Pastor David B. Curtis

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Sovereign Love

Galatians 2:20

Delivered 01/09/2005

Galatians 2:20 (NASB) "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

As commentators try to elaborate on Paul's words in this verse, almost every one that I've read does so with some note of hesitancy. It is as if they are declaring, "I know there is more here than I can say." That is certainly the way I feel. There is more said in this verse than I will ever be able to understand, let alone describe. But let me share with you the little understanding that I do have of this verse.

"I have been crucified with Christ" - Paul means that in God's reckoning, it is a fact that He has already paid the price for his sin. As one whom God had chosen to save, Christ took upon Himself my sins in His crucifixion. Therefore, in principle, I was crucified on the cross in Christ. If you've seen the movie, "The Passion of the Christ," then you somewhat understand the horror of crucifiction. God views you as having been crucified. Your sin debt is paid in full.

"And it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" - here he plainly claims that his spiritual life is not really his--but Christ's in him. Christ is the author of spiritual life, the fountain from which it springs, the object on which the saints live, their very life itself; it is not so much they that live, as Christ that lives in them. He is their eternal life; it is in Him, and given forth by him. Christ does not merely give life; He is life.

"The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God" - is a reference to the reality of spiritual life (Christ living in me) occurring while Paul is yet in the physical humanity, which he received by virtue of his physical birth. Paul needed no special grace to physically function. But, he had to have the special grace of "Christ in him" in order to spiritually function. Living by faith in the Son of God is depending upon the resources and abilities of the Son of God who lives in us.

Galatians 2:20 is a very familiar verse, one memorized and often quoted by Christians. What I want to draw your attention to this morning is a truth found in the end of this verse that is not so familiar to most Christians - "The Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me." Paul says that Christ loved him and died for him. This is a critical element in the gospel of Christ and we want to explore what it means.

First, it needs to be noted that Paul tied Jesus' love for him to His death for him. Christ died for those He loved. So the questions we must answer are: "Who does Christ love?" and "For whom did he die?" The majority of believers today would say that God loves everybody and that Christ died for all men. This is a commonly held belief, but is it biblical?

I understand the Bible to teach that God does not love everybody. Now I know that when I say that, people get upset, but it is clearly what the Word of God teaches:

Romans 9:13 (NASB) Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED."

God didn't love Esau, that is very clear. Now how will you argue, will you say that he loves everyone but Esau? Was Esau the only person whom God did not love?

The belief of our day that God loves everybody is a modern belief. The writings of the church fathers, the Reformers, or the Puritans will be searched in vain for any such concept. The fact is, that the love of God is a truth for the saints only. With the exception of John 3:16, not once in the four gospels do we read of the Lord Jesus Christ telling sinners that God loved them. In the book of Acts, which records the evangelistic labors and messages of the apostles, God's love is NEVER referred to at all. Does that seem odd to you? But when we come to the Epistles, which are addressed to the saints, we have a full presentation of the truth.

Hebrews 12:6 (NASB) FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES."

God's love is restricted to the members of His own family. If He loves all men, then the distinction and limitation here mentioned is quite meaningless. God only chastens whom He loves, which is a reference to believers, the elect.

What about John 3:16? Does it teach that God loves everybody? It seems to:

John 3:16 (NASB) "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Doesn't this prove that God loves everybody? No, remember, He hated Esau. You must admit the Bible says that. Let's put it in the form of a syllogism:

Major premise: God hated Esau.
Minor premise: Esau is part of the world.
Conclusion: God doesn't love everyone in the world.

The word "world" here is not used to mean the entire human race. God's love has always been selective. He said to the nation Israel:

Amos 3:2 (NASB) "You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; Therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities."

Why did God only choose Israel and leave all the other nations to walk in darkness? Because He only loved them. God only chooses whom He loves:

Deuteronomy 4:37 (NASB) "Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power,

The word "world" often has a relative rather than an absolute meaning. For example:

John 12:19 (NASB) The Pharisees therefore said to one another, "You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him."

The "Him" here is referring to Jesus. Was everyone in the world going after Jesus? No!

Acts 19:27 (NASB) "And not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship should even be dethroned from her magnificence."

Did everyone in Asia and the world worship Artemis? No! There were many believers at that time, and they were worshiping only the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:8 (NASB) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.

Was everyone in the world speaking of the faith of the Roman believers? I don't think so.

In John 3 Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a Jew. The Jews believed that God loved only them. Where did they get that idea? From God. What John 3:16 is saying is that God's love is now international in its scope, He loves Gentiles as well as Jews.

John 6:33 (NASB) "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world."

Notice that He didn't say "offers" life, but "gives" life. Gives necessarily implies its acceptance. Does Christ give life to everyone? No, "world" is here limited to the world of the elect.

John 13:1 (NASB) Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

Jesus loved "His own," those who belonged to Him. God loved Jacob, and He hated Esau. Why? God is sovereign in the exercise of His love. He does not love everybody!

In an attempt to prove that God loves everyone, a commentator writes, "There are those today who would have us believe that the love of the Son of God was a restricted love--restricted to only those who would believe in His act of love. But, this cannot be true. First, if God only loves those who respond to His love, He is no different than the publicans (Matthew 5:46). If, as some would have us believe, God's Son only died for His elect, then God does no more than most unregenerate men--loving only those who will respond to His love." What is wrong with his argument? He says, "... if God only loves those who respond to His love." God's love is not based upon our response to Him. If it were, He would love nobody, because there is nothing in any of us that would attract the love of God. We are all by nature "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3). Why then does God love certain individuals? The cause of God's love is found only in Himself. The cause of His love is traced back to His sovereignty:

Ephesians 1:5 (NASB) In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

The Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign in the exercise of His love.

Why teach this? Since this is such a controversial subject in the church today, why teach it? Can you answer that question for me? Let me give you John Calvin's answer to the question:

The Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit in which, as nothing is omitted that is both necessary and useful to know, so nothing is taught but what is expedient to know. Therefore we must guard against depriving believers of anything disclosed about predestination in Scripture, lest we seem either wickedly to defraud them of the blessing of their God or to accuse and scoff at the Holy Spirit for having published what it is in any way profitable to suppress.
But for those who are so cautious or fearful that they desire to bury predestination in order not to disturb weak souls - with what color will they cloak their arrogance when they accuse God indirectly of stupid thoughtlessness, as if he had not foreseen the peril that they feel they have wisely met? Whoever, then, heaps odium (hatred or disgust)upon the doctrine of predestination openly reproaches God, as if he had unadvisedly let slip something hurtful to the church. (emphasis mine, DBC)


So, if what we have said so far is true, if God doesn't love everybody, but only His elect, than we would understand that Christ did not die for everyone, but only for those He loved. Paul said in Galatians 2:20 that Christ died for him, because He loved him. This is also a truth taught throughout Scripture.

The Old Testament Scriptures represent the Father as promising the son a certain reward for his sufferings on behalf of sinners:

Isaiah 53:10-11 (NASB) But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.

"He will see His offspring," this is a reference to the elect of God. God has given the elect to Christ, we are children of promise. Notice, that it says "He will see it and be satisfied," and not frustrated.

Matthew 1:21 (NASB) "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins."

There are two things in this verse that we must understand. First, Jesus did not come to save all men, He came to save "His people." The Reformers called this "Limited Atonement." That does not mean that Christ's death was limited in power, but was limited in scope or purpose. In other words, He did not die for all of humanity. He died for "His people." Next, is the phrase "Will save His people" - notice that the angel did not say, "He will offer salvation to His people." Offering salvation implies that it could be rejected. This verse plainly states, "He will save His people," emphasizing a complete work for His people only, accomplished by Christ, and Christ alone.

Jesus taught that He was not going to die for all of humanity:

Matthew 20:28 (NASB) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Matthew 26:28 (NASB) for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

Jesus said He came to give His life as a ransom and pour out His blood for "many" - not "all."

John 10:14-15 (NASB) "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

Jesus said that He laid down His live for the sheep. Who are the sheep? Is every human being a sheep, or do the sheep only refer to God's elect?

Matthew 25:32-34 (NASB) "And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on His right (the sheep), 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you (sheep) from the foundation of the world.

Those who are of the sheep inherited the Kingdom, but the goats were cast into "everlasting fire." As we saw in John 10:15, Jesus laid down His life for the"sheep," not the "goats." Christ died only for His sheep:

John 6:65 (NASB) And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father."

There are three things I want to point out here. The first is the phrase "no one." This is a "universal negative." That is to say that the phrase "no one" includes both classes of people, Jews and Gentiles. Second, are the words "can come to Me" - this has to do with the ability of man. Jesus was saying, "No one, neither Jew nor Gentile, has the ability to come to Me." Lastly, there is the word "unless." This word is a "necessary condition." Jesus said that the necessary condition for someone coming to Him was God giving it to them. What does God give them? Ability. Simply put, God gives man the ability to come to Christ. Man, on his own, does not have that ability:

John 10:23-29 (NASB) it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. 24 The Jews therefore gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly." 25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these bear witness of Me. 26 "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. 27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

Here again, those Jews could not "believe" on the fact that Jesus was their Messiah. Why? Jesus said it was because they were not His sheep. Notice that Jesus did not say they were not His, because they didn't believe. He said the proof that they were not His was their unbelief. Simply put, if they believed, they were already His. But since they didn't believe, they were not. Christ's sheep are identified by their faith.

Christ tells these Jews that they did not believe, because they were not His sheep. These verses point clearly to the doctrine of particular redemption or limited atonement. Christ died not merely to make possible the salvation of all mankind, but to make certain the salvation of the elect, His sheep:

John 10:11 (NASB) "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
John 10:3-4 (NASB) "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. 4 "When he puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Notice that the Shepherd calls "his own sheep."

John 6:37 (NASB) "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

According to this verse, who is it that comes to Christ? All that the Father gives Him. God's chosen will come to Christ.

John 6:39 (NASB) "And 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.

Who is it that receives resurrection life? All that the Father has given Christ. Isn't that what it says? God the Father has given the elect to Christ as a love gift.

John 6:44 (NASB) "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

He raises up all that the Father draws, which are those whom the Father has given Him.

The idea of God choosing certain people to receive His grace and mercy is taught all through Scripture. Look with me at the story in:

John 5:2-8 (NASB) Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, <waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.> 5 And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said^ to him, "Do you wish to get well?" 7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8 Jesus said^ to him, "Arise, take up your pallet, and walk."

There was a "multitude" of sick folks there, but Christ healed only one. Why? He could have healed them all, why didn't He? The answer is simple, He chose not to. God is sovereign in the dispensing of His mercy and grace. Does it bother you that God chooses certain people to give grace and mercy to? If the doctrine of election bothers you, you are not alone:

Luke 4:25-30 (NASB) "But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." 28 And all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.

Here, out of the many widows and lepers, God chooses to bless two Gentiles - this made the Jews very angry. People, God is Sovereign over all, and this includes the giving of His love and eternal life:

John 5:21 (NASB) "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

Who does the Son give life to? Whom He wishes. Our Shepherd's love is a sovereign love.

The church today is being flooded with a new gospel, a humanistic gospel. The gospel is always, and essentially, a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgement. It is a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and grace. Its center of reference is God. But in the new gospel, the center of reference is man. You choose, you decide, you initiate salvation. The chief aim of the gospel was to teach men to worship God, but the concern of the new gospel seems limited to making them feel better.

Our minds have been conditioned to think of the cross as a redemption which does less than redeem, and of Christ as a savior who does less than save, and of God's love as a weak affection which cannot keep anyone from hell without their help, and of faith as the human help which God needs for His purpose. This is not the gospel, the gospel is "God saves sinners."

In John 17 we see the Great Shepherd giving eternal life only to those the Father had given Him:

John 17:1-2 (NASB) These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee, 2 even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life.

Who does Christ give eternal life to? He gives it to all those that the Father has given Him, the elect.

John 17:6 (NASB) "I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me, and they have kept Thy word.
John 17:9 (NASB) "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine;

Who is it that Jesus prays for? He prays for those that the Father has given Him. He doesn't pray for the world.

John 17:24 (NASB) "Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world.

Those given to Jesus Christ by God the Father are children of promise. God is selective in salvation.

Jesus Christ is the Great Shepherd who not only died to save his sheep, but He ever loves and provides for them. What comfort to know that I am one of His sheep.

Paul also preached this message:

Acts 20:28 (NASB) "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Ephesians 5:25 (NASB) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;

Again, we see that Christ loved and died for "the church" and not all of humanity.

There are those who teach that Christ went to the cross to pay for the sins of every single human being. That idea is contrary to the Word of God. It fails to recognize what the covenant is all about; it fails to recognize the nature of the atonement; it fails to recognize that Christ came to save only His people from their sins.
If Christ had gone to the cross on behalf of every last human being, then in no way could God demand that the unsaved be judged. It would be a terrible violation of God's justice, because all of their sins would already have been paid for, including the sin of not believing in Christ.
To teach that Christ loves, and died for, all of humanity is to teach against the plain words of Scripture. The Bible teaches that the work of Christ accomplished the full salvation of His people, and His people alone. So, our message must be, "Christ died for His people."

All of God's covenants were with His people, and His people only - specifically the Old Covenant and sacrificial system (which was a "shadow and type" of the New Covenant). Therefore, since the sacrifices of the Old Covenant were made for the people of God, and them only, doesn't it stand to reason that the sacrifice of the New Covenant would also be for the people of God, and them only?

Since the Bible teaches that Christ died only for His people, we need to understand who God's people are. The title of "God's people" was first given to the nation of Israel:

2 Samuel 7:24 (NASB) "For Thou hast established for Thyself Thy people Israel as Thine own people forever, and Thou, O LORD, hast become their God.

Not only was the nation of Israel the people of God, but they were the "chosen" people of God. That is to say, out of all of humanity God chose them to be His people, for no other reason than for His good pleasure:

Deuteronomy 7:6-8 (NASB) "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

In the New Testament under the inspiration of Holy Spirit, Paul wrote that believers, Christians are the people of God:

2 Corinthians 6:16 (NASB) Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

In the New Covenant Age, Christians are called "the chosen people of God":

Colossians 3:12 (NASB) And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

Christians are also called the "children of God." This is clear in Paul's letter to the Galatians. There he wrote:

Galatians 3:26 (NASB) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

So, God's people, the ones He died for, are the church, those who have trusted in Christ and His sacrificial work on the cross to redeem them from sin.

Listen to me, believers, God loves us! He doesn't love everybody, He loves only His elect, only those who believe in Him. Out of all of humanity, God, from eternity past, before the world was every created, chose you as an object of His love.

Spurgeon wrote, "Paul wrote,'Who loved me.' The verb is in the past tense. Jesus loved me upon the cross; loved me in the manger of Bethlehem; loved me or ever the earth was. There never was a time when Jesus did not love His people."

The thing that so overwhelmed Paul was the love of Jesus Christ for him. Our Lord gave Himself up, delivered Himself up, and He did it freely; no one took His life from Him. God's love for us should motivate us to love and serve Him. Paul said, "The love of Christ compels us to no longer live for ourselves, but for Him." Do you know of any Christian that was more committed to Christ than Paul? I sure don't. And Paul said the thing that motivated him was Christ's love for him. He was motivated by gratitude to live for the one who died for him.

Romans 8:32 (NASB) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

"But delivered Him up for us all" - the word "delivered" means: "to turn over to judgement." Who delivered up Jesus to die? Not Judas, for money; not Pilate, for fear; not the Jews, for envy; but the Father, for LOVE.

So, when we understand God's love for us, the only normal, logical, and right response is to live a life of obedience and submission to Him out of heart felt gratitude.

Let me suggest that you take a piece of paper and write, "Jesus loves me, and because of His love for me, He died for me." That is the main point of this message. Put that piece of paper where you will be able to see it all the rest of this week. As you contemplate that truth, ask the Lord for the passion the apostle had to live by means of Jesus' life and to faithfully offer it to others.

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