< FAQ With Ryan the Intern - Election #4
Thu. May. 16, 2013 09:23 Age: 4 yrs

Category: Pastor's Q&A
By: Paul Carter

FAQ With Pastor Paul - Election #5

Question:  Does God choose us on the basis of his foreknowledge that we will choose him?


This question cuts to the very heart of the great in-house Evangelical debate.  Classical Arminian Evangelical theology (think John Wesley and the Methodists) teaches that God elects people on the basis of his foreknowledge of their future faith.  God looks into the future and sees that a certain person will respond to him in faith and therefore on the basis of that foreknowledge elects him unto salvation and begins to do the work of effectual calling in his heart.  Calvinistic Evangelicals (think Whitefield, Spurgeon, Lloyd Jones and most Baptists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians) would say that we cannot know the reason for election and that it properly belongs to the hidden counsel of God’s Will.  There really is no third option for people who take their Bible seriously. Spurgeon’s favourite theologian A.A. Hodge puts it this way:

“The only question which touches the true matter in debate is, What is the ground of the eternal predestination of individuals to salvation?  Is it the foreseen faith and repentance of the individuals themselves or the Sovereign good pleasure of God?  Every Christian must take one side or the other of this question.” (Outlines of Theology, p. 217.)

Does God choose us because he sees that we will choose him?  Or does he choose us according to the counsel of his will?  Let’s take a look at what the Bible says. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he says:

5He predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:5-6. ESV)

11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11. ESV)

Later in the same letter he goes on to say:

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9. ESV)

Paul’s understanding of election unto salvation is that it cannot be traced to anything that would result in human boasting – no work, no “personal decision”, no merit or worth.  If it could be traced to any of those things then salvation would be a wage earned, not a gift given. 

Was it the Apostle Paul who invented this basis for election? Far from it.  Paul was a student of the Old Testament and in the Old Testament election was also understood as completely unwarranted grace.  Deuteronomy 7 declares:

6“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  (Deuteronomy 7:6-9. ESV)

In the Old Testament as in the New election is explicitly NOT in response to any human merit or worth.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God foresees our faith.  Nowhere does it say that he foresees that we will be smarter or wiser or more responsive to his self disclosure in Christ.  In fact the Bible says the opposite:

26For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  (1 Corinthians 1:26-30. ESV)

It seems far more likely that our election may be related to God’s knowledge of our weakness, frailty, foolishness and lowliness. Therefore, as it is written, let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.


Pastor Paul


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