D. God’s Self-revelation Through His Covenant of Grace
God created man in His own image; in His likeness. God created man perfect in holiness, righteousness and knowledge. And God created him with the ability to make choices. Man had the ability to please God in every way. All he had to do was to believe in God’s word – – for faith produces obedience.
When God blessed the man and the woman He created, on their knees as it were, God created them poised for worship and service. They were to proclaim the excellence of God, His amazing attributes and the greatness of the works of His hands. Also, they were to serve as regents of God’s creation. Their job was to fill the earth with people just like them, in God’s image, who will engage in all kinds of creative endeavors so that the whole earth will show forth the glory of God. In other words, man’s job was to create a civilization that will glorify God.
But man chose to disbelieve in God’s word. Unbelief always produces disobedience. And so he died.
The Bible tells us that before the foundation of the world God chose a people for Himself and predestined them to be conformed back to His likeness after they fall into sin. In making His choices, God, again, exercised His sovereignty. He chose according to His good pleasure and goodwill to the praise of His glorious grace. God’s grace is unmerited favor; undeserved blessing freely given by God to sinful man. A particular passage of Scripture brings this wonderful doctrine of God’s sovereign grace in focus.
Addressing God’s elect, Paul in Ephesians 2:1-10 says:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath (vs. 1-3). Here, Paul is reminding us that in Adam all men died. All men after Adam are conceived in sin. All men share the same sinful Adamic nature. Our very lives prove that to be the case. You and I sin because we are sinners. Every inclination of our being from birth is to please ourselves and not to please God (see Romans 3:10-18). Foolishness was in our hearts from childhood (see Proverbs 2:15). Our sinful nature held us captive until the day of our redemption.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved (vs.4-5). Paul is saying here that love, mercy and grace converged at the foot of the cross of Calvary. In Romans 5:8. Paul says that God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. James tells us that mercy triumphs over judgment (James2:13). And John tells us that the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
We are to understand through these passages of Scripture that we who are chosen of God are the objects of the divine triad of love, mercy and grace. We are to understand, as well, that the love we speak of is agape love or unconditional love; that mercy is judgment withheld from the guilty; and grace is blessing bestowed to the undeserving.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast (vs.6-9).
Dead in sin but because of God’s unconditional love for us, we were made alive in Christ, raised up and lifted up. John 3:3-6 tells us that it is the Holy Spirit who causes a man to be born again; to be brought from the world of the dead into the kingdom of the Son of God. All of this, only because of God’s grace which saved us through faith. And even the faith that makes us obedient to God is not of ourselves. Hebrews 12:2 says that it is Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith. It was also God who gave us a new heart, one that is made of flesh and not of stone like the one we used to have (see Ezekiel 11:19). And it was also God who put the His law in our hearts and wrote them in our minds when He declared, I will be your God, and you will be my people (see Jeremiah 31:33). And so we learn to love God’s law and obey God because we love Him.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (v.10).
Finally, this verse tells us that God’s grace ensures that we will be able to fulfill God’s purpose for our life because He has prepared beforehand the good works that can make it happen. We will, in Christ, carry out God’s dominion and cultural mandate to its successful conclusion: The earth is filled with men and women who reflect the character of God; there is order in the animal kingdom; and the entire planet is like the Garden of Eden.
God’s word reveals to us in 2 Timothy 2:19 that the Lord knows those who are His. And in John 10:27-29, Jesus says this: My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. God’s covenant of grace gives us – who are chosen by God – this blessed assurance.