You know, this topic here, this debate into which I have wadded, is not an easy one. It’s full of sore issues and harsh realities and no small amount of hostility. Even so, there is merit – I believe – in digging in, in really trying to see what the Scriptures are trying to reveal to us. As we continue along, you will see that the extent – indeed, even the very existence – of will power is again at the forefront…
The “elect” is a term we find at various places in Scripture. As simply as it can be put, these “elect” are those who enjoy the salvation offered by Christ. Digging into the details a bit though, we find a glaring difference of interpretation between the Calvinists and Arminianists.
For the Calvinist, the matter is straightforward enough. As mankind, depraved as we are, can choose nothing but evil – as we discussed last time – God Himself has thus made the choice for His elect. He has, in their interpretation, decreed a select group of chosen individuals before even the founding of the world. He, being in control of everything, has picked His elect before they were ever born, having divinely elected those individuals to whom He will grant faith, and whether they know it immediately or not, they will inevitably accept Christ in their lifetime.
For the Arminianist, the decision is a matter – again – of free will. In their view, the election of individuals to salvation is based not on God’s decision for the sinner, but rather His knowledge of their personal choice since time immemorial. As they see it, God wishes that none should perish, that all should be saved by grace, but He doesn’t make the choice for us. The Arminianist rather believes that God extends His offer of election to all even though He inherently – through His omniscience – knows who will ultimately choose and fulfill their election.
Did I mention this is a tough subject? Well, what does the Bible say about such thing? As the real issue of this matter – like last week’s topic – boils down to choice and the individual, let’s consider the Scriptures relating to these things.
Can an individual’s will run counter to God’s will? Well, as an example, consider Luke 7:39-30”
“And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”
As Luke records, the Pharisees, apparently, stood against Lord’s will for them, rejecting the counsel of God. They rejected the truth! How does that fit with another passage, 2 Peter 3:9?
“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.”
Did you catch that? The Lord’s will is that none should perish, but that we all would come to repentance! Since many, many have – and yet will – go to Hell by merit of their choice to reject Christ, doesn’t it seem as though God’s will – that none of us should perish – is being thwarted to an extent? We apparently have a choice in accepting salvation or accepting the consequences of our rejection thereof.
Here’s another. Matthew 23:37:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
The language here, just as before and in numerous other passages of Scripture, indicates that God’s will was stalled by the sinful leaders of the city. If that’s not clear enough, we even see the same in a few parables. Consider the parable at the start of Matthew 22 pertaining to the Kingdom of Heaven:
“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come…”
The parable continues, but the point stands boldly here even in these two simple verses: A King (God) made ready a marriage for his son (Christ) and sent forth messengers (Missionaries) to call those invited to come (the lost), and they would not come! They would not come! That, my friends, implies a choice.
Free will is unquestionably a valid and critical element of the Scriptures. The Lord frequently calls for people to choose, obey, and believe on Him:
Joshua 24:15 – “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
John 3:18 – “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
John 15:10 – “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love”
Here’s a biggy to consider to this end: Ezekiel 18:23-24, 30-32 –
“Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die… Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.”
Calling us to do these things would be ludicrous is we had not the free will to exercise those choices. That sin is an aspect of our very being seems to further imply we would have a degree of choice in those actions, for otherwise God Himself would be the author of sin as much as He is of salvation. We are tested, and judged, for our actions, and both testing and judging would make utterly no sense if we had no choice in the matter.
Choice, free will, cannot be overlooked across the Scriptures, no matter how hard the Calvinist tries to do so. It’s there, from Eden to the End. Ultimately though, this petal of TULIP concerns election, and whether God chose just a handful of special folks for His people, or rather if He offers us – every one of us – the choice to become His people.
Here’s a passage to that end that even the Calvinists’ like to use for their purposes. Romans 8:29-30:
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
It’s easy enough to see how they may would jump to the conclusion that it weighs in their favor, what with the notion of predestinations and a calling, etc. Even so, notice that the first thing mentioned is God’s foreknowledge. He knew first, it seems, and from there – from His station in eternity – He moved ahead with the working expectation of who to predestinate. We, the elect, have been chose not by some arbitrary choice on God’s part, but rather as Peter said, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…”
Let’s pull a few more passages, quickly now, to make this final point.
Paul wrote (Speaking of Jesus Christ, God our Savior) in 1 Timothy 2:4-6, saying “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
Think about what it’s saying: Jesus Christ would have ALL men to be saved; All to come to the knowledge of the truth; giving Himself a ransom for ALL! I don’t see anything about a few chosen “elect” in there. Do you?
Christ Himself said as much in John 12, when He spoke of His impending death:
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” – verse 32
He will draw ALL men to Him. He will reveal Himself to ALL, not just the elect.
Free choice is real, and our choice extends beyond the mundane of this existence, beyond the everyday choices of everything from breakfast to bedtime. The reach of our choice extends all the way to our eternity and where we will extend it. I pray right now that you are making the right choice, accepting the salvation being offered to you by the One who would have none lost, who would have none perish, the One who gave Himself a ransom you everyone.
Do you know Jesus today?