Calvinism: From God or Man? #6 Examining Unconditional Election
For those who have been following this series of lessons; we have been in a discussion on the religious theory called Calvinism. It is a theory on the idea of God. We have in the previous articles proven that God created man, that he gave man free will to choose and many times, unfortunately men made wrong choices.
We finished last time talking about Total Hereditary Depravity and we showed that, according to the Holy Bible, God does not place the guilt of sin on any individual except the person who did the sin.
Today we will discuss the second tenant or petal, if you will, on the Calvinistic flower – the TULIP.
We will discuss the U which stands for “Unconditional Election.”
We begin by using their own words to define what they mean, then, we will define exactly what is meant by Unconditional and what is meant by Election.
"By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory,
some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and
others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men thus
predestinated and fore-ordained are particularly and unchangeably
designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it can not
be either increased or diminished. Those of mankind that are
predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was
laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose and the secret
counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ, unto
everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any
foresight of faith or good works or perseverance in either of them, or
any other thing in the creature, as conditions or causes moving him
thereunto." (Confession of Faith, chap. 3, secs. 3, 4, 5.)
What is meant by election? It means to choose. According to this idea God chose certain individuals to be saved and certain ones to be damned.
What then is meant by unconditional? It means having no condition whatsoever. That is what they mean when they say “without any foresight of faith or good works or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions or causes moving him thereunto.”
Someone might ask, but doesn’t the Bible talk about election? Yes, indeed it does. However, the question is NOT whether people were elected. The question is two-fold. First, what were people elected to and second, in what way is election to be understood today?
What were people elected to? It is true that in God’s will people have always been elected? The question is, elected to what?
Were they elected to Eternal Salvation or were they elected to some other thing?
If people are, as the Calvinist presumes, elected to Salvation then Paul wrote some very confusing words in Philippians 2: 12 when he stated “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” We might ask “Work it out? How; when God has already worked it out for you.”
After this series is completed, we will have a proper understanding of Election as the Bible spells it out and not as the Calvinist will have you to believe based on their theory.
Election… who is chosen and for what purpose? Not all people were chosen for the same purpose. For instance, In Isaiah 42:1-3 we read these words:
1Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.
Obviously this is in reference to Jesus. Jesus claimed such in Matthew 12. So, what was Jesus elected to? Was he electing his own eternal salvation? Obviously not. He was elected then for some other purpose. The election of Christ was that he would come to seek and to save the lost.
Many people were elected to make the way for Jesus. His ancestry is recorded in Matthew 1 and in Luke 3. All of these individuals were elected to bring salvation into the world.
Abraham was told in Genesis 12 that in him all nations of the earth would be blessed. But he had 2 sons, so an “election” had to take place. A choice had to be made. So who would be chosen?
Isaiah 41:8 says 8But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
Later, Jacob would have 12 sons. Again a choice had to be made. Who would bring the Christ into the world? Not to bless one family, but to bring Christ into the world to bless the whole world. Judah would be chosen.
Then, you will recall their families went into Egyptian captivity and Moses was chosen to lead them out. Notice Psalm 106:23 Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.
So Moses clearly was chosen and so was Aaron. Notice Psalm 105:26 He sent Moses his servant; and Aaron whom he had chosen.
They were indeed chosen. The question before us today is what were they chosen to do? They were specially chosen to bring the children of Israel out of bondage and lead them to the Promised Land.
If they were specifically chosen by God to do this then, according to the Calvinist, that is what would happen. Two people specifically chosen by God, with their purpose, to lead people into the Promised Land. According to the Calvinist,recall that – No purpose of God could be changed.
But let’s notice Deuteronomy 4:21 Moses speaking:
21Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance: 22But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land.
Wait a minute! What just happened? The ones that God specially chose to lead the people into the land of Canaan, that Promised Land… only now, they will not even get to enter into it. The question is WHY NOT!? Is that not what God had purposed for them to do?
The rest of the story may be found in the the book of Numbers 20:8. The people are thirsty and complaining again. In verse 8 God instructs Moses and Aaron to stand before the people and he commanded them to speak to the rock.
But, Moses and Aaron disobeyed God. Moses lifted his rod in his hand and he struck the rock with his rod.
It was complete disobedience. Notice, God said speak, but he struck. And because of that notice what God said. In verse 12
12And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
They were specially chosen to lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land and yet they would not go into it. Verse 24 states that even Aaron disobeyed God and would not enter the promised land.
The point is this. God specially chose them. But, because of their choice, because of their disobedience, God punished them.
Well, what about Aaron’s sons, would they do any better? Notice Leviticus 10:1-2
1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Now let us notice what was said by the Calvinist again:
"God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass." (Presbyterian Confession of Faith, chap. 3, sec. 1)
So, what do we see in these scenarios? If Calvinistic doctrine is true, we must wonder to which class did Nadab and Abihu belong. The eternally elect or the eternally damned?
Did he elect, as the Calvinist believes, dead, worldly sinners, who cannot possibly follow God, - did God elect them and anoint them priests; to go to God on behalf of the people when all along he had fore-ordained that he would cause them to sin so that He could destroy them?
Did God elect them to be saved unconditionally. They were going to Heaven no matter what. So, then He caused them to sin, to die in their sins and take them home to Glory, still in their sin?
I suggest neither of these is the Truth, but these are the options available to the Calvinist.
The Biblical truth of the matter is, neither of those are the case, because unconditional election is not true.
Yes, they were elected to do a work. They were consecrated as priests of God. God had told all of Israel if they would obey him, he would bless them. If not, he would curse them. That was his intent with Nadab and Abihu as well. They did not obey, they sinned and they died in their sins.
Someone might say, well he took their life but saved their souls. In other words sin do not affect your soul but only your body. Well, that is ridiculous in the light of scripture.
27What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:27-28)
He says when you are out there preaching harm will come upon your body and you might even be killed. Don’t be afraid of what might happen to your body, but fear those who can destroy your soul. How’s that? By leading you away from Christ.
How could a soul be in any danger if God had already unconditionally elected it before the world had ever begun? It couldn’t,. There is no need for a warning, if Calvinism is true. Yet Christ warned those he would send out, because he knew that he had not unconditionally elected anyone to salvation.
We see it over and over again. The word of God says one thing and Calvinism teaches something contrary to what God says.
We have proven it time and again. Unconditional election, like every other point in Calvinism, takes all responsibility away from man. And so, whoever lives in eternity in Heaven has God to thank, but also, whoever lives eternal life in Hell has also God to thank. The Calvinist doesn’t like it, but that is the simple conclusion of this doctrine.
The theory of unconditional election denies that man is a free moral agent and that he may choose to either accept or reject God's conditions of salvation.
But what does God say?
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doet.lt the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Mat. 7:21 ).
Christ tells us that man is not arbitrarily chosen by God for either Heaven or Hell but that entering the kingdom of Heaven is subject to one obeying the will of the Father.
The fact cannot be disputed that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16) in fact, this one passage of scripture does away with the whole Idea of Calvinism.
Notice the very next verse:
17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
If a person believes then a person has a choice. The choice is believe and have life or don’t believe and don’t have life. But the person has a choice. For one to accept and follow God or to reject God and be condemned is a choice. God did not elect certain ones at all.
The Savior would stand before the people and say
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give vou rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek andlowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For myyoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mat. 11:28-30,
It is and always has been God's will that all men would be saved. In 1 Timothy 2:4 we read that God "would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth."
Peter affirmed this desire of God in his preaching:
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).
The Hebrew writer wrote:
"though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation" (Heb. 5:8-9,)
The astute Bible student will quickly observe that God has provided salvation for all men if they will comply with the conditions He has set forth. God's word reminds man of his responsibility to respond in obedience to the great invitation, Peter proclaimed the gospel to the Jews "and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation" (Acts 2:40).
Paul admonished the brethren at Philippi by saying, "So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil.2: 12).
God could not be more clear in stating that those who will be eternally damned are lost only because of their choice not to obey the gospel and live for the Lord.
BIBLICAL VIEW OF ELECTION
If one believes the Bible he must believe in conditional predestination or election because that’s what the Bible teaches. Paul says to the Ephesians:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love" (Eph. 1:3-4).
It is clear that God did indeed choose before the foundations of the world some to be saved and some to be lost. God elected those "in Christ" to be saved. The implication is clear that those who are not "in Christ" will be lost.
So inside of Christ is Salvation outside of Christ is Damnation.
Paul said to Christians in Rome:
And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren: and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified (Rom.8:28-30).
All things work together for good for whom? Obviously, all things work together for good to those who have chosen to love God! Calvinism teaches that things work together for good only for the lucky people God has unconditionally chosen to love. The saved are "called according to his purpose," and there is no mystery whatsoever regarding God's calling of mankind.
All people who are called by God are called by the gospel. Paul says:
“Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thes. 2:14)
So yes, we are indeed called, yet we are called by the Gospel.
God provided through the gift of His Son (John 3: 16) the saving gospel, which is to be proclaimed to all people because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Christ said to His apostles, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned" (Mark 16: 15-16).
God is responsible for providing salvation and determining the conditions that accompany it. Man is responsible for believing in God and demonstrating his faith by humbly obeying God's word.
Someone might ask, HOW CAN SALVATION BE A GIFT AND YET BE CONDITIONAL?
They claim they cannot understand how a gift can be conditional. I suggest that they actually can. Even birthday gifts are conditional. The person must turn another year older in order to receive his gift.
Most Calvinist’s properly understand a person’s “Living Will?” A person will go in and write his Will, and leave gifts bestowed upon people in his family or his friends.
A person might in his will write, “upon my grandson’s graduation from college, he is to inherit my 100,000 dollar inheritance.”
Was it a gift? Absolutely. Was it conditional? You know that it was. The grandson had to put in the time to go to college and actually make good enough grades to graduate. He did not ‘earn’ the gift, yet he had to do something to receive it. He had to be willing to obey the Will.
The Work that God has Given
Likewise, obeying the commands of the gospel cannot be considered as earning salvation. The difference between a work of man and a work of God is that if it is a work of merit the act alone will accomplish the end. If God must act in addition to the deed done then it is God's work not man's.
Noah had to work in order to be saved. He didn’t earn his salvation, he simply obeyed what God told him to do.
Naaman the leper as recorded in 2Kings 5, had to wash just as the man said. Seven times he had to dip in the Jordan River in order to be cleansed. Was the cleansing a gift? Absolutely. Did he earn his cleansing? Absolutely not! Did he have to do anything to receive his cleansing? Yes.
We stated earlier that the Bible is clear that there is a such thing as predestination. That God has chosen people to be saved and people to be lost. Then we said the question is did he choose specifically or did he choose generally.
A person can choose one specific person or he may choose people in general. Suppose that there is a group of people and we are all here in the same room and we all want to go to the movies tonight. But, I’m the only one who can drive. Now, I can select certain individuals to accompany me to the movies. I can say “I want you to go and her to go and him to go. I could specifically choose individuals to go to the movies with me.
Or, I could say, I know all of you want to go to the movies. So, tonight, whoever shows up here at 7:00 pm with Ten Dollars for the movie, will go. Now if you do not show up at 7pm, you will not be able to go. If you do show up, but you do not bring the ten dollars, then again, you do not go. But, if you will do what I have said, then I will bring you to the movies with me.
Jesus words: General or Specific?
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matt. 7:21)
There is a selection isn’t there? Lord, who gets to enter the kingdom of Heaven? Is it everyone who wants to? Is it some specific people you chose? Or is it those who will do the will of God?
It is those who do the will of God. Specific people chosen? No. Rather, anyone who does what God says can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
God had indeed called people to do certain specific works. But nowhere in the word of God do you find God unconditionally electing anyone, specifically to Salvation.
However, what you do see is that from the foundations of the world, God has elected all saved to be in Christ Jesus. Thus, the important question is how does one get into Christ and become one of God's elect? The Bible provides the answer.
If you are interested in God’s great plan of salvation, and the way that we obey the Words of our Lord. Please see the following articles: