In our first two posts, we looked at the fact and effects of the Fall of Adam and Eve, both for them and for us, their descendants. We saw that Man was not just “bruised by the Fall,” as the old gospel song put it, but was killed by it. Adam, and through him, us, lost spiritual life and we remain in the tomb of spiritual death. How, then, shall we live?
The answer to that question is also seen in Genesis. God came to the guilty couple and, paying no attention to their efforts to undo or cover up what they had done, did something about it Himself . Observe, also, that He didn’t merely “provide” the coats, or tunics, of skin and then leave it up to them whether or not they would put them on. No, no, He came to them and clothed them. He didn’t ask for their input, cooperation or permission. He just did it….
II. The Kindness of Grace.
In our first post, we referred to 2 Samuel 9:3 and Ephesians 2:7. It is from these verses that we get the idea of “kindness.” We’ll not consider 2 Samuel 9:3 further, but leave you with the idea that this act of David toward Mephibosheth was undeserved, unearned, unexpected and unsought and it was because of another. These words are a good description of what is one of the most misunderstood and vilified teachings in Scripture: the doctrine of election.
This post and the next one will briefly cover five general areas: 1). Some misconceptions about the teaching. 2) What the Bible says about it. 3). Election and the foreknowledge of God. 4). Some verses used to oppose this teaching. 5). Some objections to the teaching.
A. Misconceptions about the Doctrine of Election.
1. Election means the condemnation of some who otherwise would be saved.
The cover of a popular booklet several years ago showed a man with his hands tied behind his back, head bowed, being prodded toward the flames of Hell by a sword held in a hand extending from Heaven. This is absolutely false!! The Biblical doctrine is that, because of election, there are many going to Heaven who would otherwise, without exception, have gone to Hell!
Hear what the Scripture says: Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah, Romans 9:29.
As much as we hate to admit it, except by the grace and purpose of God, we’d all be out there right in the middle of all the world’s corruption. We want nothing to do with God as He is. It’s only because of His unbelievable mercy and grace that He wants anything to do with us!
2. Election is merely God’s choice of those whom He knew would choose Him.
We’ll have more to say about this later.
3. Election is God choosing between His children.
I had a lady tell me this. It’s based on the popular and false idea that we’re all already the children of God. But we’re not just wayward children wandering from the care of a loving Father. We’re rebels against the God of Heaven and traitors to everything He holds dear. On the contrary, it is God choosing some of those rebels and traitors to become His children!
4. Sinners are worse off because of election.
This would be true only if the Scripture teaches the election of sinners to damnation in the same way that it teaches the election of sinners to salvation. Granted, there are some who believe that. I do not! Sinners are condemned because of their sin, not because of some decree of God. The Biblical view is that, because of election, sinners are much better off. Without election, there would be no salvation at all.
B. The Biblical Doctrine of Election.
1. Election is from eternity past, Ephesians 1:4, Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.
See also Ephesians 3:22; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8.
Granted, not all of these verses refer specifically to election, but they do clearly show that salvation isn’t some sort of “Plan B” God had to scramble to improvise in a “hastily-called meeting of the Eternal Council,” as one writer put it about the aftermath of the Fall.
The teaching is common that believers become “elect” when they believe, not before. This is not true. The Bible places election before time began, 2 Timothy 1:9. …before time began, God had thoughts of love toward His people, determining that they would be His people, and including everything that would be involved in bringing them from a state of being “sinners” to a state of being “saints.”
2. Election is “unto salvation,” 2 Thessalonians 2:13, …God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation….
There are Scriptures which refer to an election to national privilege, such as Deuteronomy 7:7, or to “service,” as John 15:16, but these are not the only such “elections.” We’ve quoted 2 Thessalonians 2:13 above, but when Paul wrote that God chose us in order that we should be holy and without blame before Him, Ephesians 1:4, what was He talking about, if not salvation?
3. Election is personal, Revelation 17:8, …whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world.
See also Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 13:8.
Some try to soften the Biblical doctrine of election by making it impersonal. They say that God only chose the number who would be saved, or that He chose the plan by which they would be saved, or that He chose “in Christ,” but one’s inclusion in “the number” or “the plan” or “in Christ” is an individual matter. It’s still up to the person to make his decision to go along with God’s choice of the impersonal means of salvation.
Certainly God knows how many elect there are, as well as who they are. And Christ Himself is referred to as chosen, Luke 23:35, 1 Peter 2:4, but election is so much more than this. Paul wrote to the Ephesians that God chose us. To the Thessalonians, he wrote that God has chosen you. Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 tell us that the names of the elect were written down before the foundation of the world.
Election is personal.
4. Election is unconditional, Ephesians 1:5, …having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
See also Romans 9:16; Ephesians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:9; James 1:18.
By “unconditional,” we mean that there is nothing in the sinner that is the basis for God’s choice of that sinner. This is pretty much the opposite of what is generally believed about the doctrine, namely, that there is something foreseen in the elect that is the basis for their election. However, Scripture teaches that it’s according to His will, to His good pleasure, that the elect are chosen, and not according to their will or their good pleasure. We’ll leave further comments on this until the section on God’s foreknowledge, although the next segment of this post continues the thought that election is “unconditional.”
5. Election is the sovereign choice of God, Matthew 11:20-26,
Then [Jesus] began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works began to be done, because they did not repent: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sodom, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sodom in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
At that time, Jesus answered and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.” (emphasis added.)
These verses, and others like them, trouble people who have only been taught a humanistic and unScriptural view of the “love” of God. But, remember, these words are not the words of some “wicked theologian imposing his views on Scripture.” They are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, saying that there were some whom God knew would repent if given the opportunity, but they were never given the opportunity! Instead, the Bible teaches that Sodom was set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, Jude 7.
We’ll not look at them, but you might also consider the choice of Israel as God’s chosen nation, passing by every other nation. Also, God’s instruction to Ezekiel at the beginning of his ministry: Ezekiel 3:5, 6.
The truth is, the Bible teaches, almost in every chapter, that God is sovereign, even in matters of salvation. However, it neither apologizes for, nor seeks to make this teaching “reasonable” or “acceptable” to fallen mankind. It simply says that it is so.
6. Election comes because of the grace of God, Ephesians 1:4-6, Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…to the praise of the glory of His grace.
“Wait a minute!” I can hear someone say. “Doesn’t this contradict what you just said about the ‘sovereign choice of God’?”
Not at all. After all, what is grace?
Simply defined, grace is “God’s unmerited favor in spite of our merited disfavor.” In other words, we don’t merit, or deserve, God’s favor. We do deserve, or merit, His disfavor: His wrath and judgment. In fact, Paul wrote that the elect are by nature the children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3. That God chose to save even one sinner is more than we could rightfully expect. That He has chosen to save the innumerable multitudes that He has saved, and will yet save, is beyond comprehension.
Many people who might accept our definition of grace really don’t believe it, or perhaps they just haven’t thought it through. There’s more to this idea that we don’t deserve God’s grace than meets the eye. If we’re upset by the idea that God might choose one and not another, simply because He wants to, saying that such an action is “unjust” or “unfair,” then we are really saying, after all, that man does deserve to be saved. If that is so, salvation is not by grace at all; it is by reward or debt. God owes it to us.
7. Election is in connection to Christ, Ephesians 1:4, 6.
As we said earlier, this doesn’t mean that God simply chose us “in Christ,” leaving everything else up to us.
a. When my firstborn son was just an infant, I was somewhere where there was a crying baby. He was having a fit about something, as babies know how to do! I had never liked crying babies, but as I looked at this red-faced little fellow, somehow I saw my own son, and it was alright.
What I’m saying is that our condition before God is so offensive to Him that the only way He will even think about being gracious toward us is through His Son. The only way you and I will ever stand uncondemned before God is “in Christ.” The only reason you and I aren’t in hell right now is because God loved His only-begotten Son (NKJV) so much that He decided to have a whole bunch of adopted sons and daughters just like Him!
b. Not only did God give His Son for us, John 3:16, but it is clear from Scripture that there were people given to the Son and for whom He assumed special responsibility. Scripture describes these people in various ways: a gift, John 6:37, 39; 17:2, 6; sheep, John 10:14-16, 26-28. Other descriptions are found in Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:28; Hebrews 2:10-14, and many others.
We’ll conclude our thoughts on election in the next post.
1. Does the doctrine of election harm sinners?
2. Did God simply choose those whom He knew would choose Him?
3. When did God make His choice?
4. What are the different “kinds” of election?
5. Didn’t God just choose the “means” or “plan” of salvation?
6. Were there any “conditions” in the sinner which influenced God’s choice?
7. Define “grace.”
8. The world defines “grace” as God simply making salvation available. Is this true?
9. Do we deserve grace? Why or why not?
10. Can we earn it? Why or why not?
11. What do the Scriptures call the elect beside a “gift” and “sheep”?