God saves sinners.
This is true, and good news for sinners like you and me. God, the God of judgement and wrath against sin, is the God who saves those in bondage to sin. “God saves sinners”; this is the truth revealed by God in his Word as the foundation of all truths pertaining to salvation. It is a main message of Scripture. It is foundational to how God intends to accumulate glory for himself to be celebrated into all eternity.
Christian, affirm and enjoy that God saves sinners. And contemplate it closely and frequently. Note that the identified savior is not the sinners, but God, and God alone. God is the subject. He is the agent of salvation. Sinners are those directly acted upon, those who receive salvation, against all that they deserve. Salvation, from before the beginning to beyond the end, is the work of one, the One True God. It is his alone; and he alone gets all the credit and praise and acclaim.
Sinners do not elect a people to be God’s own beloved people for all eternity, predestined to enjoy blessedness forever with Christ. God does that. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:4-6 NASB). “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:22-23 ESV)?
Sinners are in no place to initiate covenant relationships with the Maker against whom they war. The Potter condescends to initiate gracious covenant relationships with broken clay pots throughout history.
Did sinful man send Jesus Christ, the Savior of all God’s elect, into the world? No, such sending was the work of God in the miracle of the incarnation, when the Son added to himself a complete human nature. “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Sinners did not accrue for Christ the merits of perfect active obedience. Such blessed merits were earned through the perfect life of the God Man.
Who but God poured out the wrath reserved for God’s people upon God’s Son in full on the cross, exhausting it in the death of Christ? Who but God died as the penal substitutionary sacrifice of atonement for the elect (Acts 20:28)?
Did those who betrayed the Messiah then raise him from the grave by their power? “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree” (Acts 5:30 ESV).
Did man seat the risen Christ upon the throne? “[God] raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:20 NASB).
Whose voice is with certainty heeded in the gospel call? It is the call of the Shepherd. Were any voice but Jesus’ heard in the gospel call, there would be no heeding, for no Mary is able to effectually call forth Lazarus.
Is man able to cause man to be born again? God the Spirit blows wherever he wishes, causing the dead in sin to be born again.
Does man produce repentance and faith from within himself? Impossible. God-pleasing repentance and faith come to sinners as gifts from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8 NASB). “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31 NASB). “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NASB).
Can guilty sinners justify themselves before God? No, for defendants are in no courtly position to justify; such justifying work is the task of the judge. Only God can declare sinners right before him on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection, being just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies” (Romans 8:33 NASB).
Can the orphan adopt himself into the family of his choosing? The work of adoption is the work of the Father. “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself” (Ephesians 1:5 NASB). “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15 ESV).
In the progressing of sanctification, in which the Christian is conformed to the Christ, where does the fruit keeping with repentance come from? Where do the new beliefs, new affections, and new actions come from? “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18 ESV). “Incline my heart to Your testimonies And not to dishonest gain” (Psalm 119:36 NASB). “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NASB). “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 NASB). “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 NASB).
Will the Christian persevere through all the travails and temptations of this life, will he persevere by his own strength and cunning? He will persevere most certainly because of the steadfast preserving work of God on his behalf. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NASB). “[God], who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8). “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NASB). “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:39-40 NASB).
And who but God can usher all his sheep into the glorious eternity, blessedly enjoyed in the new earth with him, that awaits them? “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30 NASB).
Salvation, all of it, belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!
This does not mean that we are not responsible to do anything in order to be saved. We must believe. We must repent. We must obey. Yes and amen. We are responsible, critically so, for all these things. Yet we must know that nothing good in us comes from us. If it is good, and you find it in your beliefs, your affections, or your actions, know that it has been granted gloriously by God Almighty, that it comes from him, that to him you owe all gratitude and thanksgiving.
God saves sinners. You and I bring our vile sin, and nothing but our vile sin, to the table. God brings salvation. Praise be to God.
Salvation, from first to last, is the work of one.