Do you believe that—before the foundation of the world—God “chose” certain people for whom He would grant eternal salvation? Do you believe that He wrote their names down in the Lamb’s Book of Life even before He uttered the words, “Let there be light”?
If you do, how do you reconcile the fact that this “idea” would seem to indicate that, before the foundation of the world, God willingly “passed over” billions of people so that they would not only not inherit eternal life but would, instead, be subject to His divine wrath…forever?
Well, maybe you don’t believe all that. Or any of it, for that matter. But maybe you do. Personally, I both do and I don’t.
The Religious Schizo
Yep, I’m a Christian schizophrenic, of sorts. I’m straddling the fence of indecision with this one.
I’ll be the first to admit it. I just can’t figure it out. It is beyond me. I can’t understand how God could elect or “choose” a person for salvation billions and billions of years in the past and condemn a person to Hell because they didn’t believe, which, in reality, they could not believe, since they were not elect.
It’s hard to understand. I think it is impossible to understand. Actually, I don’t believe we are supposed to understand it. But that doesn’t mean we can arbitrarily call it unbiblical, or say “My God would never do that,” or pretend as if those many Bible verses don’t actually exist.
Because they do. Yes, they most certainly do exist.
Election is a glorious truth the Bible teaches, and unabashedly so. But the Scripture is also replete with many, many, many passages that condemn the individual person for their own hardness of heart in not believing the gospel. All I can do is throw my hands in the air and cry, “Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!”
I think the apostle Paul also struggled with trying to understand it. I personally believe it is a mystery withheld from us.
When writing inspired Scripture dealing with the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of humanity, even Paul couldn’t articulate an adequate answer. In fact, if he would have followed through and actually answered this particular question, it is unlikely we would have any Calvinists or Arminians today (Ah, think of that for a moment!)
Here’s how he tried to articulate it in Romans 9:14-24:
“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”
Do you see what Paul just did? He dodged the question!!! (Shoot me an email if you think you know why.)
- God, in His own sovereignty and under no obligation whatsoever to provide salvation for anyone, unconditionally chose and elected certain individuals for whom He would regenerate, save, and sanctify, and that this election took place before the foundation of the world (Romans 8:28-30; John 15:16; Ephesians 1:4-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 1:26-30; Acts 13:48; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 1:1-2). God’s election to save certain individuals is not based on any foreseen act or response on the part of those chosen, but is based solely on His own good pleasure and sovereign will (Romans 3:11; 9:11-18).
- God’s sovereign election does not contradict or negate the responsibility of every man to repent and trust Christ as Savior and Lord (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11; John 3:18-19, 36; 5:40; Romans 9:22-23; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; Revelation 22:17). Nevertheless, since sovereign grace includes the means of receiving the gift of salvation as well as the gift itself, sovereign election will result in what God determines.
- All whom the Father calls to Himself will come in repentant faith and all who come in such faith the Father will graciously receive (John 6:37-40, 44; Acts 13:48; James 4:8).
- Election should not be looked upon as based merely on abstract sovereignty. God is truly sovereign but He exercises this sovereignty in harmony with His other attributes, especially His omniscience, justice, holiness, wisdom, grace, and love (Romans 9:11-16). This sovereignty will always exalt the will of God in a manner totally consistent with His character as revealed in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:25-28; 2 Timothy 1:9).
- God did not elect some to hell, but rather passed them by, leaving them to their own sinful preference, which is self-glorification and a Christ-less life (Matthew 23:37 Romans 9:15-15; 10:21; John 3:19-20).
QUESTION FOR COMMENTING: What do you think about this doctrine? How uncomfortable does it make you feel?
* Photo credit: hlkljgk (Creative Commons)