02
Apr
08

Not Enough Study & the Doctrine of Election

For those of you present last Sunday at CrossPoint you heard me deliver my minor understanding of the doctrine of election.  In just a few paragraphs I will provide that understanding for you below.

I share this information with you for two reasons.  One, because someone requested I place it on my blog for others to peruse.  Two, in order to show you what the result of personal study will do for you.

The doctrine of election became an enthrallment to me years ago.  The author of a particular book I was reading made substantial biblical arguments for the doctrine.  My theology was challenged.  I struggled because much of my knowledge was based on individual bias and not scriptural study.  The more I studied the stupendous doctrine, the more I developed scriptural convictions.

Some of you will not agree with what I write.  That’s okay with me, just as long as you can substantiate your disagreement with Scripture.  Otherwise, you may not have studied enough.

This is what I read to you Sunday morning:

THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION

Now let’s take a moment to go back and talk about God’s choosing us. It is called the Doctrine of Election or the Doctrine of Predestination.

In the history of the Christian church, few doctrines have been as hotly debated as the doctrine of election or predestination. Some have called it the damnable doctrine. Others have called it the sweetest truth in all of God’s word. Whole books have been written to disprove it. Volumes have been written to say it must be true. Surely, what I am going to say in the next few minutes will not solve this debate. However, it is my intention to help us move forward in this most blessed and mysterious of doctrines.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Baptist Faith and Message says this about the doctrine of election:

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

(50 references) Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2.

Former Southern Baptist Seminary President E.Y. Mullins said:

God’s choice of a person is prior to that person’s choice of God, since God is infinite in wisdom and knowledge and will not make the success of the divine kingdom dependent on the contingent choices of people.

With regard to the Doctrine of Election, let’s nail down several things we as a church believe:

  • We believe whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved—Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, rich or poor, young or old, educated or illiterate, healthy or sick. Romans 10:13 says, “For, ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”
  • We believe no one should be written off for salvation. Since we are not involved in the selection process we cannot include or exclude anyone from hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
  • We believe God never chooses a man to be lost; neither doe we believe God saves someone against their will. Everyone is lost. Everyone deserves the punishment of hell for their sins. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Every believer in this room, before God intervened, was going to hell. Thanks be to God He convicted us of our sin and gave us the faith to believe unto salvation.
  • We believe everyone will be held accountable for their sin. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
  • We believe a person must repent of their sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. Jesus said in Mark 1:14-15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
  • We believe there is no one in Heaven, who wants to be in Hell.
  • We believe there is no one in Hell, who wants to be in Heaven. They may want out of Hell, but they have no desire to be in heaven or under God’s authority.

I like what my friend Ray Pritchard uses to describe this mysterious doctrine. He says,

God is in charge of what happens, When it happens, how it happens, why it happens, and even what happens after it happens.
This is true of all events in every place from the beginning of time.
God does this for our good and for his glory.
He is not the author of sin, yet evil serves his purposes.
He does not violate our free will, yet free will serves his purposes.
We are not supposed to understand all this.
We are simply supposed to believe it.

I appreciate the sincere transparency of one commentator when he said this about the tension between election and free will:

How can election and personal faith both exist at the same time? I don’t know. Throughout Scripture there is tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s will. And it is a tension we are incapable of reconciling completely. But it is our responsibility to believe both truths without reservation, just as they are revealed. We know these truths are in perfect harmony in God’s mind, and that should satisfy us.

This same commentator added:

Someone pictured the divine and human side of salvation this way: When you look up to heaven you see a sign that reads, “Whosoever will, may come.” But as soon as you enter heaven and pass by the sign, the back of it reads, “Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world.”

Then he concludes:

We need not try to solve such seemingly irreconcilable truths, just thank and praise God for them. Our responsibility is to respond in faith, knowing that they are harmonized in God’s mind.

Tomorrow, we follow up our “Not Enough” series with not enough reading. Until then, read more.

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3 Responses to “Not Enough Study & the Doctrine of Election”


  1. 1 Searching
    April 2, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Very interesting presentation on an issue that seems to permeate a great deal of Christian dialogue of late. It stands to reason that one’s position on the Doctrine of Election is based on two key factors; first, one’s understanding and concept of God and the second would involve one’s understanding and concept of sovereignty and more specifically the sovereignty of our Father God.
    I would agree with you on the fact that everyone needs to pray more, study more, read more and think more in order to formulate a position on this doctrine and further to develop and mature their own concept and understanding of who God is. I commend you on your admonitions to increase our time with God because the intimacy with God that will result is the best part of it all! I also commend you for allowing a difference of belief based on one’s praying, studying, reading and thinking about such truths.
    To God be all glory!

  2. 2 Ron
    April 2, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Well done good and faithful servant. Your faithfulness to deliver “the whole counsel of God” is admirable and encouraging. My own personal journey was when what I believed conflicted with what I read in Scripture. It was then I had a crisis of faith. Either I had to change what I believed or I had to manipulate the Scripture to support what I believed. The only choice was the former. I still don’t have it figured out any more than I understand how Jesus could be 100% God and 100% man at the same time… but still I believe. I don’t understand election any more than the idea of a Triune God that is One… but I still believe. Bless you for your faithfulness to Scripture and your call. That is encourging.

  3. 3 Marie
    April 4, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Ryan,

    Thank you for posting this on your blog. Where else on earth could we have it presented any more plainly than here? Hopefully, this is going to answer a lot of questions for a lot of people.


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