God’s Election, in Christianity, involves God choosing a particular person or group of people to a particular task or relationship, especially eternal life. Election to eternal life is viewed by some as conditional on a person’s faith, and by others as unconditional. In other words, our free will does not save us.
In Part 1 of this post, there were a series of difficult questions concerning God’s program of election. It is understandable people can have an emotionally painful reaction to learning of God’s sovereignty in salvation so let’s attempt to offer some perspective from Scripture.
Some may react in a way to think that God didn’t choose you or anyone in your family or anyone in the world for that matter. God knew before He created the world that Adam would disobey. And God knew how this world would turn out, yet He still chose to create us knowing He was going to send the unfortunate to hell. How is that even fair? How is God a loving God if He sends people to hell when He decided not to have mercy on them? Free Will Does Not Save Us
You may question God’s purposes, thinking… I have always thought that GOD wanted us to come to Him and to truly love Him and to want to worship Him. If He is picking who gets saved, is God truly being loved and worshiped? Why did Jesus have to come to earth then, if God already decided who would be saved and who wouldn’t, and how do I know my prayers are being heard? If I haven’t been chosen then am I essentially wasting my time going to church and trying to learn more about God. I always thought God had mercy on everyone and that He loved all of us! (everyone on this earth). I don’t like the feelings and thoughts that I am having. I don’t want to be rejected by God and I want God in my life and I was happy knowing or at least thinking that anyone could be saved, but now I’m just sad.
Know you are not alone in your negative thinking. Every Christian I know has experienced this same struggle to accept the truth of election when they first came to know of God’s sovereignty in salvation. Even Jesus’ disciples struggled with the concept when He taught this truth in John 6: Free Will Does Not Save Us
John 6:58-66 (NKJV)
58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
Many Disciples Turn Away
60 Therefore many of His disciples (followers), when they heard this, said, “This is a hard (difficult) saying; who can understand it?”
61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained (grumbled) about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you (make you stumble)? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend (to) where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
66 From that time many of His disciples went back (away) and walked with Him no more.
Did you notice in verses 65-66 when Jesus stated that God elects Christ’s followers (i.e., “no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father…”) that then many disciples began to withdraw from Jesus? Obviously, this truth has always been a difficult thing to accept, so we are in good company.
As the truths of God’s purposes in salvation and His sovereignty over His Creation come into conflict with our preconceived notions and flawed human understanding, the effect will be uncomfortable and disorienting. You will fight to maintain your point of view, and you will search for the flaw in what you’re hearing and reading in Scripture. You may say to yourselves, “It CAN’T be true.” Still, you must remember that your feelings and your assumptions will lie to you, but Scripture is the truth.
Objective truth is not determined by our feelings, so even though we may feel uncomfortable or unhappy about something we learn in God’s word, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. For example, when we learn that a loved one has died, we may experience intense anguish at hearing the news, and our strong feelings may even lead us to deny the truth of the person’s passing. Nevertheless, we must eventually acknowledge the reality despite our initial negative reaction. Free Will Does Not Save Us
Similarly, our initial response to the truth of election may be negative (simply because the doctrine will challenge long-held assumptions concerning salvation and God), nevertheless we cannot reject the truthfulness of what we read in the Bible because of how it makes us feel. The truth of God’s word often makes us uncomfortable, and this is as it should be.
God’s ways are not our ways, the Bible tells us, and so we shouldn’t be surprised when we discover God works in ways that are different from what we assumed. God’s word is intended to disrupt our blissful ignorance so that after our false views are torn down, the Spirit can begin to refashion us into disciples who have the mind of Christ.
You can see now why many well-intentioned (but mistaken) pastors have shied away from teaching this doctrine. They don’t want to offend their congregations, and they know if they teach election as the Bible presents it, they will receive many difficult questions – and perhaps some church members will leave to seek a teacher who will tickle their ears. Free Will Does Not Save Us
Nevertheless, the Church is supposed to understand these things and teach them to one another so that we will mature in our understanding of God and His plan. I encourage you to allow time for God to answer your objections and give you peace concerning His plan rather than rejecting it outright on the basis of your feelings. I can assure you that – in time – God’s Spirit will explain the truth of these things and will give you understanding and comfort. I pray you won’t be as one of those disciples who walked away from the Living God rather than accepting the truth of His word.
Finally, to respond directly to a few of the thoughts mentioned at the start of this post you may have.
First, the question of how it could be “fair” that God would create a world in which He knew men would go to Hell, and the Bible answers that question. (Keep in mind that if God were truly “fair” to everyone, He would send all sinners to Hell without exception, so we should think twice about demanding that God be “fair.”)
Remember that God made all things in Creation for His glory. He designed all Creation and Man in particular so that we would have the capacity to fully appreciate Him and glorify His name and God’s plan of election ensures that God receives the most glory from His creation for Who He is.
If the world never knew judgment for sin, then Man could never know or appreciate God’s perfect justice, judgment, wrath, mercy, and grace. These attributes of God can only be understood and appreciated in a world that contains both saved and unsaved, sinners and saints. As God judges sinners and saves believers, the creation witnesses a contrast that allows it to appreciate both sides of God’s character and thereby give Him glory for all aspects of Who He is.
By the way, Paul anticipated that the truth of election would lead us to question God’s fairness in choosing to save some but not everyone, so Paul addressed the question directly in Romans:
Romans 9:19 (NKJV)
19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”
Paul says we might ask why does God still find fault (i.e., condemn some to judgment for their sin) since no one can resist God’s will? In other words, why does God hold some people accountable for their sin when He has the power to elect everyone to saving faith? Like you, Paul asks why doesn’t God save everyone from Hell? Paul knew that this question would be on our minds, so he answers by saying:
Romans 9:20-21 (NKJV)
20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
Paul says we have no right to demand God explain Himself or satisfy our objections on the question of His mercy. Paul says we are answering back (i.e., blaspheming God) when we ask this question because we are impugning His holy and good character and implying His plan wasn’t right. Paul asks rhetorically doesn’t the God of Creation have a right to do whatever He pleases with His Creation? The obvious answer is yes. Paul ridicules our thinking by asking can the thing that is created (i.e., the clay pot) judge its Creator, God? The answer, of course, is we are in no position to judge Him.
In His omniscience and wisdom, God created some people for honor (i.e., some “pots” are destined for glory) and others He destined for dishonor, and this is the Creator’s sovereign right. He doesn’t owe us anything, including an explanation, yet He has graciously provided us with His word so that we might understand the way God works.
More importantly, He has chosen to save the elect even though all men are sinful and none deserve His mercy. The fact that a holy and just God chose to show mercy to some sinners (like us) doesn’t mean He is obligated to show mercy to everyone. God is no less holy because He chooses to show mercy to only some, as Paul said concerning Pharaoh:
Romans 9:17-18 (NKJV)
17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
To the question of why Jesus came to die, our faith must have an object, and the object of our faith is the propitiation of Christ. Christ’s coming to Earth was necessary because there must be an atonement for sin, but then God brings faith to a person so that they will accept Christ and His work on the cross. Christ’s atonement was sufficient to save all men from sin, but it only rests upon those whom the Father causes to believe in it. As Jesus said:
John 6:37-40 (NKJV)
37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Thirdly, we can assure you that your prayers are being heard by God. As Scripture teaches:
Proverbs 15:29 (NKJV)
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
God always hears the prayers of His children. In fact, you can be sure He hears you because you are His by faith. Again, the doctrine of election does not mean God is uncaring or uninvolved in our lives. On the contrary, He is living in us by His Spirit!
Fourth, why are we called to attend church (or do any other good work of the faith)? We are called to go to church and grow in our faith so that we may please the Father and receive an eternal reward at our judgment moment. Although faith saved us from the judgment for our sin, nevertheless believers still experience a judgment moment after our death. The judgment for believers is a judgment to evaluate our good works, and it is for the purpose of assigning eternal reward.
Paul taught concerning the judgment moment for believers in 2 Corinthians 5:
2 Corinthians 5:9-10 (NKJV)
The Judgment Seat of Christ
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
We must all give an account to Christ concerning how we lived while in this body. Paul also teaches that this judgment will be a process of acknowledging our good works while discounting any selfish, unholy works. Paul used a metaphor of a building to represent our life’s achievement of good works. Some believers will build something lasting and worthwhile while other Christians will waste their lives on earth building useless and temporary things. As Paul explained:
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NKJV)
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Notice that even if a Christian builds nothing of value in their life, they are still saved, because their salvation came by faith alone and not by their works. Their faith made possible a life of works to please the Father. An obedient believer may earn great rewards in Heaven, while the disobedient believer will receive little or no eternal inheritance in the kingdom.
This is why we share the Gospel with unbelievers and go to church and study the Bible and seek to serve in many ways. We wish to have a good testimony when we stand before the Lord. When we do good works like sharing the Gospel and teaching the Bible and caring for the brethren and supporting Christian ministries, etc., we are acting obediently to our Master’s call and pleasing Him by our faithfulness.
You were not saved for your own sake; God chose to save you so that you might glorify Him by your good works. As Jesus said:
Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Finally, I cannot stress enough how valuable the studies found on this blog of Romans starting in chapter 3 of Romans would be for you. I can assure you that studying Romans will address most if not all of your questions and help you come to grips with this Biblical truth. God has given us the book of Romans for this very reason: so that we could understand and appreciate His plan of salvation. Please trust me when I say that this study will bring you to an appreciation for how God’s plan of salvation is a reflection of His goodness rather than an indictment of His character. Even Paul himself was overwhelmed with admiration for God once He grasped the wisdom of God’s plan, as he wrote in Romans:
Romans 11:33-35 (NKJV)
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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