The Doctrine of Election is one of the most divisive subjects amongst evangelicals. Basically, it is the doctrine that answers the question ‘Does God determine who will be saved, or does man?” For many people, this is a rather disturbing theological question to ponder.
John Macarthur says “The doctrine of election simply means that God, uninfluenced and before creation, predetermined certain people to be saved.” The Elect, or eklektos in Greek, are mentioned many times throughout Scripture.
“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?” Romans 8:33
In the first chapter in Ephesians, we see the longest single Greek sentence in the Bible. It covers verses 3-14. It is a single long sentence focused on praise to God. We can see numerous themes in this passage: adoption, sanctification, redemption, and glorification. These four themes form the basis upon which the foundation of the doctrine of election is built. We can see election mentioned in verse four.
“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 would 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. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 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 would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:3-14
Predestination is identifying a particular point in time where God determined who would be His elect. The election is His choice and it was predestined at a particular time in history, before the foundations of the world. The very word “destined” implies destiny or the end of the journey.
God chose us. He set us apart for Himself. He personally set aside which of His created people would be His. He passed over the rest. His choice is completely apart from human will or influence. God alone is responsible for salvation, so that He alone may receive the glory and honor.
Who is God’s Elect?
Throughout the New Testament, the church is repeatedly called the Elect, or the Called Out. They are a group of people selected. The chosen ones.
“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.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13
“Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:22.
The elect here is a noun. They are not called Christians or Believers or the Church here. God in His divine providence had Matthew pen the word Elect. It is a specific term used to describe God’s people.
“And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Matthew 24:31
“And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?” Luke 18:6-7
“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies” Romans 8:33
When we are saved we are immediately a part of the family of God. We have been redeemed, justified, reconciled to God, and regenerated. We are God’s people. This verse points out that God alone is the only one who justifies us. He alone can declare our righteous standing before Him based on the finished work of Christ.
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” John 15:6
We can see this New Testament Church in a dim mirror image in the Old Testament. God’s chosen people of Israel. In the Old Testament, this group of people was a nation. But in the New Testament, we see that it is a group of people bound together spiritually.
“For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad so that God’s purpose according to His choice would 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.” Romans 9:11-13
Before Jacob and Esau were even born God determined their destiny. God chose to love Jacob and to hate Esau. Now, the word hate here isn’t used in the same sense as we use the term hate. It isn’t vengeful animosity. Using opposites: love and hate, we can see a comparison between the two. It's a strong comparison. This is a very common tactic utilized in Jewish literature.
“Constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4
“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. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” Romans 9:14-18
In Deuteronomy, we can see clearly that God chose Israel. Twice in this passage alone, it is stressed that God did the choosing. There are two other instances elsewhere in Chapter 7. These people did not decide to become God’s people, God chose them and set them apart. The Jews weren’t the most wealthy group, nor the most beautiful. They were not more devout or more holy than any other people. here was nothing to set them apart. God just chose them for His glory.
“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. ‘The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.’” Deuteronomy 7:6-7
What Is Predestination?
“To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure” 1 Peter 1:1-2
The chosen were selected according to the foreknowledge of God. Foreknowledge is another word for Prognosis. In Greek, we see the word prognosis or proginosko. It means ‘a predetermined choice’ or ‘to know before’. It is a deliberate, considered choice.
Foreknowledge is not God looking down the tunnel of Time to see who would and wouldn’t choose him, and then He chose them based on their future choices. That absolutely could not happen. Why? Because God is all knowing. That scenario implies that at one point in time, God did NOT know who would choose Him. It also bases His election on merit. It says the people that make the good choice are the ones who win. And that turns God’s Mercy into a works-based salvation. We do not see this anywhere in Scripture. Did God look down the tunnel of Time and say “Oh look! Jesus is going to die on the cross… guess I had better make him the Savior of all mankind.” Absolutely not. Did Adam and Eve sin and God have an Oops moment? Was the Cross God’s Plan B? Of course not. God predestined all of this to happen.
“Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” Acts 22b-23
Let’s continue looking in 1 Peter 1.
“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…” 1 Peter 1:18-20
We see that our salvation has nothing to do with perishable things. It has nothing to do with us. It has nothing to do with earning our salvation. Our election has only to do with Christ.
The Augustinian view (or the Calvinist view) says that God chose us for salvation. God chose us, without any outside influence. God’s choice determined who would have saving faith. This is also called Monergism.
The Pelagian view (or the Arminian view) would say that God chose man based on man’s future choice. That man and God work together in a sense to bring about salvation. This view is also called Synergism.
Both groups agree that there was a predetermined choice. It all hinges on the doctrine of original sin. Is man capable of making a good choice? That is not what the Bible teaches. Man is utterly wicked, dead in his wins, at enmity with God, and incapable of seeking after God. That is what the Bible teaches. To say that man could possibly choose God diminishes God of His glory.
Predestination is a direct consequence of God being completely sovereign over everything. If God is absolutely Holy, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent and if man is dead in his sins there is no other option but a monergistic view of salvation.
Double predestination? Supralapsarianism? Infralapsarianism?
If a monergistic view of salvation is correct, does then God predestine man to sin? Does God predestine each individual unregenerate man to Hell?
Sin is never monergistic. Sin happens according to the effects of the Fall, and is allowed by a term called “Providential Concurrence” or “Divine Concurrence.” Man sins entirely without any help from God. To say that God is the author of sin is blasphemy. God is holy, perfect, and sinless. We are born sinners. We are simply acting according to our nature, according to our makeup. Man is not forced to sin by God. The reprobate is simply left in sin. To say that God chose those who would be damned, in the same active way that He chose those that would be saved is called Double Predestination. “You will go to Heaven. And You will go to Hell. And you …” Scripture doesn’t teach this. Scripture is clear that all men are already on their way to Hell because of Adam’s Fall.
In order for all of God’s attributes to be glorified, they must be made known. God is Just. God has to pour out His divine wrath for that aspect of His attributes to be known. God is also love, with abounding mercy and grace. These aspects have to be shown so that His name may be glorified. Mercy is not mercy if it isn’t given voluntarily. God is just and His justice is served upon those whom He passes over. God has every right to demonstrate both His wrath and His mercy. God is equally Glorified in both His wrath and His mercy.
This is a hard truth. And it is not one that we can totally wrap our mind around. There are only things that God can fully understand. Our human brains are too finite to be able to fully comprehend all the mysteries of scripture. We can know the basic truths about some and we have to be ok with that limited amount. This is one of those situations. We can understand that God is Holy and man is sinful. We can know that God chooses whom He will save. We can know that God passes over those whom He has not chosen to be His own, and has left them to their own devices, that is a sin engulfed existence followed by eternal torment. God loves all of His creation and has blessed them. But He loves some more than others. I love my husband much differently than I love my next door neighbor.
This issue of Predestination boils down to the logical order of the decrees.
- Supralapsarianism – this viewpoint states that God’s decree, or choice of election and his decree of reprobation has to logically occur prior to His allowing the Fall
- Infralapsarianism – this view states that God allowing the Fall logically happened prior to the decree to choose the election and when he passed over those whom would be reprobate.
The Glory of God
“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.” John 6:39
It is often a very shocking statement to hear that God didn’t choose everyone for salvation. The Bible responds to this mindset very clearly:
“On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?” Romans 9:20
What about verses such as:
“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth, he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:9-13
Both are true. This is not a contradictory set of verses. God chose us as we can see in Romans 9 and we still have a human responsibility to repent and believe as we see in Romans 10. This is another great mystery in scripture that is completely impossible to totally reconcile in our finite brains. And we have to be ok with that. We know that God is who elected us, and therefore gave us the grace to have saving faith, and then we act upon that grace, in obedience, when we repent and put our faith in Jesus Christ. We have a duty to joyfully accept both truths as equal and valid. Just as we cannot fully wrap our brain around how the Trinity is three separate persons yet One God. There are awesome and profound mysteries revealed to us in scripture that we won’t fully comprehend until we get to ask Jesus about it Himself when we see Him in Glory.
John Macarthur said, “When they ask me how do you resolve predestination and human volition, I say, that’s past finding out. That isn’t even in the MacArthur Study Bible. I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know this. Verse 36: ‘For of Him, and through Him, and to HIm are all things: To whom be glory forever. Amen.” I mean, so you end up worshipping His transcendence. You end up worshipping His unsearchable nature. Matthew, I think it is 22, where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, and actually says: “How oft I would have gathered you . . . as a hen gathereth her brood, but you would not.” That is really amazing. How many times I wanted to embrace you, but you never allowed me to do that. I mean that's talking about the sinner's unwillingness, the raw resistance to the love of God that is characteristic of the sinner. And that makes Jesus weep. And He's God. So, you know, when Scripture says in the Old Testament that “I find no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” that's the same kind of attitude. So, I think you have to add that fact there. You can't turn God into some cold, unfeeling entity. It's just, you know, like deterministic without any compassion. That's not the case. So when you put all of this together, remember, Jesus said: I wanted to draw you in, but you wouldn't let Me, which is an amazing statement. And again points up the fact that the sinner has to be willing to respond. And when they're not, it's a grief to the heart of God.”
That’s not fair! You might yell at your computer screen as you’re reading this. There is no verse that indicates that salvation has to be fair. Fair treatment would send us to Hell. Mercy wouldn’t be merciful if it was applied to everyone – that isn’t mercy, that’s would then be the status quo, the normal. What we want is grace. We want God to be gracious to us.
God is safe to trust. He will always keep His word. If God has preordained something to happen, there is absolutely not any way that it won’t come to pass. God’s purposes can’t be thwarted, otherwise, God is in error and is not all-knowing. The very understanding of the nature of God coincides with the Doctrine of Election.
God’s Glory is revealed in His election as well as His justice. We can rejoice in that. Any contradictory view belittles the doctrine of God as well as the dignity of His Sovereignty.
To conclude, we rest in knowing that God’s ways are morally perfect, even when we don’t fully understand them. We have to understand that God is Holy. His nature and His attributes are Holy. He is perfectly Just.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8