By Pastor Steve M. Wadleigh
This series of blog posts are meant to explain and defend the doctrine of election. I started by defining this doctrine and then showing how the condition of fallen mankind demands the teaching of sovereign election. I then showed that the teaching of God’s sovereign choosing of men is found throughout the Bible. In the next post we looked at examples of God choosing specific individuals throughout all of redemptive history according to His sovereign will to the praise of His glorious grace. Now 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.
God’s choosing of particular individuals is not only seen in the O.T. but it is also clearly seen and taught in the N.T. Let us examine the teachings of Jesus and His disciples on this very point. Jesus clearly stated that the only persons who would come to follow Him were those who had been chosen beforehand by God:
“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”
“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.”
“No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
Jesus in praying to the Father just before His death affirms this great truth once again:
These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee, even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life.”
“I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me, and they have kept Thy word.”
“I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine;”
Jesus understood perfectly that any who chose to follow Him had done so because they had first been chosen by God and drawn by Him to His beloved Son. Jesus did not pray on behalf of the entire world, but only on behalf of those who had been chosen by God.
Now let us look at how Jesus’ own disciples understood this important doctrine. Did they also affirm that it is God who chooses who shall be saved? We will look at only a few of the relevant passages, which show beyond a doubt that the apostles also taught the doctrine of election. Listen to Paul writing to the church at Ephesus about the source of the salvation that have experienced:
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, 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.
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
Paul clearly states that God chose us (those who are saved) before the world was created and based on His sovereign choice He then predestined us to adoption as sons. All of this being done according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, that we should be to the praise of His glory.
In his second letter to the Thessalonians Paul shares this same doctrine with them:
II Thessalonians 2:13-14
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Once again Paul states clearly that they were chosen by God from the beginning for salvation. We again see that Paul is teaching divine sovereign election. In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome we have the most comprehensive statement of God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. In it we see the great need of all mankind who have sinned and are excluded from God as a result. We find that God provided a way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and His death for our sins. We also learn that this provision of salvation is only for those whom God has called according to His purpose. Paul anticipates man’s objection to this teaching, that God is the one who chooses who He shall save, and he devotes an entire chapter to defending the doctrine of election. This of course is Romans chapter nine.
Paul looks back through redemptive history and shows that God has always chosen according to His purpose. We see that God first chose Abraham, then He chose Isaac, and then He chose Jacob. In the case of Jacob God chose him over his twin brother who was actually born first. Why did God choose Jacob? Paul emphatically states that it was to demonstrate that God is the one who chooses and that His choice is not influenced or dependent upon anything outside of Himself:
And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac;
for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Then in anticipation of the objection by man to this teaching, he writes:
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have
compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Paul quotes from God himself when He told Moses that the exercise of His mercy and compassion are under His divine prerogative and are not based on the will or actions of man. Simply put, it is God who chooses those whom He will save. Paul goes on in that chapter to explain that God has every right as the Creator to determine the eternal destinies of His creations.
We can clearly see that the apostles understood the doctrine of election as being central to understanding God’s plan of salvation. God chooses those whom He will draw unto Himself and bestows upon them, “The right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 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.
How does an understanding of this cardinal doctrine impact our lives? In my final post, in this series, we will briefly examine several of the implications of this doctrine in our lives.