TULIP … Unconditional Election, part 2
A personal note: I am a believer and I know I have been born again. If this is because I was selected to do so, that is wonderful for me … but what about the rest of humanity? All of us are born in sin, utterly corrupted. What about those who aren’t “elect”? The perfect, untainted, sinless God-man died for the sins of a chosen special group of individuals they were not part of, and they will burn in Hell for eternity for God’s glory. They cannot EVER believe and be saved because they were not chosen. How’s that? I didn’t like this doctrine from the moment it was explained to me. It flew in the face of what I had understood the gospel message to be: …whosoever will (believe), not whosoever is (elected). How does this glorify God? That’s just my human reasoning, but if the Bible clearly spells out that this is the way God does it, then I must accept that. However, I don’t have to accept a doctrine from men if I can’t find it clearly defined in the Scriptures.
Unconditional: not conditional or limited, absolute, unqualified, not subject to, implying, or dependent upon a condition.
Election: to make a selection of, to choose (as a course of action) especially by preference.
The concept of election is found in the Bible, so anyone who believes in the Bible must address the issue. Usually, if the person is not a Calvinist, he may say, that God foresaw the person’s faith and chose Him. In other words, God looked through time, saw that you would believe when presented the gospel, and therefore He said, “I’ll pick that one.” I don’t think a choice between unconditional election and forseen faith is necessary. A lot depends on your concept of election. But this truth is not deniable by Bible believers: faith is necessary for salvation.
Even as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:4)
This verse says that we were chosen in Him, not just as ourselves alone.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood … (1 Peter 1)
Does this say that individuals are chosen to receive salvation without the condition of faith? The Bible contrasts faith and works, not elect and non-elect.
… born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13)
So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:16 )
Is the “will of man” and “exertion” here talking about “faith”? No. Faith is contrasted many times in the Bible with the "will of man" and "exertion". Faith is necessary for salvation and if you’re not saved, you’re predestined for hell. Predestined…in other words, your destination is chosen before you arrive, unless something happens and your course changes. You can’t will yourself to be saved, but the Bible says that whoever calls upon the name of Lord will be saved, so the “will of man” spoken of in these verses cannot be speaking of belief in the gospel or by faith recieving the gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins.
I love the word “unconditional”. When I think of how the Lord doesn’t require works for righteousness, I think of this word, “unconditional”. When I think of how I am accepted in the Beloved, this word comes to mind. Before I was saved, when I had not the imputed righteousness of Christ, I was not, however accepted in the “Beloved.” I was fit for wrath. So what is the difference in the before salvation me and the regenerated me? Salvation is not conditional upon works, but comes to us through faith. The difference is faith in Christ (all He is and all He has done.) I believe that this is the condition for salvation and therefore it is the condition for election.
…They stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2)
This passage is speaking of corporate Israel, not individuals ... and the same is true of Romans chapter 9. In fact, I don’t see anywhere where ordinary people are chosen individually for salvation. The Bible clearly says that certain prophets and apostles have been chosen for the specific message that God wants them to deliver, but it never says that every individual has a mark on him from birth that determines whether God will “grant” him faith or not.
I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17)
Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my elect one, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him: he will bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. (Isaiah 42:1)
We only become chosen when we are “in Christ” because He is the chosen one. I was nothing before I was “in Christ”. How can we discount the difference between being “in Christ” and not “in Christ”? Are unregenerate sinners “in Christ”? No. Then, they are not chosen. My Calvinist friend, if you are elect (and you know this because now you are saved) were you “in Christ” before you believed? The answer is no. Therefore, did not the wrath of God abide on you before you believed? How can you apply Ephesians chapter 1 to the unregenerate you? How could it be possible then that such an faithless person is unconditionally elected?
When reading the first chapter of Ephesians, it jumped out at me. The phrase “in Christ” is there at least 14 times. Every time it speaks of chosen or predestined, it is in conjunction with this phrase. The chapter ends up in reference to “His body”, the church. I submit, if you look at the idea of election and think of it as the church, it makes so much more sense with the rest of the Bible. There are no conditions upon the church. They are elected. But there is a condition to become a part of the church, Christ's body, is there not?
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. (John 1:12)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. (Romans 9:30-32)
Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Look at the sentence structure.
So, in the Calvinist mindset, “unconditional” means that there is no responsibility, no condition to be one of the elect. We don’t have to consent or believe in Christ to be elect. He will breathe new life into us, regenerate us and then we WILL believe. There is no decision card here ;~) ... no groping for God, no seeking Him, no persuasion of men, just the playing out of God’s perfect plan for individuals that He already had predetermined from the foundation of the world.
Let me say this will all due respect to my Calvinist friends: it almost seems to me that they have redefined the words faith and belief.
Believe: to accept as true, genuine, or, to have a firm conviction as to the goodness, efficacy, or ability of something, to hold an opinion, to think, to consider to be true or honest, to accept the word or evidence of.
Faith: allegiance to duty or a person, loyalty, fidelity to one's promises, sincerity of intentions, belief and trust in and loyalty to God, belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, something that is believed especially with strong conviction.
These words require something in our heart and mind, a response from us. (They are not something done to us.) Not from our will, but from our soul and innermost being. Our parents cannot believe for us. A minister cannot believe for us, and God does not ever say that He will believe for us. (Does God invade our mind with faith when we are running from Him and when we won’t listen to His word?) People must hear the gospel and believe to become a part of the elect.
Here is just a little musing … What if God, has made provision for all of humanity like it says in the Bible. (Romans 5:18, 1 John 1:2) What if there are two “you”s out there. (Two you’s is not a concept foreign to the scriptures). Two contingencies, if you will … There is a version of every person “in Christ” destined for God’s presence and there is a version of every person that is not “in Christ”, destined for hell and eternal separation from God. Your response to the Gospel determines which “you” that proceeds into the future. Is that impossible for the mind of God to hold? Must we say that God’s mind is somehow limited to only one plan for each individual person on this earth?
Finally, I say this in regards to my musing and to TULIP: God is not like us, His ways are not our ways, His mind is certainly nothing like our mind. We can't understand what it is like to be Him. I don’t subscribe to open theism, but I think the Bible makes it clear that the ways things are playing out at this time are largely affected by human decisions and response, albeit, it is never out of God’s sovereign control.
In our zeal to recognize the eternality of God, let us not speak in terms that are outside of the model for salvation that has been given in the Bible. He is the never-changing One. He is eternal. God lives outside of time. The Bible speaks of conversion as an event that takes place in real time. Let us not think that we can rise above our understanding of it in this way. We are not God! Look at all the years of needless strife this doctrine has caused in the church and it is all because we are trying to see into things eternal. We must not try to lift ourselves above the understanding and the truths that God has given us. This is a dangerous area to enter and I think God is not pleased when we try to lift ourselves up in this way. When people start trying to define the infinite, we really screw it up. Whenever God gives us a glimpse into eternity, it is to see Jesus Christ, not ourselves. Christ is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The condition for being part of the elect is being in Christ through faith.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:33)
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55)