A Doctrine to love But there are some who love the doctrine of Election. To them election is the foundation dug deep for the other doctrines of human redemption to rest upon. They love it enough to preach it in the face of criticism and persecution. They will surrender their pulpits rather than be silenced on this precious tenet of the once delivered faith. But all who love the doctrine were once haters of it, therefore, they have nothing in which to take pride. Every man by nature is an Arminian. It takes the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, taught by the Holy Spirit, to cause a man to love the doctrine of election. How deeply important that believers should be learners. To do this we must acknowledge the superior wisdom of God whose thoughts are not as our thoughts. The Bible was given to correct our thinking. Repentance is a change of mind resulting in a change of thinking. We are not to come to the Bible as critics; the Bible is to criticize us. We cannot come to the Bible infallibly, but by grace we can come humbly. May grace be given to every writer and reader that we may have the right attitude of heart before God. The surest evidence of a saved state is to have the right attitude towards the Word of God.
No middle Way The doctrines of grace have found expression in two systems of theology commonly known as Calvinism and Arminianism. These two systems were not named for their founders, but for the men who popularized them. The system of truth known as Calvinism was preached by Augustine at an earlier date, and before Augustine by Christ and the Apostles, being especially emphasized by the Apostle Paul. The system of error known as Arminianism was proclaimed by Pelagius in the fifth century. Between these two there is no middle position; every man is either one or the other in his religious thinking. Some try to mix the two but this is not straight thinking. To say that we are neither Calvinistic nor Arminian is to evade the issue. Paulinism is represented by either Calvinism or Arminianism. The true system is based upon the truth of man’s inherent and total depravity; the false system is based upon the Romish dogma of free-will.
General Remarks to Disarm Prejudice There is no doctrine so grossly misrepresented. Brother A.S. Pettie’s complaint against the enemies of total depravity is equally applicable here, when he says, “From hostile lips a fair and correct statement of the doctrine is never heard”.
The treatment that the doctrine of election receives from the hands of its enemies is very much like that received by the primitive Christians from pagan Roman Emperors. The ancient Christians were often clothed in the skins of slain animals and then subjected to attack by ferocious wild beasts. So the doctrine of election is clothed in an ugly garb and held up to ridicule and sport. We will now try to strip this glorious truth of its false and vicious garment with which enemy hands have robed it, and put upon it the garments of holiness and wisdom.
1. Election is not salvation but is unto salvation. “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election (elect) hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded” (Ro. 11:7). “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation” (2Th. 2:13). Now then, if the elect obtain salvation, and if election is to salvation, election must precede salvation. Men are saved when they believe on Christ not when they are elected. Roosevelt was not president when he was elected, but when he was inaugurated. There was not only an election to, but an induction into the office. God’s elect are inducted into the position of saintship by the effectual call, (the quickening work of the Holy Spirit) through which they become believers in the Gospel. See:1Co 1:29 2Th 2:13,14
2. Election is not the cause of anybody going to hell, for election is unto salvation. Neither is non-election responsible for the damnation of sinners. SIN is the thing that sends men to hell, and all men are sinners by nature and practice — sinners altogether apart from election and non-election. It does not follow that because election is unto salvation that non-election is unto damnation. SIN is the damning element in human life. ELECTION HARMS NOBODY.
3. Election belongs to the system of grace. In Paul’s day there was a remnant among the Jews who were saved according to the election of grace (Rom. 11:5). The attitude of men towards election is the acid test of their belief in grace. Those who oppose election cannot consistently claim to believe in salvation by grace. This is seen in the creeds of Christendom. Those denominations that believe in salvation by works have no place for the doctrine of election in their confessions of faith; those that believe in salvation by grace, apart from human merit, have not failed to include election in their written creed. One group is headed by the Roman Catholics, the other group is headed by the Baptists.
4. Election does not prevent the salvation of anybody who wants to be saved. But the distinction needs to be made between a mere desire to escape hell and the desire to be saved from sin. The desire to be saved from hell is a natural desire — nobody wants to burn. The desire to be saved from sin is a spiritual desire resulting from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and God’s electing grace is the very mother of this desire. To represent election by saying that God has spread the Gospel feast, and a man comes to the table hungering for the bread of life; but God says “No, this is not for you, you are not one of my elect”,is to misrepresent the Holy Doctrine. Here is the truth — God has spread the feast but the fact is nobody wants to come to the table. “They all with one consent began to make excuse”. God knew just how fallen nature would act, and He took no chance on His table being filled, so, He tells His servant to go out and compel them to come (Luke 14:23). Were it not for the redemptive work of Christ there would be no Gospel feast; were it not for the compelling work of the Holy Spirit there would be no guests at the table. A mere invitation brings nobody to the table.
5. Election means that the destiny of men is in the hands of God. Many of us have regarded as an axiom the statement that every man’s destiny is in his own hands. But this is to deny the whole tenor of Scripture. At no time is the destiny of the saint in his own hands, either before or after he is saved. Was my destiny in my own hands before I was saved? If so, I regenerated myself; I resurrected, by my own power, myself out of a state of sin and death; I am my own benefactor and have nobody to thank but myself for being alive and saved. Perish such a thought! By the grace of God I am what I am. Joh 1:13 Eph 2:1-10 2Ti 1:9 Jas 1:18
Is my destiny in my own hands now? Then I will either keep myself saved or I will lose my salvation. The Bible says we are kept by the power of God through Faith. 1Pe 1:15 Ps 37:28 Joh 10:27-29 Php 1:6 Heb 13:5
If my destiny is not safe in my own hands after I am saved then how could it be thought to be safe in my own hands before my conversion?
The saint dies, his body is consigned to the grave and becomes a dust-heap. Is his destiny in his own hands then? If so, what hope has he of ever coming out of the grave with an immortal and incorruptible body? None at all if his destiny is in his own hands.
Such a theory, that the destiny of the saint is or ever has been in his own hands, reverses the very laws of nature and implies that water can rise above the level of its source; that man can lift himself into the attic by his boot-straps; that the Ethiopian can change his colour, and the leopard can remove his spots; that death can beget life; that evolution is true and God is a liar. The theory that one’s destiny is in his own hands begets self-confidence and self-righteousness; the belief that destiny is in the hands of God begets SELF-ABNEGATION AND FAITH IN GOD.
Some False Views Examined and Refute Many professing Christians really have no view of election. They have not given it enough thought and study to even have any opinion about it. Many have erroneous views. We shall notice some of them.
1. The view that men are elected when they believe — This view is easily refuted for it is contrary to both common sense and Scripture. Election is to salvation, and therefore, must precede salvation. It is nonsense to talk about electing a man to something he already has. The man has salvation when he believes and hence election at that point would not be necessary. ELECTION TOOK PLACE IN ETERNITY; SALVATION TAKES PLACE WHEN THE SINNER BELIEVES.
2. The view that election pertains only to the Jews — This view robs Gentiles of the comfort of Romans 8:28-29
Moreover, Paul, who was an apostle to the Gentiles, says that he endured all things for the elect’s sakes that they might obtain salvation. 2Ti 2:10
3. The view that election took place in eternity, but that it was in view of foreseen repentance and faith. According to this view, God, in eternity, looked down through the ages and saw who would repent and believe and those who He foresaw would repent and believe were elected to salvation. This view is correct in only one point, namely, that election took place in eternity. It is wrong in that it makes the ground of election to be something in the sinner rather than something in God.
Read Eph 1:4-6 where election and predestination are said to be “According to the good pleasure of His will” and “To the praise of the glory of His grace”.Eph 1:4-6
This view, thought the popular one with the majority of Baptists today, is open to many objections. (I) It denies what the Bible says about man’s condition by nature. The Bible does not describe the natural man as having faith.1Co 2:14 Joh 3:3
Both repentance and faith are gifts of God, and God did not see these graces in any sinner apart from His purpose to give them. “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins”, Acts 5:31 “When they heard these things they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, `Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life'”, Acts 11:18. “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth” 2Ti 2:25. See also:Eph 2:8-10 1Co 3:5
Election was not because of foreseen faith, but because of foreseen unbelief. It is not the election of God’s faithful ones, but the faith of God’s elect, if we are to keep Scriptural words. Titus 1:1
(ii) It makes the human race differ by nature, whereas, the Bible says, we are all by nature the children of wrath and all clay of the same lump. Eph 2:3 Ro 9:21. Men are made to differ in the new birth. John 3:6
(iii) It perverts the Scriptural meaning of the word “foreknowledge”. The word as used in the Bible means more than foreknowledge about persons, it is the foreknowledge of persons. In Ro 8:29,30, the foreknown are predestined to the image of Christ, and are called, justified and glorified. In 1Pe 1:2, the word for “foreknowledge” is the same as “foreordain” in the twentieth verse of the same chapter, where the meaning cannot be “foreknowledge” about Christ. God’s foreknowledge about persons is without limitations; whereas, His foreknowledge of persons is limited to those who are actually saved and glorified.
(iv) It is open to the strongest objection that can be made against the Bible view. It is often asked, “If certain men are elected and saved, then what is the use to preach to those who are not elected?” With equal propriety we might ask, “If God knows who is going to repent and believe, then why preach to those who according to His foreknowledge, will not repent and believe?” Will some repent and believe whom He foreknew would not repent and believe? If so, He foreknew a lie.
Right here is the weakness of much of modern missions. It is based upon sympathy for the lost rather than obedience to God’s command. The inspiration of missions is made to rest upon the practical results of missionary endeavour rather than upon the delight of doing God’s will. It is the principle of doing a thing because the results are satisfactory to us.
If we are faithful, God is as pleased with our efforts as when there are no results. Ponder 2Co 2:15,16
The elect prior to their conversion are known only to God. We are to preach the gospel to every creature because He has commanded it. He will take care of the results. Compare with: Is 55:11 1Co 3:5,6 Joh 6:37-45
It is ours to witness; it is His to make our witnessing effective.
The Doctrine Defined, Explained and Proved What is election as the term is used in the Bible? Election means a choice — to select from among – to single out – to take one and leave another. If there are a dozen apples in a basket and I take all of them there has been no choice; but if I take seven and leave five there has been a choice. Election, as taught in the Bible, means that God has made a choice from among the children of men. In the beginning God set His choice upon certain individuals, whom He gave to His Son, and for whom Christ died as their substitute, who in time hear the Gospel and believe in Christ to life everlasting. Let us amplify by raising three very pertinent questions.
1. WHO DOES THE ELECTING? Who chooses the persons to be saved? If men are chosen to salvation, as the Scriptures affirm, who does the choosing? There must be an election or universalism. The language of Scripture seems peculiarly definite in reply to this question. Mark 13:20 speaks of the ELECT, whom He ELECTED, rendered in our version, “The elect’s sake whom He hath chosen”. The word election is associated with God not with man. God is the CHOOSER, His people are the CHOSEN, and grace is the source. The theology, that God votes for us, the Devil votes against us, and that we cast the deciding ballot is entirely outside the pale of Scripture teaching, and is almost too ridiculous to notice. Joh 15:16 2Th 2:13 Eph 1:4
2. WHEN WAS THE ELECTING DONE? For the answer we are shut up to the Scriptures. But the BIBLE answers with sunlight clearness.
In Eph 1:4 we read that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”. The expression, “before the foundation of the world is found in Joh 17:24, where it speaks of the Father’s eternal love for the Son, and in 1Pe 1:20, where it refers to the eternal determination of the Divine mind concerning the death of Christ. There are many similar expressions. ELECTION IS ETERNAL! Re 13:8 2Th 2:13 2Ti 1:9
3. WHY WAS THE ELECTING DONE? Was it on the ground of something good in the sinner? Then nobody would have been elected for there is none good. Holiness is not the cause but the effect of election. We are chosen that we should be holy not because we are holy (Eph 1:4). Nor, as we have already seen, is election in view of foreseen repentance and faith. Election is the cause of repentance and faith and not the effect of these graces. To say that God chose men to salvation because He foresaw that they would repent and believe and be saved is to attribute foolishness to the infinitely wise God. It is as if the president should issue a decree that the sun must rise tomorrow because he foresees that it will rise; or as if a sculptor should choose a certain piece of marble because he foresaw that it would make itself into the image he wanted. We challenge any Arminian to raise these questions and get his answers from the Scriptures.
Objections Considered and Answered Many are the objections brought against this doctrine. Sometimes the objectors are loud and furious. Alas! that so many of these objectors are in Baptist ranks. To preach this old-fashioned doctrine of our faith as did Bunyan, Fuller, Gill, Spurgeon, Boyce, Broadus, Pendleton, Graves, Jarrell, Carroll, Jeter, Boyce Taylor and a host of other representative men of our denomination is to court the bitterest kind of opposition. John Wesley himself never said harsher words against this blessed tenet of our faith than do some so-called Baptists of today. Arminianism that offspring of popery, has had an abnormal growth in the last decade or two as the adopted child of a large group of Baptists.
1. IT IS OBJECTED THAT OUR VIEW OF ELECTION LIMITS GOD’S MERCY. Right here we criticize the critic, for he who makes this objection limits both God’s mercy and power. He admits that God’s mercy is limited to the believer, and to this we agree; but he denies that God can cause a man to believe without doing violence to the man’s will, and thus he limits God’s power. We believe that God is able to give a man a sound mind (2Ti 1:7) and make him willing in the day of His power. (Ps. 110:2)
At this point we must face two self-evident propositions. First, if God is trying to save every member of Adam’s fallen race, and does not succeed, then His power is limited and He is not the Lord God Almighty. Second, if He is not trying to save every member of the fallen face, then His mercy is limited. We must of necessity limit His mercy or His power, or go over boots and baggage to the Universalist’s position. But before we do that, let us go “to the law and to the testimony”, which says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion…Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy and whom He will He hardeneth” (Ro 9:15-18).
It needs to be said for the comfort and hope of great sinners, that God’s mercy is not limited by the natural condition of the sinner. All sinners are dead until God makes them alive. He is able to take away the heart of stone. No man is too great a sinner to be saved. We can pray for the salvation of the chief of sinners with the assurance that God can save them if He will. “The King’s heart is in the hands of the Lord as the river of water; He turneth it whither soever He will” (Pr 21:1). We rejoice to say with Jeremiah that there is nothing too hard for God. We can pray for the salvation of our loved ones with the feeling of the leper, when he said, “Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean” (Mt 8:2). When Robert Morrison was about to go to China, he was asked by an incredulous American if he thought he could make any impression on those Chinese. His curt reply was, “No, but I think God can.” This should ever be our confidence and hope when we stand before sinners and preach to them “CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED”.