Friday, June 09, 2006

unconditional election: introduction

While all of the truths of the Word of God require a reverent and careful handling, the mysterious but glorious doctrine of predestination is one that demands the utmost care in our dealing with it. The Westminster Confession counsels that: “The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care”. We must have the right attitude towards election, as the Puritan Anthony Burgess wisely notes: “This truth may be handled either sinfully or profitably; sinfully as when it is treated only to satisfy curiosity, and to keep up a mere barren speculative dispute.... This point of election... is not to be agitated in a verbal and contentious way, but in a saving way, to make us tremble and to set us upon a more diligent and close striving with God in prayer, and all other duties”. Our first priority is to make sure of our salvation in Christ, only then can we truly appreciate election. You and I may have an interest in the doctrines of grace but what is that if we do not have the grace of the doctrines? We must all confess our need of a closer acquaintance believingly and experientially with this high and holy doctrine of God's sovereign grace. May the Most High enable us by His Spirit and grant to us true humility in seeking to consider this precious truth out of His Word.

In considering unconditional election, it is important to begin by defining accurately the full character of the biblical doctrine of election. The Arminian doctrine of election errs by denying that it is unconditional but it is just as possible to err fundamentally on other aspects of the doctrine of election even while holding to an unconditional election. I will seek therefore to establish briefly these aspects under 4 headings, and then to deal with unconditional election, its objections and implications in more depth under 4 separate headings. Since the letter U is significant for election as part of the TULIP acronym each of the headings begins with this letter.

1. Firstly I want us to notice that The Biblical doctrine of Election is Undeniable. However we interpret it, we cannot avoid the fact that it is there in the Bible.
2. My second heading is that The Biblical doctrine of Election is Ungeneralised. Some try to generalise away the particularity of election but Scripture teaches that there are a definite number only that are the objects of electing grace.
3. Then in the third place we will consider that The Biblical doctrine of Election emphasises Union with Christ. Christ is the focus of election and not simply the means to bring it into effect.
4. Fourthly, The Biblical doctrine of Election is Unchangeable. Nothing can change God's purpose in election.
5. Then we consider the crux of the The Biblical doctrine of Election – that it is Unconditional. Nothing outside of God can be regarded as the basis for election.
6. Sixthly, The Biblical doctrine of Election is Unsearchable. We must accept that it is mysterious and we cannot exhaustively fathom its depths.
7. The Biblical doctrine of Election is Unchallengable – there are many objections against this doctrine but none can be sustained when considered in the light of truth.
8. And Lastly, the Biblical doctrine of Election is Useful. It is full of spiritual profit for the Christian.