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Chosen by God: The Biblical Doctrine of Election

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2005-09-25 PM
  • Systematic Theology
  • Sermons


Well, we come tonight to the issue of election. I grew up in a Southern Baptist church where, as far as I can remember, I never even heard the word election. I was brought to Christ, brought to repentance and faith, when I was a senior in high school. And I went to a Christian college where such issues of God's sovereignty were downplayed by most who were there. But I began to read, and I had a few instructors, including my father-in-law who is now with Lord, who began to expose me to what the Bible teaches about this issue. Once I reached graduate school, through my own reading and study and some excellent graduate faculty members, I came to an understanding of what Scripture teaches about this important issue. And it is what I want to share with you tonight.

I later came to understand that throughout church history the men who were most respected held to the same or a very similar view. I have to tell you that for me, the doctrine of election has become perfectly obvious in the Scripture, and a source of great personal encouragement and strength. So honestly, it is hard for me to remember that the ground we cover tonight is extremely emotional for many. It is a charged subject. It is a hotly debated, a heavily controversial topic.

I don't come to it accidentally. Let me remind you how we got here. We are studying the doctrine of salvation. Last week, you will remember, I laid out a sort of road map of where our studies over the next several weeks would take us. We are considering various aspects of God's planning and application of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, the application of it to us as individuals.

Let me just review the chart we ended with last time. And if you didn't get a chance to see this last week, we do have handouts of last week so you can take a look at this. You will see in the middle, between the two bars, in chronological order, are the aspects of salvation, excuse me, are in order both chronologically in some cases and logically in others, the order of the events that take place in salvation. You have election. And then you have effectual calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, then positional sanctification, justification, and adoption, followed by progressive sanctification and perseverance, and climaxed by glorification.

Now you will notice that at the bottom of this chart I have placed a bar that describes when in time these events occur. Election, of course, happened in eternity past. We will talk about that tonight. Everything from effectual calling through adoption happens chronologically in a single moment of time at the moment of salvation. We were talking here about a chronological order. Then progressive sanctification and our perseverance start at the moment of salvation and run through the rest of our earthly lives. And glorification, of course, occurs when Christ returns.

Across the top of this chart, you will notice another bar that tells us who is doing the action in each of these events. You can see that election is a divine act. Effectual calling and regeneration are divine acts. Faith and repentance are both divine in that God grants them to the sinner, and human in that we exercise faith and repentance that we have then received from God. Positional sanctification, that is, God setting us apart for Himself at the moment of salvation, justification, and adoption are all divine acts. And then progressive sanctification and perseverance, again, are a combination of both divine acts, it is God who makes us able to stand, and our obedience, so both divine and human acts. And glorification is strictly a divine act when He makes us perfectly and finally and completely into the image of Jesus Christ. So that reminds you of what we covered last time.

Now, I understand that some of you felt a little lost last week. Well, I warned you that you would and not to worry about it, all right? Last week we did a fly over of the forest and some of you couldn't make out what the trees were. That is okay. We are going to go through that forest over the next several weeks and examine each individual tree. And by the time we are done we will take a look back at this chart and it is my hope and expectation that you, it will all come together for you, you will have an understanding of it. So stay with me, week by week, and I trust that we will build on the foundation we have begun. But you need to understand that God initiates salvation and that is essentially what this chart makes clear. And we worked through this biblically last week, and exegetically; if you weren't here, I encourage you to get the message.

Tonight we begin by looking at each of these elements. And we are going to begin at the beginning, with what is in the far left of our chart, and that is election. Election. One of the most controversial doctrines in the Bible, the doctrine of election. Now, let's begin with some presuppositions. These are universally agreed. First, it was God's decision to provide salvation. God ultimately is the one who determined to initiate the saving of humanity. Everyone agrees with that. Man did not make that decision, God made that decision, to provide salvation.

A second presupposition is that there are only a limited a number of ways God could have chosen to distribute salvation. He basically had three options. He could have chosen to save none, and God would be perfectly just if He had made that choice. He could have chosen to save all. He could have been equally just to have saved all. Or, He could have chosen to save some. Now, all Christians reject the first one. Obviously, if you are a Christian, you believe you have been saved, you believe that God did choose to save some, at least. The first option to save none is not a possibility. Almost all Christians reject the second; that is, that God chose to save all. There are very few Universalists who believe every individual is going to heaven, every human being. So, the vast majority of Christians believe the third option, God has elected, or has chosen, to save some.

Now, there are some in the Christian church who simply ignore election. They ignore the concept of God's choice. They pretend it isn't in the Bible. But as you will see tonight, it is impossible to be honest with the text of Scripture and not develop some kind of a doctrine of election. The doctrine of election, at its simplest terms, simply discusses God's choice to save some.

Now let's begin, as I always like to do, with some definitions. What exactly are we talking about and what are we going to build toward, what do we believe the Scriptures teach? Two definitions, first of all, Louis Berkhof's; he defines election as, "That eternal act of God whereby He and His sovereign good pleasure, and on account of no unforeseen merit in them, chooses a certain number of men to be recipients of special grace and of eternal salvation." I will take this definition apart in just a moment. Wayne Grudem defines it this way in his Systematic Theology, "It is an act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of His sovereign good pleasure."

Now, when you look at those definitions, there are several key components in both, and in all good definitions of election. What are those key components? First of all, it is eternal, it happened before time. Ephesians 1:4, "God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world." Revelation 17:8 speaks of those whose names have "not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world." The clear implication is that there are some that were written in the book of life before the foundation of the world. God made this decision in eternity past.

Second key component is that it is definite, that is, that He chooses a certain number of men. He chooses individuals verses a group. There are some who say, well, in election God chose the church but not the individual to make it up. Well, there are a couple of passages we will look at tonight, including Romans 9, that make it clear that God chooses individuals. Even Ephesians 4 makes that, excuse me, Ephesians 1:4, makes that point clear. And then finally, another key component is that it is unconditional. Unconditional. I want to consider this point as a separate one in a few minutes, so I am not going to make any other comments about it. We will come back to that. But these are key components when you talk about God's choice.

Let's begin with the biblical proof. There are so many passages. I am just going to give you a smattering, but I want to give you enough so you see that there isn't one author that is sort of making this up. It is throughout the Scripture. You find about Israel in Deuteronomy 7:7-8, "The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you." Obviously, He did set His love and He did choose, that is the implication here. He didn't do it, however,

because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but [here is why He choose you] because the Lord loved you.

He loved you because He loved you. John 15:16, Christ says, "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain." Acts 13:48, "When the Gentiles heard the message of the apostle, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed," "as many as had been appointed," those are the ones who believed.

Romans 8, we looked at this in detail last week, "For those whom God foreknew," "those whom He predestined," they are the ones that end up being called and justified and glorified. Romans 11:5-6, "In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant," Paul says, a remnant of Jews, "according to God's gracious choice." There are some Jewish people who really are Jewish people in the true inner sense of that word, Paul says, and that has happened according to God's gracious choice. Romans 11:7, "What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened," "those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened."

Ephesians 1, I have already mentioned this verse,

God chose us in Christ 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.

In many of these verses you see all three of those elements, don't you? First Thessalonians 1:4-5,

knowing, brethren beloved of God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

You responded to the Word because God chose you. First Thessalonians 5:9, "God has not destined us for wrath, but," He has destined us, "for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." Second Thessalonians 2:13, "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," and He has accomplished that, "through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth," "by setting apart," that is positional sanctification, "and faith in the truth."

Second Timothy 1:9 says, "God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace and that was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity." First Peter 1:1, Peter says, I am writing "To those who are aliens, scattered abroad," "who are chosen." Revelation 13 speaks of those, "who dwell on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world and the book of the life of the Lamb who has been slain." And as I mentioned before, Revelation 17:8, all of "those who dwell on earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come."

In every one of these passages you see God's choice. You have to deal with the issue of election. It is in these verses. The issue is not did God choose, the real question for Bible believing Christians really comes back to the next issue I want to discuss, and that is on what basis did He choose? God chose. There is no question about that. And He chose in eternity past. The key point of disagreement is on what basis? Is God's choice conditioned on something in you, or is it unconditional, not based on anything about the person that He chooses? Let's take a look at these two views.

First of all, there is the conditional view. Henry Thiessen, in his Systematic Theology, puts this view in a very succinct way. He says here is what I believe, "It is a sovereign, election is a sovereign act of God in grace whereby He chose in Christ Jesus for salvation all those whom He foreknew would accept Him." In other words, God looked down the corridors of time, being omniscient as He is, and He saw that you, given the right opportunity, would believe. And so God said, then I will choose him, I will choose her, based on My knowledge that they will respond to the gospel in the future. God chooses based on whether or not you will believe, given that opportunity.

Now let me give you several arguments that I think dismantle this view. First of all, the verse that is normally cited for this view is Romans 8:29, "Those whom God foreknew." And they will say that is God looking ahead, looking into the future. But if you examine Romans 8:29 carefully, it says nothing about faith being the basis of God's foreknowledge; moreover, it doesn't say He foreknew some fact about us. It says He foreknew people. He foreknew you. And if you take and trace that word through the New Testament, if you look at the concept of knowledge in the Old Testament, what you discover is that to foreknow is to predetermine a relationship with. It is not talking at all about what those who want to take this view make it say. God predetermined to have a relationship with certain people. It says nothing about the basis on which He made that choice.

Let's turn to Matthew 11. There are a couple of passages in the New Testament that absolutely decimate this view. And I know many of you were raised with this view, but I just want you to see what the Scripture says about this particular approach. Matthew 11:20, this is in the ministry of Jesus, of course, and

He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For [now watch this carefully, verse 21] For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless, I say to you it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."

Now, what is Christ saying here? He is saying, based on My omniscience, I can tell you that if the same opportunities that have been granted to you had been granted to Tyre and Sidon, those ancient cities that God destroyed; if the same opportunities had been granted to Sodom and Gomorrah that have been granted to you, you modern cities or modern at the time cities of Israel; they would have repented. And yet let me ask you, was Sodom and Gomorrah given that opportunity? Did God grant them that opportunity based on His foreknowledge? He says, I am going to choose you because I know, given the opportunity, you will believe. Of course they weren't.

The same point is made over in Luke 10, its parallel passage. Luke 10:10, parallel concept I should say,

"whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.'"

And Jesus says,

"I say to you, it will be more tolerable in the day of Sodom than for that city. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes."

Again, I want you to see that Christ is making the point that if they had been given the opportunity, they would have believed, they would have repented, and yet in God's sovereign purpose they were not given that opportunity. That is a strong argument against conditional election, which says He foreknew those who would accept Him, and that is how He chose. Obviously, in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the case of Tyre and Sidon, He didn't choose on that basis.

I add to my arguments against conditional election, those positive arguments for unconditional election, which I want us to look at now together. Unconditional, by that I mean, it has, God's choice, has nothing to do with you, nothing to do with me, nothing God sees in us, nothing God foreknows about us. It is unconditional. It is simply because He chose. God's choice in eternity past of certain people to be saved, the unconditional view says, is based solely on His own sovereign pleasure and on no condition in the person He chooses. Listen to 2 Timothy 1:9, "God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace," and that purpose of His and that grace of His, "was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity." It had nothing to do with us.

But of course, the place where unconditional election is most clearly and profoundly taught is Romans 9, and we need to turn there together, Romans 9. Romans 9 stands as the Mount Everest of election and I want to walk you through this chapter. Paul begins, in the first five verses, documenting his concern for his Jewish brethren who have heard the gospel but have not responded to it. He says,

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

So Paul here is pouring out his own heart about his Jewish brethren, that is those who are physically related to him as Jews, but who have not embraced the Messiah, who have not embraced Jesus Christ.

But that immediately raises the question of why didn't all the Jews respond to Christ? Is there some inherent weakness in the message? Paul's answer is that it was never, the reason not all Jews came to Christ is that it was never God's intention that all physical descendants of Abraham belong to Him. It was never God's decision. Look at verse 6, "But it is not as though the word has failed. For they are not all Israel who descended from Israel." He says listen, this is not some failure in God's plan that all the Israelites didn't come to faith. God never intended that all of them would come to faith. God chose specific descendants of Abraham and that is why they responded. That is the message that Paul lays out here.

And Paul cites three generations. He begins in verse 6 with Abraham. He says, "they are not all Israel who descended from Israel," or Abraham. Ultimately, God chose Abraham, "nor are they all children," verse 7 says, "because they are Abraham's descendants." So you have Jacob, who was named Israel, and back of Jacob you have Abraham. So he goes back the generation to Abraham, and listen to what he says. He says, God, basically, God chose Abraham. God obviously did. We look at Genesis 12, and what we discover is that God came to Abraham while he was still worshiping rocks in Ur of the Chaldees, and made a unilateral promise to him to be his God. God chose Abraham.

Verses 7 to 9 tell us that God chose Isaac,

nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "Through Isaac your descendants will be named." That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.

He is saying, just having Abraham's blood running in your veins doesn't mean that God chose you to be one of His own, to respond to the truth. He determined instead it would be Isaac. God passed over Ishmael, the other son of Abraham and the older son, by the way, and chose to have the line of Christ go through Isaac.

Now, some might respond to Paul and say, you know, well of course God chose Isaac, because the other boy wasn't from Sarah, but from her servant Haggar. In other words, based on some inherent quality in the boy, God chose him. So Paul builds to his third example to drive home the fact that election is not conditioned on anything in the one who is chosen.

In verses 10 to 13 he comes to Jacob, and here is the crux of his argument. He has been building to this. Here is a perfect example of God's choice being unconditioned on anything in the person, and conditioned only in God, Himself. Notice verse 10, "not only this, but there was also Rebekah and when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac." First of all, he says, it is obviously God's choice that is coming here, of Jacob, wasn't on the basis of heredity. Both these boys had the same father and the same mother.

Verse 11, it wasn't on the basis of personal merit, "for though the twins had not yet been 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." So God says, My choice isn't on the basis of heredity, these boys both had the same parents. It is not on the basis of their work or their merit, because they hadn't been born, neither of them had done anything good or bad.

Verse 12, it is not on the basis of expectation or cultural custom, "It was said to her," to Rebekah, "'The older,'" that is, Esau, "'will serve the younger,'" that is, Jacob. Now this throws the Middle East cultural climate on its head. The older was always the person who was the primogeniture. He was the person who received the double blessing. He was the person who was given the opportunity to lead the family, to lead the clan. And yet God says, it is not going to be the older, it is going to be the younger.

So, verse 13, here is the statement of unconditional election, "Just as it is written," quoting Malachi 1, "'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'" And God made that determination before these boys were born, before they had done anything good or bad. It wasn't based on their deeds; it was based on God's choice. It was unconditioned on anything in them. That is what Paul is saying.

Now we are going to come back to Romans 9 in a moment, but we have learned that the basis of election is unconditional. But immediately when you say that, there are some objections that people raise. There are immediately some objections that come up. James Montgomery Boice points out in his discussion of this issue that, "Every Christian tolerates God's sovereign choice of some individuals, on certain select issues." Every Christian. For example, Christ chose twelve men to be His followers. There were a lot of other people who had attached themselves in some way or another to Him that He could have chosen, but He chose those twelve. Why not more than twelve? Why that twelve? I mean, weren't there a lot of other people that could have benefited from three years of close ministry from the person of Christ? Of course.

What about when the disciples spread to tell others about Christ? They could only go, humanly speaking, in one direction. That means they didn't go in certain directions. Phillip went to Samaria, Barnabas to Antioch, and so forth. Each time a choice had to be made. And if God was directing them at all, and most Christians would say that He was, then God was choosing that some hear the gospel rather than others.

The same thing is true today. Let's say you are on an airplane. You are flying somewhere and God opens the opportunity for you to talk to someone about the gospel. You have, during that flight, made a choice. You have chosen to talk to the person on your right, tell them the gospel, and not to the person on your left or the person in front of you or the person behind you. We make those choices. Those are forms of election.

Boice concludes, "Election is an inescapable fact of finite human life and history." But when it comes to election unto salvation, that is where many Christians get off the bus; not going to go there. At that point objections begin to be offered. Well, Paul is such a brilliant man, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he anticipates, as all good debaters do, in Romans 9, he anticipates the chief objections to the doctrine of election, the objections that his readers will have to what he has just taught, to unconditional choice.

The first objection that he anticipates, back in Romans 9 now and verse 14, verses 14 to 18, he anticipates the objection of fairness. Notice verse 14, "What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!" God forbid! Now let me ask you a question. If tonight you have already come to embrace the doctrine of unconditional election, how did you respond the first time you heard about it? Wait a minute, that is just not fair! Now, your response, and mine as well, is in itself proof that we are properly interpreting Paul here. Because Paul assumes that once you have read that far, your next response is going to be, wait a minute, that is not fair!

There is only one position on this issue of election that gets that response, and that is that it is unconditional. It is unconditional. Whatever Paul is teaching in Romans 9 about election, the very first response he expects people to have is, it is not fair. Well, let me ask you, what is unfair about God basing His choice on whether or not you will believe? What is unfair about that? If that is the reason God chose, based on whether or not you would believe, what is unfair about that? There is nothing unfair in that. No Armenian has ever taught what he believes from Romans 9, and then been charged with being unfair.

Now, notice Paul's answer to the question of fairness. Verse 15, he says, "For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'" That is a strange answer, isn't it? "There is no unfairness with God, is there?" No, can't be, because, "God said to Moses, "'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.'" Now what is Paul saying? He is saying it is God's sovereign right to choose because He is God. It is not unfair. God is just. The fact that God makes the choice means it is fair.

And He uses two men here. He uses Moses, representing the elect man, and he uses Pharaoh, representing the non-elect. And notice how he develops this. Verse 16, "So then," since God has said "'I am going to have compassion on whom I will have compassion;'" Moses, I have chosen to have compassion on you, "So then it does not depend," that is, God showing mercy, saving mercy, "does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." He says listen, let me tell you something, God's granting saving mercy is not based on human decision, notice that, "the man who wills." Nor is it based on human effort, "or the man who runs."

But God's choice is based on God. Verse 17, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh." Here is the opposite side of that, the non-elect. Moses, I have shown mercy on you because I wanted to have mercy; I have shown compassion on you because I wanted to have compassion. Now here is the opposite side:, "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.'" You are merely a vehicle, Pharaoh, to something that I have purposed to accomplish.

Now think about Paul's response. What he is saying here is, this is God's right to make this choice. It is not unfair at all. You say, well, I don't particularly like that response. Well, think about it for a moment. Who is treated unfairly in unconditional election? There are some over here who by God's goodness and grace get mercy. Are they treated unfairly? No. They are not treated unfairly. Over here, there are some whom God passes by and they get justice. Are they treated unfairly, those who get justice, what they deserve? Is that unfair? No. You see, nobody is treated unfairly. Everyone gets what they deserve. No one in this situation gets less than they deserve. God is not unjust, the question of fairness is not a legitimate one. God has the right to choose, and the fact that He has chosen in no way impugns His justice. Everybody gets justice, and some get mercy.

The second objection is human freedom. You find this objection in verses 19 to 23. Verse 19, Paul says, okay, I know what your next response is going to be, "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'" Now, the point of the question is this, wait a minute Paul, unconditional election undermines the principle of human freedom. Notice Paul's answer in verses 20 to 23. He begins with the metaphor of the potter and the clay. Verse 20, "On the contrary," here is my response,

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? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

Now, Paul is making two points here as he develops this metaphor. The first is that the potter makes both vessels from the same lump of clay. In other words, there is nothing intrinsic in the clay that makes the potter choose one for an honorable use, that is, for holding water or flowers or food, and another one for common use, for a spittoon, for a chamber or privy pot, for a garbage pail. There is nothing intrinsic in the clay that makes the potter decide which vessel to make. That is his first point, they are both made from the same lump of clay, there is nothing intrinsic in the clay that determines the product. And secondly, it is the potter's sovereign right to decide what the finished product will be, apart from the prior condition of the clay. The potter has a right to choose. It is his choice.

All of you have seen a potter work. I enjoy watching that. My kids enjoy it as well. It is fascinating to see this lump of wet clay thrown on the wheel and slowly developed into a beautiful piece of pottery. But the choice from that lump of clay that he pulls from, the choice of whether he makes a vessel that is going to be used for common use, or the choice of whether he is going to make a vessel for wonderful use, for noble uses, that is the potter's. Solely the potter.

Now look at verse 22. "What if God," here he is going to make the application of his illustration,

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.

Paul is saying listen, God has a higher purpose.

Now, back to what I said earlier, that most Christians believe that God only chose some. So most of the people, those who believe in conditional election and those who believe in unconditional election, believes that there was some purpose in the mind of God that was greater than saving everyone. Armenians say, God doesn't save everyone because He has a higher purpose and that higher purpose is man's free will. God has got to preserve man's free will at all cost, and so He will not save everyone because He is going to preserve man's free will. Paul here very clearly says that God doesn't save everyone because He does have a higher purpose, but that higher purpose is not man's free will, that higher purpose is His own glory. His own glory. Notice verse 23 again, "He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory." So the objection of human freedom is not a legitimate objection either. God has a higher purpose and that purpose is His own glory.

And by the way, I should also mention, you remember, human freedom here is a little bit of a misnomer. If you weren't here when we studied moral inability go back and listen to that tape, because man does have freedom to choose. We all make decisions, but because of our fallenness we don't have the capacity to choose God. We looked at that in detail. Christ said in John 6:44, "'No one can come to Me, except the Father [what?] draw him.'"

Now, a third objection that is brought up is double predestination. Some object saying, wait a minute, if God chooses some for salvation, that must mean He chooses others for hell. There are some who believe that. It is called double predestination. What the Bible teaches is that God chooses some and then simply passes over others. This is called reprobation. The theological term is reprobation. Here is a definition of reprobation, this is the opposite of election, "It is the sovereign decision of God before creation to pass over some persons, in sorrow deciding not to save them and to punish them for their sins, and thereby to manifest His justice."

You say, does Scripture teach that? Well look at Romans 9:17. We looked at that earlier. "God says to Pharaoh, 'This is the purpose I raised you up, to make My glory known.'" Romans 9:22, "What if God wanted to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, He endured with patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?" Romans 11:7, "What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened." First Peter 2:8, "they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed."

Reprobation is clearly taught in Scripture but, this is very important, when you compare election and reprobation there are two, or there are several important distinctions you need to make. When we talk about election, we are talking about God actively choosing people for Himself, choosing them with delight. The cause of election lies in God Himself and the ground of it is God's grace. But when we talk about reprobation, that is, those whom He passes over, you are not talking about actively choosing, you are talking about God merely passing over and His doing it with sorrow. God says, "'I have no delight in the death of the wicked.'" God doesn't find pleasure in that. And the cause of someone being passed over does not lie in God, it lies in the sinner, in their sinfulness, in their refusal to repent. And the ground of reprobation is God's justice. So there is some very important distinctions. Here is the bottom line. If you end up in heaven, it will be because God chose you. If you end up in hell, it will be because you refused to repent and believe.

Now, let's move to the encouraging side. What results should this doctrine, I couldn't help but put the results of the election, but I decided not to do that, I thought that would be a little tacky, the results of election. What results does this great doctrine produce in our lives as believers? I love this. First of all, it develops genuine humility.

I will never forget just having really grappled with the issue of election, just having really settled it in my mind just a few years before, and then God gave me the opportunity to travel to India. You saw India portrayed tonight. Tragic country really. A billion people. Many of whom have never even heard the name of Jesus Christ. And I will never forget the night I arrived. It was in February. It was the end of the holy month of Ramadan for the Muslims, so all of the Muslims were in the street celebrating. And many of their Hindu friends were out helping them celebrate. We drove through the streets of Calcutta, basically a twelve million person slum. And we were taken to the Baptist guest house there, and we bedded down for the night. It was ten o'clock when we arrived, by the time we got to the Baptist guest house it was probably close to midnight. We had a busy day the next day and so we got in our beds.

And of course at this point, I am in a different time zone, it is incredibly noisy outside, it is a very uncomfortable place that had original, they were very hospitable people, I don't mean to say anything negative about them, but they had original World War II army cots and the wiring was all exposed on the wires. And the shower that should have worked hadn't worked in years; instead, there was a little bucket and a ladle which you could pour over yourself. Incredible circumstances.

And I remember lying there on my bed that night, with all the noise outside, and just weeping. Because it occurred to me that I was laying in the middle of a country of a billion people, most of whom have not been chosen by God, many of whom had never even heard the gospel, who will live and die, many of them, in six feet of concrete. And I just wept. Because I thought, out of all the people in the world, God chose me, and not for anything in me. I know that. You know that. But instead, unconditionally, based on His choice. He loved me because He loved me. There is nothing that will provoke genuine humility like that.

God didn't choose you because you would have chosen Him. God didn't choose you because you were bright, because you were smart enough to embrace the gospel, because you were going to believe in His Son. It was nothing in you or in me. God chose us because He set His love on us and He chose us. It produces humility.

It encourages evangelism. Turn to 2 Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:10. Paul says to Timothy, "For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory." Paul says, you want to know why I work like I work? You want to know why I labor like I labor? I do it because I understand election. And I understand that there are people out there whom God has chosen, and I want to spread the message of the gospel.

You see, election guarantees success in evangelism. Those whom God has chosen will respond. And the same God that chose individuals for salvation also chose the means. Remember what Paul says in Romans 10, just one chapter later? "How shall they hear without a preacher?" Yes, God chose. He chose individuals. And He chose that you and I would take the gospel of Jesus Christ to them, and that would be the means that He would use. He chose that you and I would be diligent in praying for lost family members and friends and co-workers, and that would be the means He would use to bring those whom He chose to Himself.

This explains, by the way, why great evangelistic outreach has occurred under the ministries of those who embraced this doctrine. Some of the greatest outreach in the world happened with those who believed in unconditional election: Luther; Calvin; Brainerd; William Carey, the father of modern missions; embraced exactly what I am teaching you tonight, and that is why he went, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that great Baptist preacher, two centuries ago.

You see, it is hyper-Calvinists who teach that we shouldn't tell others about the gospel. They reject that a free offer of the gospel is made to all. But understanding God's sovereignty in salvation doesn't at all undermine evangelism. Paul says, it encourages me, it drives me.

By the way, let me just mention here that you don't need to raise the issue of election as part of your gospel presentation. God didn't put an "E" on people's forehead where you or they can see whether or not they are elect. The only way to know in this life who is elect is if they repent and believe.

Let me just say that to anyone here tonight who maybe has struggled with that question. I have talked to people who have said, I just don't know if I am elect or not. You are asking the wrong question. The question is, are you willing to repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ? If you will do that, it will be evidence that God has chosen you. If you refuse to do that, if you remain in your sins, you continue to follow your own way, then you will give evidence that you were not elect. But God calls out to you to repent and believe.

Let me also say, that the knowledge of God's sovereign election should produce sorrow for those who won't believe. We get no joy from that. We reflect our God in this. Remember, God in Ezekiel says, "'I don't delight in the death of the wicked.'" "'Turn, turn,'" He says, "'repent; I take no delight in that.'" Christ said the same thing in His ministry. He said to the city of Jerusalem, "'How often I would have gathered you under My wings like a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not.'" Christ believed in election. He was involved in the triune Godhead's decisions, and yet He still wept over those who would not repent. Paul, in Romans 9, weeps over his fellow Jewish brothers who won't turn to Christ. Don't let the knowledge of election harden your heart.

This doctrine also provides great comfort. Back in Romans 8, you will remember that it is from this doctrine that Paul pulls his great comforting verse, verse 28 of Romans 8, "we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Here is his argument. And he goes on to say, verse 29, "For those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to His Son," "those whom He predestined, He called; and those whom He called, He justified, and those whom He justified, He glorified."

You know what Paul is saying? He is saying God has always acted for the good of those He has chosen, and so He will never fail to act that way toward you in this life in any circumstance. I understand what it is like to go through difficulty and trouble. I understand what it is like, as the Psalmist said, for the heavens to seem like brass. Where is God? He is not responding. Find great comfort in the knowledge that God, who chose you in eternity past, has set out to do good to you, and He will cause "all things to work together for good," because He predestined that you would be adopted. He foreknew you. He chose beforehand to have a relationship with you, and your trouble hasn't changed that and never will.

It promotes personal holiness. Ephesians 1, when Paul mentions the great doctrine of election, he says, "God chose us," verse 4, "God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, in order that we should be holy and blameless before Him." You see, election was a choice to direct us toward Christlikeness. We saw that in Romans 8:29; we see it here in Ephesians 1:4. The knowledge that God has chosen you ought to remind you what He has chosen you for, to be holy, to be blameless before Him, to be a reflection of His Son.

Colossians 3:12, Paul makes a similar point, "So, as those who have been chosen of God." He says, on the basis of your knowledge that you are elect,

holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, and kindness, and humility, and gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, forgiving each other,

"put on love," verse 14. All of those practical responses to others flow out of, Paul says, your knowledge that God has chosen you. And God has chosen the others as well, and therefore you ought to treat them as God's special object of care.

Finally, God's election, the knowledge of it, demands our praise. Turn back to Ephesians 1:5. Pick it up at the end of verse 4, "In love God predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will," and the result of it ought to be, "the praise of the glory of His grace." Look at verse 12. Let's start back at verse 11,

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.

Election has as its end result the glory of God. And it demands that we give Him that glory, that we ascribe that glory to Him.

Turn over to 1 Thessalonians 1. Paul makes this same point. First Thessalonians 1:2, Paul says to this church there in Thessalonica, "We give thanks to God always for all of you." Why? Verse 4, "knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you." Paul says we give thanks to God for you knowing that He has chosen you. Election to Paul was a source of thanksgiving and praise.

And finally, look at 2 Thessalonians 2, 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Paul says, "But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord," here is why we should give thanks to God for you, "because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation." God's gracious choice, God's choice conditioned on nothing in us, but only on His own grace, on His own love, on His own decision, it should overwhelm us with praise and thanksgiving and adoration.

I hope, as you sit here tonight, that you are overwhelmed with the incredible reality that if you are in Christ, if you have repented and believed, it is not because you were bright enough to make that decision, it is because in eternity past, for no reason in you, God chose you for Himself. He set His love upon you, and ended up giving you and me as a love gift to His Son. What amazing grace. Let's pray together.

Father, we are overwhelmed when we really contemplate this truth. We acknowledge that we deserve nothing from Your hand, that if we got justice, if we got what we deserved, the fires of hell would not be hot enough to pay back our rebellion against You, and eternity would not be long enough. But Father, we thank You, that solely because of Your own person, in eternity past, You chose us for Yourself. We praise You. We bless You. Lord, help us to live out the reality of this doctrine in these practical results in the hours and days and weeks and years ahead, so that Your Son may get all the glory. For it is in His name we pray, amen.

Systematic Theology