by Frank B. Beck
(Read Ephesians, the First Chapter)
"It has been well said that in the doctrine of election a theologian takes his final examination" (Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, p. 503).
Man is totally depraved, and therefore deprived of any good toward God. That we have seen in the previous chapter. If any man is to be saved, then God Himself must choose to save that man. That very thing God has done, as we shall show in this chapter. How He has done it we shall show in the next three chapters.
"If the doctrine of Total Inability (Depravity) or Original Sin be admitted, the doctrine of Unconditional Election follows by the most inescapable logic. If, as the Scriptures and experience tell us, all men are by nature in a state of guilt and depravity from which they are wholly unable to deliver themselves and have no claim whatever on God for deliverance, it follows that if any are saved God must choose out those who shall be the objects of His grace" (Loraine Boettner, p. 95, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination).
The Examination of Unconditional Election
What Unconditional Election Is!
The word elect comes from the Latin electus, from eligo (e, out, with lego, choose & to choose out). Literally it signifies to pick out, choose, to gather out (Desk Standard Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls; W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. II, p. 21).
Unconditional means: Not to be limited to any conditions, or prerequisites whatsoever.
We mean, therefore, by this doctrine, that God, in eternity, chose or picked out of mankind whom He would save (by means of Christ's death and the work of the Holy Spirit), for no other reason that His own wise, just, and gracious purpose.
What Unconditional Election Is Not
(1) By unconditional election we do not mean that man elects God, or elects to be saved (to illustrate, here is a much quoted blunder: God casts His vote, the Devil casts his, the score is tied now, one to one; whichever way you cast your vote is the deciding factor). But God alone does the electing.
"According as He (God) hath chosen us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world.;" (Eph. 1:4).
"Ye have not chosen Me, but I," says the Savior, "have chosen you;." (John 15:16).
The word elect (eklektos) comes from this word (eklegomai) translated chosen here. God chooses, or elects, not man.
(2) Nor do we mean that God elects the sinner in time or at the time when the sinner receives Christ as his Savior.
God chose a number in Christ "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4), before the elect ever existed. God has always chosen His elect in Christ, for God is perfect and immutable (Mal. 3:6), and need not add to His knowledge or think new thoughts or make sudden changes or choices.
(3) Neither do we mean that God elected all men without exception to salvation.
If this notion be so, many whom God elected were and are not saved, despite the election. God, then, is a failure and defeated and frustrated. Then Noel Smith of Springfield, Missouri, is correct when he says: "What is hell? ; I tell you, and I say it with profound reverence, hell is a ghastly monument to the failure of the Triune God to save the multitudes who are there. I say it reverently, I say it with every nerve in my body tense: sinners go to hell because God Almighty Himself could not save them! He did all He could. He failed" (Defender Magazine).
But this is not true. It is blasphemy. "He shall not fail" (Isa. 42:4). God does as He pleases (Ps. 115:3). He calls whom He purposed to save; and whom He purposed to save, and whom He calls, He foreknew; and whom He foreknew, He predestinated; whom He predestinated, He calls; whom He calls, He justifies; whom He justifies, He glorifies (Rom. 8:20-39). Note the word whom in this reference. If God elected all men without exception to be saved, all would have the experience of the effectual call be justified, and glorified! For all (and no others) whom God purposes to save and predestines, will ultimately be glorified. Every one of them!
(4) We do not mean, either, that God only elects some to Christian service, and not to salvation! (as taught, for instance, by Edward Drew, in his published Studies in the Gospel According to John, Sunday, April 8, 1945).
"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation"! (2 Thess. 2:13).
(5) We do not mean merely that God elected to save all who would believe in His Son.
This is the notion that God elected a plan and not persons. God appointed persons to believe. "God hath chosen you to salvation; through belief of the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13). See Acts 13:48.
(6) We do not infer that God does not use means, as we shall seek to prove in the next three chapters (but see for now, 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1:21; 4:15).
(7) We do not mean that God elects men because of His foresight or prescience of their repentance, faith or good works on their part.
"Whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate" (Rom. 8:29), and "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God" (1 Pet. 1:2), mean not a foreknowledge about people (which is what this view amounts to), but a foreknowledge of people! Christ will say to the wicked: "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:23), though He certainly knew about them.
Rom 8:29 doesn't make the faith of the elect, but the elect themselves objects of the foreknowledge of God. To change this to suit a theory is to tamper with sacred truth and dangerous in the light of Rev. 22:18-19. (Fred Kramer The Abiding Word, Vol. I, p. 528).
(8) Nor do we mean that God merely elects nations or races, and not individuals to salvation.
To Jeremiah, Jehovah said: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jer. 1:5). Personal election.
Again, "When it pleased God;" says Paul, "to reveal His Son in me" (Gal. 1:15-16). Personal election.
Are not all of the elect made up of individuals, "even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles" (Rom. 9:24)?
The Evidence of Unconditional Election
(1) In the Word of God.
That the sacred Scriptures teach election is plain to all who read them. Here are but a few references:
"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" (Rom. 8:33).
"Shall not God avenge His own elect?" (Luke 18:7).
"The faith of God's elect" (Titus 1:1)
"Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God (1 Thess. 1:4).
As Charles H. Spurgeon wrote: "If the people are called elect, there must be election" (Election, Vol. II, Mem. Library).
(2) in the Ways of God.
In the Old Testament, Jehovah called Abel, the younger, while Cain, the elder, was passed by (Gen. 4:1-5).
Ham and Japheth are ignored, while Shem, the youngest, is selected for the line from which Messiah was to come. (Gen. 9:24-27).
To Abram, the junior, not to Nahor, the senior brother, is given the inheritance of Canaan (Gen. 11:22-12:9).
Ishmael, the firstborn, is cast out unblessed, while Isaac, the child of his parents' old age, is blessed (Gen. 21:1-21).
Esau, the generous-hearted and forgiving-spirited, is denied the blessing, though he sought it carefully with tears (Heb. 12:16-17), while Jacob, the treacherous, underhand schemer, is fashioned into a vessel of honor (Gen. 27).
Though the eleventh son, Joseph is the one who receives the double portion (Gen. 48:22; 49:22-26).
When Jacob, guided by God, is blessing Joseph's sons, Ephraim, the younger, is preferred before Manasseh, the elder (Gen. 48). And these examples are taken only from the first book of the Bible! (A. W. Pink, The Doctrine of Election, p. 9).
In the Old Testament, Jehovah had His elect nation, Israel (Isa. 45:4), which was chosen, not because they were a large nation (they were the fewest in number), or because they were moral or spiritual above their fellows (read Moses' testimony of them, Deut. 9:24), but because the Lord loved them (Deut. 7:6-8). The many Gentile nations were passed by, except for a remnant (as Ruth the Moabitess, Ruth 2:12, and Naaman, the Syrian, 2 Kings 5:1-19).
That God elects cannot be denied from history. Read Acts 16:6-12, and tell me why the Gospel came to Europe and not to Asia? Why was one nation passed by and not another? Why were some angels permitted to fall (Jude 6) while other angels were elect? (1 Tim. 5:21).
In our own day, and every day, why are some born rich, others poor, some sickly, others vigorous with health, some with brown skin, others with white, some handsome or beautiful, others ugly or common? The answer is only one of two: either God, or Blind Fate.
The Effect of Unconditional Election
While this will be covered more fully in the last two chapters in this booklet under the subject of irresistible grace (in which by sovereign grace Jesus Christ promises "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me;." (John 6:37) and under the perseverance, or preservation of the saints (of which Christ promises that His "sheep" shall "never perish" ; John 10:27-30), suffice it to add the following thoughts:
(1) It magnifies the sovereignty of God. It gives glory to God.
(2) It sets forth God as God.
The Arminian's God is too small. He can be kicked around like a dog, as men please. Calvinism presents God, not as a dog, but as the Despot! A despot is an absolute monarch; autocrat, a "hard master" (so He appears to the unregenerate Matt. 25:24); "tyrant". The word is from the Greek language: despotes (Desk Standard Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls). This word occurs in the New Testament. "Lord, Thou art God!" the early Church prayed (Acts 4:24). The word for Lord here is Despotes, or Despot. It occurs again in Luke 2:29, 2 Pet. 2:1 and Rev. 6:10. It magnifies God's greatness.
(3) It also magnifies God's grace.
After telling us how we are elected and predestinated, the Holy Spirit says it is "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph. 1:4-6). Christ loves His own (John 13:1), though they are or were by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), of the Devil (John 8:44), being enmity itself to God (John 3:6 and Rom. 8:7-8);desperately wicked in heart (Jer. 17:9), enemies to God (Rom. 5:10);yet Christ loves them and dies for them (Rom. 5:8), and makes them new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17-18), washing all of their filth, in God's sight, away forever (1 John 1:7)! Is that not grace?
Unconditional election manifests the salvation of sinners. It shows grace to the guilty.
It says that God brings salvation. M. R. DeHaan (Election and Predestination and the Free Will of Man, p. 5) confuses matters when he writes: "Why did He (God) purpose to save us after all? Now I know that there are some who would say, to save us from hell, which of course is wrong. Others would say, to take us to heaven when we die, but this again is wrong;" This is not wrong! True, that He elected us for more than this, as DeHaan goes on to state, but He also elected us to save us from hell and for heaven. "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation!";(2 Thess. 2:13). Is that not a goodly part of your salvation? Salvation includes glorification in Heaven as well as calling, justification and sanctification in this life.
Therefore, "the election" in Israel have and will obtain the salvation of God (Rom. 11:5-7); to this saved Israel of God are being added the elect Gentiles (Rom. 11:17-27). Being predestinated, they are called (Rom. 8:29-30) and quickened (made alive) from spiritual death by the will of Christ (John 5:21). God works in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13) causing them to repent (2 Tim. 2:25, giving them repentance, and to believe (giving them faith 1 Cor. 3:5, Eph. 2:8) of which He is Author and Finisher, (Heb. 12:2). Their ordination to life brings saving belief with it (Acts 13:48). How different DeHaan (Ibid., p. 14): "The election is the part which God has already done, believing is the part which man must do himself"! "As though the Scripture taught that we are only given an ability to believe, and not faith itself (John Calvin, Institutes, Vol II, p. 220).
(5) Election makes salvation sure.
No charge can be brought against the elect to condemnation; for, seeing that they are the elect, Christ died for them, rose from death, and prays for them (Rom. 8:33-34). They are holy because they are chosen to holiness (Eph. 1:4). They are full of good works because they have been ordained to such works (Eph. 2:8-10). They are obedient because they have been elected and appointed to obedience (1 Pet. 1:2). It is not that they possessed any holiness, good works, or obedience which was foreseen by God and hence brought their election. The very opposite: it was their eternal election which brought these virtues (God-given 1 Cor. 15:10) to them. To teach otherwise is to mangle the Word of God. Let us not be guilty of putting effects before causes.
(6) Unconditional election no less teaches that God works sanctification in His elect.
If we are elect we should wear the proper uniform. "Put on therefore, as elect of God, holy and beloved ;" bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, wear the fine cloth of forbearance and forgiveness to others, and over all, the warm coat of love (1 Cor. 13); live in peace from God, while Christ's Word lives in you filling you with heavenly hymns, doing only that which you can do in Christ's name with thanksgiving (Col. 3:12-17).
God's elect cry day and night to God (Luke 18:7). There is no fatalism here, no "I can live as I please, if I am elect I am elect, etc." We are to give diligence to make our calling and election sure (to ourselves and others) by expressing the Christian graces enumerated in verses 4 to 8 of this same chapter. In this there will be a separation from worldliness (in the sense of 1 John 2:15-17). "I have chosen you," Christ declares to His disciples, "out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).
The Extent of Unconditional Election
In salvation, it extends only to those who believe in Christ.
(But believing doesn't cause election, it only manifests that one is elect - 1 Thess. 1:4, 5; Acts 13:48).
They are all chose of God (Mark 13:20), and shall be gathered to Christ at His second coming (ver. 27). They shall all come to Christ (John 6:37).
Why does not God elect all without exception to salvation? Why should He? He owes us nothing. "The marvel of marvels is, not that God, in His infinite love and justice, has not elected all of this guilty race to be saved, but that He has elected any" (Loraine Boettner, Ibid., p. 96). The only answer is, "even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight" (Matt. 11:25-27). Who are we to dare argue against it? (Rom. 9:18-20). "Is it not lawful," the Creator asks, "for Me to do what I will with Mine own?" (Matt. 20:15).
Where there is election of some, there is, by logic, a rejection of others. By choosing some of Adam's race to salvation, God does not choose others. "Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid" (Rom. 9:14).
"All can see that a governor, by pardoning some men, does not harm others who are not pardoned. Those who are not pardoned are not in prison because the governor refused them a pardon, but because they were guilty of crime against the state" (C. D. Cole, pp. 13-14, The Bible Doctrine of Election).
"Election is not the cause of anybody going to hell, for election is unto salvation" (Ibid.., p. 4).
"But does this not make God a respecter of persons?" one may ask (in opposition to Rom. 2:11). "When the Scriptures tell us that God is not a respecter of persons they mean that His dealings with men are not determined by the outward differences of race, wealth, social position, or any such thing. This the Scripture distinctly intimates. See 2 Sam. 14:14; Acts 10:34; 1 Pet. 1:17. To have respect of persons is to make a difference between the equally deserving. But it involves no respect of persons to make a difference between the wholly ill-deserving" (Thomas Paul Simmons, The Bible Doctrine of Election, p. 59).
That God is no respecter of persons in choosing some to eternal life can be readily observed by reading 1 Cor. 1:26-31.
There is this great difference in the election of the saved and the rejection of the rest of men. In electing the saved God encounters them and regenerates them according to His own sovereign will (John 1:13; Jas. 1:18), apart from their will (Rom. 9:16-18). A Divine interference! He imparts all the needed provisions of their salvation (Eph. 1:13) in Christ. In the rejection of the rest of mankind we have no such encounter.
Yet there is a deeper mystery about it. If God does not will the existence (and therefore the deserved punishment) of the reprobate, or the non-elect, why does He permit it? Such Scriptures as Prov. 16:4; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4; 2 Pet. 2:12; Rev. 17:17 should be studied and believed. "Let us not hesitate to say with Augustine," remarks John Calvin, "God could convert to good the will of the wicked, because He is omnipotent. It is evident that He could. Why, then does He not? Because He would not. Why He would not remains with Himself" (Institutes, Vol. II, p. 233).
" 'Well, but,' some say, 'does this leave the creatures nothing to do?' I reply: 'Pray, what can you do? ; Suppose I were to tell you, it is only to weep over your sins that is left to you; can you create a tear? You can neither create nor restrain one. Suppose I say, it is only to pray: can you create the spirit of prayer?" ; (Joseph Irons, The Standard of Orthodoxy, pp. 16-17). Can you repent? believe? suddenly love Christ? It is not in you. (1 Cor. 4:7).
"But there are some who say, 'It is hard for God to choose some and leave others.' Now I will ask you one question. Is there any one of you who wishes to be holy, who wishes to be regenerate, to leave off sin and walk in holiness? 'Yes, there is,' says some one, 'I do.' Then God has elected you. But another says, 'No; I don't want to be holy; I don't want to give up my lusts and my vices.' Why should you grumble, then, that God has not elected you to it? For if you were elected you would not like it, according to your own confession" (Charles H. Spurgeon, Election, New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. I, p. 316).
Beloved reader, remember this if you remember or understand nothing else written within these pages: God never refuses mercy to those who sincerely desire it! Christ not only says: "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me," but He adds, "and him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). If the first part of this verse is a mystery to you, the last part need not be. It is certain that you do not know if the Father gave you to Christ in eternity or not, but you can know that He did if you come to Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:4-10). He will surely receive you! You have His gracious promise for that. Will you come to Him now? The Holy Spirit grant it! Amen.