Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

The Doctrine of Election: Negatively and Positively

I believe in the doctrine of election. I believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit acted in unison to effectively call me out of my sin to the Cross of Jesus Christ, and that that calling, thankfully, had absolutely nothing to do with anything that I had done prior or since, or will ever do. I responded and made a rational choice of the Light over the darkness, but I had nothing to do with being called, just as I had nothing to do with Jesus’ salvific work on the Cross. And to say that I made a rational choice might be a bit misleading.

To say that I made a rational choice to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior is like you saying that you made a rational choice to eat your favorite dish, when it was prepared for you and put in front of you by somebody else to enjoy freely, and the wonderful aromas filled your nostrils and your eyes beheld the wondrous colors. Many people thank God for the food before them when they sit down to a meal, but I wonder how many of us thank God for the appetite for the food, the abilities to smell and see that enhance that appetite, and the ability to taste the food. At that point- fully famished, with your favorite dish freely offered and waiting before you- do you make a “rational choice” to eat? Neither did I make a “rational choice” in the way that Arminians mean it to flee from the broken promises and lies that this world has to offer to Calvary’s Cross and the open arms of my Savior.

In my life, I believe that I have experienced both the positive and negative sides of the doctrine of election. I grew up in a Christian home, and looking back I would say that I was trying to be a Christian without Christ. I believed, but my belief was based in large part on the belief of others, and because I thought it was “good” to be a Christian and to believe. Christ and His Cross factored little in my belief then.  Or, as Jesus said, I was a “thief and a robber” because I tried to have the trappings of Christianity without going through the door:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.” -John 10:1

I think that that time in my life was representative of the negative side of election. As Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” and according to John 6:44 (see below), only those the Father draws to the Son will come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us take a look at some verses in the Gospel of John that address the issue of election:

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” John 5:21

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” John 6:39

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” -John 6:44

“‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.'” John 6:64-65

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” John 15:16

My attempt to summarize these verses from the Gospel of John would be as follows:  All who believe do so of the will of God (vv1:12-13), and salvation happens at the will of the Father (v6:44), the Son (5:21), and the Spirit (3:8).  To believe, a person must be born again by the Spirit- and the Spirit, like the wind, blows where it will (3:8). The Son gives life to whom He will (5:21). Only those that the Father draws to the Son will be saved (6:44), and the Son will save all those whom the Father draws to the Son (6:37, 39). Those who do not believe do not do so because the Father does not grant it to them (6:64-65). Just as Jesus chose His disciples, rather than vice versa, those who believe do so, not because they choose to, but because they are chosen (15:16).

I believe that this all works together for the glory of God.  I think that people who dislike the doctrine of election do so at least partly because by choosing who will be saved, God is also choosing who will not be saved.  They seek to defend God, because, at its surface, the concept of God allowing people to go to hell when He could do otherwise seems to paint an evil picture of our God and Creator.  I believe that our God and Creator works things out in the lives of those whom He does not save such that they “rationally choose” things that way.  However, I believe that God is 100% sovereign over who will “rationally choose” salvation and who will “rationally choose” to forsake the glory of God and the Cross of Christ and consequently spend eternity in hell.

Also, no matter how you slice it, we all have to come to grips with the fact that God does indeed allow people to go to hell when He could do otherwise.  Matthew 7:13-14 seems to tell us that more people go to hell than to heaven: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Is this reality due to God’s decision to allow humans the freedom to choose whether or not they will believe?  Or is it due to the fact that God is more committed to something other than the number of people He saves, even as not saving them breaks His heart?  I believe the latter to be the case, and I believe that the “something” that God is more committed to is His own glory.  I also believe that the glory of God is the key that unlocks a multitude of mysteries. 

The glory of God, and fallen mankind’s sins against His glory, are the reasons that both Hell and the Cross are realities.  Because His glory is infinitely valuable, He created a place to send those who unabashedly and unrepentantly sin against His glory.  And because He so loves the world, He sent His only begotten Son- who knew no sin and was perfect in His righteousness- to become a curse and be sentenced to death on the Cross, so that if we- who intimately know sin and have no righteousness of our own before God- merely believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, our sins will be transmitted to Christ, who paid their price completely, and in exchange His righteousness will be transmitted to us.

God is glorified in the doctrine of election because it points us to Him.  If salvation depended upon our choice, as Arminians believe, then our choice is the hinge upon which salvation rests.  If salvation rested upon our choice, then our decision would highlight our love for God and we would be glorified on the basis of our choice.  Not only does this call into question God’s justice because all humans do not have the same information available to them, but it also robs God of His glory.  If, as I believe to be the case, we are saved because the Father, Son, and Spirit intervened and gave us new eyes, ears, and hearts, then God is greatly glorified because salvation rests upon His immeasurable grace and love, and on His decision rather than ours.

I also believe that Romans 1:16, where Paul tells us that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes” is both relevant to the doctrine of election and helpful here.  Although the Father, Son, and Spirit give eternal life to whom they will and salvation rests on their choice, our three-person God chooses in a way that glorifies God.  God ordained the events of the Old Testament to point forward to a coming Messiah who would atone for the sins of the people of God and reconcile them to Him.  We believe that the Messiah has come, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  And Paul tells us that the gospel of Jesus is “the power of God for salvation.” 

For me, the doctrine of election, a clear understanding of the basics of the gospel, and knowing that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation has set me free to share my faith with others and trust God for the results.  My hope and prayer is that it will do the same for you.  Your coworkers, family members, friends, and everybody else that you come into contact with in your everyday life must indeed make a “rational decision” to accept Jesus Christ as Lord.  However, trust that their “rational decision” and furthermore their salvation, rests on the will of the Father, Son, and Spirit.  And trust that their salvation is about something much more than themselves; it is about the glory of God.  And trust that the gospel is God’s power unto salvation.  And may this free you to share the gospel with them, and to pray to and trust God for the results.  And finally I leave you with a clear example of the gospel, from the pen of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

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May 1, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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