Contend Earnestly: Unconditional Election - Affirmed

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Unconditional Election - Affirmed

This is a repost before I nail a tough subject that will bring much debate and comments from a lot of people, which if kept charitable, will be a great time of discussion. Til then.

This doctrine is one that I have not always subscribed to. It is one that I was never even taught until about 8 years ago. It was one that I would have probably laughed at before then and scoffed at. I always thought that I was in control of my destiny, that I was the one who in control of my actions that I was the one who chose the paths on which to walk. So, naturally when it came to salvation I thought it was I who chose God and at times I thought how lucky He was to have me on His team. This doctrine has been debated all the way back to Augustine and Jerome against a man named Pelagius, it was the doctrine that is said to be the foundation of the reformation against the Catholic church in the 16th Century, it is what defined the Protestant movement and again is what was attacked by a man named James Arminius and what has been defended by men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur. This doctrine is one where we must lean completely on Scripture as our entire conscience fights against it. Even our society would tell us it isn’t true, and they do this every time they tell us that “You can do anything you set your mind to” or “you choose your destiny.” So, this doctrine is one where we need to put away your old inclinations and just hear Scripture, listen to what it says plainly for this was Paul’s prayer at the beginning of Colossians:

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Colossians 1:9,10

We are going to study what it means to be chosen of God and look at some key words to describe what this means:
1. Importance of the words: Foreknew, foreknowledge, foreknown, foreordain
2. Importance of the word: Predestine
3. Importance of the words: chosen or elect

Importance of the word foreknew, foreknowledge, foreknown, foreordain

The first word that comes with much debate and is at the real root of this debate is the word foreknown. Some say that this word means that God foreknew whether man would choose Him or not and based on those actions of belief, God elected those to salvation. So God looked through the portal of time and saw those who would choose Him and then He elected them or chose them unto salvation. The other view, the one that I hold to, is that God’s foreknowledge is much more intimate, much more thorough than just someone’s actions but that God foreknew you in a way to where He foreknew you as a person not just merely your actions. Let’s look at the first part of our text to understand this
, Romans 8:28-30.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

So, the question here is what did God foreknow in this passage? Does it say anything about God foreknowing anything about actions? Now, understand we do know that God knows everything, but what does God foreknow in this passage? It points to Him foreknowing the person, not their actions. There are three times that God’s foreknowledge is mentioned in verb form, here in Romans 8:29, also in 1 Peter 1:20 and also in Romans 11:2, so let’s look at these as well to get a well informed prospective.

God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
Romans 11:2

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;
knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:17-21

So, the three times that God’s foreknowledge is mentioned in the verb tense we have that God foreknew what? The person or persons, but now what does the word actually mean. For this, we need to break the word down. The word in the Greek means to “know beforehand, or to predestine” but what about this word “know?” Is it just merely having knowledge about something or someone or is there something more here.

The word “know” or “knew” is a very intimate word to the both the Hebrews and Greeks. The word actually is used to describe that Adam and Eve knew each other and then their son Cain was born in Genesis 4:1. If the word merely meant to know about someone, then we have a true miracle of birth in Genesis 4:1 instead of the obvious reality that to “know” for the Hebrews was a very intimate term between two persons.

We also see this intimate relationship in
John 10:14

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
John 10:14-17

So does God just merely “know” of Christ? Or is this an intimate relationship between the two?

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1:5

This knowledge or to know is also shown in Matthew 7:22,23; 1 Corinthians 8:3, 2 Timothy 2:19; Exodus 2:25; Galatians 4:9

When you think of the word predestine what do you think of? The word means exactly what we would take it to mean, the Greek word means “to decide beforehand or predetermine. In the biblical sense it comes with the connotation as God decreeing from eternity past.” There is no way around this word that is used many times in the New Testament. Take a look at these verses and the variety of ways the term is used:

Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29,30, 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 1:5,11

We can see especially in Ephesians that God predetermined His elect to obtain His inheritance, Why or for what cause? For the kind intention of His will. We also see this when David speaks to God in Psalm 139:1-16

So we, see that when we are told that we are predestined by God, that is exactly what is meant, the all sovereign Creator predestines His own, His elect to heaven.

The Importance of the words: Choose and Elect

So, now after seeing the importance of the words foreknow and predestine we come back to the words choose and elect. When God speaks of choosing a people He does it because of His will not ours. We can actually see this all through the Bible. How does God choose people? Does He choose them because they are seeking Him or do they get chosen by the mere fact that God wants to use them? Think of this…

The choosing of Abraham: Genesis 12 says nothing of why He chose Abram He just chose. What is interesting is that after Abram is chosen, the first action after his choosing is a sinful one! God told him to go forth from his relatives and he took Lot and his wife. I think this just shows once again that God chooses weak vessels, gives them faith and uses them for His glory. God does not look to who is strong in faith and hope they will choose Him, that is backwards.

Also, look at others that were chosen:

The choosing of the nation of Israel: Deut 7:6
The choosing of Moses: Exodus 3,4
The choosing of Gideon: Judges 6-8 (Oh Valient Warrior!) where was Gideon at this time? Hiding
The choosing of Jeremiah: Jeremiah 1
The choosing of David: 1 Samuel 16
The choosing of the twelve apostles: Luke 6 (John 15:16; You didn’t choose me; I chose you!)
The choosing of Saul: Acts 9

The Greek word translated “chosen” is eklektos, from the verb kaleo, “to call,” and the preposition ek, “out.” Literally, it means “the called-out ones.” The term is often used in the New Testament as a synonym for Christians (e.g., Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1). The expression “called-out ones” emphasizes that we who are saved are redeemed because of God’s choice, not our own. Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). In other words, if you are a Christian, it is ultimately because you were chosen by God Himself, not because of anything you did to get yourself into the Kingdom of God
John MacArthur

So, the words chosen ones or the elect are actually the exact same words in the
Greek and it is referred to 24 times in the New Testament. There is no way
around these simple to understand words. We have been chosen by the all
sovereign God to our position as His chosen people.

1 Peter 2:9 speaks to this specifically:
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

So when we see this in Colossians 3:12 that we are chosen by God, that is exactly what it means. We did nothing to earn this election, we did nothing to earn this choosing, but He chose us out of the kind intention of His will, not ours.


We have seen that sometimes our earthly view that seems correct is actually just the opposite. We think we chose God but in 1 John 4 it tells us that we love, because He first loved us. Without God foreknowing us, choosing and predestining us, calling us, we would still be lost
and without hope. But, if you believe in Jesus Christ and you believe that He God’s Son who died on the cross and rose again, and He alone is your Lord, than that is shown as proof of your election, because only those who know Christ have been chosen. Just as it says in John 10:26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. Notice, Jesus does not say that because you don’t believe you are not my sheep but those who are not called, who are not chosen by God cannot believe. They cannot be Christ’s sheep.

When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me.… [Then] the thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence on my mind to make me seek Him.… I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me.… I desire to make this constant confession, “I ascribe my change wholly to God.”

Charles Spurgeon


Bob Hayton said...

Good post, Seth. I would add also that the Bible makes it clear that it is not works done by us or anything in us at all which causes God to choose us.

Rom. 9:11-13; 11:5-6; Eph. 1:4-6; 2 Tim. 1:9

Blessings from the cross,

Bob Hayton

PS Looking forward to the next posts.

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