Doctrine of Election
God has three types of knowledge. They are all a part of the knowledge of God and the distinctions help us understand election.
First, He has self-knowledge; He knows Himself. In His dialogue with Moses, “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,`I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14)
Secondly, God is omniscient, which means He is all-knowing. God knows the actual and the possible, especially in relation to His creatures. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13)
And thirdly, God has foreknowledge, which is His acknowledgement of what is in the Decree of God. David recorded in his famous Psalm 139,
For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
3You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.
4For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
5You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. (Ps. 139:1-6)
This foreknowledge of God means every minute detail is completely known in eternity past. Every minute detail is in the mind of God, therefore the future is clear. God’s knowledge is not subject to change, development, or reasoning. God’s omniscience fed into the decree the actual facts. The decree is fixed, but does not fix. God’s foreknowledge is a printout of those elect ones. The elect ones experientially become elect at salvation. The elect ones are elect from eternity past.
Election depends on God’s sovereign application of the free will of man to God’s plan. John wrote, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Election becomes experientially real at the point of salvation. Election was made in eternity past as Paul writes, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (2 Thes. 2:13) God chose, or elected, every believer through means of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work that happens at the moment of salvation. Paul also writes, “[God], who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, (2 Tim. 1:9) There was nothing we could do for salvation. That is why faith is non-meritorious, that is, there is no merit for man. God does all the work through Jesus; we just accept that work on our behalf. The choice is to humbly accept the work, rather than think we can do or become something of value on our own before God. We cannot. We can only accept what God has done on our behalf.
Scripture teaches Unlimited Atonement. There are many passages that declare God’s unconditional sin payment for the human race by the blood of Jesus. For example,
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
John Calvin says of this verse: “He uses the word sin in the singular number for any kind of iniquity; as if he had said that every kind of unrighteousness which alienates men from God is taken away by Christ. And when he says the sin of the world, he extends this favor indiscriminately to the whole human race.” Additional verses in support of Unlimited Atonement are:
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:3-4)
5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, (1 Tim. 2:5-6)
For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. (1 Tim. 4:10)
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 Jn. 2:2)
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. (1 Jn. 4:14)
It would seem these are very clear that Jesus’ death was a substitution for the entire world – all the ungodly – those who would believe and those who would not.
Therefore, all members of the human race are potentially elect by the Father under the concept of Unlimited Atonement. Paul writes, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Tim. 2:10) The Greek grammar is important here. The phrase, “that they also may obtain” is a hina + subjunctive of tugchano- which means it is optional and dependent on man’s volition—man’s choice. Paul did not exclude anyone from this choice. Just above, we saw from 2 Peter 3:9 that the Lord was “not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” Some people will say that those whom God calls will be saved. So in this verse if God wishes for all to be saved, is God’s wish different from God’s call? If God wishes for something, would not that happen if He wanted it to happen? Could God wish for something and it not happen? It would not, if God allowed for His glory man’s choice to enter into the picture.
Election is the present and future possession of every believer. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:16) On his own, man would not choose God. If it were not for the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, every man would turn from God. It is only those to whom God calls and convicts, which is everyone, do they have an opportunity to make a choice. The saving is not of anything on man’s part. He only makes a non-meritorious decision, selfish as it may be, to receive the gift of salvation. He does this by faith. His purpose then becomes bearing fruit. Paul states our purpose after salvation, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (Col. 3:12) Once we are saved, our focus becomes bearing fruit for Jesus’ sake. That becomes a life-long pursuit of sanctification, because of our position in Christ.
Every believer shares the election of Christ through positional sanctification. Even Jesus is elect, according to Isaiah, “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” (Is. 42:1) Jesus, however, is not elect as we are. He was chosen to be the sin-Bearer and our Substitute. All those in the church of Corinth were believers as Paul writes, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours… But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God– and righteousness and sanctification and redemption… (1 Cor. 1:2,30) We are sanctified in Christ and as we grow in our relation with Jesus Christ we become experientially sanctified.
We can trust God in everything that He takes us through for our sanctification. Paul writes, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose… He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”(Rom 8:28, 32) Why can we trust Him? He chose us, elected us, from the foundation of the world, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” (Eph. 1:4)
This means that of the 1000 other decrees God could have chosen He chose one where you would believe in Christ (if you have). Give thanks to Him! It means that God is sovereignly in control of all history, not that He directly controls all history, because we cannot say God directs sin. That would be contrary to the character of God. However, He does allow sin in His permissive will and chose the decree in which there is sin. That decree allows many wicked things to occur, which exposes the wicked evil that is in the world and ultimately reveals that only when God is in direct control, is there serenity and calm. What do you remember about the love of God?
God gives and God corrects (1 John 4:9-10; Heb. 12:5-6). It means I share in the destiny of Christ, I share His election. That is confident expectation of what lies ahead and is reason for us not to become frustrated about what we face now. It means every person may be elect, therefore we are under obligation to witness and give the gospel at every opportunity. Are you taking advantage of the opportunity?