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You are Now Leaving the Comfort Zone: Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election

October 25, 2011 1 comment

God chooses His own

Romans 9:15-16
15For He (God) says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” £ 
16So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 

Most preachers would rather swallow a box of nails than preach on the doctrine of election.  This is one reason I suppose that many do not preach verse by verse through the Bible since inevitably they come head on with this controversial doctrine.  The doctrine of election is among the most debated and argued topics in all Christian history often producing major divisions among Christians.  The issue can be summarized something like this:  Does God choose sinners to be saved and then provide for their salvation?  Or, Does God provide the way of salvation that sinners must choose for themselves?  The answer:  Yes.  I’ll explain.

The following is a short overview of thoughts on the doctrine of election to perhaps shed some light on this hotly debated topic.  

First the doctrine of election is clearly biblical.  The verb “elect” means to “select or choose out.”  The biblical doctrine of election is that before Creation God selected out of the human race, foreseen as fallen, those whom he would redeem, bring to faith, justify, and glorify in and through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-39;Eph. 1:3-14; 2Thess. 2:13-14;2 Tim. 1:9-10). This divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace, for it is unconstrained and unconditional, not merited by anything in those who are its subjects. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind, only condemnation; so it is a wonder, and matter for endless praise, that he should choose to save any of us; and doubly so when his choice involved the giving of his own Son to suffer as sin-bearer for the elect (Rom. 8:32).

Paul’s opening in the book of Ephesians is critical to the discussion of election.

Ephesians 1:3-4
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 
4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 

In verse 3 Paul tells us that we are “blessed with every spiritual blessing…in Christ.   And how are we blessed? “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” v.4.  What this means is that God, by His sovereign will chose who would be in the Body of Christ.  The Greek verb here indicates that He chose us for Himself.  That means that God acted independent of any other influence.  He made this choice totally apart from human will based on His sovereignty.

 Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). And in the same Gospel, John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:12-13, italics mine). And Paul said, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13).

Those statements defining God’s sovereign choice of believers are not in the Bible to cause controversy, as if God’s election means sinners don’t make decisions. Election does not exclude human responsibility or the necessity of each person to respond to the gospel by faith. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

Admittedly the two concepts don’t seem to go together. However, both are true separately, and we must accept them both by faith. We may not understand it, but rest assured—it’s fully reconciled in the mind of God.

You must understand that your faith and salvation rest entirely on God’s election – Acts 13:48 says:

“Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed”

And yet the day you came to Jesus Christ, you did so because of an internal desire—you did nothing against your will. But even that desire is God-given—He supplies the necessary faith so we can believe.

Ephesians 2:8
8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 

Think about it—if your salvation depends on you, then praise to God is ridiculous. But, in truth, your praise to God is completely appropriate, because in forming the Body before the world began, He chose you by His sovereign decree apart from any of your works. The doctrine of election demonstrates God being God, exercising divine prerogatives. For that we must praise Him.

“But that’s not fair!”

Some are shocked to find that God didn’t choose everyone to salvation. Jesus said, “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” (John 6:39, italics mine). God the Father chose certain individuals to form a Body as a gift to Jesus Christ. Every believer is part of that love gift to Christ—a gift of the Father’s love to His Son.

The elect are, from one standpoint, the Father’s gift to the Son (John 6:39; 10:29; 17:2, 24). Jesus testifies that he came into this world specifically to save them (John 6:37-40; 10:14-16, 26-29; 15:16; 17:6-26;Eph. 5:25-27), and any account of his mission must emphasize this.

To those who say that is unjust, Paul answers: “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (Rom. 9:14-15).

So why does God still find fault in unrepentant sinners when He didn’t choose them? Doesn’t this deny human responsibility? Is it fair for God to still hold them accountable?

Paul answers all such questions by saying —“who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?” (v. 20). Does the clay jump up and ask the potter why it looks the way it does? Not at all.

Some believe that is terribly cold and calculating. But that is only one side of God’s sovereign election. Paul continues in the next chapter by saying, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved … for ‘whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (10:9, 13).

How these two sides of God’s truth—His sovereignty in choosing us (Rom. 9) and our responsibility to confess and believe (Rom. 10)— to reconcile is impossible for us to understand fully. But Scripture declares both perspectives of salvation to be true (John 1:12-13). It’s our duty to acknowledge both and joyfully accept them by faith.  We should view all persons that we meet as possibly being numbered among the elect. 

John 1:12-13
12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 
13who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Yes, is the answer to clarify my opening point!  Both the doctrine of election and the free agency of man are taught in the Bible.  The doctrine of election is one of the mysteries of God that man cannot reconcile and will doubtless continue to stir controversy until glory.

One last thought.  Don’t think of election apart from Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 says, “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world.” In other words, when God planned in eternity to pluck us out of our bondage to sin, he had Christ in mind as the way he would do it. God planned before the foundation of the world to save us through the death and resurrection of Christ.

Therefore, what God has done to save us and call us to himself is not to tell us ahead of time if we are elect. God never reveals this except through a relationship with Jesus Christ, so that Christ is central to our election. Instead of telling us if we are elect, what God did was to send his Son and say, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself” (1 John 5:10). He knows that he is elect.

If the sinner asks, “Well, how do I know if I am chosen?” The answer is if you want Him and want to give your life to Him you are!  It is the willingness to repent of our sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. . He never casts out any who comes in faith. He forgives sin. He clothes with righteousness. He gives the Holy Spirit. He will keep you. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27).

The doctrine of election should not divide Christians who may lean one way or the other.  Remember God’s ways are not our ways.  The human mind just cannot comprehend all the things of God nor does God intend for us to.  The important point is we should live in light of the certainty that anyone may be saved if he or she will but repent and put faith in Christ.

References:

Concise Theology, J.I. Packer

The Body Dynamic, John MacArthur

Wilmington’s Complete Guide to the Bible, Harold Wilmington

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