Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Only Vote that Matters

With the presidential election fast approaching there will be lots of talk about voting over the next few months. By the time November roles around, we'll probably have heard way more about voting than we want to.

On a much more important scale than politics, there is really only one vote that matters. When talking about salvation, only one person has a vote. That person is God. God elects who is saved and who is not. Many people do not like this because they think it infringes on their free will, is not fair, kills evangelism, or just isn't biblical. However, election is a doctrine that the bible is very clear about. I'll list a few verses that specifically relate to this doctrine:

Matthew 24:31 “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

John 6:37-40 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”

Acts 13:48 “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”

Romans 8:29-30 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Romans 9:10-13 “And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad- in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call - she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”

Romans 11:7 “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened.”

Ephesians 1:4-5 “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”

Ephesians 2:1-10 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

I Thessalonians 1:4 “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.”

I Peter 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Revelation 13:7-8 “Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.”

The Ephesians 1:4-5 passage is extremely important because it is probably the clearest statement in the bible about God's sovereign election of whomever He choses. Paul tells us in those two verses that God literally elects. Paul uses the Greek verb "eklego," which even sounds like our word "elect." Paul then goes on to say that God predestines (very similar in meaning to elect) according to "the purpose of His will." Notice that God doesn't elect by looking into the future to see which people would choose Him. Although this is taught in many churches, it is simply unbiblical. God chooses completely based upon His own will and nothing more.

So what are we to do with this doctrine? We should rejoice in it! If God is all-powerful (which He is), and if He is all-good (which He is), then we can trust Him to do what is right. This extends even to election. The reality is that if God didn't elect anyone to salvation, then no one would get saved. Why is this the case? It's because our hearts are wicked and rebellious against God. If God doesn't elect and then regenerate a human heart, there is no way that person would ever turn to God.

We ought to rejoice, proclaim, teach, and exult in God's election of some sinners to salvation. This is our only hope.

Election should also give us great hope in sharing our faith. If we believe that God has elected some people to salvation, then all we have to do is share the gospel and some folks will get saved. If salvation is up to God, then the pressure is off the person evangelizing. He can simply proclaim the gospel and leave the results up to God.

I praise the Lord for His electing grace! I'm thankful that God has the only vote that matters.

4 comments:

RHEA said...

Great post. I really liked the way that you explained it.

Eric said...

Rhea,

Thank you!

paul said...

eric,
election is a doctrine ,that for me, I grapple with. . .as for others from around 500 a.d. to the present. . . this issue of God's sovereignty and man's free will.

i agree that Ephesions 1 is an extremely important text to consider, paul mentions the faithful in Christ Jesus(vs1); blessed. . . in Christ(vs3); He chose us in Him (vs4); He predestined us. . . through Jesus Christ to Himself (vs5). the emphasis i want to highlight is the use of "in Christ" and the plural pronouns "we" and "us." what i understand is that calvinism and arminianism deal with opposing views to individual election to salvation or "did God choose individuals for salvation? did God choose individuals to sava or a pople to save? what i find lacking in the election passages are references to individual election to salvation. the passages throughout the Bible, when dealing with election and salvation, do so in a corporate sense (like in Eph. 1 "us"/ "we"). further in Eph. 1you have the qualification of "in Christ." Christ is "the Chosen one ", "the Elect one." just as in Eph. 1:4, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." the point i make is that as i look at the passages you have cited and the others dealing with election to salvation i find that God chose Christ, and as individuals are drawn by the Word and enlightened and convicted by the Spirit of sin ("faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word") and by free will accept Christ as Savior and those that come to faith are the chosen, the elect, the appointed, the predestined "in Christ." all the passages you cite in the blog are "corporate" and not "individual" in a salvation context ("us", "we", and "you{plural}"). what i find is that God looked into the future and elected a group that would receive Christ , the chosen one ,in freewill faith ("for whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved"). God does not desire any to be lost eternally. in fact it is His will that all (that means all)come to salvation. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus said, "jerusalem,jerusalem. . .how often i wanted (willed)to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling." In luke 19:41 luke records, "when He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it. . ." Matthew and Luke record for us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the Lord Jesus Christ's will was to save all the jewish people. Christ demonstrated through general revelation, special revelation(his teaching), and miracles to get them to believe, the Spirit convicted them of these truths, but in their freewill choice they rejected all of the testimony and Jesus wept bitterly about that. Jesus didn't believe these jews were totally reprobate.
on Rev. 13:7-8 concerning the book of life, one can have his name erased from this book (rev. 3:5)this is a most unsettling if not fatal truth if for certain this book is predestined from the foundation of the world and one's name can be erased. i use this passage as an illustration of the problems you encounter with the passages you cite for proof texts for individual elction to salvation.
Eric, i read another blog you posted about how we act like hyper calvinists by not witnessing to those in our sphere of influence, and i can't agree more. i hope the above response is received as being humbly written,text does not convey well feeling. i grapple with this doctrine of election deeply, frequently, and sincerely. i look forward to your response.
kind regards,
paul

Eric said...

Paul,

Thank you for commenting. I'll try to respond to most of what you have said. I also appreciate your humble attitude while writing.

As to the election passages, you are correct to say that Paul and others wrote in the corporate (we) not in the singular. What Paul is talking about there is simply the church. All those who are saved are those who have been elected. God predestines those who are to be saved, He regenerates their hearts, and they repent and believe. There is no reason for Paul to use the singular when he is writing directly to churches.

I agree that Christ is the center of Christianity. However, in passages like Ephesians 1 I believe it is stretching the rules of interpretation to say that the chosen there refers to Christ. Grammatically speaking, the chosen in Ephesians 1 must be the elect. The elect are those God has selected.

As to the free-will you mention, I have simply never seen that in the bible. I hear people use the term "free will" very frequently, but I have never seen it or even the concept in scripture.

I also can't find anywhere in the bible that speaks about God looking into the future to see who would receive Christ. Ephesians 1 certainly does not discuss this at all.

When you speak of God's will that all be saved, I think what is going on there is God's desire. However, His will sometimes supersedes this desire. If God really wills that all be saved, but some are not saved, then what we are dealing with is a very weak God. The God I see in the bible is completely sovereign over all things, including salvation.

The Revelation passages you cite do not say that anyone's name will ever be blotted out from the book of life. In fact, it is clear that the names were written down before the earth began.

Paul, I appreciate your comment. It looks like we disagree first and foremost on how to interpret scripture. However, it is still wonderful that despite this we can agree on the basics of the gospel.

Thanks again.