Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
First, it is eternal. Grace was planned before it was exercised, purposed before it was imparted: “Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim 1:9).
Secondly, it is free, for none did ever purchase it: “Being justified freely by His grace” (Rom 3:24).
Thirdly, it is sovereign, because God exercises it toward and bestows it upon whom He pleases: “Even so might grace reign” (Rom 5:21). If grace “reigns” then it is on the throne, and the occupant of the throne is sovereign. Hence “the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16).
Just because grace is unmerited favor, it must be exercised in a sovereign manner. Therefore does the Lord declare, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious” (Exo 33:19). Were God to show grace to all of Adam’s descendants, men would at once conclude that He was righteously compelled to take them to heaven as a fit compensation for allowing the human race to fall into sin. But the great God is under no obligation to any of His creatures, least of all to those who are rebels against Him.
Eternal life is a gift, therefore it can neither be earned by good works, nor claimed as a right. Seeing that salvation is a “gift,” who has any right to tell God on whom He ought to bestow it? It is not that the Giver ever refuses this gift to any who seek it wholeheartedly, and according to the rules which He has prescribed. No! He refuses none who come to Him empty-handed, and in the way of His appointing. But if out of a world of impenitent and unbelieving rebels, God is determined to exercise His sovereign right by choosing a limited number to be saved, who is wronged? Is God obliged to force His gift on those who value it not? Is God compelled to save those who are determined to go their own way?
But nothing more riles the natural man, and brings to the surface his innate and inveterate enmity against God, than to press upon him the eternality, the freeness, and the absolute sovereignty of divine grace. That God should have formed His purpose from everlasting, without in any way consulting the creature, is too abasing for the unbroken heart. That grace cannot be earned or won by any efforts of man is too self-emptying for self-righteousness. And that grace singles out whom it pleases to be its favored object arouses hot protests from haughty rebels. The clay rises up against the Potter and asks, “Why have You made me thus?” A lawless insurrectionist dares to call into question the justice of divine sovereignty.
A. W. Pink (1886-1952)
Taken from “The Attributes of God”