seen it.It is possible to watch it online or something?

        I think Limited Atonement follows logically if you accept all the other doctrines of grace.I just want to affirm what the “whole world” texts really mean because if Limited Atonement is refuted then I would have to check back on all the other doctrines so I just want to be sure.

        Yeah, God does all things according to his will and he works for his glory so It’s safe to say that he is in control and knows what he is doing.

        Yes, God is full of grace, mercy, and compassion.The Bible says he loved us even while we were yet sinners.So he loved his elect before they came to Christ as enemies of him? And then there are verses like John 3:16 that says God so loved the world….does “world” again refer to only his elect from the four corners of the world or does it refer to the whole world since it claims that “whosoever believes” may have eternal life?

        And thanks for the insight sister.May God bless and keep us all.


        1. There is a few clips you can watch on their site but you would have to order the DVD. It’s pretty lengthy, but very worth it. I agree, if limited atonement was refuted you would have to question election.

          Romans 5:6-10 says that He died for the ungodly, and that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Also that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His son.”

          His love is manifested in His death. It might be helpful to read my article “Love Manifested In Dying” at http://cometochrist.ca/?p=84 which will go into this in further detail.

          I would say that God posesses the attribute of love within Himself and chose to reveal and magnify that attribute in the action of Christ dying on the cross. The verse says the cross is when His love was “shown” but does not say at which point that love was felt, or I guess you could say “set upon” the believer. I would say that this special love was not set upon the believer until they actually believed and were adopted as children. (see the deffinition of chasaq again in above article).

          When He died we were “still enemies,” and children of wrath, not yet vessels of mercy. That death was applied to us at the point of conversion, at which point Romans 5 also says that “God’s love (was) poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” That love was not experienced in an intimate way by us until we were adopted by God.

          Another interesting aspect of election is that God did have a special attachment, interest, and patience for Israel even when they were disobedient, and this I think is on account of their being chosen. I don’t know that I could say for sure that this would apply to the elect pre-salvation, but I tend to think so. I don’t claim to have the answers but these are my thoughts on the topic.

          John 3:16 is likely reffering to the elect, or you could say “people from throughout the entire world.” God also did display and make this love available for all sinners to see upon hearing the gospel, whether they ever repent or not. If we took every reference of “all people” or “the whole world” literally we would end up with incosistancy in scripture and alot of problems. For example (and there are many), again in Romans 5 verse 18 states that “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

          If Christ’s death leads to justification for literally every single human being, as Adam’s one sin lead to death for all, than Jesus’ death purchased salvation for whomever would simply exist, not whomever would repent and believe. If Jesus Christ paid the penalty of sin for all, He is surely disappointed by His own lack of success, and devastated by His unnecessary shedding of blood and absorbing of wrath for so many who despise Him. This cannot be so. Jesus Christ accomplished salvation in full on that day, not merely made it possible to whomever would choose Him. May I provide you with context for the “all” in Romans 5:18 in scriptures:

          Titus 2:14 “(Jesus) who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

          Jesus has a chosen people for His own possession, for whom He died and will certainly be competent to save. These are those given to Him and dearly beloved to Him, by His Father. There are several supporting texts from the High Priestly Prayer in John 17 but here are a few:

          “Glorify your Son that the Son my glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him… to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word… I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me for they are yours…I desire that they also whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory.” (verses 1,2,6,9,24)

          Not for the “whole world” but for those in the world whom the Father gives to Christ.

          “Whoever believes” and whoever would call on His name will have eternal life. But no one will believe or call on His name, as Jesus said “unless the Father who sent me draws Him (John 6:44).” See also John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

          Phew. Lots of thoughts. I know it can be a confusing topic, and whole books have been written on these questions so this is just my tiny reflection. Hope it helps.

  2. I don’t know if this would occur to anyone, but there is a sense in which this is mysterious and quite impossible for us to grasp. The reason is that God is outside of space and time. He loved us when He died for us, He chose us before we existed, He purchased our salvation before we believed, He paid the penalty for our sins before that reality was executed in our lives and hearts.

    All of these things God has known from eternity past, Jesus having been slain in God’s redemptive plan, and our names having been written in the book of life before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). Because of this I think questions of “when” God loved us are difficult for us to grasp because though He has always loved us, while we lived in sin we were also enemies and children of wrath at that time. I think that God is capable of feeling emotions simutaneously in a way that we are not humanly able to.

    On a human level though, we can understand when that love was displayed (on the cross) and when it was poured into our hearts, or applied to us (at conversion). We can know He loved us before the foundation of the world from Ephesians 2:4 “But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” I hope this helps.

  3. It did help sister.Thanks a lot…and I am not just saying that.I think I truly am affirmed in all five doctrines of grace now.And I have seen recently that these doctrines have been excepted as biblical since all the way back to when the church first began to exist or was very young…that really helps in building me up as well.

    The love of God is such a great and incomprehensible topic that I do not believe it is humanly possible to full understand it but your thoughts do make sense.One thing we know for sure though, God has a right to do with his clay whatever he pleases and he is Love, his nature is to be Good, Kind, Graceful, Compassionate, and Loving.And May he receive all Honor, Glory, and Praise now and forever.

    God bless and keep you

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