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Sovereign (S)election - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 1:4-6

  • 2007-08-12 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons


Over the last couple of weeks we have been studying together the features of divine election as Paul unfolds it for us in Ephesians chapter 1. I invite you to turn there for a moment, and let me remind you of what we've discovered about election from Ephesians1:4. We've discovered in verse 4, first of all, that election is sovereign. He chose, Paul says. God chose. Secondly we discovered that election is individual. He chose us, individually. Thirdly, we found that election is in Christ. He chose us in Him. And last week we discovered that election is unconditional. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world–that is, our election, God's choice of us–was not conditioned on anything in us, but rather only on God Himself. Now there's one more feature of election that we need to unpack from this passage, but not today. Today, I want us to step away entirely from Ephesians chapter 1, and answer some questions that our study of election has probably raised in your mind. I say that because several of you have asked these questions of me, and even when they haven't been asked, I know that they are out there, and circulating through many minds, and perhaps yours as well. Any study of the doctrine of election raises significant issues in any thinking mind.

We've already dealt with a couple of the biggest questions that come with the issue of election. For example, on what basis does God elect? Does God choose us conditioned on our faith? In other words, does God look down through the corridors of time, see those who will believe, and choose us on that basis? We discovered from Romans 9 and from a number of other places that God's choice of certain people to be saved is not conditioned on whether or not we will believe, but instead it is based solely on His sovereign pleasure; on no condition in the person He chose, including even, foreseen faith. We also already answered the difficult question about free will. What relationship does election have to free will? I say we answered it. More precisely, we unpacked Paul's answer from Romans chapter 9. And Paul's answer in Romans 9 to the question of free will is essentially this: Get over it! That's essentially what Paul says. He uses the illustration of the potter; and he says it is the potter's sovereign right to decide what the finished product will be. In the same way, it is God's right to make this decision, and you have no right to question Him. Charles Spurgeon, the preacher of the 1800s, put it like this, "It always seems inexplicable to me that those who claim free will so very boldly for men, should not also allow some free will to God. Why should not Jesus Christ have the right to choose His own bride?"

Those are questions we've already answered, and if you weren't here for our study of those issues, I encourage you to go online and listen to them, because those are crucial and difficult issues, and I don't in any way intend to make light of those questions. They are hard, difficult questions that Paul answers for us in Romans chapter 9. But for our time today I want us to focus our attention on several other important questions that the doctrine of election raises, or tends to raise, in our minds.

The first question I want us to deal with is this: Is unconditional election what the church, through church history, has consistently taught? This is a very important question for us, because most of us were raised in an environment–and we still exist to some degree–in an environment that considers election taboo, and looks down on this issue. And so if we just look at our own environment, our own circle, the circumstances in which we were raised, we might get a skewed view of this issue. We could put it another way. We could ask the question this way. What have the churches' greatest voices believed about election? Down through church history, what have they had to say? Well, I can't give you all of the quotes that I have come across in the last several weeks, but let me just give you a sampling from several different key church figures. Let's rewind to the greatest of the early church fathers, Augustine. In the 400s, Augustine said this:

Faith, from its beginning to its perfection, is the gift of God. And that this gift is bestowed on some and not on others, who will deny? And if it be investigated and inquired how it is that each receiver of faith is deemed of God worthy to receive such a gift, there are not wanting those who will say, it is by their human will. But we say, that it is by grace, or divine pre-destination.

So speaks Augustine. And of course, there are a number of voices that I could quote, but really, after Augustine, you enter the dark years of the Middle Ages. When the light of Biblical truth dawns again, the protestant reformers of the 1500s and 1600s all spoke with one voice on this issue. John Calvin, for example, wrote in his Institutes,

As scripture clearly shows, we say that God once established by His eternal and unchangeable plan those whom He long before determined once for all to receive unto salvation. This plan was founded upon His freely given mercy without regard to human worth.

Then there's Martin Luther. Where did he stand on the issue? Martin Luther, commenting on the second verse of Peter's first epistle where Peter calls the people to whom he writes elect, Luther says this:

They are elect, Peter says, how? Not of themselves, but according to God's purpose. For we shall not be able to raise ourselves to heaven, or to create faith within ourselves. God will not admit all men to heaven. He will very accurately count those who are His own. The human doctrine of free will and of our spiritual powers is futile. The matter does not depend on our will, but on God's will and election.

Zwingli, the Swiss reformer of the period of the reformation also taught the doctrine of unconditional election. He said, "God's free election does not follow faith, but faith follows election." The Westminster Confession very clearly speaks of God choosing those unto everlasting glory out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or any other condition or causes in the creature moving Him to that choice. The same truth was embraced by George Whitefield and by Jonathan Edwards. Fast forward to the 1800s, and to Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of that time period. I love the way Spurgeon puts it. He says John Newton used to tell a whimsical story, and laugh at it, too, of a good woman who said, in order to prove the doctrine of election, "Ah, sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards." Spurgeon goes on to say,

I am sure it is true in my case. I believe the doctrine of election because I am quite certain that if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him. And I'm sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards. And He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept the great Biblical doctrine.

Now, that's a mere sampling of so many quotes that I have read over the last several weeks. When you survey the greatest minds in the history of the church, almost all of them embrace unconditional election as what the Bible teaches. A brief historical survey like that, by the way, runs contrary to some of the modern attacks on God's sovereignty in salvation–books like Dave Hunt's book What Love is This–because the greatest minds in the history of the church have believed that the Bible teaches unconditional election, just as we have discovered it together from Ephesians chapter 1. Now, what's the implication of this? When we, as individuals, or as a church, embrace this doctrine, we stand in the mainstream of Christian historical thought. It is those who disagree whose views are novel and out of step with how the church has interpreted scripture from its beginning. That's important for us to know and to understand because of the times and the circles in which many of us have grown up. It's easy to think that unconditional election is the novelty when, in reality, exactly the opposite is true.

Now, there's a second question that I want us to address about election. And in some ways it's the most difficult of all. What about those God doesn't elect? What about the non-elect? This, we could say, is the dark side of election. And here's the heart of the issue. Why did God choose not to show grace to everyone? If salvation is of God from beginning to end, and the Bible teaches that it is, then why is it that God didn't choose to show grace to everyone, and to save everyone? Your response to that question is what theologians call a theodicy–your defense of God's ways to man. Now, of course, we all understand that ultimately God doesn't need anyone to defend Him. He is the sovereign God. He answers to no one. Psalm 115:3 says, "Our God is in the heavens. He does whatever He pleases." But God is not pleased by things that are arbitrary and that aren't righteous. Because, while God is sovereign, He is also just and righteous. Genesis 18:25–you remember Abraham says to God, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" The answer is, of course He will. Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses says, "All His ways are just . . . without injustice, righteous and upright is He." Go back to the time of the patriarchs, and Job in Job 8:3 says, "Does God pervert justice, or does the Almighty pervert what is right?" So God is both sovereign, but He's also just. Whatever God pleases to do, He does, but what pleases Him is always just and right. So in that sense, we don't need to defend God. But if by defense of God, we mean simply trying to better understand His ways from the scripture–to better understand them ourselves and to explain them to others, then that is entirely appropriate. So here's the problem with the other side of election. If God chooses some people for salvation, does that mean that He chooses other people for Hell? What the Bible teaches is that God chooses some for salvation, and He simply passes by everyone else. That may seem like a minor distinction, but it's not. It's huge, as we'll talk about in just a moment. He passes over everyone else.

In the study of theology, that's called reprobation. Wayne Grudem, in his excellent Systematic Theology, defines reprobation like this: "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." Now, let's admit to ourselves that this is a very difficult issue. It's a very difficult issue for us to reconcile with the God that we know and love, and yet there are a number of texts that say just this. Romans chapter 9:22 speaks of "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction." Romans 11:7 says, "What Israel was 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." Now, based on just a cursory reading of those texts, or perhaps even as you've heard me read them, there are those who believe that God actively chooses people for Hell in the same way that He chooses people for Heaven–for salvation. They believe that God works unbelief in the hearts of the lost in the same way that He works faith and repentance in the hearts of the saved. But that is not what the Bible teaches. When we compare election–God's gracious choice of some to salvation–with reprobation, there are some key distinctions. They are dissimilar in some very important ways. Let me give them to you.

The differences between election and reprobation, Number 1. In election, God actively chooses; in reprobation, He passes by. Now there are a number of texts that make this point. Let me just give you a small sampling. Psalm 81:12, "So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, [God says of His people Israel] to walk in their own devices." God didn't work unbelief in their hearts. He didn't make them sin. Instead, He let them go the way they wanted to go. He let them walk in their own devices. That's what it means by passing by. It's not that God actively does something to the hearts of unbelievers to cause them to reject the gospel. It means God simply lets them do what they want to do. In Acts 14:16 Paul, in his first missionary journey, is preaching a message and he says this, "In the generations gone by [God] permitted all the nations to go their own ways." In other words, God simply let them alone. He passed them by. And He let them do exactly what it was they wanted to do. Paul makes this clear in Romans chapter 1. Three times in Romans 1 he drives this point home. Turn there for a moment. Romans chapter 1, and he's talking about God's wrath revealed against sinful man. He explains how this happens–how the degeneration occurs. Verse 24, "Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity." Verse 26, "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions." Verse 28, "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind." In every case, it's not that God was working something in their hearts. He simply let them alone. He let them pursue what was in their heart to do. He passed them by. Understand that in election, God actively chooses some for eternal life. In reprobation, He simply lets the sinner go down the path he wants to go down. He leaves him alone. There will not be a single sinner in hell that wanted heaven. God simply lets the sinner choose his way.

There's a second distinction that's important to understand between election and reprobation. In election, God chooses with great delight. In reprobation, He passes over with sorrow. When God chooses some, they are the delight of His heart. He delights in that choice, in making them His own, and displaying His grace. When He passes over the rest, He does so with great and deep and profound sorrow in His heart. Perhaps no passage makes this as clear as Ezekiel 33:11 where God says to the prophet Ezekiel, "'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'" You can just sense the great beat of the heart of God. It's in sorrow that He allows men to pursue their own way. Delight in election. Sorrow in passing over the rest.

There's a third distinction between election and reprobation that's important to understand. In election, the cause for God's choice lies in God alone. In reprobation, the cause for the sinner's rejection lies in the sinner himself. This is very important to understand. The reason sinners are condemned in scripture is always, always, always because of their sin and their unbelief. God never says you're going to eternal judgment because I didn't choose you. He always says you're getting what your choices deserve. Turn to Luke chapter 13. You see this in the ministry of Jesus. Luke 13:34. You remember the scene. Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem. He says in verse 34, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, [and watch this] and you would not have it!" It's your choice. You wouldn't have it. Jesus makes the same point in the gospel of John in John chapter 5 as He's speaking to those who hated Him and His ministry. John 5:39. He says, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them [that is in the scriptures] you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me." Now watch verse 40. "And you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." The problem is, you and your choice. You're unwilling to come. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10 Paul is dealing with the future–with the man of sin who will come and with the deception that will accompany him, and he says this in 2 Thessalonians 2:10. He speaks about those who perish, and then he says they perish "because [here's the reason] they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved." What I want you to see is that in election, God chooses and that choice lies in Him alone, but in reprobation, the cause is always the sinner and his sin, and his rebellion. It is the fact that he would not have it, that he was unwilling to come to Christ, that he did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. Very important to understand the cause for the sinner's rejection lies in the sinner himself, and in his refusal to repent and come to Christ.

There's a fourth distinction that's very important between election and reprobation. In election, the ground is God's grace. In reprobation, the ground is God's justice. One has to do with grace; the other has to do with justice. Here's 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 of your many sins and acts of rebellion against God, and your absolute refusal to bow the knee to Jesus Christ. That's what the Bible teaches. Now this is a hard truth. This is a difficult truth. Even though we understand those distinctions it's still hard for us, and it should produce sorrow in our hearts, just as it does in the heart of God. But, in the end, listen carefully, in the end, accepting the doctrine of election and its darker side, reprobation, come down to faith. It is an issue of faith. I can understand intellectually how it brings God greater glory to save only some and to pass by the rest. I can understand that intellectually–the basic ideas of it. But I can't say that it all makes perfect sense to my finite mind, and that it satisfies my own innate sense of what's right. You can't wrap it all up and tie it in a nice little bow in a neat little package. So the question for each of us is this. Am I willing to believe what God has clearly revealed about Himself and His ways and His word, and to trust Him? Or am I going to rewrite the Bible and ignore the part about election and reprobation, not because I basically don't understand it, but because I don't like it and it doesn't make sense to me? Or am I going to stand with Abraham and say, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" I know God will only do what's right. Even if I can't fully understand it, this is what He says, and it must be right. Can we affirm with Moses, "All His ways are just, without injustice, righteous and upright is He."

There's another question we need to answer that the doctrine of election raises. A third question, and that is, how does election reconcile with God's love for all mankind? That's a valid question, and one several of you have raised to me. How does election reconcile with God's love for all mankind? John 3:16 puts it so clearly, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Now there are some, especially younger believers, who come to understand and embrace God's sovereignty in salvation, who insist that God cannot love the non-elect. That God never loves those who will never repent. Well, it's certainly true that God hates the sinner. Many passages make that clear. Psalm 5:5 will do to make the point. "You hate all who do iniquity. The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit." Now, you can try to dodge what those verses teach, if you want, by saying something like, and I've heard this often, God loves the sinner but hates the sin. Well, that's not entirely true. Why does God condemn the sinner to hell and not just the sin? That passage couldn't be clearer. God hates all who do iniquity. You see, the truth is, and what the Bible teaches, is that God both loves and hates the sinner at the same time. Love and hate are not mutually exclusive. R. L. Dabney, the great American theologian, uses George Washington and his interaction with Benedict Arnold to illustrate the point. You've undoubtedly heard the story from history about Benedict Arnold and his treason against the Revolutionary Army. What you may not have known is that Washington and Arnold were friends. In fact, some would say, even close friends. And when Washington learned of Arnold's treason, R. L. Dabney makes the point that, at that moment, Washington both loved Arnold as his friend and long-time companion, and at the same time, he hated him for what he had done to the revolutionary cause. Love and hate are not mutually exclusive, and although the scripture clearly says that God hates the sinner–we just saw it in Psalm 5–it also is equally clear that God loves all sinners. That His love is as universal as the sun and rain.

Turn to Matthew chapter 5. Matthew 5:43. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount sets out to correct a number of misunderstandings the Jewish people had, and here in verse 43 He says, "You have heard that it was said, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy." Now notice that love your neighbor is in all caps. That means it's a quotation from the Old Testament. That's what God had said. Well, they had added–they'd put a little spin on that and added–the little addendum. Well if you just have to love your neighbor, then it's okay to hate your enemy. Jesus said, "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Now, what argument does Jesus make as to why we ought to love our enemies and not just our neighbor? He uses God Himself. Look at verse 45. Love your enemies "so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven," because He loves His enemies. And look at the examples He uses. "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good." Think for a moment, if God didn't love His enemies. What an odd world it would be if every morning, the sun came up only over the houses of those who love Him, and it stayed dark, pitch black, over the houses of those who didn't. No, that's not how God is. God loves His enemies. Look at the next example He uses. He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Imagine for a moment if God didn't love His enemies. And all those people who are your neighbors that don't love God–God didn't send any rain on their yards. So, dotting your neighborhood were a few yards here and there that were beautifully green and manicured because God sent rain there, but the yards next door got no rain. The earth would be a scorched mess. But God isn't like that. God loves His enemies. He loves even those who reject Him. Verse 46.

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore . . .be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Love your enemies like He does. In Mark chapter 10 Jesus interacts with a man we call the rich young ruler. And in Mark 10:21 we're told that Jesus looked at this rich young ruler, and "Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, 'One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.'" Now Jesus doesn't demand this of every person who comes to Him. But He was putting His finger on the issue in this man's life. He was putting His finger on the issue that this man refused to repent of, and that was his terrible greed. And we're told, "at these words, [the rich young ruler] was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property." Now there is no indication that this young man ever came to faith in Jesus Christ. And yet we're told here in this account that Jesus loved him.

Nowhere is the universal love of God for all mankind more memorably expressed than in the first verse you probably learned from the Bible, John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." There are those who believe in election who would go so far as to say that you should never say to a sinner, "God loves you." They argue that God loves only the elect, and it's impossible to know if any sinner is elect. Even men that we would respect and read, men like A.W. Pink. They have to do verbal gymnastics around John 3:16. You know what Pink says in John 3:16? He says the world there means the world of believers. God loves the world of believers. Listen, you can believe in divine election and the sovereignty of God in salvation, and still believe that God loves the entire world and every human being in it, because that's what the Bible teaches.

No one would accuse John Calvin of being weak on election. Listen to what Calvin said about John 3:16. "Two points are distinctly stated to us. Namely that faith in Christ brings life, and that Christ brought life because the Father loves the human race and wishes that they should not perish." Calvin continues, "Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all, but the elect alone are those whose eyes God opens that they may seek Him by faith." You see he's holding those two truths in balance. God loves all, and He opens and extends the invitation of salvation to all, but only those whom God has chosen will seek Him by faith.

So, God loves all people. But that does not mean that He loves all the same way and with the same intensity. In fact, the scripture makes it clear that God loves those whom He has chosen with a special love. There are a number of passages. Let me just give you two examples. First John 3:1. John, in his first epistle says, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, [believers] that we would be called children of God." Here is this great special love, to be called children of God. To be His children. In John 13:1, the apostle John tells us that on that night before our Lord's crucifixion, "Jesus, knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, [listen to this] He loved them to the end." Now when you hear that in English, you might think that just means He loved them until His death. But in the Greek text, it's clear that's not what He's saying at all. "To the end" literally means completely, comprehensively, perfectly. Jesus loved His own with a perfect, complete, comprehensive love.

So understand that God loves all mankind. There's no question about that. But He loves His own with a special, electing, saving, adopting love. Now think for a moment, believer, about yourself. God loves you. But He doesn't just love you with that general love that He loves all of His creatures with. He loves you far and away beyond that. He loves you with a special, electing, saving, adopting love–set upon you in eternity past because of who He is.

There's a fourth question that election raises in the minds of some. They may not put it this way, but this is how I'll put it for our purposes. Does God have two different wills? Now what do I mean by that? Clearly, scripture indicates that God wills certain individuals to life. He elects certain individuals to life, to eternal life. We've seen that in Ephesians chapter 1. That's God's will. But scripture also teaches that God wants all to be saved. Take for example 1 Timothy 2:4. There, Paul says, God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Or take 2 Peter 3:9. God is "not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." Now think about those concepts for a moment. On the surface, there appears to be some conflict within God Himself. Some conflict within the will of God. Because on the one hand, He wills for certain ones to be saved. On the other hand, He wills for all to be saved. Now, what's going on here? Well you have to understand that whenever scripture speaks of God's will, it is primarily referring to one of two Biblical concepts. It is either referring to God's moral will–what theologians call His will of precept, or His will of command–that's the Bible that you hold in your hand. That's God's revealed moral will. That's His will of precept or command. He's commanded these laws. He's laid them down for His creatures, and they demand obedience. But we all often disobey His revealed will. His will of precept, or His will of command. It's similar to the decrees of human monarchs, to the laws of Texas, or the laws of the United States. God's laid down His revealed will there in the Bible. But it's often rebelled against–it's often disobeyed. The second aspect of God's will in scripture is God's sovereign will, or as theologians call it, His will of decree. This is God's eternal, unchangeable, immutable plan. It is always carried out in human history. It always happens. So you have God's revealed will, which tells us how things ought to be, and then you have God's sovereign will, which dictates exactly how things will be. Now, if that's a little fuzzy in your mind, let me take you to the best Biblical example of it. It's the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Turn to Acts 2. In Acts 2, Peter, of course, is preaching his sermon on the day of Pentecost, and he makes reference to this very concept. Acts 2:23, "This Man, [that is Jesus Christ] delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God." There is God's sovereign will. God determined in eternity past that Jesus Christ would die on the cross. It's going to happen. It's a pre-determined plan, and nothing could stand in its way. But then, notice what he says in the rest of the verse. "You [that is you Israelites] nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death." Now, what does God's revealed will say about the death of Christ? It was murder. Even Pilate himself said what? "I find no fault in this man." He's not guilty of anything deserving of death. And so the death of Christ was contrary to the revealed will of God–you shall not murder–but the death of Christ was perfectly in line with the sovereign will of God, that plan that determined in eternity past exactly what would happen. Now, we can understand this, because we experience these two kinds of wills. The will of desire, and the will of purpose. We can will to do, and do something that is painful, and that we really don't desire, in order to bring about a result that we desire even more. This happens to me almost every morning of my life, and it probably happens to you too. When the alarm goes off, as it did at 5:30 this morning, what I really desire at that moment is what? More sleep. I want more sleep. But I also want to spend time in the Word and in prayer, so I get up. Now, what happened there? Do I have two wills? Well, I have two desires. But when those desires are in conflict, I choose which of those desires is more important to me at the time. Most mornings, it's the desire to spend time in the Word and get up. Some mornings, to be honest with you, it's the desire to sleep. But I choose between those two desires.

Now let me take a more serious example. There's a choice that many make when they are faced with cancer, to undergo surgery, and chemotherapy, and radiation. The treatments for cancer often cause great pain and suffering in order to prevent the more serious illness and even death. So, listen carefully. Our desire, or will, for long-term life and health overcomes our desire or will to be comfortable and relatively pain-free. This is what happens when it comes to election. In the same way, both Arminians and Calvinists believe that God desires for all to be saved. No one questions that. It's clear in scripture. God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. But they both believe, both groups, that there is another desire in God that is more important. Because not all will in fact be saved. So something in God, some desire in God, is more important than His desire that all be saved. What? Well, for the Arminian, the desire of God that's greater than all be saved is that He protect your free will. He doesn't want to violate your free will, so as much as He desires you to be saved, He's going to leave you alone because He doesn't want to violate your free will. For the Calvinists, what's greater than His desire to save all is His own glory. That's exactly what Paul says in Romans 9. He does it for His own glory. Now this is radical to us. Let's just admit it, because we are so used to being man-centered, and to us being the center of the universe, that this is a huge paradigm shift to think that God does something as dramatic as this for His own glory. And yet, that is exactly what the scriptures teach, and it comes back to faith again doesn't it? Can you trust God? Can you trust Him to do what's right? "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?"

There's one final question our study of election may have raised in your mind, and it's a very important question. What effect does evangelism–or let me say it differently–what effect does election have on evangelism? Some people fear that teaching people about God's sovereignty in election will absolutely kill all evangelism. And it's true that in the history of the church, and even today, there are some people who misunderstand the scripture and downplay their responsibilities to evangelize. They refuse to believe, for example, that the gospel can be freely offered to all, and that all men can be invited to believe in Jesus Christ. The grossest example of this I've ever come across is in William Carey's biography. By the way, if you haven't read William Carey's biography by S. Pearce Carey, you have to read it. It's a compelling biography of the father of modern missions. But in that biography, the biographer tells the story that when Carey, in the late 1700s, suggested in a pastor's gathering, now, they're in a pastor's meeting. He suggested that they as pastors had an obligation to help evangelize the nations. An older minister that was there brushed Carey's comments aside with these words, "Young man, sit down. When God wishes, or when God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without consulting you or me." That position is called hyper-Calvinism. When you believe that your duties and responsibilities are somehow obviated by election, you have crossed the line from embracing God's sovereignty to becoming hyper-Calvinistic, and to sinning against the truth of God. But listen carefully. The truth is a Biblical understanding of election lies behind most of church history's greatest evangelistic efforts. Look at the ministry of the reformers, for example. They saw a revival of the true gospel sweep across Europe. And their ministry was built on the foundation of total depravity and unconditional election, even as I read the quotes earlier. What about the Great Awakening? The men who preached and saw the Great Awakening believed in this doctrine. Men like Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield, and David Brainerd. The father of modern missions, William Carey, who started the modern missionary movement, believed in unconditional election. As did Spurgeon, the great preacher of the gospel and evangelist of 19th century Britain. So how does election affect evangelism? It encourages and strengthens it. Why? Because, we know that the elect will respond. Remember what Jesus said in John 10? "My sheep hear My voice, and will follow Me." Turn to Acts 13. You see this in the first missionary journey of Paul. In Acts 13 Paul, on this first missionary journey, shows up in Antioch of Pisidia. And he shares the gospel over a couple of week periods, and notice what we read in verse 48. Acts 13:48. After his ministry there of a couple of weeks, "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." You see Paul shared the gospel because he knew there were those who would respond. You see the same thing over in Acts 18. In fact, what's remarkable about Acts 18 is that in Acts 18:9, God uses election as a motivation with Paul to evangelism. Acts 18:9. Paul is in Corinth. He's faced some persecution, so the Lord, verse 9, "said to Paul in the night by a vision, 'Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you [why?] for I have many people in this city.'" You know what God was saying to Paul? I want you to stay here. I want you to stand firm. I want you to preach the gospel because there are people here whom I have chosen, who will respond. God Himself uses election as an encouragement to evangelism.

In fact, let me say this. It is a flawed understanding of election that lies behind most of today's seeker-sensitive approaches to evangelism. Rick Warren, the undisputed leader of the seeker-sensitive movement today, wrote in his book The Purpose Driven Church these words, "It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart." And he says the most likely place to start is with that person's felt needs. Find out what a person's felt needs are, and you can lead them to Christ. Now that betrays a gross misunderstanding of how God accomplishes the work of salvation. If you believe that you can manipulate a person into faith, then you will stop at almost nothing to make that happen. That, by the way, is why we don't have eighteen verses of Just As I Am after each service. I try to offer the gospel. I want to. I want to urge people to repent and believe, and we have that opportunity available, but we don't believe we have to set the mood to make that happen. If you believe that the sinner is dead and unable to respond to God until God brings life and faith and repentance, then what are you going to do? Well, you're going to start by praying for that person. By the way, let me just stop here and say that understanding unconditional election is the only basis for praying for people to be saved. If you really believe that God is just waiting for people to respond, why would you ask God to do anything? Think about that for a moment. Praying for salvation means that God can do something to effect it. And He can. So you pray. But you do more than pray. You're going to share the gospel. Listen carefully. Because the same God Who ordains the ends–election unto salvation–also ordained the means through which the elect will actually come to faith.

Turn to Romans chapter 10. Last week we looked at Romans 9, where Paul sets forth election in all of its beauty, but in chapter 10 he tells us how that affects evangelism. How does election affect evangelism? Romans chapter 10:14.

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?

Verse 17. "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." The same God who ordained the ends, election in Romans 9, ordained the means in Romans 10, and that is the preaching of the gospel. They can't be saved–the elect cannot be saved–apart from the message of the gospel preached by faithful people. You see it in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. Two Thessalonians 2:13, Paul says, "We . . .give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation." How did He effect that? Verse 14. "It was for this He called you through our gospel." Paul says God chose you but the way He brought you to faith was through the preaching of the gospel that came from us. God uses means. I love the way A.A. Hodge puts it in his theology. I came across this this week. He says,

If God has eternally decreed that you should live, what's the use of your breathing? If God has eternally decreed that you should talk, what is the use of your opening your mouth? If God has eternally decreed that you should reap a crop, what's the use of sowing seed? If God has eternally decreed that your stomach should contain food, what's the use of your eating?

Think about that over lunch. He goes on to say, "Of the many fools in the United States," that's an interesting line, "there is not one absurd enough to make the same eternal decree an excuse for not chewing his food, or for not voluntarily inflating his lungs." No, God uses means. Preaching the gospel is indispensable in effecting the salvation of those God has chosen. So you and I can, we must, share the gospel and we must pray. And we must keep on doing it, because you and I may be the tool God uses to draw those whom He's chosen to Himself. I love 2 Timothy 2:10. Paul went through a lot in his ministry. He endured a lot of hardship, and listen to why he did it. Verse 10 of 2 Timothy 2. "For this reason I endure all things [it is] for the sake of those who are chosen, [in order that] they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, and with it eternal glory." Paul says listen, you want to know why I've gone to the ends of the earth? You want to know why I endure everything I endure? It's because I know God has chosen certain people, and He's going to use me as an instrument to bring them to Himself.

By the way, let me just say that you don't need to share the issue of election as part of sharing the gospel. God didn't put an E on everybody's forehead so we could know–so you can't know whom God has chosen. The person you're talking to can't know whether or not they're chosen. The only way we can know in this life who is chosen is if they will repent and believe. Let me say, by the way, this morning, there are people who really struggle with, you know, am I elect? If you're sitting there this morning struggling with "am I elect?" let me just ask you this question. Have you ever come in your life to the point where you were willing to repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ? If that's true, then you are elect. And let me say if you've never come to that point, but you're willing this morning to understand your sin, to turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, to embrace Him, if you're willing to do that this morning, then you, too, are elect. That's the only question to ask. What an amazing truth. We have been chosen by God for life.

Now, I haven't adequately answered all of these questions. Let me recommend a couple of resources if you're interested in studying a little more about this. The bookstore may be out at this point, because I didn't warn them that I was going to do this, but we will get these books in if we're out. A couple of books to consider. One is Chosen By God by R.C. Sproul. Another is Chosen For Life by Sam Storms, and if you're not into reading but you enjoy listening to messages, there's a great audio series Grace To You carries, by John MacArthur, called Chosen From Eternity. If you want to deal with this a little more, understand it a little more deeply, I encourage you to consult those resources.

Why do we deal with election? Why does Paul begin Ephesians with election? It's because if you can get your arms around God's electing love for you, then it will ignite your love for Him. Why do we love God? Because He first loved us.

Let's pray together. Our Father, thank You for Your word. Thank You for Your love, Your eternal, special, electing, saving, adopting love for Your own. Father, we are overwhelmed by it. I pray that You would make us faithful. Faithful messengers of that truth in this area, in our lives, in the lives of the people we know. Father, may we speak the gospel because you have many people in this city. Father, make us faithful until Christ comes, and ignite our own love for Jesus Christ, and for You, Father, as we plumb the depths of Your eternal, unconditional love for us. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.