In our last post, we showed that all Christians implicitly or explicitly accept the idea of election: that God controls (directly or permissively) the destinies of His creatures. A philosophical defence goes only so far, however. We wish now to review nine biblical truths regarding the doctrine of election.
1. God does not wish anyone to be lost.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)
God delays the day of final judgement precisely because He does not wish anyone to be lost. He expresses grief over the judgement of unbelievers. “Say to them:`As I live,’ says the Lord GOD,`I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezek. 33:11)
If God delays His judgment, it is because wants to allow much opportunity for everyone to come to repentance.
2. God wishes everyone to be saved.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, (1 Tim. 2:3-6)
Paul tells us that God desires all men to be saved. Verse 6 tells us that Christ has provided atonement for all men. This provision is not applied to all men, but it has been provided for all, as other Scriptures testify (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2, Heb 2:9). This universal provision is another statement of God’s desire for all men to be saved.
Why then are not all saved? It appears that in God’s cosmos, certain ends are incompatible with certain others. As God sovereignly chooses one end, He eliminates others and chooses some of the things that go with that chosen end. When the Suez Canal was built, 120 000 men died in its 11-year construction. The builders of the canal did not desire those deaths, but they knew that the choice was either no canal and no deaths, or a canal with the accidental deaths that construction brings.
Some argue, “if God knew a group of people could be saved, then He would make sure those circumstances would take place for them to be saved”. But Scripture actually contradicts this idea.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. “But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon 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. (Matt. 11:21-23)
Jesus rebukes the Jewish cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, saying that had the Gentile cities of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom received the Gospel witness that those Jewish cities had received, those Gentile towns would have believed and been saved. In other words, the Incarnate Son knew of an alternate history, of a different circumstance, in which many thousands of people would have been saved. But God did not choose that world or that timeline. He chose the world in which most of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom perished. Even though God knew a way for them to be saved (namely have Christ be among them performing those miracles), He did not ordain that to be. God chose the timeline in which Christ would be in Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida, which meant the loss of the people in those Gentile towns. Why God chose a handful in Galilee over multitudes from Sodom is not revealed to us. We simply see the truth that certain ends that are incompatible with certain others.
This also flatly contradicts the foresight view of foreknowledge. The foresight view states that God looked ahead in time, saw who would respond positively to the gospel, and then chose those people. But Christ’s words show us the opposite. God could have looked into the future before the foundation of the world, and seen this situation: where the people of Sodom, Tyre and Sidon responded positively to the gospel. If foreseeing a positive response constitutes election, then Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon were all elect, but also condemned: a contradiction if there ever was one.
3. No one seeks after God.
There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. (Rom. 3:11)
The human race is not naturally open to persuasion about God. Humans have a vested interest in avoiding God. People are free, but a free person is still going to choose on the basis of what he knows and loves. And if what he knows and loves is selfish and idolatrous, his free choices will refuse God, 100% of the time. Left to themselves, people will not choose salvation.
Election represents God’s intervention, not God’s passive observation. God seeks man, so that man will seek God.
4. Certain people were given to Christ by the Father.
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. (Jn. 6:37)
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. (Jn. 10:29)
as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. (Jn. 17:2)
I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. (Jn. 17:6)
Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. (Jn. 17:11)
Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world (Jn. 17:24)
One gets the clear impression that there are specific individuals whom God the Father has given to Christ.
5. God chooses individuals, and not merely a group or category.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Rom. 8:29-30)
Here is a clear, unbreakable chain of cause and effect. The called (of verse 28) are the individuals whom He foreknew. All the individuals foreknown (no more and no less) are the individuals predestined to Christlikeness. All the individuals predestined to Christlikeness (no more and no less) are the individuals called. All the individuals called (no more and no less) are the ones justified. All the individuals justified (no more and no less) are the ones glorified. What is true at the beginning of the process is true at the end of the process. Clearly, we are justified and glorified individually and not by participation in a group. This is a clear, straightforward declaration of individual election.
Nor are we chosen merely for service. We are told explicitly that election is for salvation:
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, (2 Thess. 2:13)
In our last post in this series, we’ll consider the final four biblical theses regarding election.