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R edeem er Bible Church
Unreserved Accountability to Christ. Undeserved Acceptance from Christ.
The Doctrines of Grace, Part Two: Unconditional Election Selected Scriptures Introduction It seems fair to say that there are some doctrines that are easier than others to comprehend. Some of the more difficult ones include the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the two natures of Christ, and this morning’s subject—the doctrine of election. Now what makes doctrines like the Trinity and the two natures of Christ and election so difficult to comprehend is that they address realities that are mysterious. Put negatively, it’s not that these doctrines cannot at all be understood; otherwise they would not be articulated for us in Scripture. The point is that they leave us at the point where all we can do is prostrate ourselves in worship. “God is three persons but one essence” is a coherent statement of the doctrine of the Trinity. “Jesus is fully God and fully man in one person and will be so forever” is also quite intelligible and straightforward. And “God chose some for salvation before the foundation of the world according to his own pleasure” is equally as plain. Nevertheless, like the doctrines of the Trinity and Christ’s natures and election lead us into mysteries of God, into that which could never be known apart from divine revelation. Truth like this has to be revealed to us. In a nutshell, the doctrine of unconditional election teaches that before the foundation of the world God chose to save some people from his wrath and chose to leave the others to his wrath. And the basis of this choice is God’s sovereign will and nothing else. In other words, he did not choose to save some because of something good in them or on the basis of some choice they would make; rather, he chose to save some and let others go according to his mere pleasure, according to his will alone. This is why it’s referred to as unconditional election—his choice is not conditioned upon anything in man at all. Now then, let’s look together at some of the many, many passages that speak about God’s sovereign choice in salvation. And let’s explore them under three headings: (1) Christians are the elect (or chosen); (2) Christians are the elect of God; and (3) Christians are the elect by God’s sovereign grace alone. Christians Are the Elect

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We begin simply with those texts that refer to Christians as God’s elect or chosen people cf. Matthew 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20; Luke 18:7; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:12; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 John 1; Revelation 17:14.
Matthew 24:22: "Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short… 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect… 31And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Luke 18:7: now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 2 Timothy 2:10: For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. Titus 1:1: Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago. 1 Peter 2:9: But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 2 John 1:1: The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth. Revelation 17:14: "These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful."

Christians Are the Elect of God The second point is that we are called the elect or the chosen because we have been chosen by God for salvation. We did not elect ourselves, but God elected us cf. Acts 13:48; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 5:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; James 2:5; Revelation 13:8; 17:8; Ephesians 1:3-6, 10b-12.
1 Corinthians 1:26: For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God. Colossians 3:12: So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 1 Thessalonians 1:4: knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 1 Thessalonians 5:9: For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 2:13: But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning

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for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved…10with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

Christians Are the Elect by God’s Sovereign Grace Alone Now if the first two points were not that controversial for you, this last one may be; namely, that the only ground of God’s choice of us for salvation is his sovereign pleasure. It is by his sovereign grace alone that we are chosen for salvation cf. Matthew 11:27; 2 Timothy 1:9; Romans 9:10-13, 15-18, 22-24; Ephesians 1:5-6, 7-8, 9, 11.
Matthew 11:27: "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” 2 Timothy 1:9: 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 granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, Romans 9:10: And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." 13 Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”…15For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." 16So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." 18So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires…22What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. Ephesians 1:5: He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9He

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made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him…11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.

Now not only do I say that the ground of God’s sovereign choice is his sovereign pleasure because of what these texts say explicitly, but also because of what they imply. Notice verse 4: He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. The text does not say that he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world because we were holy and blameless before him; rather, it says that he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy and blameless before him, so that we would be conformed to the image of the one in whom we were chosen. In other words, in God’s mind we were chosen while we had fallen into sin. He chose sinners like us to make us holy. And since we were chosen as those who had fallen into sin (with its consequences), we can say that it must be by God’s sovereign grace alone that we are his elect, because the punishment for our sin is in part our powerlessness to do that which pleases the Lord. It is powerlessness to obey the gospel, without such obedience we would be shut out from the kingdom of God for all eternity. Look down to verses 5-6: He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace. If God’s choice of us for salvation, in this case considered in terms of our adoption, is ultimately to the praise of the glory of his grace, then our predestination is by grace—it is unmerited, undeserved, and unconditional. Now if predestination is by grace, and if grace is mercy shown in defiance of our demerit, then we were chosen in the eternal counsel room of eternity while we were sinners, while we were helpless to do anything to position ourselves to secure our salvation. So then, let me reiterate in summary what the doctrine of election teaches: before the foundation of the world God chose to save some people from his wrath and chose to leave others to his wrath. And the basis of this choice is his sovereign will and nothing else. In other words, he did not choose to save some because of something good in them or on the basis of some choice they would make—they were sinners through and through; rather, he chose to save some and let others go according to his mere pleasure, according to his will alone. Now with that said (and as it settles in) I’d like to tell you a story. Handling the Objections Not long after I came to Redeemer in the fall of 2002, I got wind that a particular family had decided that they no longer wanted to be a part of our church.

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Now there were rumors as to their rationale for leaving, but, of course, rumors are unwise to take seriously. The result was that I decided that I should call them to let them know that I had heard that they would not be returning and to ask them why. The conversation went something like this:
“John (that’s not his name, by the way), this is Pastor Bob from Redeemer. I’m calling because I heard through the grapevine that you won’t be coming back, and I wanted to see if there was something I said or did, or something someone else said or did that offended you.” “Oh, no,” he said. “It’s not that at all. We are leaving for doctrinal reasons.” “Oh, well, I’m glad to hear at least that you were not personally offended by anyone here. That’s good to know. Well, what are the doctrinal reasons that are leading you elsewhere?” “Well, you are Calvinists, and I don’t believe in election.” “You don’t believe in election?” I asked. “Well, then, how do you understand what Paul says in Ephesians 1 that we have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world?” “Well, I think foreknowledge has something to do with it. He saw that some people would believe, so he chose them.” “Oh,” I said, “so it’s not that you don’t believe in God choosing people. It’s that you differ with us on the reason he chose them.” “Yeah, I guess so.” “Well,” I said, “that is a difficult subject that deserves more time than I can give it on the phone right now. There are even some books on the subject that would be worth reading. Before you leave the church, why don’t we get together to talk about the subject and try to work things out?”

Now the reason I mention this talk I had with John back in 2002 is to point out a common objection of the doctrine of election we’ve just expounded. Unconditional election is rejected because people influenced by Arminianism understand it to be conditioned upon our faith. That is, election is based on God’s foreseeing our faith. The idea is that the Lord has looked down the halls of eternity, ascertained the people who would believe, and chosen them. Two passages are commonly cited in support of this. We’ll take them each in turn. Election and Foreknowledge Turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 1:1-2:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
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As you can see, this text uses identical language to Ephesians 1, except the phrase according to here in 1 Peter 1:1-2 has a different object. It says that our election is according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. On the basis of this, some conclude that the prior knowledge God has is, as we’ve mentioned, in the arena of our faith. We are chosen according to the Lord’s prior knowledge that we would believe in him. Now there are many problems with this interpretation, two of them major. First and most obviously, the passage does not supply what God the father knows in advance about us. Based on the text itself though we can affirm wholeheartedly that we are chosen to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood (i.e. chosen for salvation) according to God’s foreknowledge, we cannot affirm something that is not there. All it says is that we are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. The onus, therefore, is on those who suggest that foreseen faith forms the basis for God’s choice to demonstrate from an exegesis of 1 Peter why we should understand foreknowledge here as the Father’s foreknowledge of personal faith. This leads me to the second problem with this interpretation. Jump down to verses 18-20.
…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you

Here we have another use of the terminology of foreknowledge in 1 Peter used (in verse 20) with reference to Jesus Christ. Jesus was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you. Now, in what sense was Jesus foreknown? Is it that the father knew in advance that Jesus would appear in these last times for our sake to redeem us? Well, while it’s true that he knew that Jesus would accomplish redemption for us in the future, the text says that Jesus himself was foreknown before the world had been formed. Here is not knowledge of what Christ would do, but knowledge of Christ personally, intimately from before the foundation of the world. Now this is a critical distinction; for in Scripture when it is said that someone is known by God the idea is that the Lord has intimate knowledge of the person. In other words, it conveys a relationship, not knowledge of facts about a person. When husbands are said to know their wives, for instance, it means not that they know that their wives have certain characteristics; rather, it means that husbands know their wives intimately. To say that the Son was foreknown before the foundation of the world is to speak of the Son’s intimate, preexistent relationship with the Father from before time began.

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Though the Son was known intimately in the halls of eternity past, he has appeared, he has left his Father’s throne above to demonstrate his love for us, to leave his intimacy with the Father for our sakes. So when 1 Peter 1:2 speaks about us being God’s chosen according to his foreknowledge, the usage of the terminology in this epistle suggests that the idea is that he chose us according to his pre-temporal love for us, like the pre-temporal love and fellowship he enjoyed with the Son from all eternity. This idea is present also in the other commonly used passage to defend a view that God’s foreknowledge equals his prior knowledge of our faith. Turn with me to Romans 8:29: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” Like 1 Peter 1:2, this verse says less than some would like it to say. Though it certainly says that those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, it does not say what it is that the Father knew about those he predestined. All it says is that he foreknew them; nothing more. Furthermore, this verse does not say (like 1 Peter) that it is according to God’s foreknowledge that he predestines; rather, it says that the ones God foreknew he also predestined. It does not explicitly state the relationship between the foreknowledge and the predestination as does 1 Peter 1:2. Therefore, like the interpretation of 1 Peter 1:2, the onus is on those who suggest that foreseen faith forms the basis for God’s choice to demonstrate two things from an exegesis of Romans: (1) why we should understand God’s foreknowledge here as God’s foreknowledge of personal faith; and (2) that such foreknowledge forms the ground of God’s predestinating choice. But when we turn to Romans itself, we find the Arminian interpretation coming up short. Look first at verses 28 & 29 together: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. Now then, let me ask this: when Paul refers to those whom he foreknew in verse 29 to whom does he refer? That’s right, those who love God in verse 28. Those who love God now are described as those whom he foreknew and then predestined to become conformed to the image of his son. Those who love God are those who have been foreknown by God. In this connection, 1 Corinthians 8:3 is enormously helpful; listen: “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” According to Paul in Romans, the one who loves God has been foreknown by God and according to Paul in 1 Corinthians, the one who loves God, is known presently by God.

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At the very least, this teaching from Paul indicates that being known/foreknown has something to do with one’s love relationship to the Lord. Romans 11:2 bears this out: “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?” Here, the Jews are described as His people whom He foreknew. Now does this mean that Israel was the Lord’s chosen people because he foresaw that they would believe in him? To the contrary, the Bible is explicit that the Lord chose Israel in defiance of the kind of people they were. Deuteronomy 7:7-8 says,
”The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
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No, the Lord did not choose Israel because he foresaw that they would choose him, because he knew that they would be faithful to him. He chose them because he loved them. In fact, the idea of God knowing Israel in Scripture is related to God’s choice of Israel among all the nations. Turn with me to Amos 3:2: "You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Do you see the word translated chosen? Literally, this is the Hebrew word <text omitted>, which means, “to know.” “You only have I known among all the nations of the earth” is what the Lord is saying. Now, should we take this to mean that God is not omniscient, that he doesn’t know all the other nations of the earth? Of course not! What it means is that of all the peoples of the earth, God chose to set his love upon Israel, which is why the NASB translators opted for the word chosen. All this is to say that in Scripture the idea of God knowing a person or persons is that he is intimately related to them, he has a special relationship with them. So when Paul says in Romans 8:29 that the Lord predestined those he foreknew, it means that he predestined those he loved from all eternity. So we would agree that God’s foreknowledge is the basis upon which he works his predestinating will, but it is not foreknowledge of facts, it is pre-temporal intimate knowledge of people. So when the Bible says that we are chosen for salvation according to God’s foreknowledge or in the case of Romans, that the foreknown are those who are then predestined, it means that we are chosen in accord with God viewing us as his beloved, intimate children before time began. But there are other compelling reasons to reject the notion that the Lord chooses us on the basis of foreseen faith.

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One is that in our sin, as we learned last time, we are incapable of exercising faith, which is why even faith must be a gift of God, why it must be something that is granted to us. Philippians 1:29 says, “For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Dead as we are in our sin, there is no way that that we could possibly move toward the Lord in saving faith. Those who are still in the flesh are incapable of pleasing God. We cannot obey the gospel call to believe on the Lord Jesus; therefore it is impossible that God could foresee faith we never could have exercised in the least measure apart from him. Incidentally, I need to mention something that was not asserted by the Remonstrant Arminians, but is popular today; namely, that faith is something that you can exercise totally of your own accord, unaided by the Holy Spirit. In fact, they will say that since faith is not a work, it cannot be construed even as something you do. This, as I’ve said, is not what the Arminians believed. Listen to their words: We believe “that man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving faith eminently is).” In other words, the Arminians said that man could not exercise saving faith unaided by the Holy Spirit. They differed from the orthodox position regarding how much man could exercise on his own. On the basis of Total Depravity, the Calvinists said none. On the basis of the Arminians’ rejection of Totally Depravity, they said some. But what has become popular in recent times is the idea that faith needs no divine assistance whatsoever; for it is not something you do. Yet the Bible consistently speaks of obeying the gospel. Romans 6:17: “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” Second Thessalonians 1:9: “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” And what is the gospel? “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Well enough of that. The point we’re making is that there are other compelling reasons (outside of 1 Peter and Romans) for rejecting the foreknowledge of faith view of predestination. So far we’ve considered the idea that man cannot obey God in any way (including in the gospel way) in his sinful condition; therefore, foreseen faith apart from God’s intervention is a complete impossibility. Another compelling reason for rejecting the foreknowledge of faith view is that it does not resolve the issue of the predetermination of events. Here’s what I mean. If the Lord looked ahead into time and saw that Bob would believe and Bill wouldn’t, and if the Lord’s knowledge of the future is true, then Bob will believe and Bill

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will not—period. Nothing can stop it from happening; it is what will certainly happen. God has seen it. In this sense, then, it is already determined that Bob will believe and Bill won’t; otherwise, God could not have seen who would believe and who wouldn’t. God would have not had any basis for his choice. If Bob will believe, then he will, and nothing can stop that from happening. If Bill won’t believe, then he won’t, and nothing can stop that from happening. We could never persuade Bob not to believe, and we could never persuade Bill to believe. No manner of persuasion or influence by God or man could change what is already fixed in time. So the real question is this: How has it been determined that Bob will certainly believe and Bill certainly won’t believe? Now if Bob’s and Bill’s destinies are determined by God, then election is no longer based on foreseen faith, but solely on God. Of course, some are not willing to go there. Yet no Christian would seriously entertain the notion that someone more powerful than God determined the outcome. Therefore the only thing that’s left is chance or fate or something like that. If this is the case, then, who gets the credit for our salvation? Some impersonal cosmic force in the universe? Where is God in all this? In fact, this argument is so persuasive that Clark Pinnock, himself a staunch Arminian, has said this: “I knew the Calvinist argument that exhaustive foreknowledge was tantamount to predestination because it implies the fixity of all things from ‘eternity past,’ and I could not shake the off its logical force.”1 His conclusion? The notion of predestination based on foreknowledge should be abandoned in favor of the idea that “God knows everything that can be known, but that free choices would not be something that can be known even by God because they are not settled yet in reality. Decisions not yet made do not exist anywhere to be known, even by God.”2 Now I’m sure that my friend on the telephone would not have wanted to go where Pinnock had traveled, but what recourse would he have had in light of the biblical and logical impossibility of God choosing us on the basis of foreseen faith. Election and Evangelism Well, my conversation did not end with his assertion of the foreknowledge objection to unconditional election. It continued…
“Well,” he said, “it’s not just that. Since you are Calvinists, you’re definitely not interested in evangelism.”
Clark H Pinnock, “From Augustine to Arminius: A Pilgrimage in Theology,” in Clark H Pinnock (editor), The Grace of God, the Will of Man (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1989), 25, quoted in Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 348, n. 61. 2 Ibid. 25-26, italics and comma added (“…known, even…”).
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“Actually,” I said, “we are very interested in evangelism. As soon as I arrived, we began a course in personal evangelism that includes door-to-door visits in the neighborhood to share the gospel.” “Really?” “Yeah. So it seems to me that you are misunderstanding what it means to be a Calvinist. And I know that it is a difficult subject. Even Jonathan Edwards, a renowned Calvinist, struggled deeply with some of these issues. Why don’t you keep attending Redeemer as you look into these things and then if you still disagree, we can help you find a better fit for you?” “Er…I don’t think so. I’m pretty convinced right now.” “Alright,” I said. Good-bye.” “Good-bye.”

That’s how my conversation ended. And I refer to it again to call your attention to a common misconception of the doctrine of election; namely, that election is inimical to evangelism. The idea runs like this: If God has chosen some to eternal life irrespective of their faith—or so the logic goes—then why bother to do evangelism? God is going to save them no matter what. When my friend on the telephone heard that a church committed to the Doctrines of Grace was committed to evangelism, he was a bit nonplussed. He didn’t know what to say. Why on earth would someone who believes in unconditional election give a rip about evangelism? Obviously, however, because we are so committed to evangelism, we must be able to resolve the sovereignty of God in salvation with the evangelistic enterprise. And we can. The answer to this objection is simple, really—God uses means to accomplish his predetermined ends. That is, he predestines that his elect will come to saving faith through the preaching of the gospel, and only through the preaching of the gospel. Put negatively, the Calvinist does not believe that God has chosen some to eternal life irrespective of their faith; rather, a faith response to the preaching of the gospel is the means that God has chosen to save his elect. Faith is not the reason he chooses them; it is his means for saving them. Turn back with me to two texts we looked at earlier. First turn to 2 Timothy 2:10: “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” Knowing that the Lord has chosen some to obtain salvation in Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul is encouraged to endure all things for their sakes. He is convinced that since God will certainly save some according to his electing purposes, his labor will not be in vain. This same notion is inherent in Paul’s self-description in his epistle to Titus in Titus 1:1-2: “Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.”

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He sees himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of the elect. His mission is directed at gathering the elect from all the nations into the one people of God. He serves God to bring the elect to saving faith, the faithful to sanctification, and the sanctified to glory, according to the Lord’s promise which he made before time began. Now then, why would the Lord’s election of some to eternal life, encourage rather than suppress Paul’s evangelistic impulse? Two reasons. First, Paul understands the Lord’s use of means. Even though he has said so much in Romans 9 about God’s electing love, in Romans 10 he says,
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” (Romans 10:14-15).
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God has ordained that the salvation of his elect would be through the foolishness of preaching. So Paul is committed and compelled to engage in evangelism. The other reason why election encourages Paul’s evangelism is because he understands man’s nature apart from God’s work of grace. Earlier in Romans he has said that both Jews and Greeks do not seek God, that no one does good, not even one. And he has said in Romans 8 that those who are in the flesh cannot please God; for they do not subject themselves to the Law of God because they are unable to do so. Paul understands that unless the Lord elects certain persons to salvation, no one would be saved. So rather than discouraging evangelism, the sovereignty of God in salvation is the only thing that ensures its success. For left to himself, man is dead in trespasses and sins, unable to heed the gospel call, unable to comply with the divine mandate to believe in Jesus. I absolutely love what J I Packer says in this regard:
Some fear that belief in the sovereign grace of God leads to the conclusion that evangelism is pointless, since God will save His elect anyway, whether they hear the gospel or not. This…is a false conclusion based on a false assumption. But now we must go further, and point out that the truth is just the opposite. So far from making evangelism pointless, the sovereignty of God in grace is the one thing that prevents evangelism from being pointless. For it creates the possibility—indeed, the certainty—that evangelism will be fruitful. Apart from it, there is not even a possibility of evangelism being fruitful. Were it not for the sovereign grace of God, evangelism would be the most futile and useless enterprise that the world has ever seen, and there would be no more complete waste of time under the sun than to preach the Christian gospel.3

3

J I Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1961),

106.

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This is why a church committed to the Doctrines of Grace ought to be sold-out to evangelism. We are thrilled about evangelism because we know that God’s elect will hear the gospel call and will trust in Jesus for salvation. We are thrilled about evangelism because we know that even though men and women, boys and girls are dead in trespasses and sins, the Lord will raise some of them from the dead through his saving message. Election and Justice Now then, even though I’ve exhausted the contents of my conversation with John from three years ago, I have not exhausted the objections to the doctrine of election. There is one more significant objection that I need to address, and that is, that election is unfair. Well, by God’s providence, we have a ready-made biblical objection-handler in the form of Romans 9:14-23. Paul has been illustrating that God’s choice for salvation depends upon his own good pleasure. To make his point clear, he turns to the example of Jacob and Esau, who, although they had not even been born and had not yet done anything good or bad, God ordained the older to serve the younger: “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated” (9:13). Beginning in verse 14, Paul anticipates an objection from his readers. Look at verse 14: What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? Paul answers his rhetorical question with a categorical denial: May it never be! Then in verses 15-18, he explains why it is not at all unjust for God to choose some for salvation irrespective of their good or bad behavior. Notice first verse 15: For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” Using an example from Exodus 33, Paul demonstrates from Scripture that God’s mercy-showing is thus the product of his own free choice. I will have mercy on whom I have mercy. God is saying that it is his prerogative alone to show mercy. He is the one who determines who receives it. This is why Paul says what he does in verse 16: So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. From here, Paul gives another example from Scripture, this time of his action in controlling Pharaoh. Notice verse 17: For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” Paul is saying that if we need another example to demonstrate that God’s saving activity does not depend on human will, look at salvation’s counterpart—judgment. Why is Pharaoh in power? Purely to serve God’s purposes in putting his glory on display. Pharaoh needs to be there in order for God to multiply his mighty deeds of judgment.

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Now for Paul, the examples of Moses and Pharaoh from the Old Testament are conclusive; look at verse 18: So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. The salvation of some and the reprobation of others are purely made on the basis of God’s free and sovereign choice. This we’ve seen all along; nevertheless, it is crucial that we do not miss that this expression of the unconditionality of election is meant to solve the objection of verse 14: There is no injustice with God, is there? His answer is amazing: “No,” he says, “because…God has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires.” Does this seem strange to you? “Perhaps,” says Paul, “it seems unjust for God to behave this way. But it’s not. And I’ll tell you why—because God has mercy on whom he desires and he hardens whom he desires. It is entirely his prerogative. And since showing mercy and hardening are entirely his prerogative, it is also perfectly just for him to do so, because he is just.” So Paul’s answer is this: if God has claimed this as his right, then this is evidence enough that it is just. Now jump down to verse 19: You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” The question is that if no one can resist God’s will, how can he fault men for the hardness of heart that he has performed in them? How can God blame someone who appears to be no more than a “victim” of his changeless decree? This answer, too, is amazing. Notice verses 20-21: On the contrary, 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? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? In the first place, Paul is saying that the question is profoundly arrogant; it is a question that we have no right asking. What right does a lump of clay have to make demands of the potter? He can do with us what he wills because he made us. But remember, he didn’t make us sinful. He made us and when he finished he saw all that he had made and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Why do I mention the sinfulness of man? Because the vessel that the potter assigns an honorable use comes from the same lump as the vessel that he assigns for dishonorable use—and the original lump is corrupt; the original lump is sinful. That lump is deserving of God’s omnipotent wrath. How do I know this? Well, look down to verses 22-23: What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory… What I want you to see is that the vessels are called vessels of wrath in verse 22 and vessels of mercy in verse 23. Of course, it goes without saying that a vessel of wrath is a sinful vessel. But it is not only the vessels of wrath that are sinful; it is the

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vessels of mercy as well. If they were not sinful, they would not need mercy. They would at that point cease to be vessels of mercy; instead, they would be vessels of merit. This is why we can say that the one lump that the potter uses to make both noble and ignoble vessels is sinful. And it is from this sinful lump that the creator, the potter makes some for mercy and some for wrath. Both are deserving of wrath. But with one God chooses to magnify his mercy, and with the other God chooses to magnify his holy justice. So the arrogance of asking if it is right for God to find fault, comes not simply from the fact that he’s God and we’re not. It comes from the fact that we are sinful, rebellious, wicked creatures and he is the holy, righteous, and good creator. So for us to ask if it is right for God to find fault with men whose wills he has hardened against him is to ask whether or not God is just to find fault with sinners in general. This is why it is so important that we begin with the notion that man is sinful. If all humanity is deserving of God’s judgment for our sin in Adam, then for God to save anyone at all, even a single individual is an act of amazing grace, especially for the one saved. For God does not save a single person who deserves to be saved (this part no one has trouble with), but he also does not refuse to save a person who doesn’t deserve to be punished. In election, the Lord performs an act of “distinguishing between people equally lost.”4 God chose to save people out of the human race, “which had fallen by its own fault from its original [condition] into sin and ruin.”5 Election “involves his adopting certain particular persons from among the common mass of sinners as his own possession.”6 In choosing thereby not to save others the Lord chooses “to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves [i.e. at Adam’s fall]…having been left in their own ways.”7 It is so important to remember that we are sinners in Adam, because if we forget this, then we may erroneously conclude that people are condemned because the Lord has chosen to pass them by for salvation, when the reality is that they are condemned because they are sinners; therefore God passes them by for salvation. Imagine that you had committed a heinous crime, like a murder, and you were facing your just punishment. You would be getting only what you deserved. Now imagine further that the judge, according to his kindness, chose to absolve you completely of your crimes and set you free. How might you feel?

4 5

Canons of Dordt, 1.6. Canons of Dordt, 1.7. 6 Canons of Dordt, 1.10. 7 Canons of Dordt 1.15.

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Well, this is precisely what happens in election. We are all deserving of punishment for crimes of the highest magnitude. Moreover, part of the punishment that we experience right now is that we are incapable of setting ourselves free; we couldn’t break out of the jail of our sin if we tried. In fact, we couldn’t even try. But what God has done is set his love on us in Christ before the beginning of time and has chosen us to be delivered from the doom we deserved. Why did he not choose everyone? I don’t know. He doesn’t say. But what we can say is that his choice not to save some is not at all unjust. They are being treated as their sins deserve, we are not being treated as our sins deserve. If we are not settled in our hearts that we are guilty sinners, deserving of nothing but judgment, than rather than a demonstration of God’s amazing love, we will see it as the product of a cruel, ruthless, and capricious God, who, in the words of Dave Hunt, “is pleased to damn billions.”8 Remember, we are guilty in Adam; we come into this world having already sinned. And we know this because we die and because we continue in sin and approve the evil we see in others. So there is not a single reason why God should save any of us. God is just in his election and his reprobation; for he elects sinners and he reprobates sinners. But he never makes them sinners or causes them to experience punishment that they do not deserve. Conclusion But there is more to it than that. At the end of last week’s message, I was speaking with a brother who had thanked me for the sermon. Our conversation continued:
I said, “That message was so important because if you do not grasp that we are totally depraved, you will never understand the next four points of Calvinism.” Then he said, “If that message is true, we need the next four points!”

And he was so right! We need to be chosen for salvation, we need to have Christ pay the penalty for our sins, we need to be called to life by God’s grace from the spiritually dead, and we need him to preserve us till the end. This, then, is the beauty of election; the glory of God’s electing love. We need it! Without it, we would be hopelessly and justly condemned. But…
Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or
8

33

Dave Hunt & James White, Debating Calvinism (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2004), 21

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persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." 37But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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The Doctrines of Grace, Part 2: Unconditional Election

© 2005 by R W Glenn

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