Saturday, July 29, 2006

5. The Biblical Doctrine of Election is Unconditional

Ultimate purpose
Before we consider the cause and origin of election we must reflect upon its ultimate purpose. What someone purposes in any action tells us much about its character. A rational mind tends to plan something by first determining its purpose and then setting about the means that will accomplish that objective. When we consider the ultimate purpose of election we can see that election is all about God and not as we may like to think, all about man.

1.God's supreme purpose in His decree of election as in all of his decrees is the manifestation of His own glory. Of him and to him and through him are all things(Rom. 11:36). "The Lord hath made all things for himself" (Prov. 16:4). Everything that has been decreed finds its purpose in God himself. There could be no higher or greater purpose than the glory of God. (AW Pink) "As God swears by Himself because He can swear by none greater, so because a greater and grander end cannot be proposed than His own glory, God has set up that as the supreme end of all His decrees and works." The elect are set apart for God Himself. "But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself" (Ps. 4:3) (Isa. 43:20, 21) "This people have I formed for myself", Ephesians 1:5, 6 "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself”

2.The second way in which the ultimate objectives and purposes of election are seen is in God's purpose that His people should be holy. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him" (Eph. 1:4). This begins in time and is perfected in eternity.

3.Thirdly, we can say that God’s purpose in election was the adoption of sons: (Eph. 1:5) "Having predestined us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto Himself according to the good pleasure of His will". Prof John Murray spoke of the prerogative of adoption as the apex of redemptive privilege. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” (1 John 3:1-2).
4.Fourthly and lastly it is clear that God’s purpose in election was the salvation of a people from a condition of sin, spiritual death and misery. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:9). "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation" (1 Thess. 2:13).

Original Cause
We have affirmed that election is a choice made by God not with the ultimate purpose of benefiting the creature but rather with the ultimate purpose of bringing glory to Himself by bestowing something upon the creature. It pleased the eternally blessed trinity to purpose to go out to certain creatures in free lovingkindness. Scripture will not allow us to find the origin of election anywhere else but in the sovereign will of God. "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Rom. 9:15). Nothing outside of himself could control the will of God or force His choice. It was a free decision. The will of God could have no cause outside of itself, because that cause would then be greater and more excellent than God himself and he would be dependent on something outside of Himself. Eph. 1:9 It is all "according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself". Predestination is “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph.1:11). One divine has said that this act can be assigned to no other reason, but to that of God's royal prerogative as the righteous Judge and Governor of the world. Thomas Boston has written: "No reason can be found for this but only in the bosom of God. There is nothing before, or above, or without his purpose [which can be said to be] the cause of all that grace and goodness that he bestows upon his chosen ones”.

The original cause of election is in God's purpose only not man's works. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. (Rom. 9:11) "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 calleth". It is clear that good works and holiness are not the cause but rather the effect of election. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). Ephesians 1:4 declares "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him"— not because we were holy, but so that we "should be holy". Since holiness was the purpose of election, it could never be the cause of it. Election is of grace not works. “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Rom. 11:5–6). A solemn consideration arises from that statement – when we introduce works into election we are taking grace altogether out of it.

Faith is not the cause or condition of election. The reason why any believe is because God gives them faith. Faith is not of ourselves but it is the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:9), Phil. 1:29. “unto you is given to believe on Christ”. We read that "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48), not "as many as believed, were ordained to eternal life."
The Arminian doctrine of predestination says that election is based upon God's foreknowledge of our faith and works. In other words, God looks ahead through time to see who will accept the Gospel and believe, and who will not. Those whom he foresees accepting the Gospel in the future are those he chooses and elects to be saved. This kind of "election" is based on the condition of future faith. The Arminian can say with his head held high "God chose me, because I understood the Gospel; because I exercised my free will properly."

But foreknowledge is very different in Scripture. For instance, Christ was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). God did not merely contemplate this event passively; He determined it. God foreknows everything that will happen, simply because He has ordained everything that shall happen. The only reason God can foreknow something is if it is certain to happen, but who made it certain? Only God can make anything certain. When we read of Christ as "a lamb" "foreordained before the foundation of the world," (1 Pet. 1: 19, 20) are we to think that God merely foresaw that He would suffer and then decided to foreordain him as Mediator? No. Those responsible for Christ's death did Acts 4:28 “whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.”

It is a solemn thing to pervert the biblical doctrine of election because it tends to the doctrine of God. The Arminian doctrine of election challenges God's sovereign will and omnipotence (since God is dependent on whether man will or will not resist him).

Monday, July 03, 2006

4. The Biblical Doctrine of Election is Unchangeable

Since election is the work of God we would expect it to be both everlasting and unchangeable. Ecc 3:14 "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him." Who will change it? Neither man nor angel can change this decree, how can they defeat the will of God "who doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand or say unto him what doest thou?" Dan 4:35. Is. 14.27. "The Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?" God will not Himself change this decree, since with the Lord "there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17) "I am the Lord, I change not." Mal 3:6. Is. 46.10. "my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." The Lord's wisdom and omnipotence cause His counsel to stand. This is why Scripture speaks (Heb. 6:17) of the "immutability of His counsel". "The foundation of God standeth sure" (2 Tim. 2:19). Nothing of all that there is in the universe or things future which the apostle Paul lists at the end of Romans chapter 8 "shall separate us from the love of God in Christ" "nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:35 - 39).

The eternal character of election shows it to be unchangeable. The golden chain of redemption of which we read in Romans 8:29, 30 stretches from before time to when time shall be no longer. "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son...Moreover whom He predestinated, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified and whom He justified, them He also glorified." The Apostle Paul puts these things in the past tense because with God the thing decreed is so certain to be fulfilled that it has been accomplished already in principle from all eternity. "These five golden links," says BB Warfield, "are welded together in one unbreakable chain... It is 'election,' ...that does all this" (Pamphlet, Election, p.10). Because of the unbreakability of election the believer will never be safer than he is now, for he is already as safe as he can be. "This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing." Since election is unchangeable, the believer can have assurance of election from various definite marks. If it was not so, Peter could not counsel believers, "to make their calling and election sure," 2 Pet. 1.9,10. It can be known even to others for Paul says 1 Thess. 1.4. "knowing brethren beloved your Election of God."

Thus far we have spoken of election as an eternal act of God concerning specific individuals, centred upon Christ and unchangeable. But there is very little controversy with mainstream Arminian teaching thus far. Many would agree substantially with these points. It is however when we come to identify the basis or original cause of election that we come to the real heart of election and the eye of the storm. It is at this point when it becomes clear whether our doctrine of election is ultimately man-centred or God-centred, whether it is according to Scripture or carnal preference. The Dutch Arminians or Remonstrants spoke of election as God's unchangeable purpose, but they made that purpose conditional on man which means that it isn't properly unchangeable after all. Yet election is unchangeable precisely because it is not dependent or conditional upon anything outwith of God Himself.