To the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul wrote, “. . . [God] hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4). Indeed the church of our Lord is composed of the elect—those who are “chosen,” or “singled out.” God has chosen a special people for Himself. But the putrid TULIP of Calvinism attempts to transform Biblical election into another fragrance altogether:
God from all eternity sovereignly ordained and immutably determined the history and destiny of each and all of His creatures.
. . . God, before the foundation of the world, chose certain individuals from among the fallen members of Adam’s race to be the objects of His undeserved favor. These, and these only, He purposed to save. . . . Thus election was not determined by, or conditioned upon, anything that men would do, but resulted entirely from God’s self-determined purpose (emph. LM).
This is the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election—that, regardless of his desire, man can do nothing to be chosen by God for salvation, nor can he do anything to reject being chosen by God. For those who believe in the love and goodness of God, such a doctrine is abhorrent on the face of it. Yet most Protestant denominations teach unconditional election. But “what saith the scripture”—is election unconditional?
Election In Our Earthly Lives
A college student registering for courses will have required courses, and he will have electives. The electives are courses that the student may or may not choose to include as he plans what courses to take. But this does not mean that there cannot be conditions on which electives he may include—a finance major may not be able to take a drama course as an elective; a music major may not be able to take a biology course as an elective.
A man may meet and fall in love with a woman, and subsequently elect to ask her to be his wife. But she, in turn, may or may not elect to accept his proposal, depending on whether certain conditions are met.
In a presidential election, the people choose who is going to be President. However, if the person whom they wish to choose has failed to meet the prerequisites for office, someone else who meets the qualifications will be chosen by the people to serve as President.
Thus, election regularly takes place in our earthly lives, yet it is rarely, if ever, unconditional. But this does not mean that we do not make choices at such times. Likewise, though God makes choices conditioned upon what others do, this does not detract from their being His choices.
The Scriptures Confirm Conditionality
God has always set terms for man to remain in God’s grace. God had chosen to place Adam and Eve in the Garden, where they could enjoy everlasting life and fellowship with Him. But there was one condition for them to remain in this great grace: “Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). When they violated this one condition, they were removed from the grace in which God had chosen to place them (3:13-24).
God had chosen to bring the people of Israel into the land of Canaan for their inheritance (Exo. 3:8). But this was conditional; as Joshua and Caleb observed, “If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us” (Num. 14:8; emphasis mine, LM). And the Israelites refused to meet God’s terms: “Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God” (Deut. 1:26). Because they failed to meet the conditions that God had set forth, they did not receive the grace that He had chosen to give them (Num. 14:26-35).
God has chosen to save people from their sins, that they might be saved from their just punishment in hell (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 21:8), and instead dwell with Him for eternity in heaven (John 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 1:2-4). But there are conditions that one must meet before he can be numbered among God’s chosen—one must (1) hear the word of God (Rom. 10:14, 17), (2) believe (John 8:24; Heb. 11:6), (3) repent of sin (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38), (4) confess before men that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Rom. 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32; Acts 8:37), and (5) be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Pet. 3:21). After one has been numbered among God’s chosen, that person must continue faithfully to receive the reward that God has chosen to give the faithful (2 Tim. 4:7-8; Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10). And Christians help Christians to remain among the elect: “Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes; that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10; cf. Gal. 6:1-2; Heb. 3:13; James 5:19-20). But that conditions must be met by man takes nothing from God’s choice being God’s choice.
God’s Choice—Your Choice
God has chosen to extend His terms of deliverance to all (Mark 16:15; Titus 2:11). But it is each person’s choice whether or not he will meet the terms God has set forth. God desires for all to be among His elect:
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9; emph. LM).
Thus, it cannot be said with any degree of truthfulness, “God, before the foundation of the world, chose certain individuals from among the fallen members of Adam’s race to be the objects of His undeserved favor. These, and these only, He purposed to save.” Contrariwise, as the apostle Peter observed, “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35).
Throughout Biblical history, God has expressed grief when men and women refuse to accept His terms of deliverance (Gen. 6:5-6; Heb. 3:10; Ezek. 33:11). And when the final judgment day comes, far too many will be grieved that they have refused to accept God’s terms of deliverance (Matt. 7:21-23; Rev. 20:12, 15). God’s earnest desire is that you, dear reader, be numbered among His elect. Why not make God’s choice your choice?