“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect.  For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’  That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.  For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.’  And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.’  As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’  What shall we say then?  Is there unrighteousness with God?  Certainly not!  For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’  So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”  Romans 9:6-17

            The doctrine of election or predestination is one that is treasured and seen as immeasurably valuable among many [Reformed] evangelical Christians.  It is also one that seems to be repulsed and interpreted as offensive or even seen as detrimental by many professing evangelical Christians.  In our teaching and understanding of this important doctrine, it is essential that we know that it is not a term eventually developed by man over a period of many years or centuries.  Neither was it derived from anything that is outside of the Scriptures.  It is only by the Scriptures that we even know the term “election.”  Therefore, our seeming apologetic attitude and sensitivity to people who are vehemently opposed to this glorious doctrine is not biblically defined or justified and should not be understood and taught as such.  We are commanded to believe in the doctrine of election because God explicitly teaches it.  We are in error if we believe and teach otherwise.  I would like to:

 A.) list several reasons why I believe professing Christians “struggle with” and even vastly misinterpret this doctrine and

B.) provide solutions to these reasons in light of Scripture so that they can be corrected to repent if necessary.

            Prior to deciphering why I believe the doctrine of election in particular is an offense to people and why we in turn, teach it as if it is so, I would first like to define what it is.  Without writing an entire book or quoting entire chapters and books of the Scriptures, I will describe the very simplified version as defined in the doctrines of grace.  It is specifically defined as unconditional election.  Basically, God has predetermined, before the foundation of the world, that he would “elect” a people to himself that will be His own special people as an inheritance.  This particular election is a decree from God’s infinite wisdom from eternity past that is not based on any merit or “foreseen faith” in man.  Nor is it based on “prior knowledge” in God that is ultimately based on man’s decision to inherit eternal life.  Man is described as being adopted into God’s family.  Ephesians 1 states that, “just as he chose us in Him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (v.4-6).”  

In other words, we are so far off and exceedingly sinful in thought, mind and deed [radically depraved and corrupt] that we depend solely on the righteousness of Christ and grace alone to give us a right standing with God (Romans 4:23-24).   It is not that God just elects or adopts us and we play some small role that contributes to the infinitely and absolutely Sovereign God’s goal in bringing home his people to glory.  It is that He must grant or impute the righteousness of Christ to us or we perish forever.  The greatest amount of righteousness or holiness that we could possibly muster up on our own is as filthy rags in the eyes of an infinitely holy God (Isaiah 64:6).  Therefore, we not only depend on God for eternal life and righteousness, but also for repentance, faith, belief, life, breath and all things. 

On the other hand, since God elects a chosen people to himself, He also has decreed the doctrine of reprobation for those who are ultimately not determined before the foundation of the world to inherit eternal life.  Everyone that was ever born from woman (except for Jesus Christ) was born to either ultimately inherit eternal glory in heaven with Christ or to perish forever in hell.  Both decrees are justified and God is glorified in both as they each reflect and demonstrate God’s eternal attributes.  Consider what Paul states to the Romans,

“You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted his will?’  But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?  Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’  Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?’  What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles (Romans 9:19-24)?”  Therefore, it is ultimately not man who wills or works but God who wills and works for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).

The following list is reasons why certain evangelicals who “struggle with” the doctrine of election or receive the teaching of it negatively:

1.)  They are not explicitly taught the doctrine of election in their local church

 If a pastor or teacher does not believe this doctrine, he will simply not teach it to the church.  Therefore, the congregation will not be held accountable to the pastor for the application or knowledge of such a doctrine.  Because the Scriptures teach the entire counsel of God, which includes election, it is our responsibility to learn the entire counsel of God and the doctrines that pertain to it.  It is the same when we are teachers of God’s word.  It is our responsibility to specifically teach the entire counsel of God and the doctrines that pertain to it. 

It is no wonder that it is a complete shock to the congregation of these churches when they first hear the terms “election” and “predestination” from the pulpit in light of historical Christianity and correct hermeneutics as if it is some strange thing or not true.  How do you preach at a church for thirty years and never speak of election?  I am not sure, actually.  But, it most certainly is a mixture of neglect and ignorance.

2.)    It is not fair for some to be elected unto eternal life and others left to perish in their sins.

There are those that attest the doctrine of election isn’t fair or does not seem fair.  This is another false assertion developed by sinful men.  It is from a humanist perspective and mindset whose only purpose is to defend the welfare of men, who are exceedingly sinful and does not have in mind the eternal purposes, holiness and glory of God in Christ.  People that proclaim this on the mountaintops do not understand that they are radically depraved and that all men are truly deserving of death and only God’s wrath (Romans 3:10-11).  Why does God choose to save Jacob and not Esau or hate one and not the other?  It was so that the doctrine of election might stand.  It was merely because it was more pleasing in the eyes of God to save and bless Jacob in His covenant than it was for Esau. Therefore, God had determined that Jacob would be righteous and favorable and Esau a wicked and vile creature who would ultimately sell his birthright (Gen. 25:33).

3.)  Every man that is ever born is the “elect” and that is what it is talking about whenever election is mentioned.

This seems to be a popular interpretation among many.  It is not only clearly a false assertion, but it is inherently blasphemy as it detracts from the complete sufficiency of the substitionary death of Jesus Christ and attempts to provide man with another escape route from the wrath of God to still “enter heaven.”  It is an attempt to make the Gospel weak, light-hearted and tears down the wall to invite universalism and all sorts of false doctrine and heresy in the heart and church.  If Jesus Christ died for everyone, then not only does everyone not have assurance of their salvation but indeed no one does.  The primary logical and biblical reason this is true is the fact that we have the doctrine of hell.  If all men were elect, or if Christ died for everyone that was ever born, then no one would ever go to hell.  Jesus states in Matthew, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from  you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell ( Matt. 5:.29-30).  This is a clear implication that there is a literal hell and that people be cast into it.  It is described more in the gospels by Jesus than anywhere else and by anyone else in the Scriptures. 

 4.)    If people are already chosen to either be saved or not before the foundation of the world, then why evangelize?

I bring up the topic of evangelism because there seems to be many people that think the doctrine of election detracts from or substitutes evangelism in some way.  Instead of thoroughly understanding each of these doctrines by viewing them separately as serving two different purposes, they are irrationally glued together and the purposes and understanding of both of them are lost in the midst.  Election and evangelism are two different doctrines.  The doctrine of election serves to explain whether or not we will be saved based on the Sovereign decrees of God and grace before the world began.  It is proven or enacted in this life by God effectually calling an individual at a particular moment by grace and holy spirit to be led to repentance through faith (Eph. 2:8-10).  They are justified, caused to be born-again and are given new life.  They are continually sanctified or made holy on a continual basis by the spirit until they are glorified with Jesus Christ in the last day (1 John 3:2-3). 

The doctrine of evangelism or the “great commission” is the means to how we are saved.  Paul states,

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things (Romans 10:14-15)!’”

Since God is infinitely wise, sovereign and not limited in any way, He can choose to save anyone at any time and in any fashion He chooses.  However, Scripture teaches that He primarily does this by sending forth someone to preach the gospel. The apostle Paul is an example of this.  He was preached to by Jesus himself on the road to Damascus (Acts 9 1-7).  Paul also taught about election to the Romans in chapter nine and followed with the teaching of evangelism or the means to how we are saved in chapter ten.  As these chapters were probably taught in one sitting to the Romans in sermon form, they were enabled to understand the entire counsel and wisdom of God in the purposes of evangelism and election.  Election and evangelism are or can be taught together to project the purpose, focus and emphasis of each to not detract or deemphasize in any way from each other. 

            In conclusion, the doctrine of election is a Christ-exalting, biblical doctrine and not a man-exalting, sensual doctrine.  We are either saved completely by the Sovereign grace of God alone and nothing else or we are either saved by our works.  If we are saved by grace that also depends on man’s decision to embrace the cross of Christ upon his own will and ability, then grace would utterly cease to be grace.  It would be a powerless and utterly worthless word.  We would then have our eternal destiny entirely dependant on our own spiritual faculties.  Man would be left to wander on his own with no life and certainly no ability to give himself life.  He could not repent because does not know how apart from God telling him how.    It is a futile matter to think we can offer such services to God as if they mean anything to Him! 

            The beauty of the doctrine of election is that it powerfully realizes the gospel.  Perhaps when we are first drawn to the cross of Calvary and are revealed our sin nature as in a public matter for all to see, we may have thought it was our doing.  We may have thought we made a decision on our own to be saved and responded with such great faith!  Friends, without God placing His thoughts and words in your heart and mind with His holy spirit, you would be in utter despair and have no inkling or desire of repentance, faith or the glory of Christ.  You would be dead in your sins and an infinite distance from grace and glory.  Apart from Christ alone snatching you from hell, you would run there quickly with no hesitation. 

            The true peril of the state of man is revealed in the utter dependency and desperate need for God Himself to be sacrificed on the rugged tree for us!  It is when we have a convicting grasp of this truth that we know our infinite inability to derive anything so glorious and perfect from our own grave nature, corrupt mind and sin-loving status apart from grace.  The glorious death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone is the only pictorial for a wrath-deserving sinner to visualize and then realize only an utterance of the power and truth of how he may obtain grace; lest he be blinded to truth and grace at last.  It is not that you first diagnosed your own condition of sin and then provided your own perfect solution.  But, it is the holy spirit of grace alone that commands to you to believe and awakens your soul to life, grace and truth! 

            Thus, the doctrine of election and grace or justification by faith leaves no room for any sinner to boast in his own righteous ability to repent as if there is something good and right that dwells within his soul.  “For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.  But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation (Galatians 6:13-15).”  The sacrifice of the son of God on the cross in humility and humiliation either means everything for the sinner or it means nothing.  We must realize that the atonement not only provides grace and forgiveness, but it is the only thing that enables us to have life itself.  He imputes His infinitely glorious righteousness to us because we have none. 

Jesus Christ, the holy spirit, must breathe his spirit of life upon our hearts to open our eyes and ears to believe the gospel.  If your heart is truly broken over sin and have lost your life for His sake, then you can be assured that you are one of the elect of God; for He has revealed this to you.  You are blessed!  If you are careless in this life over sin or do not fear the Almighty and His righteous judgment, then you are living a perilous life!  Repent and believe the gospel.  The doctrine of election is not an offense; but it has by its very definition, brought man to ashes in his own deeds and exalted Christ above all nations and creation.  It serves to break man of his natural pride and tendency to make himself a god in his own eyes as seen in the Garden of Eden.  The doctrine of election is indeed that beautiful decree in which God has ordained to exalt Himself and to provide mankind the only hope that is even possible.