Concerning Election

Dave asked: I had come to the conclusion that Election was something I would not fully understand in this life - I figured I'd ask Jesus when I spiritually went to his presence, or that the gift of full knowledge would be given to me at his 2nd coming. Either way, there are concepts of Election that you might be able to scripturally define.

My Response: I have no trouble accepting such things as God's absolute sovereignty or that He decided to create the universe and then supervise its operation according to a foreordained plan. Confirmation of these things is all around me. When I look up into the night sky, I see tens of thousands of lights that I know to be heavenly bodies involved in an astral dance the movements of which are determined by physical laws that God established. When I look at my grandchildren, I see something of me in each of them and know that is so because of the reproductive processes God included in our makeup. In the Fall, the grass turns brown and leaves fall from the trees in my yard. I don't fret, because I know that, according to the life cycles God designed for these living things, they will return to their former splendor in the Spring.

I see the hand of God at work all around me and, because His work is so familiar to me, I sometimes forget that my destiny was determined by Him at some time in eternity past. Though I wanted to discover why this should be so, I never came to fully comprehend such things as election, foreordination and predestination. In my efforts to figure out what could have led Almighty God to number me among the elect, I read a number of studies on the subject. There are, I discovered, two principle positions on these doctrines; Arminianism and Calvinism.

I soon rejected the Arminian understanding of God's election, which seems to make a fiction of God's sovereignty by having Him elect only those whom He knew would not only believe but also persevere in that belief. The end causes the means? According to Arminius,

(the) decree rests upon the foreknowledge of God, by which he has known from eternity which persons should believe according to such an administration of the means serving to repentance and faith through his preceding grace and which should persevere through subsequent grace, and also who should not believe and persevere.-Jacobus Arminius, quoted by Carl Bangs in Arminius, (Abingdon, 1971), p. 352

For the Arminian, election to eternal life is conditional upon having faith in Christ. In other words, God did not arbitrarily choose His elect. Rather, He made His choices based on His foreknowledge of man's faith response to the Gospel. As one theologian defined the Arminian understanding of predestination as

"…the gracious purpose of God to save mankind from utter ruin. It is not an arbitrary, indiscriminate act of God intended to secure the salvation of so many and no more. It includes provisionally, all men in its scope, and is conditioned solely on faith in Jesus Christ.-H. Orton Wiley, Christian Theology, Vol. 2, (Beacon Hill, 1952), P. 337

The Calvinist understanding of predestination places God clearly in charge of the eternal destiny of all mankind:

"Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which he hath determined in himself what he would have to become of every individual or mankind….eternal life is preordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say he is predestinated either to life or to death."-John McClintock and James Strong, "Calvinism"," in Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 2, (Baker 1970), p. 42

The doctrine of predestination is broad in scope, emphasizing that God has foreordained whatever comes to pass (Eph. 1:11). It includes the narrower doctrine of election, which asserts that in eternity past God elected some to salvation. He allowed the rest of humanity to go their own way, in accordance with what Calvinists refer to as the doctrine of reprobation (Rom 9:16-19). Notice that, in the Calvinist view, God did not deliberately act to condemn the non-elect to eternal punishment. Rather, He simply left them to continue to live out their lives under the effects of the curse inherited from the first parents. Calvin did not care for this doctrine, which he called "horrible," but he insisted that it is clearly taught in Scripture and thus cannot be avoided. (See W.S. Reid, "Reprobation," in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (Word Publishing, 1984), p. 937).

Before moving -"finally," he exclaims-I believe it would be well to compare the Five Points of Calvinism with Arminius' reaction as summarized in the five points of the Remonstrance.

The Remonstrance:

1) Conditional election based on God's foreknowledge;

2) Unlimited atonement;

3) Although man has free will, he cannot save himself;

4) Prevenient grace, which enables man to cooperate with God in salvation;

5) Conditional perseverance-believers can be lost.

I believe it significant that, in the Arminian view, man is a key player in his own salvation, thereby doing great harm to the biblical doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty. The soteriological consequences of the Arminian understanding may be observed in the workings of the Catholic Church since long before Jacobus Arminius was born.

Calvinism's Five Points:

1) Total depravity of man;

2) unconditional election

3) Limited atonement

4) Irresistable grace;

5) Perseverence of the saints.

How different from the image of a God-man partnership invoked by the Remonstrance. The sovereignty of God is central in Calvinism.

Now that the reader has endured my introduction, it is time to respond to Dave's questions, the first of which is:

Can someone who would be called "Elect" ignore the calling and choose loving the world over loving Jesus Christ?

Excellent question. Dave. For an answer, let us look to God's relationship to His creature known as Man. The Scriptures clearly inform that all of mankind is depraved, that not one of us is righteous in the eyes of all-holy God (Rom. 3:10-12). We are so unworthy of God's love and mercy that no one or no thing can redeem us. (Psa. 49.7) Fallen man has no wish to know the true God (Job 21:14)

The foregoing was and is true of every single member of mankind-Catholicism's fantasies concerning it's earth-mother goddess Mary notwithstanding-with the lone exception of the Man-God Jesus Christ. After the Fall, all of mankind was doomed to everlasting punishment (Mat. 25:46) and if God had left it at that, our eternal condemnation would have been just.

However, God did not leave it at that. For reasons that we may never know or comprehend, out of His mercy He chose some to "everlasting salvation" (Isa 45:17), "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph. 1:4-6). Those whom He did not elect to eternal salvation were and are left in their sins. The fable of double predestination, some to life, some to damnation, is sometimes raised in argument against the doctrine of election, but it is nothing more than a strawman. When He judged our first parents, His condemnation was passed, through them, to all mankind. It is not true that, by electing some to salvation while leaving others to their just and eternal fate, God is unfairly condemning the rest of mankind. Not so. All mankind is condemned, but a just and merciful God chose to pour out His mercy on some. Nothing "double" about that.

How could God's elect approach their Lord, who is in all ways holy? Not even the Temple sacrifice of atonement could keep a man ceremonially clean for more than a year. What sacrifice could have such an effect for all eternity? Only one that was of itself perfect in every way. For this sacrifice, Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, came into the world and died for us (Rom. 5:8). O the wonder of it! God Himself came to take on human form and die for our sins (1Co 15:3). He took our sins upon Himself and endured God's just punishment for us (1Pe 2:24). The holy Second Person of the Trinity became sin for us and, as a consequence, His righteousness is imputed to all those whom God has elected to eternal salvation as part of the new birth.(2Co. 5:21)

Please read again those last several paragraphs, Dave. I believe they clearly show that everything concerning man's condemnation and God's election of some to eternal salvation has been exclusively the work of Almighty God. Would it be reasonable to argue that God has done His part in His plan of salvation; from here on man will take over. If that were so, then all of God's salvific effort would be for naught. If one of the elect could refuse the God-determined effect of Christ's atoning sacrifice, then God would not be almighty. Then God would not be truly sovereign. Then the clear teachings of the Scriptures concerning the doctrine of salvation would be lies.

Since The Fall, all mankind has been spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1). What can a dead man do in his own behalf? He can do nothing. Only Almighty God, who determined that His elect should be eternally saved and who took it upon Himself to die in our place can save us from the just consequences of our sins (Mat. 1:21). He will save us.

The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.--Zephaniah 3:17

I know of no place in Scripture where one might read that God's decisions are subject to review and rejection by His creation. I believe that point is made clear in this verse:

And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.--Acts 13:48

"As many as were ordained to eternal live believed" leaves no room for man to decide whether or not to believe. And when man believes, Jesus Christ tells us that

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.-- John 5:24

Again, I see no provision for man to ignore God's calling, at least indefinitely, and to instead choose to love the world. In my own experience, I actively resisted God for years, until He wearied of waiting and made me His without inquiring about my wishes. All this is what Calvinists are referring to when they talk about irresistible grace.

And so, Dave, I believe the answer to your first question is "no." Now, on to your second question:

We see the phrase in "whomsoever will" in scripture in terms of coming to true faith in Jesus Christ - is this phrase indicative of Elect people who receive in faith the gift of their Election.

My only electronic concordance is for the KJV. Using it, I found no use of the combination "whomsoever will." I did, however, come across various applications of the term "whomsoever." In none of these did I ascertain a reference indicative of the Elect who receive the gift of their Election. Take, for example, this verse:

But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.-- Luke 12:48

Read in the context of the full passage, (vss 41-48), it becomes clear that in this verse, the Lord refers to unbelievers. God's Law is written in the hearts of all mankind (Rom. 2:14-15). The Jews, however, had been given more detailed knowledge of God, yet they rejected His Messiah-more was expected of them. Their punishment will be in accordance with what had been given them.

I cannot offer any response to your second question other than "No." On to your final question, and it's a doozy:

And finally, can someone who is Elect be deceived by Satan into believing a false religious system, or no system at all, and then spend an eternity in Hell for not being reborn again in Christ Jesus?

I see a variety of possible answers for this question, Dave. Let me illustrate that from my own experiences. I was born into a Catholic family and raised as a Catholic. In my early years, I believed all that I was taught concerning the beliefs and practices of Catholicism. As a born-again believer, I now know that much of what I had been taught in the Catholic Church was false, yet when I was young I believed differently. In that God elected some to salvation in eternity past, it is clear that even when I believed the lies of Catholicism, I was numbered among God's elect. How could I have been deceived? Had I been deceived by Satan or his minions? Quite likely that was the case, for Satan is the father of lies and we know that he and his ministers at times disguise themselves as ministers of light. (2Co. 11:12-15).

After I left the Catholic Church, I became increasingly atheistic, ultimately rejecting even the concept of a god and urging others to do likewise. Yet I still was numbered among God's elect.

Then, at God's appointed time, He quickened my spirit that was dead in sin and by unmerited grace and the gift of saving faith, He saved me and made me His child by adoption. When this happened, I could no more have successfully resisted the call than I could have stopped the rotation of the earth. God's irresistible grace in action.

Based on the doctrine of irresistible grace as understood by Calvinists and its application in my own life, I am compelled to respond to your final question with a clear "no."

Can it be otherwise? After all, we are sealed to God's purpose by God Himself, in the Person of the Holy Ghost who is the guarantor of our salvation.

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.-- Ephesians 1:10-14

I hope that helps.

I'm with you, Dave. I think it would be just wonderful if Jesus were to return for His bride today. Unfortunately, there are many prophecies to be fulfilled before that can occur.

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