I am sure many can relate. Imagine, you are in a Bible study and someone says the word. The word everyone dreads. Election. You can hear a pin drop. Someone beside you gasps. Your heart starts beating profusely, and your hands get clammy. No one is making direct eye contact. Finally, as though not early enough, someone cracks a joke about predestination to lighten the mood. Fewww! Relief. You cannot conceive what it would have been like to talk about such a touchy subject.
Of all things, the weight of the word makes me think of Harry Potter. No one dare say the name “Voldemort.” When it comes to Christianity, there are two words that people like to ignore. These words are election and predestination. For reasons that are beyond me, the average Christian will not touch these topics with a ten-foot stick. But, why? Why are we afraid of Biblical words that describe Biblical doctrines? Are not Biblical doctrines what God says about a certain topic? Therefore, if we find the words “elect” and “predestined” in the Bible, does that not mean there are true doctrines associated with them? And, if they are in the Bible, which God has given to us to know, should we not learn and believe full-heartedly and unashamedly what those words mean? And, should we not discuss them openly and passionately?
The apostle Peter was certainly not ashamed of the word election. Notice how he opens his first letter, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” It seems Peter had no trepidation in calling certain people elect. So, why do we?
There is only one logical reason that comes to mind when I think about why Christians ignore these doctrines. The flesh. That rotten, wicked part of you that in your non-christian life, consumed you. The part of you that loves sin and hates holiness. It is the reason why you and I, as spirit-sealed Christians, still sin. The flesh is always at enmity with God. Though it seems, especially in this case, some doctrines entice the flesh to hatred more than others.
The words that usually accompany these two flesh shaking doctrines are the words “free” and “will.” Free-will is the flesh’s favorite idea of man. Is it not ironic that Christians love to use non-biblical words as though Biblical and Biblical words as though non-biblical? The will of man is that force that governs his decisions and choices. Free-will, thus, is the ability to make decisions totally free from any constraint or opposing wills. It means you are autonomous and the determiner of your destiny. You can almost hear the voice of the flesh saying, “Let us make us think we can act outside of God’s will.” It is no surprise to anyone that God has a will; and, we have a will as image-bearers of God. But, the question is, is our will free from God’s? The flesh so desperately wants us to think so. So much so, that Satan enticed Eve’s flesh by telling her she could be like God. And, what is God like? Autonomous.
Thus, when it comes to election, the flesh hates the idea that God has already chosen who He would save. For that is what I mean when I speak of election. The Westminster Confession states the doctrine as such, “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined to everlasting life, and others are foreordained to everlasting death.” The confession goes on to state, “These angels and men, thus predestined and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished.”
The flesh detests the idea that we are not autonomous creatures. But, as creatures, we cannot be, for we did not choose our being created. Autonomy is defined by Webster’s dictionary as the quality or state of being self-governing. We can see it as the ability to resist submission. When someone submits, they are underneath the will of another; they are not self-governing. Paul defines the primary characteristic of the flesh in Romans 8:7-8 as he says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
The flesh cannot, does not, and will not submit to God. Therefore, it makes sense that the flesh would hate a doctrine that teaches us we are totally underneath the will of God. The Biblical doctrine of election teaches us that God has predestined those whom He would save before the foundation of the world. Those whom He has predestined are the elect. If you are a true, spirit-sealed Christian you were predetermined by God to be saved. In fact, this teaching has been made so evident, you would have to read the Bible with your eyes closed to miss it.
Now, what bothers me is that the two theological positions – which are opposed to each other in this matter – are treated as though they are equally valid. They are treated as though either is true, and you can simply choose which one you like most. Bizarrely, the doctrines that makeup Calvinism and Arminianism are completely contrary to each other. Indisputably, I know that the God of the Bible is not an illogical God. He is not irrational. After all, logic and reason are expressions of God’s rationality and coherence. If A is A, then A cannot be B. Or, if A is B, then A is not B, cannot be true. Basically, two opposing ideas cannot be true at the same time. One must reign supreme. Therefore, with this understanding, we can do some investigation. First, if total free-will is true, then it would be contradictory to find in scripture any example of God acting outside or over-top of human free choice. Thus, if we even find one example in scripture where we see God acting on humans without their consent, free-will, as defined as total autonomy, is a farce. Spoiler, God acts freely everywhere in scripture. And, if He could not act freely outside of man's will, then He could not answer the prayers for the salvation of loved ones.
Either God saves by His choice, or He does not. Either God predestined those who He would save before creation, or He did not. Both cannot be true. And, both cannot be counted as valid. Only one is true and only one is valid. Thankfully, God has given us a plethora of passages which explicitly state that He – and, He alone – chose who He would save. Let us read a few:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
It is understandable when someone who has not spent much time studying the Bible to be ignorant of election doctrine, but for those who are well read, disbelieving the Biblical doctrine of election is dangerous and evidence of the flesh’s presence.
To disbelieve the Biblical doctrine of election not only shows tremendous ignorance of scripture, but it shows an elementary, if not false, understanding of atonement doctrine. Calvinists and Arminians alike, agree whole-heartedly that Christ’s death on the cross saved us from our sins. But, we start to disagree on how it saved us. What actually took place on the cross?
The Bible is very clear, especially in Romans 3. Christ took our sin on Himself and paid the penalty we could not pay. He not only died, but He appeased the wrath of the Father on those sins. The word is propitiation. It means to satisfy. God’s wrath on the elect’s sin was satisfied on Christ. Because it was satisfied on Christ, we do not have to face it. If we had to face it, we would spend eternity in hell. Christ literally died as our substitute in our place.
Here is the issue, though. If God actually and truly punished real sin on Christ, then in order to keep ourselves from falling into universalism, it could have only been the sin of the elect. If the sin of everyone who has ever lived was punished on Christ, no one would go to hell. Hell – the place where God’s wrath is poured out on sinners for eternity. Furthermore, God does not punish sin twice. Either it was punished on Christ, or it will be punished on the sinner. Our existence two-thousand years after the crucifixion gives us great insight.
I have no doubt in my mind that my sins were punished on Christ two millennia ago. Therefore, God, in His infinite wisdom and knowledge, chose to punish my sin before I existed. If the cross is in the past, and it was a real event in real-time, it would be impossible to have someone experience salvation, who did not already have their sin punished on Christ. This means it would be impossible for someone to receive salvation who was not chosen by God before the foundation of the world.
You may assert that the elect are those who freely choose God by their own volition, hence, God just merely looked forward in time to see who those people would be. That assertion falls apart on many levels. First, it does away with God’s eternity. If God is eternal, then He does not experience succession. If He does not experience succession, then all things infinitely are known by Him in one present moment of vision. So, for Him to look forward to gain knowledge would mean He is not eternal, and it would mean He is changing. If He is not eternal nor unchanging, He is not God. Second, to say that does not actually give any ground to the Arminian position because it still asserts that Christ only died for some on the cross, namely those who freely choose Him.
Some even go as far as to say that the elect is just a term used to describe the collective church. Thus, it does not specify individuals. It is just a term used to describe a group of people, which could be made up of anyone. Though the elect is a collective term, it is also a specific term, as a collection of anything is always comprised of individuals. God is extremely concerned with the individual. So much so, that we are held accountable for our individual sin. If one is not in Christ, they will be punished exclusively for their sin, not a group’s sin. For some more educated, I am not speaking about Adam's sin discussed in Romans 5, which we are guilty of. It is almost as though the apostle Paul anticipated this false idea because in Romans 9 he very specifically spoke about individuals, such as Jacob and Esau, when speaking about those whom He chooses and does not choose. These brothers, though representatives of a people to follow, were also individuals. Furthermore, the names of those whom God will save were written in the book of life before the foundation of the world. Individual names, not a group name (Revelation 13:8, Psalm 139:16).
I do believe John 10 is one of the most amazing passages that speaks on the elect. Though the word is not used, Jesus states explicitly that there are those in this world that are His sheep and those that are not His sheep. He says that those who are His sheep will not perish. He says that He laid down His life for His sheep. Notice, He did not say all sheep. In the context, Jesus tells the Jews questioning Him that they do not believe because they are not His sheep. His sheep are the elect.
Nonetheless, If you are a Christian, please, do not build your theology on your own intuition. Look at the scriptures and see what they say. It is plain. And, then, when you see the doctrines plainly described, do not be ashamed of them. They are God’s doctrines and God’s ways. To be ashamed of them, would be to be ashamed of God. Cornelius Van Til so wonderfully instructed us to never make the mistake of thinking that the finite mind is the determiner of what is possible and impossible. The infinite mind can only be that source of measurement. God has given us a glimpse of His infinite knowledge in scripture. We may not understand exactly how some things work, but we must believe them, trusting in God’s character that He is always good, righteous, holy, and just.