HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div

In Order to Live in Praise,

Believers Must Focus on Their Election

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4)

The next reason we should continually praise God is for our election—his choosing us for salvation. This doctrine has often been a source of anger and dispute; however, this is not the way it is handled in Scripture. Rather, it is a source of continual rejoicing. In this text, Paul praises God for the election of himself and other saints. Similarly, in Peter’s letter to the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor, he simply calls them “God’s elect” (1 Peter 1:1). This was a common title for Christians in the early church.

This tells us something. If it was a cause for singing for the early church and a title they called one another, then it must be something tremendously good. If it is a source of bitterness and tension in the modern church, it is only because we don’t truly understand it or have corrupted it.

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by the teaching that God chose us before the creation of the world?

It can mean one of two things.

  1. First, some believe it means God selected us because he saw we would believe in the future. They say God looked down the corridor of time and saw we would have faith and therefore chose us. However, this really negates God’s selection of us. Salvation then becomes based on man’s initiative—man’s choosing—instead of God’s.
  2. Second, others believe that God chose us based solely on his sovereignty. As God, he has the right to choose, and he did.

Which is correct? I believe the second view has more scriptural support.

Interpretation Question: What are some scriptural supports for God’s election based solely on his sovereignty and grace?

  • Scripture teaches that because of his sin, man cannot choose God, apart from grace.

Even though many boast in free will, the reality is that sin makes us a slave. And as slaves, we need someone to redeem us, to set us free. Consider what Paul says about man’s condition because of sin.

Romans 8:7 says, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” The natural mind cannot submit to God’s will. It is at enmity with God.

Romans 3:10-11 says, “As it is written: As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. Sin affects man in such a way that he will not seek God. He will not come after him. God had to take the initiative. Christ came to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10). We cannot seek him and couldn’t find him if we did—we are lost.

The Book of 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Apart from the Holy Spirit, we cannot accept or even understand the Word of God.

This leaves only one possible way for man to be saved. Salvation has to be wholly from God. Man’s eyes are blinded and his mind is clouded. His will is bound by sin, and he cannot accept the things of God. Election does not mean that God foresaw faith in us before he created the world. It means he foresaw how sin would so ravage mankind that we would be eternally lost. If any were going to be saved, God had to take the initiative. He had to choose some. He reached down into the slave market of men where all were bound by sin and saved a few.

What other evidence is there for this view?

  • Scripture teaches that our faith is a gift from God, apart from any work of our own.

Take a look at Ephesians 2:8-9:For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Sometimes this verse is misquoted. Sometimes people say we are saved by faith. No, we are not. We are saved by grace—God’s unmerited favour. In fact, this verse says that the very faith we put in Christ is a gift of God. Because man could not respond to God, God had to give some—the elect—faith. Therefore, no man can boast in their salvation or even in their faith. It is a gift from the sovereign God, who elects some to salvation.

Interpretation Question: What about those who never get saved? Were they elected to damnation?

Well, this creates a further complication. What about the lost—those who never will be saved? Did God elect them to damnation? No. Scripture never teaches God’s election of the lost. He doesn’t need to elect the lost, because our own sin condemns and separates us from him. He needs to elect some to salvation.

Certainly, this is a complicated and difficult doctrine. One professor says, “Try to explain election and you may lose your mind. But try to explain it away and you may lose your soul!” Yes, election, is a difficult doctrine, but it does show God’s mercy. As a just God, he could justly allow everybody to go to hell for their sin. But in his mercy, he chooses to save a few.

Interpretation Question: How does election fit with human responsibility?

What about human responsibility? Why do we preach the gospel if God has already elected some to salvation? This is the mystery of election. Scripture teaches these two seemingly conflicting doctrines together. It says God elected, and yet, at the same time, it says man is responsible—he is responsible to respond to the gospel. In fact, we see them both in one verse.

John 6:37 says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Do you see that? All that the Father gave Christ (the elect) will come to Christ (human responsibility). Even though they are elected, they will choose of their own “free will” to come to God. This is how we know they are elected. Human responsibility and God’s sovereignty somehow fit together. The mystery is in our minds—not God’s. I believe we fall into the wrong doctrine by emphasizing one over the other. Some emphasize God’s sovereignty to the point where man makes no-decision. Others emphasize man’s responsibility and lower God’s sovereignty. We must teach them side by side, for, in some way or another, they are both true.


Author: Godfrey Gregg

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