Having recognized the sovereign right of God over His creation and having assigned to Him a rational purpose in all His plan, the truth contained in the doctrine of election follows in natural sequence as the necessary function of one who is divine. When there arises unbelief and resistance in the human mind against the tenet of divine election, it is engendered only because this larger conception of divine necessity has not been considered. It is hard, indeed, for men who have adopted the idea that they are independent of God and therefore in no way related to Him—the view of all who are unsaved—to receive any truth relative to the sovereign rights of a Creator over His creatures.
The principle underlying divine election seems to be evident in all God's creation, but is not resented usually when it operates outside the limited field of a destiny for human beings. A principle of selection is everywhere to be seen, which principle cannot be attributed to mere accident, chance, or blind fate. That any man is born at all when he might have been forever nonexistent must be an act of selection on the part of divine sovereignty. That a man is born in one age of privilege rather than another of less privilege can be no matter of mere chance. That one has been born of godly parents rather than in pagan darkness is a divine determination. That one inherits wealth, culture, or position in place of painful limitations, that one has mental gifts and competency must not be a human arrangement; yet these very conditions, being wrought of God, all partake of the nature of divine selection. The great covenants of God are divine promises of selective benefits to favored groups of people. This again is of the nature of divine election. Record is made of "elect angels" (1 Tim. 5:21). Such, indeed, would be God's right to do with His creatures as He may choose. It is both true and reasonable that God has not caused anything or any being to exist without having a worthy purpose to realize through that creation. That some of His creation serve one purpose and some another is itself a matter of divine choice. Human resentment arises only when it is indicated that some are more favored than others respecting destiny. Were God thought to be an ungoverned tyrant, it could be allowed that He might do as He pleases with His own, whether this prove right or wrong; but when it has been disclosed that He is infinitely righteous and holy and that He is actuated by infinite love, difficulty will arise in the natural mind over how God can have elect people for whom He achieves more than He does for others or how some can be blessed while others are not.
There is no doubt whatever about the Bible teaching that God has chosen an elect people; but the contemplation of all that is involved in this truth reaches out into realms of existence that can be known only to God, far removed as they are from the human sphere of understanding. Being thus limited, it ill becomes the earth dweller to sit in judgment on God respecting divine election. God's essential character has been disclosed and He can be trusted where men cannot possibly understand. He is infinitely wise, infinitely holy, and infinitely just and good. When exercising His sovereign right in election, He does not transgress His character or deny Himself. Since He does elect some for special glories and destinies and since He proves infinitely right in all He does, it follows that His eternal elective purpose must be as righteous as He is righteous.
1. Israel. Throughout the Olivet Discourse Christ refers to Israel as the elect. The most casual contemplation of this discourse (Matt. 24:1-25:46) will disclose the truth that only Israel is in view as the elect of God. Similarly, a revealing Scripture from Paul (Romans 9:1-10:4) sets forth the truth respecting Israel's election. Too often this portion of Scripture has been applied to believers today who comprise the Church. The salient facts in the case which make it impossible, however, are that in Israel's election there is a national objective and that an individual Jew, though belonging to the elect nation, did not have any personal election assured him. God is thus sovereign in His dealings with Israel. He disregards the enmity and hatred of the nations as they resent the fact of Israel's election. The election is made a public matter, indeed, for Jehovah selects, preserves, and defends this one people out of all the nations of the earth. They are His "chosen people" above all the nations and chosen specifically for His glory. In relation to Israel's election, then, God acts in sovereign authority. All other nations must eventually take a subordinate place. During Israel's kingdom on earth, accordingly, the nation or peoples that will not serve Israel shall perish (Isa. 14:1-2; 60:12). No true interpretation of the Old Testament is possible if the fact of Israel's national, sacred, eternal election be rejected.
2. The Church. As certainly as Israel's election has been public and national, so certainly the Church's election is private—hence for them alone to appreciate—and individual. So wide a difference must obtain between the issues involved in a public, national election and a private, individual election that little in common exists between them. Respecting the private character of the individual's election, it may be indicated that there is no more dangerous or injurious practice in the application of God's Word than that of displaying the truth of personal election before the unsaved. It neither belongs to them nor does it allude to them. Its presentation to them can only create resentment, as it does, and blind their minds respecting the one and only truth which God now addresses to them, namely, personal salvation by grace alone through Christ Jesus. The message to the unsaved, regardless of the deep theological issues which are latent in it, is simply, "Whosoever will may come." When any do come and are saved, they may then glory in the revelation that their lives were chosen in Him from before the foundation of the world (Eph.
1:4). Every preacher of God's Word should be awake to this immeasurable danger of introducing the theme of personal, individual election before unregenerate persons.
In this age of grace there is an election which includes all who are saved. This company constitutes the Church, the Body and Bride of Christ, and together with the resurrected Christ constitutes the New Creation with all its purpose and destiny in heaven. The New Testament gives abundant testimony to the fact of the divine purpose and character of this heavenly people. It also discloses that each member of this select company is chosen personally and individually by God before all ages of time. In the New Testament the same term the elect is used both for Israel (Matt. 24:22) and the Church (Rom. 8:33).
When addressing the Father in His great High Priestly prayer (John 17) and when thus referring to the believers in this age of the Church, Christ employed but one cognomen which He used seven times. The title which Christ used exclusively when speaking to the Father of believers is most significant. It must be the supreme title in the vocabulary used in conversation between the Father and the Son. The designation—"those whom thou hast given me"—itself asserts the most absolute elective purpose on the part of the Father and the Son. Human imagination would not have gone far astray if it should picture a situation in eternity past when the Father presented individual believers separately unto the Son, each representing a particular import and value not approached by another. Like a chest of jewels, collected one by one and wholly diverse, these love-gifts may have appeared before the eyes of the Son of God. Should one be missing, He, the Son, would be rendered inexpressibly poor by so much. Immeasurable and unknowable riches of grace then are in the wonderful words: those whom thou hast given me.
That all humanity has not been included in this election is most certain. It includes only those particular ones given to Christ. According to Psalm 2:7-9 the Father will yet give to the Son the nations for His subduing judgments to rest upon them, that they may be His possession; but this has no relation to a bestowal of individuals in eternity past. Theirs is of a truth unto a sublime exaltation in glory.
Romans 8:28. In this passage reference is made to ones called "according to his purpose." In the context which follows the most absolute doctrine of predestination, preservation, and presentation for this elect, or called, people has been set forth. Not all humanity are called; but those who have been called are justified and glorified.
Ephesians 1:4. Of each believer it is said that he was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and for the heavenly purpose that he may be in glory before Him. Thus, again, it becomes clear that not all of humanity are chosen. Christ declared: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44), implying a selection. There nevertheless is also a universal call or drawing (cf. John 12:32), but that is far removed from the personal drawing of the elect whom the Father hath given to the Son.
3. Supposed Partiality. To contend as some have that God, to be impartial, must bestow His greatest riches of blessing upon all alike is to sit in judgment upon the Creator, which judgment ill becomes the creature, to deny God's sovereign right to order His creation as He will, and to deprive God of the freedom to introduce variety into His universe. Must every creature be an archangel? Has not God as much right to display His measureless variety in matters pertaining to man's relation toward Him as in matters connected with man's relation to his fellow man on earth? This is an issue quite apart from the vexing problem of sin. However, it must be recognized also that sin has been permitted to enter the universe with its ruin of a part of the angels and with the total ruin of the human race. All of this, indeed, was in the eternal counsels of God, for He determined before the foundation of the world that His efficacious Lamb would be slain (Rev. 13:8). As a starting point, then, for a right understanding and evaluation of problems related to divine election, it is essential to receive the Biblical testimony that all men are ruined spiritually, being born into a fallen race. The gathering out of an elect company to appear in heaven perfected forever involves not only redemption, which answers the claims of God's holiness, but dealing with the willful rejection of God, which rejection is as universal as the fall because a fruit of that fall. God alone could provide such a redemption, and there can be no salvation apart from that redemption. It is equally true that God alone can deal with the human will in this regard.
4. Human Will. In the first instance, it is well to observe that God did not create the human will as an instrument to defeat Himself; it was created rather as a means by which He might realize His own worthy purposes. Though as Sovereign He could do so, God does not coerce the human will; He rather works within the individual both to will and to do of His good pleasure (cf. Phil. 2:13). An efficacious call to salvation, then, is a call which none ever finally resists (cf. Rom. 8:30). Everyone whom God predestinates He calls, and everyone whom He calls He justifies and glorifies. There could not be failure in one instance among the millions who are called. The vision which He creates in the heart and the limitless persuasion He exercises induce a favorable reaction on the part of all thus called, which reaction is rendered infinitely certain. The important truth to be observed in all of this is that, though divine persuasion be limitless, it still remains persuasion, and so when a decision is secured for Christ in the individual he exercises his own will apart from even a shadow of constraint. The divine invitation still is true that "whosoever will may come." However, it also is true that none will ever come apart from this divine call, and that the call is extended only to His elect. What God's righteous relation is to those whom He does not call is another doctrine quite removed from the teaching of election.
5. Practical Outworkings. As in the great covenants God has made, so in every outworking of His will the principle of divine selection is exhibited. The following classifications will demonstrate this:
a. five elective decrees. Theologians may be classed according to the order in which they place the five elective decrees of God. The following tabulation of these decrees is in an order which may be defended from the Scriptures:
(1) Decree to create.
(2) Decree to permit the fall.
(3) Decree to elect some to salvation.
(4) Decree to provide a Savior.
(5) Decree to save the elect.
As an illustration of the importance of this order, it may be seen that to place the decree to elect some to be saved before the decree to create would place God in the position of creating a portion of humanity with a view to their being reprobated forever. A complete treatment of the five elective decrees has been undertaken in Volume III devoted to Soteriology.
b. five points of calvinism. Because of the Calvinistic attitude toward divine election, its generally recognized five points are here named:
(1) Total inability of the fallen man.
(2) Unconditional election.
(3) A limited redemption.
(4) Efficacious divine grace.
(5) The perseverance of the saints.
c. five points of arminianism: (1) Conditional election according to God's foreknowledge of supposed human worthiness.
(2) A universal redemption, but only those who believe to be saved.
(3) Salvation by grace through faith. (Because of a supposed enabling grace divinely bestowed upon all at birth, all may cooperate in their salvation if they will to do so.)
(4) Grace not irresistible.
(5) Falling from grace possible.
d. five oints of judaism. As an outworking of God's elective purpose for Israel, five points of Judaism may be indicated:
(1) An everlasting nation.
(2) An everlasting possession of their land.
(3) An everlasting throne.
(4) An everlasting king.
(5) An everlasting kingdom.
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