Election (2Pe. 3:9)
Soteriology 002, 2 Peter 3:9
January 13, 2016
Welcome to part two, Doctrine of Salvation, and last time we basically looked at the definition of soteriology, which is the doctrine of salvation. And then we looked at the three tenses of salvation. If you’re trying to follow me on those notes I handed out last time you might get frustrated a little bit because I added some slides, but all the slides that I give are on our website, posted there now.
But tonight, and I wanted to do this just to get it over with because it’s one of those very difficult topics, it’s one of the great mysteries of the Bible, it’s the whole subject of election versus free will. And here we’re trying to figure out, do we choose God or does God choose us? And my answer is yes, as I’ll show you. So I’m going to try to talk to about 8:00 and then we’ll open it up for questions and answers about 8:00 o’clock.
So here we are, having dealt with the definition of soteriology, now we’re getting into this whole subject of election and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to finish all of this tonight but we’ll give it a good attempt. We’re going to look at the definition and uses of the term “election.” We’re going to try to understand election in the totality of God’s character. I’ll show you the biblical case for divine sovereignty, God chooses us and then I’ll show you the case for human responsibility, we choose God. And I’ll try to convince you that the Bible teaches both of these. And then as time permits I’m going to try to steer us, warn us, about extremes people fall into on either side of this debate and so we’ll try to stay away from those extremes as I warn you about it. But it’s a very delicate difficult subject for us, for the finite human mind to wrap itself around.
But first of all, definition and uses. I got this definition from Charles Ryrie: Election is the action of God in choosing those who will be saved as members of the body of Christ. I’ll show you the passages in a little bit but at some point in eternity past God made a move towards you and towards me, and decided to bless us with His grace.
Now before we get into that particular issue of election one of the things to understand is that the concept of election, God choosing us, is all over the Bible. It’s a doctrine that’s impossible to escape. And you can take it from me, for many years I tried to escape it because it didn’t seem very American to me that God chooses some and not others.
For example, just to give you a few usages of this (I hope you brought your Bible with you), Deuteronomy 4:37, this is how God dealt with the nation of Israel at the beginning of His program with Israel. Deuteronomy 4:37 says of Israel, “Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them.” So why didn’t God use the Egyptians as His chosen nation? Why didn’t He use the Phoenicians? Why didn’t He use the Assyrians? Well, you have to ask God about that because God made a choice to choose Israel as His instrument of blessing to the world.
Well, I know why God chose Israel, because they’re better at money, Jews are, they’re smarter, they’ve got more of their kids in medical school and law school… NO, if you look at Deuteronomy 7:7 it says, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the other peoples, for,” in fact, “you were the fewest of all peoples.” So God did not choose the nation of Israel because of some quality in them. And this is basically what you call unconditional election, election towards them without any condition in them as to why He chose them; it’s something God, in His sovereignty, decided to do.
In the book of Isaiah, chapter 45, verses 1-4 you learn about a guy named Cyrus, Cyrus was God’s instrument to release the children of Israel out of the Babylonian captivity for 70 years, and in Isaiah 45:1 it says, “Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed….” And then down in verse 4 it says, “For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen one, I have called your name.” Now this is 200 years before the man was born. God called out through the writings of Isaiah, the prophecies of Isaiah, Cyrus, and He said he is going to be my chosen instrument through which the nation of Israel is going to be released from the seventy year captivity.
[Isaiah 45:1, “Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:  “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars.  “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.”  For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me.” NASB]
And what’s so interesting about this is to the best of our knowledge Cyrus was not even a believer, because Isaiah 45:4, Cyrus, a Persian, it says this: “For the sake of Jacob my servant, and Israel my chosen one, I have called you by your name, I have given you your title, though you have not known me.” So this man, Cyrus, had no personal relationship with the Lord at all and yet 200 years before the man was born God called his name and chose him as the instrument through which the nation would be released from the seventy year captivity.
Isaiah 42:1, there Jesus, as the branch is called the “chosen one. So God the Father chose God the Son to fulfill His great role through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. [Isaiah 42:1, “‘Behold, My servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”]
I have to go through these verses fast, I’m sorry for that, Matthew 24:22 it talks about the elect, for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Well, who are the elect? In context it’s the chosen ones in the tribulation period. So there are believers in the tribulation period, probably, I would guess, believing Jews, and they are called “the elect” or “the chosen of God.” [Matthew 24:22, “‘Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.’”]
And then if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ what you’ll discover is you are also “the chosen of God.” That’s the terminology that the Bible uses. Colossians 3:12 would be an example of that, and then also in the book of Titus, chapter 1, verse 1. [Colossians 3:12, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”] It’s sort of interesting to me that when the Biblical New Testament writers talk about this subject of election they typically mention it right at the beginning of the book; sometimes in the first verse. And I find that interesting because we, as evangelicals, are kind of embarrassed by this doctrine, but God’s not. Titus 1:1 it says, “Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the foreknowledge of the truth which is in accordance with godliness.” So you see all these different usages of election and God choosing, all over the Scripture.
Now one of the things that I got very troubled about as a very new Christian is I sat and studied this doctrine in isolation of everything else the Bible teaches about God. So I sat and meditated and meditated and meditated on this doctrine without studying the totality of God’s Word and I started to get a bitter spirit because I started to think well, God is not fair. And I would caution you against that. When the doctrine of election or God’s choosing is revealed in the Bible it’s never revealed in isolation of His other attributes. It’s always brought forth in the totality of who God is.
For example, take a look at Ephesians 1:4-5. Now if your English teacher ever gets mad at you for run-on sentences just quote the Apostle Paul, because Ephesians 4, really through 14, is one giant sentence in Greek. It’s what you call a massive run on sentence. And the reason that’s significant is because you look at verse 4, it says, “He chose us in Him,” so there’s His calling or choosing of us, and then because this sentence is one giant sentence it’s all linked to God’s other attributes. If you go down to the end of verse 4 you’ll see love, if you go towards the beginning of verse 6 you’ll see glory. As you move into verse 11 you’ll see according to His eternal purpose, or His purpose.
[Ephesians 1:4-14, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love  He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace  which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight  He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him  with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him  also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,  to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise  who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”]
So the way the Bible reveals this subject of election is it wants us to understand that God, when He exercises this prerogative of choice does so in harmony with all of His other attributes. And that’s what I was missing as a new Christian where I was just focused on this one doctrine and becoming bitter against God because I didn’t understand it all. But now kind of in hind sight what I’ve learned to do when I don’t understand something in the Bible, or where something doesn’t seem fair to me, and there are things in the Bible that I don’t understand and still don’t seem fair to me, at the end of the day I just rest in who He is, and it’s to the point now where I don’t have to understand everything. And kind of as you grow in Christ, you know, as a new Christian I used to want all the loose ends battened down but now growing in a knowledge of God’s attributes I don’t know if it’s necessary that I understand everything because I know at the end of the day whether I understand God doing something or not, God is a God of love and grace and mercy and He doesn’t exercise this attribute, or this prerogative of choosing independent of who He is.
I know this also at the end of the day, that the Bible, two times, 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9, both times it says who does God want saved? The world, everybody. He desires that all should be saved and come to a knowledge of Him. [1 Timothy 2:4, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”]
And one of the verses that I go back to quite a bit in my personal walk with the Lord is the book of Isaiah, chapter 55, and verses 8-9. Whenever you find yourself frustrated with God you have to remember that your mind is just a little pea in comparison to an ocean, and God knows things we don’t know. Isaiah 55:8-9 God says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”
So that’s just an exhortation as we look at this controversial and difficult doctrine tonight to try to look at it in harmony with everything the Scripture reveals about God that kind of makes the hard medicine go down a little bit easier, I’ve discovered personal experience.
So the concept of election is used many, many places in the Bible, as we have seen, in many different ways, and the Scripture asks us, or invites us to examine this doctrine in harmony with God’s total attributes.
Having said all of that let me lay out the case for divine sovereignty, and if you happen to believe in free will at the exclusion of divine sovereignty don’t get mad at me quite yet because in a little bit I’ll be laying out the case for free will. And what I want to communicate to you is the Bible really teaches both of these ideas.
So let’s take a look at divine sovereignty. Take a look at John 6:44. What do we mean by divine sovereignty? What we mean is God chooses us, and I’ll show you Scriptures for these points. What I’m talking about is a pre-temporal choice (pre-temporal means ahead of time), in other words, before time existed God made a decision to unilaterally make a move of grace towards you. It’s a pre-temporal choice of God as to who would be saved, and the passing by of others.
This is, as I tried to show you with God’s working with Israel, the way it’s presented in the Bible is I believe it’s unconditional, meaning God in eternity past didn’t look at me and said well, you know Andy, I know you’re going to grow up and you’re going to become the pastor at Sugar Land Bible Church so I’ll choose you, because there’s some kind of quality in you that’s admirable. NO, that would make God’s choice of me conditional, right? Conditioned in something in me. And what I think the Scripture teaches is an unconditional choice that He has made towards us.
Now let me give you some verses that I think support this. There are several in the Gospel of John. John 6:44, I’m going to give you some of the strongest divine sovereignty verses that I know of in the Scripture. John 6:44, Jesus is speaking, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him….” Now this word “draw” is helkyō and it’s the same verb that’s used in John 21:6 and verse 11, regarding the miraculous catch of fish. [John 21:6, “And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch’… John 21:11, “Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish….”]
Remember what was happening, they were dragging (that’s the word “draw” there), they were dragging the fish into the boat with resistance. So if the word is used the same way here in John 6:44, what God has done is he has drawn you to Himself. In fact, if God did not exercise grace towards you and draw you to Himself you really couldn’t come because Romans 3:11 says no one seeks God. [Romans 3:11, “There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”]
Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” So I used to think, as a new Christian I woke up one day and said you know, today’s the day I’m going to get saved. And in hind sight I realize what happened; God set the whole thing up, He put the right conversations together, the right people in my path, the right life experiences where I was spiritually seeking God, searching for God, He was drawing me. And what was I doing? Oh, I was like that catch of fish in a net, I was resisting. So people say well, what role to we play in salvation. Well, here’s our role, we resisted God, we fought Him, and yet He in His compassion drew us to Himself.
You’ll see the same thing down in John 6:65, “‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’” John 6:69-70, “‘We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’  Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’” So the apostle said we made a choice towards You God, and Jesus comes back and says I made a choice toward you before you made a choice towards Me.
Take a look at John 15:16 for a minute, at the very beginning of Christ’s ministry Jesus called the disciples, and as you’re going there I’m going to read to you Matthew 4:20, “And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Verse 20 of Matthew 4 says, “Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” See how it’s putting the action of their part?
So His ministry lasted, Christ’s ministry lasted about three years and at the beginning of the ministry they probably thought they chose Christ, which they did. They did choose Him, “they left their nets and followed Him.” Then at the very end of Christ’s ministry, in the Upper Room, three years have passed, and Jesus pulls this whammy on them. John 15:16, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you…” and so forth. So these disciples thought that they chose the Lord, I’m not denying that they did, but in reality what you discover is God did something for them, to them, and He made some kind of action towards them ahead of time.
Matthew 16, let’s look at this real quick, one day Peter had a thought, Jesus said who do men say that I am? Peter raised his hand… the Bible doesn’t say He raised his hand, but he gave the right answer. Matthew 16:15, “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’”  Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now Peter probably thought that he had those thoughts all on his own initiative, he was the smartest guy in the room, right?
But then Jesus, in verse 17, “said to Him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’” So Peter, you just had the wonderful thought that you had because My Father made some sort of move towards you and allowed you to have that particular thought. See, these are all verses, you start putting these together and you see God is doing things in our past, sometimes without even us being aware of them.
Let’s look at the book of Acts for a minute, Acts 13:48, this is a very strong sovereignty passage. This is Paul’s first missionary journey where tons and tons of Gentiles are getting saved. “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord;” watch this, “and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” So it says a bunch of Gentiles believed, praise God! But part of the verse says they believed because they had been divinely appointed to believe. A very strong sovereignty passage there.
Take a look at Acts 16:14, this is Lydia, Paul’s first convert in Philippi, normally Paul would go to the synagogue first, but in Philippi there wasn’t a synagogue so he went to a river, I’ve actually stood by the river when I was in Israel a couple of summers ago, and He finds this woman named Lydia and this is Paul’s first European convert and it’s a description in Acts 16:14 how this woman got saved. It says: “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening;” look at this, “and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”
And that’s how a conversion takes place, Paul gives the message, the Lord opens somebody’s heart, and the person whose heart is now opened believes. You’ve got to have all three of those things happening together; a faithful proclamation of the message, the Lord opening somebody’s heart, and then the person that’s hearing the message responding by way of faith. But you’ll notice that had the Lord not opened her heart, you get the idea that Lydia probably could not, would not have ever believed.
The book of Romans is filled with this idea. Romans 8:29-30, some verses we looked at last time, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of the Son of God, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;  and those whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, he also glorified.” Now you’ll notice that we believe and are justified and on our way to future glory. But even before we believe so that we can be justified and one day glorified, God has already done three things in the past, towards us. They are a foreknowledge of us, they are a predestination of us, they are a calling of us. And we finally get into the act through human volition on step number four, where three prior steps have already been executed by God in eternity past. See, that’s a very strong sovereignty passage.
Grand Central Station of divine sovereignty is Romans 9 so let’s look at that just for a minute. Romans 9:11, it’s talking about Jacob and Esau in the womb of their mother; “for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,  it was said to her, ‘THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.’”
Now in the Ancient Near East it never works that way, the older never serves the younger, the rights of the firstborn always go to the older. And God says I’m about to switch things around here, I’m about to give My favor not to the firstborn but to Jacob rather than Esau, and as you go through the book of Genesis I think there are eleven times where this happens. In other words, God is saying I’m going to do something transcultural here, I’m going to do something counter cultural and it’s not because one kid wound up being good and one kid wound up being bad or anything like that. It says very clearly before either child in the womb of their mother had done anything God made this choice towards Jacob and He passed over Esau.
And then verse 13 is very troubling, “Just as it is written, ‘JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” Now you read that word “hate,” it’s not talking about emotional hatred. When the word “hate” ‘many times is used in the Bible it’s talking about a non choice. So for example in Luke 14:26 Jesus says the requirement of discipleship is to hate your mother and father. [Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”]
Well, obviously we’re not called as Christ’s disciples to hate your parents because the fifth command¬¬ment says what? “Honor your mother and father.” What He’s saying is if you have to make a choice between mom and dad’s will and God’s will to be His disciple, you choose God over parents. That’s what the whole concept of hatred means here. God could not hate Esau because “God so loved the world.” But at the same time this word hate is used we transport our 21st century understanding of the word back into the text, but biblically it’s talking about a non-choice, he chose one but not the other.
And as you go down to Romans 9:18 it says, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” And it’s talking there about Pharaoh, how God actually hardened Pharaoh’s heart; God used Pharaoh as an instrument of oppression of the Jewish people so that God could judge Pharaoh. Now when you look at that whole story you have to understand that Pharaoh, in the book of Exodus hardened his own heart towards God, I think about six times. The Exodus narrative says Pharaoh hardened his heart, Pharaoh hardened his heart, Pharaoh hardened his heart, and finally, it’s kind of scary the way the Bible reads, it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. In other words, God finally, in His sovereignty, gave Pharaoh over to what Pharaoh already wanted to do. But even though that’s true that’s still a divine, a very strong divine sovereignty passage.
Now Paul, in Romans 9, anticipates an objection, this isn’t fair, this isn’t American. Verse 20 says this, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this…” You have to understand that us raising moral objections about how God runs His universe is like a piece of, it’s like a cup on a potter’s wheel and the cup gets mad at the potter because the cup says to the potter, you know, I don’t want to be a cup, I want to be a vase. Well, that’s none of your business whether you’re a cup or you’re a vase, you are a piece of clay, I’m the potter. So that’s sort of what we are like when we voice our objections against God and say God, You’re not fair, God, You’re not doing this correctly, God, you’re not right. It’s like, you know, a little tiny person with limited intelligence and a corrupted human nature speaking against a perfectly righteous God who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. So we have to really look at our motives when we get into this position of challenging God. Revelation 13:8 (and it says the same thing in Revelation 17:8) makes a very interesting statement, Revelation 13:8, it talks about beast worshippers in the tribulation period, it says: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book … of the Lamb who was slain.” So people in the tribulation period are making a decision to reject Jesus and worship the antichrist. And then what we discover in Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 17:8 is the reason they are making that decision is because their names were never written in the Lamb’s book of life to begin with. [Revelation 17:8, “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.”]
Now this concept of election is true of specific individuals. For example, notice the book of Jeremiah, chapter 1, verses 4-5, it’s a description of why Jeremiah ended up becoming a prophet. Why did Jeremiah end up becoming a prophet? Jeremiah 1:4-5 explains it; “Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,  ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born” in other words before Jeremiah did anything good or bad, “‘I consecrated you’ I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.’”
So why did Jeremiah become a prophet? I mean, did he have the right skills and temperament to become a prophet? Did he visit a career guidance counsellor and the guidance counsellor said you know, you’d be a heck of a prophet. NO, Jeremiah became a prophet because God made a move towards him in that direction before he was even born. And this is also true with the Apostle Paul, why did the Apostle Paul become an apostle? Notice Galatians 1:15-16, it says the same thing in the New Testament, Galatians 1:15-16, “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased  to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood.” Why did Paul end up becoming a prophet? Because he was chosen for that position from his mother’s womb. See, these are all sovereignty passages. Acts 9:15-16 talks about how Paul would bear Christ’s name before the Gentiles. [Acts 9:15, “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;  for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”]
So Peter is the apostle to the Jews, Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles. Well, maybe those two got upset one day, hey, I want to… maybe Peter says I want to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and Paul says I want to be the apostle to the Jews. Well, that’s not a decision for you to make, that’s a decision that’s already been made by God in eternity past.
Other examples of this are Romans 16:13 where Rufus is called a choice or chosen man in the Lord. And then in 2 John you have a church meeting in a woman’s house; why is it meeting in her house? Because 2 John 1 and 2 John 13 says she is “a chosen lady,” she’s called the elect lady.
[Romans 16:13, “Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord…. 2 John 1, “The elder to the chosen lady and her children… 2 John 13, “The children of your chosen sister greet you.”]
So sometimes this choosing of God involves individuals; sometimes it involves entire groups of people, as is the case in 1 Peter 1:1-2, it says: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who are chosen  according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit…” and so forth. There it’s talking about a group of people there, what we call North Central Turkey, it mentions the places of geography. “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” and that whole region of people. Believers in that entire region are believers because they are chosen in God.
And sometimes this choosing of God also involves a decision as to who will be passed over. For example, you take Judas, John 13:18, why is it that Judas ended up being the betrayer of Christ? Why not Matthew? Why not John, why not some other apostle? Jesus says this of Judas, “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’” Now you’ll notice that that’s a quotation from the Psalms. The Psalms were written a thousand years in advance; a thousand years in advance Judas’ life read like a script because that’s the way God set it up.
Romans 9:22 is another example of God passing by some. Romans 9:22 says, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath” watch this, “prepared for destruction,” speaking there of Pharaoh and how God actually prepared Pharaoh as an instrument of destruction.
Another very strong passage on sovereignty is 1 Peter 2:8, every time I read this I shudder.
1 Peter2:8, speaking of the Jews stumbling over Christ, it says, “…for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.” So they tripped over Christ, stumbled over Him, and yet 1 Peter 2:8 says they were “appointed” to trip or to stumble.
Sometimes the choosing of God includes our good works, Jeremiah was chosen as a prophet, Paul was chosen as an apostle, Galatians 1, Acts 9, and the works that you and I walk in as God’s people are also part of God’s predestined plan. Notice Ephesians 2:8-9, we all know Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith…” it’s not of works lest any man should boast, but then look at verse 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Why did I become the pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church? It’s a good work that God prepared beforehand. Why are you sitting in this class? It’s a good work that God prepared beforehand.
See, as uncomfortable as this doctrine is it’s biblically, to my mind, impossible to escape it. Yet, as much as everything I have said is accurate and true there’s something else that’s true. The Bible teaches equally the reality of human responsibility. It teaches the idea of free will. And just as many passages as I produced on divine sovereignty, I could equally produce just as many passages on free will. For example, Genesis 15:6, this is speaking of Abram. “Then he,” that’s Abram, “believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Why did Abram believe? Because he believed. Other verses may say it but that passage says absolutely nothing about God making some sort of move towards Abram; it’s narrating the passage from the human point of view.
We all know John 3:16, right, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever,” whosoever, that’s a pretty big group isn’t it, whosoever, “that whosoever” what? “believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Nothing in there about you receive life because God chose you. Other passages may say that but this one says we “receive life” because we make a decision through human volition and human will to believe in the Lord.
Acts 16:30-31, this is the Philippian jailor asking life’s most important questions, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” that would be Paul and Silas, they put the onus back on the Philippian jailor and said you exercise your volition and will and believe.
Acts 17:30, this is Paul on Mars Hill, I had the chance in Greece to stand on Mars Hill where Paul most likely gave this address. He gets to the very end of it, speaking now to unbelieving Gentiles, and he says, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.” In the course we’re going to be spending a lot of time on the word “repent” so don’t worry about it now. The short answer is it means change of mind. What he’s saying is you change your mind about Jesus. There’s nothing here about God overriding their free will or their minds, he puts the onus on them to exercise their volition and to change their minds about Jesus Christ.
And, of course, at the very end of the Bible, Revelation 22:17 makes a tremendous statement about human free will and it says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” So who can come and have their thirst quenched through what Jesus provides? Whoever wants it. So there, that verse clearly is placing the ledger on free will.
Something else that I think helps us with this whole issue of free will is understanding that we, as human beings, are image bearers of God. That is what God said about Adam and Eve, our forbearers, going all the way back to Genesis 1:26-27, it says very clearly that God created them, male and female, in His own image. [Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”]
Well, what does that mean, to be made in God’s image? What it means is we share in God’s communicable attributes. There are certain attributes that God has that we share in. We don’t share in all His attributes or else He wouldn’t be God. Right! He’s got to have some attributes exclusive to Him, like omniscience–all knowing, omnipotence–all power, omnipresence–everywhere at the same time. But at the same time there are many attributes that I share with God. And one of the things I share with God is a free will. That’s what being an image-bearer is, and that explains why God, in Genesis 2:16-17, put a tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. [Genesis 1:16-17, “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From nay tree of the garden you may eat freely;  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’”]
Have you ever asked that question, just get that tree out of there, and if that tree’s gone then they can’t rebel and all of the trouble we’ve been in ever since can’t happen. Right? The answer to that is there has to be a tree of knowledge in Eden; if there is no tree of knowledge in Eden then people really don’t have a choice. A choice means you have to have an avenue for rebellion should you choose to go that direction. And if that choice was not there, God would not be respecting how He made Adam and Eve in His own image.
Now people say well, that’s just pre-fall, post-fall it’s different, we have no choice in the post-fall world. May I just remind you that the fall never erased our image bearing status. The theologians like to use this expression: our image-bearing status has been effaced by the fall but not erased. Genesis 9:6, that’s post flood, that’s long after the fall, He calls man and women his image bearers. James 3:9, New Testament, calls us also made in God’s likeness. [Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” Genesis 3:9, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.”]
So even in our fallen state we still retain this dignity as image-bearers and therefore God, when He orchestrates salvation has to factor in the free will of individuals. If that free will is not factored in then God would not be respecting how He has made us in His image.
So my point that I’m really trying to get at is the Bible, as best I can tell, teaches both doctrines; teaches divine sovereignty, and at the same time it teaches human free will. Election, or God’s choosing of us does not obliterate human free will or human responsibility; somehow in God these two ideas exist. And the foolishness that we put ourselves in as we try to understand this… this is coming from a source of knowledge that’s outside of time, He’s infinite. To God, who is timeless, these types of contradictions don’t exist. As we wrestle with these things from a time bound perspective we see an obvious contradiction, but that’s because we are looking at it from the human point of view, not necessarily from the divine point of view.
So back to that Judas passage [John 13:18, “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’’]. Did Judas exercise his free will to betray Christ? Yes he did, but at the same time the moment he exercised his free will to betray Christ what he did was predicted in the Psalms written a thousand years in advance. So somehow God used the free will of Judas to execute a plan written a thousand years in advance. And it’s only God, who can pull something like that off.
Acts 2:23 is one of my favorite verses because in the same verse you’ll see both statements, foreknowledge and human choice. Who killed Christ? Peter on the day of Pentecost says, “this Man,” Jesus, “was delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you” speaking to the Jews, “nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
Who killed Christ? Well, the first part of the verse says God the Father killed Christ because it was part of a predetermined plan. You keep reading through the same verse and then Peter says you, unbelieving Jews, killed Christ, putting the onus on human responsibility. So both doctrines are there within the span of a single verse. So the danger is using election to somehow obliterate free will, or using free will to somehow obliterate election. And that’s why there’s this great struggle in the body of Christ; one camp says one thing, another camp says a different thing. And they’re all gravitating towards their favorite verses and throwing them against their adversaries like a snowball fight, when in reality both doctrines are accurate. It just depends on what part of the Bible you happen to be reading at any given time.
Charles Ryrie in his A Survey of Bible Doctrine says this: “There are unsaved elect people alive today, though the elect are now lost and will not be saved until they believe.” So what he’s saying there is election does not, in the mind of God, override the human responsibility to believe; both concepts are there.
A wonderful title to a book on this whole thing is by Norman Geisler, and I love the title: Chosen But Free, because it’s expressing both ideas. We are chosen in God, but at the same time to get us to arrive at that place God did not override our free will. And something else that’s very helpful to me as I think about this is an illustration Harry Ironside gave to a prior generation. He says you’re walking into heaven and there’s a door and on the outside reads this: All who will enter here. And you walk through the door and then you look back on the other side and there’s another sign that says: Welcome you who are chosen from the foundation of the world.
Something else that’s helped me with this is the husband and wife analogy. Are we not called the bride of Christ, we are the bride, He is the groom. Now when you got married did you choose your spouse or did your spouse choose you? I hope the answer is both or you might need marital counselling. I mean, I did what I could to get Anne’s attention, I put on the full-court press (and she’s up there laughing) but the fact of the matter is I can woo her all I wanted but she had to make some kind of decision towards me. And this is how it is in our relationship with God, He woos us and He works but He is not going to override your decision to believe in Him any more than you would want to marry someone who has made no decision towards you.
And people, you know, when you talk too much about free will people get a little nervous and they say well, you know, aren’t you overriding God’s sovereignty? And I find there’s a particular segment in the body of Christ that’s so eager to protect God’s sovereignty that they don’t want to allow any free will whatsoever. The fact of the matter is, God can use the free moral choices of His creatures to accomplish His sovereign will. That’s what He did with Judas. Now that does not shrink God, to my mind, that enlarges God; that makes me want to, throughout the ages glorify God all the more, that He can use rebellious or good choices on the part of people that are free, decision wise, to execute His plan.
One last thing to talk about here is the extremes to avoid. Here’s some extremes to avoid in this whole discussion. Number 1, using one set of texts to rewrite another set of texts. People on the sovereignty side of the equation get so into the sovereignty of God that they use a lot of the verses that we went over to override free will and they will develop a doctrine that goes something like this: You can’t believe on your own, God has to believe for you. And the doctrine of this is regeneration precedes faith; faith is a gift. And when you question them why they hold to this particular doctrine, when I really can’t find it taught anywhere in the Bible, it’s all a desire to protect the sovereignty of God.
John 16:9 describes what the Holy Spirit does prior to our salvation. He comes to convict the world of sin, righteous and judgment; verse 9 says “concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.” What does the Holy Spirit do with the unbeliever? He does not override their free will, He does not believe for them, He does not regenerate them so that they can believe. Regeneration is the result of faith, not the cause of it, as I’ll be showing you later on in the course. What the Holy Spirit does is He convicts us of our need to believe and if God were to suddenly override our free will, other than just conviction, and annoying us and bothering us, He wouldn’t be respecting us as image-bearers of God.
So what people all of the time say is faith is a gift. In fact, this was in our Sugar Land Bible Church doctrinal statement, the founders of the church didn’t put this in but some folks got onto the elder board over the course of time that had a very strong sovereignty persuasion and there was a statement in there for a while that faith is actually a gift of God. And fortunately our elders, to their credit when I presented them with biblical evidence, took that statement out and returned it back to the way it originally read.
But people will say faith is a gift and they like to quote Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So they say there it is, faith is a gift. The problem is faith is a feminine noun, gift is a neuter noun. In Greek the genders, if one is modifying the other, have to line up. Faith is not the gift; the gift is the result of the faith, which is salvation. That’s the gift. But God does not give you the gift of faith, He does not regenerate you so that you can believe. So that would be an example of using one group of texts to rewrite another.
Now people on the free will side of the equation do the same thing. And I’ve heard this argument for years, and basically what people say is well, God has seen the movie, He knows how it’s all going to turn out, and He picks winners. So God knew that I would trust Christ so therefore God picked me because He knew in the past corridors of time that I would be a winner and I would pick Christ. Well, you see, that makes God’s choosing of me not unconditional but what? Conditioned on something. The name for this is the prescient view, pre knowledge view, science meaning knowledge. And so what people like to say is for those whom He foreknew He predestined and called and justified and glorified. And they love to camp on “foreknew.” The word there is proginōskō and what they think that means is God, through omniscience, knew that I would pick Christ so God picked me, because God’s seen the movie. That’s their understanding of foreknowledge.
The problem with that is the same word, proginōskō that’s used in Romans 8:29 is also used in Romans 11:2. Romans 11:2 is a description of God’s program with the nation of Israel, and everybody agrees that God chose Israel, not because He saw in the end that they would choose Him, but He chose them unilaterally, unconditionally. So I think the prescient view is reading something into “foreknow” that is foreign to the teachings of the Apostle Paul. So avoid the extremes.
And then one more extreme to avoid is don’t use election to remove human responsibility. William Carey, a famous missionary, wanted to go and evangelize the heathen. And he came from a strong Reformed background, and when he expressed this desire to his theology teacher, his professor, said: Young man, sit down; if God wants to reach the heathen then He will do it without your help or mine. So what happened in that case is foreknowledge was camped on to such a degree that it was used to rewrite or to remove our human responsibility to evangelize the lost.
We, as God’s people, are responsible to preach the gospel to who? Every creature. We do not preach the gospel just to the elect, for the simple reason that people don’t have an “E” for elect stamped on their forehead. I don’t know who they are. My job is to just get the gospel and your job is to get the gospel to everyone. So with this subject of election we have to understand there’s things God does and there’s things we do. This business of foreknowledge, and choosing and all of these things that God does, the Bible reveals these things but it never tells us to worry about these things. Just know that God is working, you on the other hand get down to business and fulfill your own responsibility. And the danger is using election to remove the responsibilities that we all have.
For example, how many Puritans do you know? Yeah, so and so and so and so moved down the street, a very nice Puritan couple. Well, who are the Puritans? The Puritans were those that came from Europe, they built in America a city on a shining hill, they founded the Ivy League, they are the ones that built a Christian civilization on these shores, on the East Coast, beginning on the East Coast. And within a couple of generations they lost the whole thing. Have you been to the Ivy League lately? It’s about as pagan as you can get.
What happened to these people? How can you build a shining city on a hill and then lose control of the whole thing? The answer is, when you get into Puritan writings they camp so heavily on election and foreknowledge that slowly what started to happen is they were using that as an excuse not to evangelize. In fact, the Puritans, in some cases, would not even evangelize their own children. And so they went defunct, they disappeared. That’s an example of what can happen in this area of extremes.
So God has His part, we have our part, and any time someone is using a section of the Bible in a way that’s getting you to escape responsibility you know you’ve gone to an extreme. You know that the doctrine is being abused. And in another doctrine, the return of Christ, that’s what was happening in 2 Thessalonians 3 with the Thessalonians and the return of Christ; Paul had taught them imminent return of Christ, that Christ can come back at any minute. And so they said, well, Christ can come back at any minute, what’s the point in paying my mortgage, what’s the point of putting my kids through college, what’s the point of holding down a job. And you go through 2 Thessalonians 3 and you find Paul telling the Thessalonians, you need to start exercising church discipline on these people because they are abusing a doctrine to get out of basic life’s responsibilities. That is the great fear or extreme we can be pushed into, is we can actually use this doctrine to escape the realities that God wants us to fulfill.
So all things being said, let God do His thing, don’t try to rewrite the doctrine or pretend it’s not there. Recognize there’s a tension in the Bible. Election and free will are difficult concepts to grasp and comprehend and while we may be wrestling with these things and may not be able to understand them all, I do understand this much: I know what I’m supposed to do, which is to preach the gospel to all creatures. There is no ambiguity there, right. No debate there.
So I’ve tried to give you some balance on this subject; a lot of the presentations you get because the speaker is trying to prove something, one side or the other, you get the kind of presentations that are lopsided. I’ve done my very best to present balance, so we’ve looked at the definition and uses of election, looking at election and the totality of God’s character. We’ve looked at the case for divine sovereignty and we’ve looked at the case for human responsibility. We’ve looked at the fact that the Bible really teaches both of these ideas. And then we’ve looked at some extremes to stay away from, such as using one set of texts to rewrite another, or using election as a way to escape responsibility.
Next time we’ll take a look at the doctrine of the atonement. At this time I’ll stop talking and those that need to pick up their kids are free to do so and we can have some questions at this point. Any questions I can’t answer Richard will answer them for us.