Saturday, November 2, 2019

Unconditional Election

This is the third in the series.

As a result of the belief that man is born in a sinful state, another false teaching called Unconditional Election arose. This is our “U” in the TULIP doctrine. They believe that since man is born in such a sinful state, there is nothing that an individual can do in order to be saved. They say that salvation is solely the work of God, not man. After all, we are saved by grace and not works (Romans 3:24). Furthermore, they say that God chooses those who will be saved and those who will be lost.

To answer this doctrine, we have to remember that God’s Word is never going to contradict itself. Having said that; there are to many places that show that man must play a part in his salvation. Peter preached on Pentecost that those present must “save themselves” (Acts 2:40). Further, the Lord said that only those who “do” the will of the Father will see the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). The Bible teaches that we are going to be judged by our “works” on the last day (2 Corinthians 5:10John 12:48Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). If this Unconditional Election were true, there would not need to be a judgment, for God has already decided. Finally, this doctrine makes God unjust because he would be condemning some having never given them a chance to serve him, even if they desired to do so.

First, what I agree with here. The writer is correct when he says that man is not the one who chooses, but God. We do not decide one day that we are going to be saved and then God, based on that decision, chooses us to salvation. Just from an observational basis we can see the problem with the “decisional” approach to salvation. If indeed we are the ones that make the final decision as to whether we’ll be saved or not, then why doesn’t everyone make the same decision? What makes us believers to differ from those who remain in unbelief? There are many people who are much smarter, as the world counts smarts, than I who are still in their sins. Why haven’t they seen the logical conclusion of their rebellion and embraced Christ? To make it more personal, what was it that led me to make that decision nearly 40 years ago? I can confidently say that when I was saved, I was not searching for the Lord. The Lord came upon me and saved me. I had no say in the matter outside what He gave me: faith and an understanding spirit in obeying His call.

Now, to the problems. At the end of the first paragraph, we have this sentence: “Furthermore, they say that God chooses those who will be saved and those who will be lost.” This is an error that far too many Arminians make and that seemingly no amount of correction every dissuades them from that path. God does not choose those who will be lost in the way that He chooses those who will be saved. God elects some to salvation, to whom He will grant repentance (2 Timothy 2:25) and faith (Ephesians 2:9; Philippians 1:29). When it comes to the believer, God actively provides the means for him to believe and come to Christ. However, the same is not done with the unbeliever. In the case of those who will remain in their sins and eventually be lost, God does not actively keep them from believing nor does he choose them to be lost. He simply allows them to remain in their sin, a sin which by the way they want to continue to indulge in. The inevitable end of their insistence in remaining in their sin will be their damnation. So, to say that God chooses those whom He will save in the same way that he chooses those who will be lost is incorrect and misunderstands what predestination is all about.

The biggest issue with this portion of the article, however, is found in the second paragraph. Too often, Arminians will point to descriptive passages as though they somehow explain how the particular issue they're addressing came to be in the first place. And that is what this author has done here. He points to a series of Scriptures that describe the people who are believers and then proclaims that people make decisions to be saved based on them. Let’s take them one by one.

Acts 2:40. Apparently the author is using either the KJV or the NIV. Both of those translations, especially the KJV are functional. The NIV is somewhat problematic in a number of places, but for the most part it’s not all that bad (certainly not as bad as The Message or the Living Bible). The problem is that they have both mistranslated the passage in question. The word used here by Peter is a derivative of sozo, the primary meaning of which is salvation or escape. The form of the word in this particular passage is sothete which is an aorist passive subjective. Thus, the proper translation of the passage is not “save yourselves”, but “be saved” (as in the NASB ), something that makes quite a difference. See, we do not save ourselves and Peter clearly understood that issue. In verse 47 Luke makes a comment about the disciples and mentions that the Lord was adding to the church “those who were being saved.”

Matthew 7:21 and 1 Corinthians 5:10. Both of these passages are again being seen in a prescriptive manner say rather than the descriptive way they should be viewed. The entire Sermon on the Mount, of which Matthew 7 is part, is dealing with the citizens of the kingdom. It is not telling us, as so many social justice warriors would have believe, that if we do these things then God will be pleased with us. Rather, it is telling us two important things. First, it is making it clear that we are incapable of doing these things on our own. That is the point especially of the second part of chapter five when the Lord begins to make a comparison of those who are citizens of the kingdom and those who are not. Those who are outside of Christ will never be capable of doing the things that are said in the sermon. They simply lack the capacity to do so. It is in that context that chapter 7 comes into the picture. Jesus is telling us that many will think that because they have done a number of good works, that automatically qualifies them for the kingdom. However, their works amount to nothing since they have not done the will of the Father. And what is the will and the work of the Father, that we believe in the Son (John 6:29). Without faith, it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11 tells us. It is the works that are brought about by faith that are pleasing to Him, not those we do on our own.

It is true that we’re going to be judged by our works. But what exactly does that mean? If it means what this individual would have us believe, then we would have to conclude that we are saved by works. However, properly understood, we can see what in fact it means to be judged by our works. Those who are without Christ will be judged by the Law. In other words, they will be judged by the fact that they failed to observe and keep the law perfectly, as that law demands. Those who are in Christ, on the other hand, will not be judged by the law, but rather by the fact that Christ is their righteousness. In Romans 8, Paul makes the point that Jesus has fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law in our behalf. Having done so then, we are no longer under the condemnation of the Law, but under the forgiveness of grace. And, we will receive rewards according to our works. In chapter two of Romans, Paul had already spoken about the judgement and what each person would receive: either condemnation and destruction, or life and glory.

Finally, let me say something about the last two sentences of the paragraph. To say that there doesn’t have to be a judgement is baseless. The judgement will not be a way for God to let people know whether they are saved or lost. Those who die outside of Christ already know they are lost; and those who die in Christ already know they are saved. Rather, it will be a ratification before all creation of the verdict of guilt or innocence. Secondly, the idea that God would not be just because He hasn’t given people a chance to serve Him even though they wanted to was addressed previously. But let me just say here that it is ridiculous to make such an assertion. People don’t want to do the will of God. And if they do want to, it is only because the Spirit has caused them to be born again. In such a case, God is not going to turn away those who want to serve and love Him because he hasn’t “elected” them.

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