By Pastor Steve M. Wadleigh
This series of blog posts are meant to explain and defend the doctrine of election. I will begin by
defining this doctrine and then show how the condition of fallen mankind demands the
teaching of sovereign election. I will then show you that the teaching of God’s sovereign
choosing of men is found throughout the Bible. We will look at examples of God choosing
specific individuals throughout all of redemptive history according to His sovereign will to the
praise of His glorious grace. We will also see that Jesus Christ and his apostles taught that God
is the one who chooses who will come to Him for salvation. Finally I will list some of the
practical implications of this divine doctrine in our lives today.
A correct understanding of the sinful depravity of man is necessary to lay the foundation for a
proper view of the doctrine of election. When we speak of man as being totally depraved, we
mean that as a result of Adam’s original sin the entire human race was plunged into spiritual
ruin. We have been corrupted by sin and that corruption extends to every part of a man’s being
including his mind, emotions, and his will. Indeed his will, as a result of his depravity, is in
bondage to his sinful nature.
The Westminster Confession of Faith states it this way: “Man fell into a state of sin by his
disobedience and so completely lost his ability to will any spiritual good involving salvation.
Consequently fallen man is by nature completely opposed to spiritual good, is dead in sin, and
is unable by his own strength either to convert himself or to prepare himself for conversion”.
Chapter 9 Section 3
This is a summary statement of a truth that is revealed in many passages of Holy Scripture some
of which include:
“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a
murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.
Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.”
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews
and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is
none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving,” “the poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; “Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace have they not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
1 Corinthians 2:14
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
As these passages indicate, men in their fallen sinful state have no desire to have fellowship with God. Left to their own choices they will follow satan and their own lusts and will never turn to God. They would be eternally separated from God by their own sin and would not even care.
It is in the light of this spiritual truth of the depravity of man that the doctrine of election becomes absolutely necessary. The doctrine of election teaches that before the world was even created, and long before man fell into sin, God chose certain individuals to be the objects of His saving grace:
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 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, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
The verb in this passage chose (eklegō) means “to select, to pick out, or choose”. The biblical doctrine of election is that before creation God selected out of the human race those whom He would redeem, bring to faith, justify and glorify in and through Jesus the Christ. This divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace, for it is unconstrained and unconditional, not merited by anything in those who are its objects.
Nelson’s Bible Dictionary defines election as, “The gracious and free act of God by which He calls those who become part of His kingdom and special beneficiaries of His love and blessings.”
Pastor Steven Fernandez states it this way, “Election is the act of God whereby for nothing is foreseen in them, but based entirely on His own character and free grace, he personally chose specific individuals among the fallen race of Adam to be recipients of salvation.”
My own understanding of this very important doctrine has grown through the years as God has progressively shed greater light on the “doctrines of grace” in my studies. The doctrine of election, like every truth about God, involves some mystery and sometimes stirs up controversy. This is all the more reason for us to examine God’s Holy Word for ourselves to see if it indeed teaches that God sovereignly chooses specific individuals for His purposes, and this we will do in the next blog post.