The truth that salvation is by grace means that salvation is unmerited – it is unearned. Since salvation is by grace and is unmerited or unearned then that means that salvation is unconditional. There are no conditions that one must meet that would merit or earn salvation or else salvation is not by grace but by works. Romans 11:6 says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” Let’s state it another way which still means the same thing: But if it is by grace, it is no longer conditional but unconditional, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
Paul has been teaching the truth of unconditional election unto salvation which forever proves that salvation is by grace and not of works so that no man can boast. There is nothing in any person that would merit God’s choice of him or her for salvation. The only thing that any of us have merited or ever will merit is the wrath of God. There is nothing in us that can change that. We can’t start living a good life to merit God’s mercy for that would be salvation by works. We can’t rehabilitate ourselves in order to cause God to choose us for salvation for that would still be salvation by works. None deserve to be saved. And yet God saves undeserving sinners according to His purpose, His choice, and His desire (Romans 9:11).
An improper response to this truth is given in Romans 9:14 – that this means that there is injustice in God. Unconditional election is viewed as being unjust because men cannot get over that God would save by grace and not by merit. God is accused of being an unjust God if He chooses to save some men by grace while leaving others in their sin. The response is: “That isn’t fair” or “that isn’t just.” So in order to remove what appears to be an injustice in God or unfairness in God, men devise a scheme of salvation that is conditional rather than unconditional and they remove the offensiveness of the Gospel by making election unto salvation conditional. Under the false notion of conditional election unto salvation this improper response isn’t given because it no longer exists. This is one of the ways we know whether or not we are preaching the Holy Spirit inspired explanation of the Gospel of salvation by grace (unconditional and unmerited) which Paul preached or if we are preaching a false gospel of salvation by works (conditional and merited).
Those who teach conditional election are in error. Even if that condition is that God looked down through the corridors of time and saw who would have faith and who wouldn’t – it is still salvation by merit which turns that faith spoken of into a work. What those who teach this have forgotten is that faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 6:65; John 12:39-40), and that faith is generated in man and is not innate in man (Romans 10:17; John 6:45, 63). They have also forgotten that their explanation of conditional election isn’t election at all but ratification. In their scheme of things God isn’t choosing based on His purpose or desire but is consenting to man’s choice. This would mean that God chose you because you chose Him, that God loved you because you loved Him and that God drew you because you drew Him. This is a reversal of the Biblical record. We didn’t choose Him, He chose us; we didn’t love Him first, He loved us first; and we didn’t draw Him, He drew us to Himself.
Since all men are sinners and have earned God’s wrath then of necessity it means that there is nothing in us that could ever earn God’s favor. So if God decides to show His favor on any sinner then the choice is totally His according to His purpose and His desire. That God would choose any undeserving sinner for salvation has nothing to do with any cause within the sinner but has everything to do with that which is in God Himself – the desire to make known the riches of the glory of His grace (Romans 9:23; Ephesians 1:3-14).
It is the Gospel of salvation by grace that is offensive to man because it establishes man’s total inability – not partial inability but total inability – to merit God’s favor. This is the error of conditional election – it teaches partial inability but not total inability and therefore leaves man in his pride believing that his being elected by God was based on some condition that he met.
The Jews who believed in conditional election so understood the implications of the Gospel of grace which Paul was preaching that some of them slanderously reported that Paul was preaching that men must do evil that good may come (Romans 3:8). The Jews reasoned that Paul was saying that God didn’t elect on the basis of their ability to keep the Law so he must be preaching that God elects on the basis of doing evil. They could not grasp the truth of unconditional election as the necessary grounds for salvation by grace.
Since election is unconditional, men believe that there is injustice with God for choosing some and not all for salvation. At the heart of this response is still the embedded false notion that those whom God didn’t choose deserved to be chosen. If one deserved it then all deserve it. It’s the attitude that if you’re going to do it for one then you’ve got to do it for all. That’s simply just not true and there is no injustice in giving mercy in a manner that upholds the Law or giving wrath to uphold the Law. So dispensing grace is God’s sovereign prerogative. Grace is sovereign in its administration.