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God's Mercy Under His Sovereign Will
L. R. Shelton, Sr.

    There are only two religions in the world today: one is based upon the so-called Free Will of man, and the other one is based upon God's Sovereign, Free Grace. Free Will and Free Grace are diametrically opposed to each other – they stand poles apart. For either one to conquer, the other one must be destroyed. Either Free Will destroys Free Grace and becomes lord, or Free Sovereign Grace will destroy Free Will and stand as lord of the battle. If you are saved by Free Will, then it is by the exercise of your own will that you are saved, and not by God's will. On the other hand, if you are saved only by God's will – that is, by Sovereign Grace, you are not saved by your own will. The Apostle Paul put it in these words in Rom. 4:4, 5, "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." If you are saved by your own will, then that's works; if you are saved by God's will, that's Grace. If you are saved by your own will, you can lose it at any time; if you are saved by God's will through Free Grace, then you can never lose it at any time.

     If you are saved by your own will, you become your own god, and your Free Will is set up in the heathen temple of your own mind as your idol. If you are saved by God's will, which is by Sovereign Grace, then the Lord Jesus Christ becomes your Lord and your Saviour. My friend, there is no affinity between Free Will and Free Grace. This has been the controversy, not only in the religious world today, but ever since Christ went back to Heaven from Mt. Olivet. Free Will versus Free Grace has divided mankind and has decided the destiny of every individual for Heaven or for Hell. The question is, "Does God save me, or do I by the use (we might say) of common grace, save myself? Does God have all the glory in my salvation?" As one great writer has put it, "Does God by sovereign election and choice make me, from unwilling, willing – or do I elect my own self, and initiate salvation, and will because I have power? And do I still contend that men can come to Christ without the drawing of the Father?" I believe it was C. H. Spurgeon who said, "If there is one thread of works in your so-called salvation, you are lost, and never have been saved."

     We are not fighting a new battle; we are fighting a battle that is as old as the human race. I know modern-day theology teaches "The day of Free Sovereign Grace is over. It might have worked back yonder in other ages with the great reformers, but they have had their day; and modem thought and modem-day theology must replace Free Grace in Christ Jesus our Lord."

     Free will has whittled our Bible to pieces. Free will has exalted and deified man, humanized the Lord Jesus, and minimized sin. Free will puffs up the pride of man, exalts the so-called glory of man, magnifies the natural talents of man, and begins with man in salvation. Free Grace begins with God and works down to man. Free Grace exalts the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord of lords and King of kings. Free Grace puts man in the dust as a depraved, lost, ruined sinner where he belongs, preaches him into Hell and leaves him there, with no hope except Christ crucified, buried, and risen. Free Grace always abases the sinner and exalts Christ. Free Grace gives the preacher a supernatural voice crying, "Thus saith the Lord"Free will preaches ethics without the Holy Spirit, but Free Grace preaches regeneration, the great doctrine that lays man stripped naked and helpless before God. Free grace shuts man up to the faith which is the gift of God. Free Grace preaches that salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Now that gives you just a little contrast between Free Will and Free Grace.

     Now to the testimony of God's Word: I want to read to you two seemingly contradictory texts. The first one is found in Rev. 22:17, "And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." And the other text is found in Rom. 9:16, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." Immediately a blinded fellow would say, "Well, the Bible contradicts itself." Let's see whether it does or not. "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Let me ask you a question, Do you want the "water of life"? No, you don't want it, do you? If you did, you would take it. So then, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy," and puts in your heart the desire to come.

     May I make this statement, Rev. 22:17 is the only place in the Word of God that this expression "whosoever will" is found. The word "whosoever" is found in many other places, but this is the only place in God's Word where the expression "whosoever will" is found. We find in Rom. 10:13 these words, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." And we find in Matt. 11:28 these words, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Then we find in John 6:37 these words, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." But our two texts stand in seeming opposition to each other – Rev. 22:17, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely," and Rom. 9:16, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." Now, my friends, you cannot interpret Rev. 22:17 in the light of Free Will, and then interpret Rom. 9:16 in the light of Free Sovereign Grace.

     Let me ask this question, "Is a sinner saved by his own will, or is he saved by the will of God?" That's a question you must answer. Is a sinner saved by his own will, or is he saved by the will of God? I was saved by the will of God. Eph. 2:1 says that sinners are dead in trespasses and sins. Can a dead man have a will of his own? Can a dead man believe? The burden of proof is on you.

     Now let's turn to Psa. 110:3, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning." So we see from this Scripture that God has to make a sinner willing by His sovereign power. Christ over and again said, "Ye will not come to me that ye may have life." Writing to the church of Thyatira in the third chapter of Revelation, Christ speaking of the pastor's wife, whom He called Jezebel, said, "She repented not," or literally, "She willed not to repent." A sinner dead in trespasses and sins cannot will himself to repent, he cannot will himself to believe, because his will is held in bondage by his old depraved nature and his deceitful, unbelieving heart; therefore, any individual apart from the will of God does not and cannot will to be saved in Christ. He may have a natural desire to go to Heaven; he may have a natural fear of Hell, but only Sovereign Grace can turn a sinner's will to will to come to Christ.

     Let's listen to the Word of God, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12, 13). So you see here God has to give the sinner power to become a son of God, who is born of the will of God. So salvation does not begin with the sinner's will, but with God's will. Listen again to the Word of God, "Even so the Son quickeneth (makes alive) whom he will" (John 5:2 1). We see here that the salvation of every sinner rests upon the Sovereign Grace of God to make alive whomsoever He will. No sinner would ever will to come to Christ until first he is made alive in Christ and given power to come to Christ.

     Now let's turn to John 6:44 and read, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." Here was a group of unsaved religionists who were murmuring among themselves about the Lord Jesus and His teaching that He was the Bread of Life, the Manna sent from Heaven. They began to say among themselves, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, who was born out of wedlock, whose mother was a harlot?" Jesus, looking them in the face – and, I believe, more or less, in sarcasm – said, "All right, go on and make fun of Me, if you please; but remember one thing, I am the Son of God who should come into the world. I am the Saviour of men; I am the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, and 'no man can come to Me except the Father which has sent Me draw him.' " That shut them up.

     The same thing is still true today. You modernists can go on making fun of God's Word; you can call it folklore, if you want to. You can deny the Virgin Birth of Christ if you please, make fun of His death on Calvary, preach that there is no resurrection from the dead, deny the verbal inspiration of the Bible, but this great text stands as a Rock of Gibraltar immovable in the face of every one of you, "No man can come to me (Christ), except the Father which hath sent me draw him." You can deny that, if you want to – you can try to explain it away – but it still stands. It has been there for nearly 2,000 years, and no sinner ever has been saved or ever will be saved, except he be made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit and be drawn to the Son by the Father.

     How does the Father draw a sinner to Christ? Jer. 31:3 says, "With lovingkindness have I drawn thee." God chose that sinner in love; He predestinated him in love; He calls him in love; He makes him alive in the love of Christ. He draws him with lovingkindness and accepts him in the Beloved, according to His own sovereign will. Read the first chapter of Ephesians. No man would ever come to Christ if he could help it. He wouldn't! The only thing God has to do for you to go to Hell is just to let you alone – just let you alone, and you will go your own way and wind up in Hell. It would be laughable if it weren't so tragical – there are some folks who are afraid to be associated with me because they are afraid they will catch my religion. My friend, it doesn't rub off like that! You don't catch religion like you do the measles. You can be associated with me all your life and never get saved.

     Now let's look again at God's Word, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ" (Eph. 1:11, 12). We see here that God works all things after the counsel of His own will to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. So it is not the sinner's will, but God's will. This is brought out so clearly in Phil. 2:13, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." From these Scriptures, my friend, we will see that salvation hinges entirely upon the will of God. The reason that you cannot see that thing is because you are totally depraved, and "if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not (blinded by the god of this world)." Therefore, you are not only dead in trespasses and sins, and not only is your will held in bondage by your depraved nature, and you cannot choose Christ because your old depraved nature hates Christ, but you are blinded and cannot see.

     Now let's notice another condition of every sinner, as set forth in II Tim. 2:26, "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil (Satan), who are taken captive by him at his will." This the sinner does not know, that he is held captive by Satan at Satan's will. Now, that's your trouble! In other words, Satan, who holds you captive, has a greater will than you have. Now if you don't believe that, let the Lord awaken you to the fact that you are lost and you will see you can't deliver yourself! You see, when God saves an individual, He has to deliver that individual from Satan's power. Therefore, salvation is not only by blood, but by power. To tell you that you are a son of Satan and are held captive by Satan at his will means nothing to you unless the Holy Spirit opens your blinded eyes and lets you see that you are held captive as a prisoner by Satan. Then your will is not only held in bondage by your depraved nature and unbelieving heart, but it is held captive by Satan. Therefore, you are thrust into the inner prison and held fast in the bonds of your own depraved nature and the power of Satan.

     Now isn't that an awful condition for you to be in, and then you stand up and tell me, "Oh, I can believe, I can be saved at just any time that I want to; it doesn't make any difference if I get ready at my last minute on my deathbed. I can be saved when I want to"! Brother, that's a lie Satan has crammed down your throat: you can't do it!

     Then for you to be rescued, the Holy Spirit must visit you and make you alive in Christ, as we read in James 1:18, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." Then the Apostle Paul writing to the Corinthians said, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation) " (II Cor. 5:17). Now this brings us face to face with this great fact, that every sinner has to be born again, born from above, regenerated, made a new creature in Christ; and no sinner wills of his own accord to be made a new creature. This is wholly the will of God, which is expressed so clearly in Rom. 9:15, where the Lord says, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Now that's clear, isn't it? That's God's Word. Are you going to believe it? No – you won't! You'll throw up your hands, saying, "I don't believe it." Now, why don't you believe it? It is because you have never been touched by the Grace of God. Your eyes are blinded. You can't see, and you will never see it until the Holy Spirit opens your heart and mind.

     Now what is the evidence that an individual is one of God's chosen or elected ones? This is brought out so clearly in I Cor. 2:4, 5, when the Apostle Paul said, "My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." The outstanding evidence that any sinner is one of God's elect is that the Word of God goes home to that sinner's heart in demonstration of the Holy Spirit and in the power of God, until that sinner is awakened to his lost condition and begins to cry, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." This is God showing mercy to a sinner. Luke 4:32 says that the people were astonished at the teachings of Christ, for "His word was with power."

     John 1:12 says that God gave them power to become the sons of God. The Apostle Paul writing to the Romans said. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it (the Gospel) is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). This truth is set forth clearly in John 17:2 (Christ speaking of Himself said), "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." We see here that Christ has power over every individual, and He gives eternal life to as many as He chooses. Listen again to the Word of God, "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" (Rom. 9:21-24). You see, my friend, you are either a vessel of wrath or a vessel of mercy: "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy" (Rom. 9:18, 16). We come back to our same conclusion, based upon God's Word which cannot be broken, that Christ does not stand before the sinner to be accepted or rejected, but every sinner stands before Christ to be accepted or rejected by Him, based entirely upon the will and purpose of a sovereign God. This exalts God on the throne as Sovereign and puts man down at His footstool. That makes a sinner mad. David Brainerd said, before he got saved, it made him so mad he could have killed God if he could have gotten his hands on Him. Yes, sir! It makes a sinner so mad when he finds that he has to stand before God to be accepted or rejected, to be saved or damned. Now that's the position that God puts every sinner in. It's foolish for a sinner to say he can believe any time. My friend, if you have never come to the place that you can't believe, you are not saved. As long as you can point back and say, "Here is where I believed and God saved me," you are not saved!

     Listen! the very moment God begins to open a sinner's heart, that is the moment he begins to repent, and that is the moment he begins to believe. Then he keeps on repenting and believing until God delivers him. There is no definite place where you can say that you believed and God saved you, or you repented and God saved you. You begin to repent, you begin to believe, and after God saves you, you keep on believing and repenting until you get to the Pearly Gates. It is all of God. It is all of Grace, and nothing is of Free Will.

     Did you ever stop to think, my friend, that you don't deserve mercy? There is nothing in you for God to love until God puts it there. Did you ever stop to think that you are lost, fallen spirits living in a body fit for Hell? Did you ever stop to think that in your bosom is a miniature Hell, in which dwells every kind of viper? Did you ever stop to think that if God let you alone, you would go to Hell of your own choice, because you are a miniature Hell on earth? The only reason God chooses anyone to salvation according to His own purpose is because the sinner cannot make the choice himself – God has to make it for him. If God didn't make the choice, no one would ever get saved. So Sovereign Grace sits upon the throne; Free Will is a heathen idol and must crumble at the feet of Sovereign Grace. Free Will is the heathen idol that will crumble at the feet of Sovereign Grace when the sinner gets saved.

     When Free Will is destroyed and God unshackles the will of the sinner and gives him grace, he can believe. So then the invitation to that one is – "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." There comes such a thirst and a hunger in that sinner's heart for Christ that he can't be still. He's crying. "Lord, Lord, help Thou my unbelief. Lord, give me faith to believe. Lord, give me grace to lay hold of Christ." And the individual who ever lays hold of Christ never turns loose! because it is by Sovereign Free Grace that he has laid hold of Christ. He never turns loose, because God never turns him loose. That is the Word of God, and I'll stake my eternal destiny upon it!




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