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What is "Election?"
by David A. DePra
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall: (2 Pet 1:10)
"Election" refers to Godís decision to draw an individual to Christ. We cannot come to Christ until God first elects to draw us to Christ. Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. (John 6:44) "Election" accents the necessity of being saved solely by Godís grace and initiative Ė rather than by our own works, or by our own initiative.
The Bible teaches election. But we must be clear about the nature of Godís election, as it is revealed in the Bible. First of all, Godís election is never IRRESISTIBLE. I can absolutely resist it. Godís election of an individual simply means that God, in His wisdom, has chosen to call that person to Christ. In other words, God chooses Ė i.e., elects -- an individual who is not capable of helping himself, and draws them into the light of Jesus Christ. GOD must take this initiative. We cannot.
We see here that there is a difference between God DRAWING, and us COMING, to Jesus. God draws us to Christ. He must do that. It gets us to the place of choice. It gets us to where we arrive at the Door Ė Jesus Christ. But then we must COME. We must surrender to Christ and walk through the Door. If we make Godís, "drawing," equal, "us coming," we distort the entire meaning of the conversion process.
There is nothing about Godís election of someone which mandates that the person MUST come to Christ. One whom God elects retains the power of free will, whereby he can either embrace Christ, or refuse Him. Thus, once God draws, we can reject Christ. We can, in effect, reject the election of God.
So what we see is this: God elects us. We donít elect Him. But once God elects us, we retain the power, and carry the moral responsibility, to respond. We must either choose Christ, or refuse Him.
Now, while Godís election is never IRRESISTIBLE, it is, in fact, IRREVOCABLE. In other words, once God elects me and draws me to Christ, it is too late for me to go back. I have been given enough light and Truth to embrace Christ. I have crossed a bar and am now accountable for what God has shown me. I must choose.
This is important to realize. Election carries with it the revelation of Jesus Christ. At that point, I KNOW. I can never again say I donít know. Thus, despite the fact that I can reject the Truth, but hopefully embrace the Truth, I can never go back to where I was before God elected me. That is impossible.
"Election," is clearly, "grace in action." As such, it refers to the MEANS by which a person comes to see the Truth of Jesus: By Godís grace; by Godís election. Not by his own brains, righteousness, nor by his own initiative. GOD calls a person to Christ. God ELECTS that person unto salvation. That person must now choose.
Election is not our choice. It is Godís choice. But once God chooses to elect us, then we have the choice as to what to do with it. Again Ė we donít decide whether to be elected. We decide what to do with it.
Five Point Calvinism
Five Point Calvinism (5PC) teaches the error of UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION. Most books which support 5PC will offer the following statement, or something close to it:
Unconditional Election. God from all eternity did unconditionally elect to salvation certain ones out of the mass of sinful men. He did this not because He foresaw that they should believe the Gospel when offered to them, but because of His own love and purpose to glorify Himself in the salvation of those whom He chose freely and unconditionally.
This teaching Ė which is error Ė states that none of us have the responsibility, or the capability, of responding to Godís election of us to Christ. In fact, what 5PC teaches is that Godís election to salvation means that God saves the person by ACTING UPON them and imparting to them salvation Ė as a completely independent act of any response of faith on our part. 5PC would say that when God draws someone to Christ, they become saved. There is no possibility that they can resist Ė indeed, no possibility that they could even want to resist.
The Bible teaches that we are saved, "by grace through faith" Ė completely independent of our works. 5PC says that we are saved, "by election" Ė completely independent of our faith. Unless we see this, we wonít understand the magnitude of this error.
Thus, rather than the Bible Truth, which says that God elects us unto salvation, but then we must respond by faith in order to be saved, 5PC teaches that God election alone saves us. 5PC then states that AFTER we are saved by election we come to place our faith in Christ.
This is, of course, the 5PC teaching of, "salvation (regeneration) BEFORE faith in Christ." 5PC teaches that I do not believe in order to be saved. Rather, I believe because Iím already saved Ė by Godís election.
We see here that according to 5PC, the ONLY REASON anyone is saved is because God elects them to be saved. Godís election is what saves them -- Period. The faith I put in Christ is not necessary for salvation. Rather, it is the product of Godís election. Indeed, 5PC teaches that faith is the product of salvation!
We must be clear about the difference between the Biblical Truth, and 5PC, on "election." The Bible states that God elects us unto salvation by bringing us to the place where we have enough light and Truth to either embrace Christ or refuse Him. All of this, the Bible teaches, is possible BEFORE we are saved, and is intended by God so that we might believe and be saved. But 5PC teaches that Godís election FIRST saves us Ė completely regenerates us with a new birth Ė and that this new birth is the only reason we later come to put our faith in Christ.
Now we can see why election in 5PC is UNCONDITIONAL. 5PC states that if Godís elects someone to salvation, then God saves them Ė period! They only come to believe later, after they are saved Ė because they were elected to believe. Therefore, it is impossible that anyone who is elected would NOT believe.
Missing from many 5PC explanations of unconditional election is any reference to those NOT elected. But clearly, if God ELECTS some to salvation Ė and His choice of them is deliberate and foreordained Ė then the same can be said about those NOT elected: They are NOT elected because God has deliberately chosen NOT to elect them. God has therefore specifically denied them salvation. Thus, God is really electing them to damnation. This is a fact, if 5PC is true, and it does not matter how you try to avoid the uncomfortable issue.
The fact is, if you have, "an ELECT," Ė and it doesnít include everyone, then you have to have a, "NON-ELECT." 5PC teaches that the elect are those whom God has unconditionally marked for salvation. Godís election of them is irresistible. But this means the non-elect are those whom God has NOT marked for salvation, and are therefore marked for damnation. In both cases, according to 5PC, there is no response of faith or unbelief from us that has anything to do with our eternal destiny. Our eternal destiny is ALL determined by God Ė by His unconditional election Ė an election which is irresistible.
The Bible does not teach the UNCONDITIONAL election of 5PC Ė an "election" which is irresistible. No. Indeed, rather than "irresistible election," the Bible teaches, "irrevocable election." In other words, once God elects, itís too late to go back. His election is irrevocable. But Godís grace and election can be resisted. Again, we donít decide to be elected. But we do decide how to respond.
The word, "election," simply means, "a picking out, or a selection." It does not mandate that only SOME will be picked out. Nor does it imply that your response to God is foreordained. It only implies that if you do respond to Godís election by faith, that you owe all to God Ė for it was because God took the initiative to, "pick you out" of sinful humanity, and reveal to you Jesus Christ, that you were able to believe.
God decides when to elect each person Ė and election implies that God is in the process of calling people. That decision belongs to Him Ė for election speaks of the grace and initiative of God. HE must choose us. We cannot choose Him. But again Ė and this cannot be overemphasized Ė Godís election is never irresistible.
Suppose I ELECTED ten people for a certain job. But only five accepted. I could rightly say to those five, "You are here by election. You are my elect." Nothing about that statement is false. All five were "elected" Ė they did nothing to GET elected. But they still had to embrace the free election given them. The fact that they did, makes it possible to call them, "the elect." And the fact that five others refused my election does nothing to change the facts about those who embraced my election.
This is why the church is referred to as, "Godís elect." Everyone in the church was elected to salvation Ė and answered the call. Everyone in the church was saved by grace through faith. The fact that others were also given the opportunity, but refused the call, does not negate this. The church remains, "Godís elect."
Again, the term "elect" does NOT mandate that there be a group of, "non-elect," people, that is, those whom God ordains to hell Ė as 5 point Calvinism teaches. You will never find in the NT a hint that there is a group of people specifically designated as the non-elect. No. Never. Again Ė election refers to the fact that we cannot be saved until God first calls us, and draws us to Christ by grace. We cannot take the initiative to elect Him.
If 5PC is right, and Godís election is unconditional, then upon what basis does God condemn unbelievers? Notice: If man is so totally helpless that he cannot even choose to put His faith in Christ Ė then how is that same man condemned for NOT putting his faith in Christ? For clearly, those who cannot put faith in Christ cannot be condemned for not putting their faith in Christ! Yet 5PC says they are condemned.
You cannot have it both ways. If man CANNOT put his faith in Christ Ė once God elects him Ė then he cannot be condemned for not putting his faith in Christ. But if man can put his faith in Christ Ė once God elects him Ė then condemnation is possible. No other moral justice is possible.
The Bible is clear about this. It states, "THIS IS CONDEMNATION, that light has come into the world, but men loved darkness, rather than light." (Jn. 3:19) If you have ONLY darkness, there is no "rather." There is only the darkness. But once light is introduced into my world, then there is a, "rather." I am now accountable.
So we see this as the Truth: Only those God elects to salvation are in the position where they can likewise be condemned. Why? Because only if they are elected to salvation Ė and as a result can put their faith in Christ -- can they likewise reject salvation. This rejection of salvation would justly condemn them.
Notice that there is nothing here about LOSING salvation. No. Being elected to salvation isnít salvation. It is election. Election alone doesnít save me. It simply gives me the choice. Thus, through election I am in a position where I can choose Christ, or reject Him. BOTH are then possible. Thus, rather than LOSE my salvation, if I reject Christ, I am REFUSING salvation.
The Bible teaches that there is no merit to those who receive Christ. But there is condemnation to those who reject Him. This makes sense, and reflects total justice. For if there is no merit involved in receiving Christ, it means that I have NO excuse for rejecting Him. My condemnation is therefore JUST.
However, the 5PC suggestion is the antithesis of justice. 5PC would have us believe that we are saved by only by Godís election. But then 5PC states that it is just for God to condemn those whom He does not elect. In short, God condemns those whom He, Himself has marked for damnation. He tells us we have no ability to respond by faith to Him, and then condemns us for not responding by faith to Him.
The answer here is not to say, "Who are we to question God?" That is a cop out. This isnít a matter of demanding an explanation from God. It is a matter of what God reveals about Himself. If justice and love are REAL Ė and God wants us to manifest them in our lives Ė then we must look to Him as our example. But if 5PC is correct, then you and I would be manifesting Godly love and justice by condemning the blind for being blind, and for blaming the crippled for not getting up and walking. Is this the character of God? Anyone can see it is not! But it IS the character of the God of 5 Point Calvinism. And there is NO ESCAPING that fact.
The Bible teaches moral accountability. It shows God to be perfectly merciful and just Ė He judges based only on the light and Truth a person has been given. Not sometimes. But ALL the time! In complete harmony with this is the Biblical teaching of election. The Bible teaches that God must elect us. We have no ability to elect Him. That is why election is grace! But is also teaches that once God elects us, that we do have a choice: How to respond to Godís election. We must either embrace Christ by faith, or we will reject Him through unbelief.
So we say it again: "Election" refers to the MEANS by which we are called: Godís choice and initiative. His grace. This is irrevocable. But we also see that it is not irresistible. You and I must decide whether to believe or refuse Godís calling.
The Chosen People
The term "election" or "the elect" goes back to the division that existed between Jew and Gentile. The Jews were Godís original "chosen people." They were Godís ELECT. (Is. 45:4) The New Testament takes pains to show that even THAT election of Israel was by Godís grace.
For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (Romans 9:9-11)
God chose Abraham, and promised that through his seed would Jesus Christ Ė THE SEED -- come. But when Isaac had two sons, God chose Jacob over Esau. This reversed the birth order, and made Jacob, "the elect," by grace, because Esau would have normally been the one to inherit the promises. This, according to Paul, was so that, "the purpose of God according to election might stand." It was so that Godís purpose would not be accomplished by works, "but of Him that calls."
God wanted to make sure that no one would ever make the mistake of thinking that it was by works that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or any other person EARNED the blessing God was going to bestow upon His people. God wanted to make sure that it was as clear as day that it was simply by HIS choice, and HIS election, that His grace and promises were coming to pass for those who would receive them.
Can we please see three things here? First, can we see that there is nothing mentioned here indicating that, "election" has to do with God electing only some to salvation, while not electing others? NOTHING to do with that. In fact, the example given here, of Jacob and Esau has nothing to do with salvation at all! It has to do with Godís purpose coming to pass through GRACE ALONE Ė rather than human effort, lineage, or heredity.
Godís ELECTION shows that He has given us Jesus Christ solely by grace Ė because He, "so loved the world." It had nothing to do with human merit or effort. When God picked Jacob over Esau He was emphasizing this Truth.
Second, can we see that the election of Israel by God had nothing to do with their works or choice? Thatís right. Israel as a nation did NOTHING to earn or merit the blessings of God. God simply brought them into existence and gave them His blessings.
But thirdly Ė and this is important Ė can we see that despite the fact that God elected Israel that they rejected Him? Thus, we see that election is a calling TO God. But it can be resisted. Israel did resist. That is why God turned to the Gentiles.
Election is illustrated in Romans 9 by showing that despite the birth order, God chose Jacob over Esau. Esau should have been chosen because of natural birth order. But God chose Jacob. He did this to picture GRACE. He did it to show that natural birth cannot merit us salvation, or commend us to God. God has to elect us to spiritual birth. But nothing about this negates the fact that we must respond to the call God makes to us.
God Hated Esau?
It cannot be stated too many times: Election speaks of the means by which we are called: By grace. By Godís initiative. Not by works. It does not carry any necessity of IRRESISTIBLE grace, or of an exclusively elected group. Indeed, if every single person who was ever born was given a chance to receive Christ Ė and they will be -- it would be perfectly proper to say that they were ELECTED Ė that they are one of "the elect." Why? Because their calling is by grace alone. Election was the MEANS of their calling.
But what about poor Esau? Is Godís choice of Jacob indicative that God elected Esau to eternal death? Did God actually HATE Esau?
God did not hate Esau. Remember how Jesus said we ought to hate our mother and father if we want to be His disciple? Do we think He meant real HATE? No. In both these instances we are seeing an idiom. We are to HATE Ė in the sense of rejecting for a superceding purpose. In other words, we are to HATE our parents if they are competing with Christ in our lives. We are to hate them Ė in the sense that our love for Jesus supercedes our love for them. Likewise, when it says God hated Esau, it is merely referring to the fact that He elected Jacob and not Esau, as the one through whom the promise of Messiah would come.
Godís purpose of ELECTION was made to stand through His election of Jacob because God was showing that natural birth Ė human heredity -- affords us no advantage. He was also showing that human inability carries no disadvantage. ALL would be given the chance to be saved. God is no respecter of persons. He chose Jacob over Esau. He said, "Iím bringing salvation to all." You guys have nothing to do with it.
During OT times, the "elect" was anyone who was "of the seed of Abraham" Ė born through Jacob. And this election was sealed through the sign of circumcision. Then you were one of "the elect" Ė an Israelite.
Now notice: You became one of the elect through birth. Why? Not because of anything about YOU. Rather, you were one of the elect because you were an ancestor of the PERSON God chose. God chose or elected Abraham, and therefore if you were born of Abrahamís SEED Ė Isaac Ė you were one of the elect, by birth. You were an Israelite.
So letís see something here about the ELECT ONES of the Old Covenant. They had nothing to do with their own election. They were the elect only because of the one through whom they were born Ė a PERSON God had elected. Neither were they the elect before they were born Ė for they didnít exist before they were born. They became the elect once they were born, and then circumcised.
Romans states that when God chose Jacob instead of Esau, it was to profoundly illustrate that Godís election had nothing to do with merit. God even by-passed the birth order of Esau and Jacob and chose Jacob. Paul then goes on to say that all of that was so, "That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls." In other words, God elected Jacob over Esau, and in doing so, elected all who would later be born of Jacob Ė completely independent of any works they would do.
Switch now to the New Testament. The naturally born Jews are no longer "the elect." In fact, Paul says that they are no longer Abrahamís seed. He writes:
For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:26-29)
Paul tells us that through the NEW BIRTH we are all children of Abraham. In other words, through the NEW BIRTH Christians are Godís true, "elect." Why? Because Jesus is THE SEED promised to Abraham. Jesus is THE ELECT ONE. Therefore, since through the new birth we are born anew INTO Christ Ė we are then THE ELECT Ė through HIM.
Christians are ONE with Christ. We are His BODY. We are IN HIM, and HE is in US. Thus, what He is, we benefit from. He is Godís elect. The seed of Abraham. Thus, through Him, so are we. Because of Christ Ė and ONLY because of Christ Ė CHRISTIANS ARE GODíS ELECT.
Now, if there is one thing we need to see about election at this point, it is this: No one is of Godís elect BEFORE they receive Christ! No. How could we be? We can no more be of Godís elect BEFORE we receive Christ, then a child of Abraham could be an Israelite before they were born into this world. Thus, it is only once we believe and receive Christ that Christians are said to be, "Godís elect."
This is important to see, because 5 Point Calvinism states that you are Godís elect from the beginning of time, and that this election is why you finally do come to Christ. In other words, 5PC states that long before you come to Christ, you are either designated as one of the elect, or you are not. God alone does this choosing, and nothing we do in this life can change it. If you are one of the elect, the fact that you are means you WILL come to Christ. If you are not one of the elect, you will not come to Christ. In short, your "elect status" determines whether you come to Christ.
The Bible teaches otherwise. It teaches that ELECTION is Godís revelation to us of Jesus Christ. But we must respond by coming to the Cross, or we will lose everything. If we reject Godís calling and election, we are as one who was born an Israelite, but who refused to be circumcised. Godís words regarding such a one are clear:
And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. (Gen 17:12-14)
So to be born of Abraham was NOT enough. You had to be circumcised. So it is with the New Covenant. Not only does God have to draw or call us to Christ by His grace, but we have to come to the Cross. If we donít, we will be cut off from His purposes. We cannot be saved.
When God calls us to Christ, He doesnít just call us TO Christ. He also calls us OUT of Adam. OUT of the world. So in order to answer His call, we must obey and COME OUT. Again, via the Cross.
So to be one of Godís, "elect," it is necessary for God to take the initiative to call you and I to Christ. But it is just as necessary for you and I to answer that call and come to the Cross. If we do, we will see the death of the old, and a new birth into THE ELECT Himself, Jesus Christ. Only then is our election complete, because we are complete in Him.
This is the true "Abrahamís seed" Ė those who are of faith; those born in Christ. It is ALL who are born anew in Christ Ė Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, female, etc. Thus, those who are born anew are now, "the elect."
The "elect" are those God initiates to draw to Christ, and who answer that call. God can look at His Body and know that everyone in it has answered, and that ALL who are in His Body are therefore His elect. But none of this mandates that there is a non-elect Ė that there are a group of people who God has decided NEVER to call. Neither does it mean there arenít people who have refused Godís call. It simply means that Jesus is Godís elect, and everyone in Him is rightly referred to as, "Godís elect."
The issue of election became important in the first century because there had been such a distinction between Jew and Gentile. The Jews had been Godís chosen people. And despite the fact that God had made provision for a Gentile to become a Jew through circumcision, the line between the two groups was wide. Indeed, Paul even calls it a WALL OF PARTITION. (Read Eph. 2:11-22)
Part of our failure to understand election is that we donít operate from the Jew / Gentile distinction and separation. Thus, when a Gentile is called one of the elect today, it doesnít carry the same meaning or significance. But back then, when Paul announced that the Gentiles were also of THE ELECT, it was a big deal.
We must see this. The designation of being THE ELECT was a big one for the Gentiles, for they were never the elect in the plan of God. The Jews would say to them, "We are Godís elect; Godís chosen. You are not." Simply read the first couple of chapters in the book of Acts and you will find that even the apostles had a hard time dealing with the fact that the Gentiles were to be included in Godís plan of salvation.
As we have seen, in OT times, to be one of the elect, you simply had to be born an Israelite, and then be sealed by circumcision. But once Christ came, it was no longer necessary to be born a son of Abraham in the flesh to be of the elect. You had to be born again through Christ! And that meant natural birth had nothing to do with this anymore. Spiritual birth did. Thus, being of THE ELECT is opened up to all, including the Gentiles.
Now we see why Paul uses the term "elect" throughout his epistles. It was a term familiar to those to whom he was writing. He wanted those Gentiles to understand that they too were chosen Ė that they too were the elect of God Ė because salvation has now come to ALL, not just the Jews.
Thus, when we read things like this verse from Colossians, we can do so from a proper perspective:
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering. (Col. 3:11-12)
Paul is NOT saying to them, "God picked you, but did not pick others." No. He is saying, "You are the elect because you were saved solely by grace. You are the elect because you are IN CHRIST, and Christ is THE ELECT ONE. He is all and in all."
Can we please see that idea of election is really the Truth of grace? But not as 5PC would teach Ė grace only to some. Godís election today is that ALL would put away their natural birth and be born again as a spiritual Jew, a spiritual child of Abraham. These are THE ELECT: Both Jew and Gentile, whoever puts their faith in Christ.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. (Romans 3:28-30)
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Rom. 2:28-29)
The Wall is Down
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph 2:11-22 )
The above passage really defines and summarizes everything Paul is talking about in Ephesians with regards to "election." If we would read this, we would see that "election" has to do with the MEANS of salvation through grace, and the fact that BOTH Jews and Gentiles are offered salvation through that means Ė and not that only some people are offered salvation.
We must remember that Jews and Gentiles comprised ALL who ever lived. You were either one or the other. A Gentile was a non-Jew. It was that simple. So when Paul talks about Gentiles being "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel," he is referring to the fact that non-Jews were not initially included in the promises God made to Abraham. They were "far off," and "strangers from the covenants of promise."
It should be noted that Gentiles could, even in the OT era, enter into those promises. They needed only to be circumcised. If they were, they could eat of the Passover. And there were ways in which a natural born son of Abraham could be, "cut off from his people." Refusing to be circumcised was one way. Thus, even then, God was showing that the way was open to ALL Ė and likewise Ė ALL could choose to refuse it.
It is clear what God was illustrating through this inclusiveness. God was already pointing forward to the day when "whosoever believes" could enter into the promises by the equivalent of faith. He made provision for ALL Ė but only through the SEED He had elected.
Now back to the passage from Ephesians 2. Paul clearly says that there was a "middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile Ė the law and promises. But Christ BROKE IT DOWN! Why? "That He might reconcile both Ė Jew and Gentile -- unto God in one body by the Cross." Paul says that because Christ did this, "We both have access by one Spirit unto the Father."
Now ask: How likely does it seem to you that God broke down the wall between Jew and Gentile, and gave access to ALL, only to erect another wall between "the elect" and "non-elect?" How likely does it seem that Paul would describe the great INCLUSIVENESS of both Jew and Gentile in the plan of salvation, and leave out the fact that there are going to be both Jews and Gentiles on the, "elect" side of a NEW wall, and both Jews and Gentiles on the, "non-elect" side? Not likely at all. In fact, impossible.
Under the OT, you had a WALL. On one side were the Jews, the elect. On the other side were the Gentiles, the non-elect. Paul says Christ broke down that wall. Totally. But what are we to say, that a NEW WALL went up Ė that now we have, on one side of the wall, those who are elected to salvation, a group consisting of "elect" Jews and Gentiles, and on the other side, those who will never be elected or given a chance to be saved on the other, consisting of "non-elect" Jews and Gentiles? This is utter nonsense.
Paul says there was really only ONE wall as pertaining to access to God Ė the one between Jew and Gentile. Christ has broken that ONE WALL DOWN Ė giving all people access to God through Himself. Paul says nothing about any other wall Ė any other thing that would divide humankind -- such that one group has access to God to the exclusion of another.
Imagine all of humanity in one big room, with a wall running down the middle, separating Jews and Gentile. The Jews had the Truth and access to God. The Gentiles, who were on the other side of the wall, were separated from these things. Paul says that Christ broke down that wall so that ALL now have access to salvation. But 5PC would tell us that Christ merely picked up the "middle wall of partition," in this vast room of humanity, and turned it around in mid-air, and then sat it down in a way that created two NEW groups: The elect and non-elect.
Read Ephesians 2:11-22 again. Is there even a hint of ANY DIVISIONS Ė now that Christ has died? No. Indeed, the whole point of the passage is to show that there are none. Is it possible that Paul could, at that point in his teaching, left out the 5PC claim that there is still a wall of partition between "elect" and "non-elect?" Does it sound, from this passage, as if Christ died for ALL? Ė or for just a few? The answer should be more than obvious.
The message of Ephesians is that ALL "have access by one Spirit unto the Father."Both Jews and Gentiles Ė ALL of each. ALL of both Jew and Gentile are given access to God through Jesus Christ. Those who put their faith in Christ ARE the "elect."
So now we see this: The idea that you put your faith in Christ BECAUSE you are of the elect is error. Rather, you are "the elect" only if you put your faith in Christ. This is because He is THE elect of God, and you are in Him by that faith. This is now possible for both Jew and Gentile Ė for everyone.
Death and Resurrection
Those who believe in 5PC hasten to point out that no one who was of the elect in the OT needed to respond to God Ė indeed they could not respond to God Ė for they were simply born INTO the elect people. Before that, they werenít around to respond to God, or put faith in Him. They werenít born yet! This, 5PC states, corresponds to the fact that we are dead in trespasses and sins when God elects us. God elects us while we are DEAD, and unable to respond, and then we can respond only AFTER we are elected and alive. Thus, the 5PC teaching of, "unconditional election," is really saying that, "salvation comes before faith." This is, of course, complete error.
This whole reasoning misses the point. First of all, despite the parallels we might draw between the natural birth and the new birth, those parallels break down at some point. Why? Because before natural birth you donít exist. You arenít even, "dead," because you never lived! You just ARENíT. But before the NEW BIRTH, you do exist. You were born once before, in Adam. So right there is one big difference. And it is one that cannot be ignored if we are to see the Truth about election.
Think about it and ask: What is the ONE THING necessary before you can have NEW LIFE in Christ? Well, you have to get rid of the old life in Adam, donít you? Sure. You cannot be both in Adam, and in Christ. You are in Adam through natural birth, and in Christ through the new birth, but in order to get into Christ you have to get out of Adam. And how do we do that? We come to the Cross. It is at the Cross that the Adam in us is crucified, so that we might be raised to newness of life in Christ. There is NO OTHER WAY. If you want to be born again,; want to be saved, you must FIRST come to the Cross. Only then is RESURRECTION possible.
It is to the foot of the Cross that we must bring the old life in Adam. There we must be crucified in Christ. There is no other way God provides through which we can come to a resurrection. Death of the old always precedes resurrection in the new. But to be born a natural Israelite did not require this, because this WAS NO OLD! Yet to be born again in Jesus Christ THERE IS AN OLD! And this must be surrendered to the Cross.
If you and I deny this one Truth -- The Cross Ė we are going to miss the whole essence of Christianity. The Cross is central. Unless we come to the Cross there is no new life. There is no freedom from sin. There is no forgiveness.
5PC teaches that God elects you, and then ACTS UPON YOU, and APPLIES to you, the benefits of the Cross. You come to discover the salvation you have received LATER -- over the course of time Ė and to you, it seems new. But what this is really saying is that the Cross is applied to you without you, at that point in time, realizing it. Remember: You are supposedly saved by election. God regenerates you unto newness of life. Only later, and BECAUSE of your new birth, do you come to Christ by faith. Only later, BECAUSE of your new birth, do you supposedly come to realize all that God has APPLIED TO YOU because of His grace in Christ.
But we must ask: Is there a single verse in the Bible that ever hints that you and I can benefit from the Cross and not know it? Can we be crucified with Christ and not know it? Can our old life be ripped out of us, and new life be given us, but we NOT know it? Nope. Is there any place which says that we are FIRST raised to newness of life, and then later come to the Cross? Nope. Is there a single passage which suggests anything else but the gospel Truth that you and I, having heard the Truth, must by a knowing and willing faith respond to God by coming to the Cross? Nope. That is exactly what we MUST do, and it is really the only thing God tells us we CAN do. We must knowingly and willingly relinquish to Christ our old life. God does the rest.
You see, there is nothing we can do to birth ourselves anew. If you donít have new life, you donít have it. You have no means by which you can get it. But once God elects us to salvation, we know enough to bring to the Cross what we do have: The old life. And that is all God tells us to do. And once we have died in Christ, we live with Him. Again Ė God does the rest.
Now, the point with regards to election is this: If I say I am elected to salvation, and thus possess salvation BEFORE I come to the Cross, I have denied the Cross. This is error, and "another gospel." But if I say that when God elects me to salvation, I must respond by FIRST coming to the Cross through faith, then I am stating the Truth. But I am, in effect, rightly destroying 5PC. I am seeing that I do have a choice. And I am saying that election is NOT irresistible, but irrevocable.
Election is the means by which God chooses to call me to His Son, Jesus Christ. No man can come to Jesus except the Father draw Him. This drawing is election. And once God calls, it is irrevocable. I canít go back. I must chose. But I can choose to either reject Christ, or embrace Him.
Times of Ignorance
5PC teaches unconditional election and often presents it as the only sane explanation for the millions who have lived and died on this earth Ė never having heard the gospel. 5PC states that God never wanted these people to be saved, else wise He would have seen to it that they heard the gospel. According to 5PC, those millions were simply NOT of the elect. They are therefore doomed by Godís choice NOT to elect them.
At first, this might seem like a formidable argument. What about the millions who have never heard the gospel Ė throughout human history. In China? In India? For the last 6000 years? How do we explain them, in light of the love of God, and His desire that all men be saved? What didnít He get the gospel to them? What is the Biblical answer?
The answer is that God did not elect many of them. But contrary to what 5PC would state, this does not mean they are condemned. Why doesnít it mean that? Precisely because God never called them to Christ. Because they never had the choice to embrace Christ, they cannot be condemned for rejecting Him. So what we have here are a large number of human beings who have never been saved, but who have never been condemned.
Donít misunderstand, these are NOT people who had light -- and REFUSED Christ in this age. No. We are not inferring here that there is such a thing as a, "second chance." There is no "second chance" for people who are called and refuse Christ in this age. Once I am called to Christ, and have enough light to turn to Him, I am having my first and ONLY chance for life. The group we are talking about here are those that never had a first chance. They were never able to choose Christ.
There is no such thing as a, "second chance" Ė after death Ė to receive Christ. Why? Because my FIRST and ONLY chance isnít over with until I have been elected, and then have either embraced, or refused, Christ. In other words, my first and only chance isnít over until I am either saved or condemned. It must come to one or the other of those conclusions. Only then is my eternal destiny sealed. Only then am I judged. And the fact is, there have been many people who have never had any "first chance" to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now before you react and insist upon the notion that EVERYONE has enough light to turn to Christ during this life, letís look at bit at some scripture. If we do, we will find out that there is more to the plan of God than our theological dogmas can contain.
One passage on this matter will suffice:
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30)
In Acts 17, Paul is telling the people in Athens that in times past, when the gospel was not preached, people could not believe. They were IGNORNANT. "But," Paul states, "These times of ignorance God winked at." The Greek, "winked," means "overlooked." In other words, here we have a clear indication that there was a time, before Christ, which can justly be called, "times of ignorance." God WINKED at, or overlooked, that ignorance, because it WAS ignorance. "BUT NOW, " Paul states, those, "times of ignorance," are over. God commands all everywhere to repent. Why? Because NOW the gospel is being preached. NOW, the times of ignorance are OVER.
Can we see that if Paul says that those times were, "the times of ignorance," and that God "overlooked" that ignorance, then we must have what amounts to a large group of people who lived IN those, "times of ignorance?" Ė and were subject to that ignorance? Sure. But even more importantly, Paul says God, "overlooked" their ignorance.
Now ask: Is Paul saying God condemns those people? No. He is saying the opposite! He is saying that God OVERLOOKED their ignorance! He overlooked it because it WAS ignorance. Those people did not reject the Truth. They didnít embrace it either. They simply did not KNOW IT. Thus, it wasnít their time of election Ė for once you are, "elected," you are no longer ignorant. Rather, you are accountable.
There is NO salvation except through Christ. Thus, ignorant or not, these people could not have been saved because they were ignorant of Christ. But neither were they condemned, because condemnation is not possible unless you knowingly reject Christ. Thus, these people were not in either category. They were ignorant. They died not having heard about Christ. So how will God judge them?
Well, if God is, "overlooking," their ignorance, then He cannot be condemning them, for that would not be, "overlooking" anything! But neither does this mean they have received Christ Ė who is the only Source of life. This leaves us with the only conclusion possible: God will judge them based on the light they had. And for some Ė especially children Ė there is NO basis upon which to judge, for they had NO light. So they are yet to be brought to the place of accountability. They are yet to be elected and given the chance to embrace Christ. They WILL BE given that chance in the next age.
Letís face it, Paul is talking about all of the history of mankind up until Christ. Most of those people, at the time of Paulís sermon, were DEAD Ė they died, never having heard the gospel. Yet Paul says that God overlooked their ignorance. This cannot mean God condemns them. No. Rather, it must mean that they will be judged on the light they did have Ė whether that be merely the light of creation and conscience, or in the case of infants, no light at all. So the jury is still out on many of these ignorant folks. We can leave them in the hands of God. They will be dealt with in the next age.
Witness and Call
When God ELECTS me Ė calls me to Christ Ė my time is NOW. Once God elects me, I am no longer ignorant. "MY times of ignorance," are over, and I am now accountable for repenting and coming to Christ. In short, I am having MY FIRST AND ONLY CHANCE for Christ. I can never go back. But for many in the past centuries, this was not possible in the plan and purpose of God. Many were NOT elected. They lived during dark times Ė times of ignorance. God, Paul says, "overlooked" this. He does not judge them based on the light given to one who IS called to Christ.
It would be easy for us to say that adults could never have an excuse for failing to receive Christ in any day and age. The Bible does say that creation is a witness to God, as is our conscience:
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom 1:19-21)
For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. (Rom 2:14-16)
But read those passages again. The accountability, as explained in Romans 1, is always to acknowledge of God AS God. Is this the same as seeing THE LIGHT OF CHRIST? Well, only God knows the heart, and the depth of choice people make on these matters. He is judge. But here is the problem: If creation and conscience is enough to make us accountable, then how could there ever be any such thing as, "the times of ignorance" Ė let alone, "times of ignorance," that God overlooks?
Furthermore, if creation and conscience were ENOUGH to make us accountable, then why did Jesus say, "No one can come to Me except the Father who sent Me draw Him?" Why does the Father need to draw us if creation and conscience are enough?
Creation and conscience ARE witnesses to God. The Bible says so. And they provide a light which does make us accountable to a degree. God will certainly judge based on even that amount of light. But creation and conscience are NOT a revelation of Truth to the extent that the gospel is a revelation. They do not make me accountable to the extent that I am accountable when God elects me to Christ. Otherwise, we would not need the gospel, or the Holy Spirit, to draw us to Christ. We would not need to be elected. Rather, we would, in the form of the creation around us, and the conscience within, ALREADY have enough to initiate our own salvation. This is NOT the Biblical teaching on the matter. The Bible teaches we need much more.
Expanding Our Thinking
It is difficult for some Christians to even consider the possibility that God does not elect everyone in this age, and that there are those who lived during, "the times of ignorance," who had neither embraced OR rejected Christ. There is a fear built into many Christians, that if we accept this possibility, that we are making it possible for people to neglect the gospel, and still be saved in some later age. But this is NOT possible. Again Ė the question is whether God has elected me Ė has chosen to draw me to Christ. Once God elects me, my time is NOW. I must either choose to receive Christ or reject Him. MY personal time of ignorance is over.
We could argue forever as to whether adults have any excuse for not being saved during their lifetime. Rather than argue, it is best to leave it to God to judge them. However, we can be sure that infants, and children, are ignorant until a certain age. Do we really think God condemns them to hell forever if they die before they can understand?
There are some Christians who insist that God does condemn them. And there is a strain of 5PC which claims that if an infant dies that their death itself PROVES that they are one of, "the elect." To them, their death must mean they have salvation by election Ė because they agree that God could not condemn them. But there is a big problem here: Can we see an admission here that 5PC teaches, "salvation by election," rather than, "salvation by grace through faith?"
The answer the Bible gives may not jive with the traditions and demands of many Christians, but the Bible indicates that these little ones will be given an opportunity for Christ. They may not have been among those God called or elected for this age, but they will be in the next. ALL who are born will be given a FIRST chance. All will be introduced to Jesus Christ.
We find this Truth revealed in the Holy Days God gave Israel in the OT. But also find it revealed a number of places in the NT. But that is not the scope here. It is time to move on.
Times of IGNORANCE?Paul said, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30) Can we see how this one passage leaves no room for the erroneous doctrine of UNCONDTIONAL ELECTION? How could God, "overlook times of ignorance," if salvation is solely by His unconditional election? In that case, ignorance isnít even in the picture is it? And if unconditional election is the Truth, then God would need to, "overlook" nothing Ė for even that ignorance is supposedly all ordained by Him to begin with!
Paul is talking about ACCOUNTABILITY based on the Truth and light given. He is saying that Truth and light was NOT given in past centuries, and therefore, God overlooks that ignorance and does not condemn those people. BUT NOW, Paul adds, those, "times of ignorance" are over. NOW God commands men everywhere to repent Ė for the Truth and light of Jesus Christ has made it impossible for men anywhere to plead ignorance any longer!
If we would just READ the Bible, and think through what is being said, we would see that such errors as unconditional election cannot stand in light of even the most simple and casual examination. Paulís sermon is utter nonsense, or unconditional election is utter nonsense. I think the conclusion is obvious.
The Essence of Election
So what we conclude is this: Election is the MEANS by which God calls to Christ. It speaks of GRACE. God elects us. We have no ability to elect Him.
Godís election is never IRRESISTIBLE. I can refuse Christ, and thus be condemned. But the election of God is IRREVOCABLE. You cannot be UNELECTED or UNCALLED. Once elected, your time is NOW. You must then choose to either embrace Christ or reject Him. You are having your FIRST and ONLY chance to be saved.
God desires that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the Truth. He will therefore call everyone in their time. But God has not chosen to call everyone in this age Ė certainly not infants who have died, and those too young to choose. For those who died young, there will yet be the opportunity to be saved Ė not through another Savior, but through THE ONE Savior, Jesus Christ.
This explanation of election is the only one which harmonizes all of the scriptures, and the only one which shows God to be just, loving, and no respecter of persons.*
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