I was reminded in conversation recently how trauma, especially childhood trauma, can lead to a deep and lasting sense of worthlessness. In the Reformed tradition, there is an emphasis upon the fact that we are unworthy sinners before a holy God. There is no cause for boasting, save in Christ. Nevertheless, it must be pointed out, perhaps especially to younger Reformed ministers and preachers, that this does not mean that we have a low view of man and his value–quite the opposite. In Is There Anything Good About Hell? I have a section on the value of man (chapter 6) in which I quote Lloyd-Jones on this point.
There are many resources in the Scriptures to combat worthlessness and inculcate this God-given “greatness” in oneself. Because of the godless psychology of the world, certain words or vocabulary tend to leave a bad taste in my mouth, like “self-worth.” Nevertheless, there is truth in the idea that one ought to have the right value of one’s self, and that this foundation is necessary in fueling good works and hope. In this post I will mention just one of those truths– our eternal election in Christ.
In my Form 4 (systematic) theology class with COMPASS this last week, we spoke about union with Christ, and in line with Hoekema, Saved by Grace (p64), I unfolded the union with Christ triad as
- Eternal Election in Christ (F)
- Historical Work of Christ (S)
- Personal Faith in Christ (HS)
We considered that in God’s mind and plan eternally, He saw us as holy and blameless sons (Eph 1) in Christ Jesus and for His (particularly the Son’s) glory. That is to say that in his choice and foreknowledge,
God sees us at once as full, glorious, perfect, powerful, worthy, and holy, like His Son. This is a wonderful ground, in God Himself, which secures our eternal worth. Even before we became unworthy, even before we added our actual sins to original sin, even before we were born, God, in Christ, saw us as what we will be.
Therefore, while there remains a very important sense in which sinners are unworthy, and like chaff to be blown away with the wind (Psalm 1), yet in coming to Christ we find, in the eternal background of our union with Him, an ideal of who we really are and will be. And backwards-look, I believe, secures our inherent worth, even more than the forward-look, and that what we shall be is not yet made known and that we will be like our Lord (1 Jn 3:2).