The Doctrine of Election (Part 2)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us [1] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

(Eph. 1:3-6)


I intend to review some of the things we took up last time regarding election and then continue from that point where we stopped last time. In a future sermon I also intend to answer some of the most common objections to the doctrine of election, which are:

(1) Falsity (the issue of God’s love) – Is the Bible lying when it says “For God so loved the world?” “God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance?” “God desires all men to be saved?”

(2) Fairness (the issue of God’s justice);

(3) Fatalism (the issue of man’s responsibility).

I. Election is Soteriological.

Election is unto salvation. II Tim. 2:10 says that Paul endured everything for the sake of the elect in order that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

II. Election is Personal.

Election is not merely corporate. It’s also personal.

Here’s a quote from a former president of the Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary. “Some have tried to solve their dilemma by saying that “God elected the plan of salvation, but not the people.” The serious problem with this explanation is that the word “elect” in Scripture almost always is used to designate people, not a plan. God has indeed selected His plan of salvation, but He has also elected His people, and they are even called “elect” before their salvation (e.g., see 2 Tim. 2:10, where Paul writes: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory”).” (Philip R.Bryan, A Proposed Solution to a Controversial Issue)

Also, take a look at Acts 9:1. Paul was chosen to be Christ’s instrument both unconditionally and personally. He surely wasn’t chosen because he believed in Jesus Christ. Rather while Paul was in the course of persecuting Christians, Jesus Christ appeared to him and as a result Paul was converted. This is clearly unconditional election! Also, it is understood that in choosing Paul to serve him, Christ also chose him to salvation, because Paul could not serve him unless he were first saved. Besides, Paul’s Damascus experience was certainly about his conversion/salvation. That’s clear from the context of Acts 9.

Finally, in John 10:3b the Bible says that Christ knows his sheep by name. It is clear that Christ’s dealings with his sheep is on a person-to-person basis. His sheep is not an abstract collective of hypothetical sheep but is composed of real persons whom he knows by name. But please take note that his sheep were his sheep even before his sheep came to know him and to listen to his voice! In verse 26, ff.,  it is implied that  a person believes not in order to become Christ’s sheep but because he already is one. First, you have to be Christ’s sheep before you can believe! Being Christ’s sheep is therefore synonymous with being elect. This is all the more clear in v. 16 which teaches that the “Gentile” sheep were already his sheep even before they got to listen to his voice. In fact, Christ still had to bring them, i.e., Christ still had to make himself known to them. But the point is they were his sheep, they were elect, before they believed. And he knows them by name, i.e., personally. Therefore, election is personal.

III. Election is Unconditional.

This is the most controversial aspect of election. I’d like to say that even if we disagree about this here in our association – and that’s to be expected because this is a difficult doctrine – let’s at least respectfully agree to disagree. To quote Philip R. Bryan once again:

Historically speaking, however, many of our brethren have used such terminology in their official documents to explain their beliefs about salvation, making it the official position of their local BMA associations by including it in their doctrinal statements. This phenomenon apparently occurred in several states. For present purposes, the following examples from some associations in Mississippi should suffice:

“4th. We believe in the everlasting love of God to His people in eternal and unconditional election (emphasis is mine, PB) of all His spiritual children of grace and glory” (Washington Association of Regular Missionary Baptist Churches, Minutes, “Articles of Faith,” 1981, p. 2; see also: Big Creek Missionary Baptist Association, Minutes, “Articles of Faith,” 1977, p. 2; and Ten Mile Missionary Baptist Association, Minutes, “Articles of Faith,” 1954, p. 11, for almost verbatim statements)”

Similar examples could be given from the doctrinal statements of local associations in Texas and other states. A logical question is: Did our forefathers really believe and emphasize “unconditional election”? Did they believe it in the Calvinistic sense? If the answers are “yes,” then it behooves us to be tolerant of present brethren whom we might label as “Calvinists” also. If the answer is “no,” then this illustrates that the utilization of such “Calvinistic” terms does not automatically make one a Hyper-Calvinist! There is a pitfall in categorizing someone merely on the basis of an arbitrary system of Five-Points.

The point is: we can agree to disagree.

However, I sincerely believe that the Bible teaches unconditional election. In addition to the many times that Ephesians 1 mentions election or predestination as being based on the good pleasure of God’s will or on the counsel of his will, I also pointed out that faith itself is a gift of God. “All who had been appointed to eternal life, believed.” (Acts 13:48). Salvation may be conditional because it is based on the fulfillment of a condition; namely, faith (see Ephesians 2:8). Election, however, is unconditional because God unconditionally gives to his elect the power to believe and therefore the power to fulfill the condition for salvation.

But what about Rom. 10:17? It says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Doesn’t this verse mean that faith is my own, self-generated response to God’s Word when I hear it preached? My answer is: There is no contradiction between faith being the gift of God and faith coming by hearing. God sovereignly bestows the gift of faith on his elect on the occasion of their hearing the Word of God. Take the case of Lydia in Acts 16: 15. The Bible says she was listening to what Paul was saying. Then the Bible goes on to say that “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul.” And in verse 15 we learn that she became a believer. Yes, faith comes by hearing, but it’s still a gift of God because God is the one who opens your heart so that you will understand and receive what you hear.

IV. Election is Christological

Ephesians 1:4 says we are “elect in him”, i.e., in Christ. Election is inconceivable apart from Christ. Before the foundation of the world the Father who personally knows each one of us even before we were born committed us to the safekeeping of his Son, and the Son voluntarily received from the Father the charge or the duty to redeem us in time and to safely bring us to glory. Therefore even before the foundation of the world our destiny was bound up in and with Christ’s mission. This is what is meant by “elect in Christ”.

In his commentary on Ephesians Charles Hodge wrote: “There is a federal union with Christ which is antecedent to all actual union, and is the source of it. God gave a people to his Son in the covenant of redemption…they are in Christ as their head and representative.” (Charles Hodge)

You can find this truth of the Father giving the elect to his Son in John 6: 37-40. In this passage we learn that, first, the Father gives us to the Son and, next, all that the Father gives to the Son will actually come to him. In other words, the giving comes first, the coming comes after. Moreover, the passages teaches that the Son came down from heaven to implement God’s will. This means that God’s will was already formed in God’s mind even before Jesus Christ came down to be born on earth. To say that God had already determined his will in heaven is the same as saying that he made his determination before the foundation of the world. (Compare Eph. 1:4, 11 and II Tim. 1:9) Now, what is the will of the Father? That Christ will lose none of those the Father has given him. The giving had already taken place before Christ came down from heaven. In fact, Christ came down to make sure that those who were already given to him by the Father would not be lost. Therefore, I understand this passage as saying that God’s elect were given to Christ in heaven, i.e., before the foundation of the world. Therefore, the elect were in Christ before the foundation of the world.

CONCLUSION: To the person who realizes that he owes his salvation ultimately to the unconditional election of God, that he owes even his faith to God’s unconditional election, grace becomes all the more amazing. He realizes more than ever that he is truly nothing and that he has absolutely nothing to boast about (I Cor. 1:26-31; 4:7). All that is left is for him to sing in utter amazement, with tears of joy and gratitude flowing down his cheeks –

Why have You chosen me out of millions Your child to be
You know all the wrongs that I have done
Oh how could You pardon me, forgive my iniquities
To save me give Jesus Your son

I am amazed to know that a God so great could love me so
Is willing and wanting to bless
His love is so wonderful, His mercy so bountiful
I can’t understand it I confess

But Lord help me be what You want me to be
Your word I will strive to obey
My life I now give, for You I will live
And walk by Your side all the way

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