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DIVINE ELECTION

The doctrine of election raises serious problems in the human mind, so we must consider more fully what the Bible does (and does not) teach on this subject.

First, it teaches that God does choose men to salvation (2 Thess. 2:13). It addresses believers as those who are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God" (1 Pet. 1:2). It teaches that people can know whether they are elect by their response to the gospel: those who hear and believe it are elect (1 Thess. 1:4-7).

On the other hand, the Bible never teaches that God chooses men to be lost. The fact that He chooses some to be saved does not imply that He arbitrarily condemns all the rest. He never condemns men who deserve to be saved (there are none), but He does save some who ought to be condemned. When Paul describes the elect, he speaks of them as "vessels of mercy which He had prepared beforehand for glory" (Rom. 9:23); but when he turns to the lost, he simply says, "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" (Rom. 9:22). God prepares vessels of mercy to glory, but He does not prepare men for destruction: they do this for themselves by their own unbelief.

The doctrine of election lets God be God. He is sovereign, that is, He can do as He pleases, though He never pleases to do anything unjust. If left alone, all men would be lost. Does God have the right to show mercy to some?

But there is another side to the story. The same Bible that teaches sovereign election also teaches human responsibility. No one can use the doctrine of election as an excuse for not being saved. God makes a bona fide offer of salvation to all people everywhere (John 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; Rom. 10:9, 13). Anyone can be saved by repenting of his sins and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, if a person is lost, it is because he chooses to be lost, not because God desires it.

The fact is that the same Bible teaches election and free salvation to all who will receive it. Both doctrines are found in a single verse: "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). The first half of the verse speaks of God's sovereign choice; the last half extends the offer of mercy to all.

This poses a difficulty for the human mind. How can God choose some and yet offer salvation freely to all men? Frankly, this is a mystery. But the mystery is on our side, not on God's. The best policy for us is to believe both doctrines because the Bible teaches both. The truth is not found somewhere between election and man's free will, but in both extremes. W. G. Blaikie summarizes:

"Divine sovereignty, human responsibility and the free and universal offer of mercy are all found in Scripture, and though we are unable to harmonize them by our logic, they all ought to have a place in our minds."

- William MacDonald, Believer's Bible Commentary,  (from comments on Ephesians 1:4)

 

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