Reserved for God by grace
God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. Romans 11:2-5
We must pause at these verses to make a couple of observations. First, don’t you love this description of the elect: they are those whom God has reserved for himself. To be reserved for God, what better thing is there? Suppose that someone pulls an old top-hat out of their attic; it is old and tattered and good for nothing, really. No one would ever wear it. And then suppose that it was discovered that this top-hat belonged to Abraham Lincoln. Immediately its worth has shot through the roof, even though it may be unwearable! In the same way, to be reserved for God, by God, is to make a sinner into a saint. It is the only thing that can give us the meaning that we crave. To be reserved by God for God is a thought so full of comfort and encouragement if we would but grasp its implications.
And there is another description of the elect: it is that they are elect by grace. God doesn’t choose us because we make ourselves worthy. Like the dilapidated hat in the attic, its owner is what determines the value. Our value doesn’t come from our works, but from the fact that God has chosen us. It is an election of grace, which excludes all works (ver. 6). Those who say that God chooses because of something we do (including believing) make salvation to be determined by works. But we are not saved by works, but by grace, and that too is an encouraging and comforting reality.