Unconditional Election

 

Well, here I sit at my laptop computer, television cable news on low volume in my ear, and trying to focus on the message coming from Scripture, all at the same time.

imagesIt is season of ELECTION here in the United States, and between the robocalls, car bumper stickers, political signs placed in front yards, and every television and radio station broadcasting partisan campaign rhetoric…it’s still over two months from election day.

It is hard to accept all the hype of the campaign’s politicians.  But at the same time, the outcome of the election can’t change one’s acceptance of the results–positive or negative.

Accepting God’s Unconditional Election – A Study in Romans 9

My hesitancy, even my personal objections to this topic fell apart as I studied and meditated on God’s Word.  I could no longer explain away Romans 9.

What is UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION?

John Piper, Founder and Teacher of desiringGod.org states the definition as…

“God’s free choice before creation, not based on foreseen faith, to which traitors He will grant faith and repentance, pardoning them and adopting them into His everlasting family of joy.”

My public Prayer:

Father, I need your Spirit to enlighten me in explaining Your word on this sometimes difficult topic.  May I be clear in explanation and stay out of the “rabbit holes.”  Thank You in advance, Amen.

GRACE & ELECTION –

The real question is NOT “Why are only some saved?”, but “Why are any saved?”

Without God’s ELECTION, none could, would or even should be SAVED from His judgment.

The true children of God, God’s election of His family, is not determined by the will of mankind, but by the eternal decree and divine counsel of Almighty God Himself!

Let me state right up front, that there are some hard things to understand in the Bible–like Unconditional Election or the Calvinist approach to predestination.

Here are three passages of Scripture to read and meditate on:  Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:11.

Romans 8:29 (KJV):  For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Ephesians 1:5 (NAS):  He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

Ephesians 1:11 (AMP):  In Him we also were made [God’s] heritage (portion) and we obtained an inheritance; for we had been foreordained  (chosen and appointed beforehand) in accordance with His purpose, Who works out everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His [own] will.

If election is true, what happens to human responsibility?  And, If some are “predestined” to heaven, then why bother with evangelism in the church?  How can people be guilty of sin, since they are doing what they were predestined to do?

This topic of conversation can–has, caused friendships to fracture, churches to split and divide Christians into different doctrinal groups.

Let me give you my understanding, and you can agree or disagree.  I have a simple mind, so this might not be satisfactory to everyone reading this.

God is supremely SOVEREIGN and we are responsible to our response to His calling.

The word “sovereign”, “Sovereignty of God”, is the biblical teaching that ALL THINGS are under God’s rule and control, His authority, and nothing happens without His direction or permission.  [See footnote [i] ]

Romans 9 emphasizes the SOVEREIGNTY of God while Chapter 10 emphasizes man’s foundational response (I’m sticking with Chapter 9 for this blog).

The apostle Paul doesn’t seek to relieve the tension, nor does he fully explain the working out of election and responsibility of his listeners in this chapter.  He seems to be more interested in pointing out the pompous hearts that dares to question the Creator.

Election and Responsibility as taught by Jesus in John 6:37:  

“All whom My Father gives (entrusts) to Me” [divine election]; “and the one who comes to Me” [human response] “I will most certainly not cast out {I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me]” (Amplified Bible in italics).

THIS BLOG’S BIBLE TEXT:  ROMANS 9:19-29

In my study this week on the above passage, I found 7 different questions in regards to UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION.  While Paul doesn’t specifically answer each of these questions, there’s at least 3 answers that are given.

God DESIGNS with purpose (vv. 19-21)

[19] You will say to me,  Why then does He still find fault and blame us [for sinning]? For who can resist and withstand His will?”

Paul has given reference to Moses as an example, where he states that God will have MERCY on whom He will have MERCY and COMPASSION on whom He will have COMPASSION (v.15).  Paul further states that the MERCY is God’s gift (v. 16) and not on one’s own willingness nor works.

Paul then contrasts MERCY with STUBBORNNESS, as with Pharaoh’s condition of an unyielding heart (vv. 17-18):

[17] For Scripture says to Pharaoh, I have raised you up for this very purpose of displaying My power in [dealing with] you, so that My name may be proclaimed the whole world over.

[18] So then He has mercy on whomever He wills (chooses) and He hardens whomever He wills.

Paul’s not concerned with the person’s question in verse 19, as much as his concern for the “attitude” behind the question.

Paul’s seemingly agitated response in verse 20 is to the point:

[20] But who are you, a mere man, to criticize and contradict and answer back to God? 

In the New International Version of the bible, it reads “talk back”.  Paul was putting the person’s attitude in his place for “talking back” to God.

It’s not wrong to ask questions of our Father God, but we cannot presume to correct Him.

We should be reminded of what God said in Job 38:2-3:

[2] Who is this that darkens council by words without knowledge?  [3] Gird up now your loins like a man, and I will demand of you, and you declare to Me.

Job is put in his place in 40:2:

“Shall he who would find fault with the Almighty contend with Him? He who disputes with God, let him answer it.”

I love the way Job responds in verses 4-5:

[4] Behold, I am of small account and vile! What shall I answer You? I lay my hand upon my mouth.  [5] I have spoken once, but I will not reply again–indeed, twice (have I answered), but I will proceed no further.

It is hard for us at times, just to be still when God declares His will.  Many of us want to have the last word with God.

God has the absolute rights of ownership.

By putting together passages from Isaiah 28:16, Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18:1-6, Paul shows that as Creator, God has the absolute rights of ownership (v. 20 b.):

“…Will what is formed say to him that formed it,  Why have you made me thus?”

He then expands the analogy of the Potter and the clay (v. 21)

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[21] Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same mass (lump) one vessel for beauty and distinction and honorable use, and another for menial or ignoble and dishonorable use?

God Delays punishment (verse 22-23)

God DESIGNS with a purpose and He also DELAYS punishment to some, in order to show His MERCY to others.

[22]  What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction?

[23]  What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory–  (NIV).

Notice the two uses of the phrase “What if…”

Paul states 2 categories of people here.  The Bible often uses extreme terms to separate people into two groups.

  • The SAVED and the LOST,
  • Children of God and children of Satan,
  • Light and darkness.

The last words in Verse 22 make it a tough passage to deal with–“prepared for destruction”.  It is written in the “passive voice” for grammatical correctness.

It shows that people prepare themselves for DESTRUCTION by their sins.  It’s not that God makes people sinful, but that He leaves them in their sin unless they REPENT and receive Jesus.  If people resist and reject God, they end up preparing their own destruction.  If, during the time of “divine delay,” any individual repents and receives Jesus, he or she becomes an “object of His mercy.”

EZEKIEL 18:30-32 SAYS,

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So, who then, are the OBJECTS (“vessels”) of MERCY?

God gets the GLORY either way!  He even uses Israel’s unbelief to further His purposes.  Actually, He uses ALL CIRCUMSTANCES to promote His Glory.

VERSE 23 (AMP):  And [what if] He thus proposes to make known and show the wealth of His glory in [dealing with] the vessels (objects) of His mercy which He has prepared beforehand for glory.

There’s the grammatical construction in verse 23, that’s different–we don’t prepare ourselves for glory because we are “prepared beforehand for glory” by God.

God is delaying His JUDGMENT so that you will repent and receive Jesus.  But He won’t wait forever.

At the beginning of this POST, I made the comment that God is supremely sovereign and that we are responsible for our response to His call.

So SALVATION starts with God and ends with God.  If UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION is true, then it means that we can never claim any credit for our SALVATION, or anyone else’s SALVATION.

We don’t even get points for seeking the Lord, because He sought us before we sought Him.

Someone may say “Why should I bother responding?  If I’m “predestined”, God will save me when He’s ready.”

The Bible says that God SAVES those who place their FAITH in Jesus Christ.

Henry Ward Beecher, a Congregationalist clergyman during the 1800’s, used to say the ELECT were the “Whosoever wills” and the non-elect were the “Whosoever won’ts.”

If you are wondering whether God has chosen you to SALVATION, just answer this question.  Have you ever placed your FAITH, your TRUST, in Jesus Christ–and in Him alone for your SALVATION?  If you answered “Yes,” then you have been “Unconditionally Elected” (“chosen”) to enter Heaven.  But what if the answer is “No”?

One reason God has delayed His punishment is to give you more time to be SAVED. If you go to hell, it won’t be God’s fault.  He’s done everything necessary to make sure you go to heaven.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION simply put…God chose you first and if He didn’t choose you first, you would never have chosen Him.

In other words, God so arranged the circumstances, when the moment was right, I had no other choice but to freely choose Jesus.  That occurred in the evening, August 15, 1972.  I was 30 years old, and God had been calling me for an unknown period of time but I was stiff necked in responding to His call.

Our CHOICE is a FREE CHOICE, but it is made possible only by God’s Spirit enabling us to BELIEVE and be SAVED.

 


Footnotes & Credits:

Footnote [i]:  Definition of God’s Sovereignty from Theopedia.

Bible Translations:  King James Version (KJV); New International Version (NIV); New American Standard (NAS); Amplified Bible (AMP).

Photos:  Google Image Search.