‘Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied (1 Peter 1:1, 2).’
On 23rd May it will be polling day in the UK for the European Union Election. To me this is a very strange situation, since the British people made a choice by referendum to come out of the EU. Yes, there was a small margin in favour of leaving, but that is the way democracy works. I had hoped the country would get together, be united and go forward to make Great Britain prosper, but as we know, exactly the opposite is happening. People are more divided than ever.
Elections are all about making choices. To make good choices, one needs to know the truth, and to have a knowledge of the facts for assessing the pros and cons. If we apply this reasoning to our church outreach and to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1-16:20), then we must be well informed of the facts. We need to be able to present the truth as to who Jesus is (John 14:6) and what His gospel is. We must present these things in such a way that people can *understand them.
So far, so good, but now we come to a very important fact, and that is people must also *hear the gospel (Romans 10:17) before they can understand it. This is necessary for them to believe and to trust in Jesus (Matthew 13:23).
Sometimes we can feel frustrated because the hearing and the understanding is beyond our control. God is the One who enables people to hear and to understand (Matthew 13:14, 15). Of course, we shouldn’t be frustrated when they don’t get it, and be transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17) by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5; Romans 15:13). Instead we should relax in the knowledge that God ultimately chooses who enters His heaven. It’s all of Him, and He has everything under control (Hebrews 1:1-3).
This choosing by God is commonly known as the ‘doctrine of election’ . God chooses His elect.
Election, The Most Loathed of Doctrines
Election is perhaps the most loathed of all doctrines. Unbelievers can even hate it! They reason that God chooses His disciples, but He does not choose them. They say He is partial and unfair (cf. Mark 12:14). Why should they go to hell and believers go to heaven? Little do they know that God is holy (Psalm 99:5), righteous (Psalm 116:5) and just (Isaiah 45:21; Psalm 7:11); therefore He has to punish them for their sinning against Him. Those who are not forgiven for their persistent disobedience and rebellion deserve and get hell (Romans 1:18-32; Deuteronomy 32:4). Others who repent of their sins and trust Jesus are saved from hell because Jesus suffered (1 Peter 4:1) hell in their place. He is their Substitute. He is their Saviour (2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Peter 1:1).
In my efforts to obey the command of the Lord Jesus to make disciples (Matthew 28:19, 20) this grievance on the part of the unsaved is often a sticking point. I think this is because people like to be in control of their own destiny. They are mistaken, since they are unaware of the fact that God fashions their destiny (Psalm 139:1-18). When they are told that not all people go to heaven they can sometimes become very aggressive. They resent not having the power to overrule God. Indeed, many genuine, loving and faithful Christians become upset when they are told that Jesus chose them (Ephesians 1:4). They always thought they had chosen Him (John 15:16). In actual fact, He first loved them before they loved Him (1 John 4:19), and He chose them from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
God does all the choosing. He is the Sovereign King (Psalm 47:2), and He rules over all He has created (2 Chronicles 20:6). Paul the Apostle tells us that God chose some for noble purposes and others for ignoble purposes. He is the Potter and He does what He likes with His pots (Romans 9:21). He elects people for different purposes; for example, He used Pharaoh to show His power (v 17). He appointed Moses as leader of His Old Testament people (Exodus 3:10) and He inspired him to write His laws for all His people to obey (Exodus 19:3-8). He appointed Joshua to take the second generation of the Israelites over the river Jordan and into Canaan (Joshua 3). There, with God’s help, they conquered the inhabitants and their kings, and occupied the land (Joshua 21:43). God gave Abraham faith and accounted it to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3, 9)! [Some may try to argue that faith is not a gift, but Ephesians 2:8 shows that it is.] God chose Saul, David and all the Prophets. He has predestined all and everything that will happen (Ephesians 1:11).
Free Choice and Accountability
This begs the questions, “Who has free choice?” and, “How can we be held accountable (Hebrews 4:13)?” The Scriptures tell us we are all accountable for our actions, words, and even our thoughts (1 Peter 4:5). Now, that’s hard to grasp. The fact is we do not have total freewill; for God has planned all actions and all things, and He will accomplish what He has decreed (cf. Romans 9:19). He elects His chosen ones and adopts them as His children (Romans 8:15, 16), and at the same time He assures everyone who believes in Him they have eternal life (John 3:16; 1 John 5:11). God’s Word is true; therefore what He says in the Bible is true.
Trying to work out how this apparent paradox is in fact not a paradox is hard to fathom. What I do know is that I do not have total freedom. The only Person who does, is God. Within the limited freedom He gives us we are free to make decisions. We are free to elect for that or for this. We can choose to do wrong or to do right. We can chose to do evil or to do good (Joshua 24:15). Yes, we who are born again have been created for the purpose of doing good works that have been preordained (Ephesians 2:10). I have no problem with that; indeed, I’m elated that God has chosen me to do good works. There’s nothing more satisfying and rewarding. The greater reward is yet to come; for at the second coming of Jesus He will say to those who have been faithful, “Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21, 23).”
The Doctrine of Election
The doctrine of election is truly a difficult one to present to unbelievers. They resent it – even hate it. That’s not surprising, since they know they are excluded from heaven, unless they repent and believe (Mark 1:15). God immediately accepts those with faith (Luke 23:43). The difficult conclusion is that the unsaved have been predestined to go to hell. There are Christians who say that all people have a choice. They can choose not to believe, or they can choose to believe. The truth is, if they don’t repent and believe, they deserve hell (Job 31:28) for their rebellion against God (Romans 1:32). Paradoxically, God hardens (Exodus 10:1) or softens hearts. He can change hearts of rock into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
God makes it clear to all that He created the world (Genesis 1:1—2:1), and He gives to all a knowledge and awareness of Himself through His creation. This is sufficient for them to seek Him out (Romans 1:20). He gives them an innate understanding of good and evil (Genesis 3:22). They have a deep inner awareness of sin which is inherited from Adam who ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6). Because of Adam’s disobedience everyone without exception has inherited his sin (Romans 3:23), and thus they sin. God makes them aware of their sinning through their conscience (Romans 2:15), and particularly through His Word, i.e., the Bible, which clearly **defines sin. In His mercy and love God sent His Son Jesus as a testimony (1 John 5:11) of His love and to give eternal life (John 3:16). He died for those who repent of their sins (Acts 3:19). Jesus’ death on the cross and His suffering (1 Peter 2:21) in Hell was sufficient to pay for the total debt owed by everyone who repents and believes (Hebrews 9:13-15).
God’s election gives Christians great ***joy. They forever praise God (Psalm 75:9) the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, because of their salvation thorough Jesus.
*Hearing and Understanding the Gospel
**Sin and Its Consequences
***Happiness and Joy