SALVATION IS OF THE LORD
Many people represent salvation as being mostly of the Lord, but in part of us as we have to have faith and believe. And yet, the scriptures tell us that Jesus is both "the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2) Man does not seek God (Romans 3:11 ), so God, seeks man ( Luke 19:10) Man does not come willingly to God (John 5:40), so God must draw him (John 6:44). Man does not choose God, but rather, God chooses him. (John 15:16 "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you...") So it can be declared as in Jonah 2:9 "Salvation is of the Lord"
Contrary to our understanding, our salvation does not begin with our faith: It begins with God. It appears to have begun with us, as from our perspective we look back on the moment of our salvation. We see that we sought, that we had faith, and we see our own personal response to the calling of God. But as we look at our salvation from the perspective of God, through His Word, we see that He was the root of it all. Consider for a moment the testimony of the great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon.
"When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this...One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God...the thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God."
God has, according to the Bible chosen us for salvation long before we were ever in existence, and this election has nothing to do with our will, but rather with His. Ephesians 1:4,5 "According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." Verse 11 says it again "...being predestinated according to Him who works all things according to the purpose of His will: that we should be to His glory, who first trusted in Christ." 2 Timothy 1:9 "Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to Him own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
Many Christians today have a fear of the doctrine of election. It is by far one of the greatest debates in the history of the church and many Christians would rather avoid the issue than to delve into the big questions it raises.
Some avoid the issue because they see that it does not easily comply with logic. They are unable in their minds to reconcile the two truths presented in the Bible: that man is responsible for his actions, and yet at the same time God is fully sovereign.
Others avoid the issue because they mistakenly believe that it paints a picture of a cruel and uncaring God who will not save everyone but who chooses some to live and others to die. (Yet rather it is that of a merciful God who chooses to redeem some undeserving people out of a world of equally undeserving people who because of their sin justly merit death and hell )
Despite it's obviously controversial and seemingly contradictory nature, the doctrine of Sovereign Election is one that cannot be ignored by any Christian seeking to study the Bible in its entirety. Throughout the Scriptures, one can find over 127 examples of God's choice of nations or individuals for various purposes: (God's choosing and electing a people to himself (the Jews) through the choosing of Abraham out of a world of people, the choosing of Isaac over Ishmael, the choosing of Jacob over Esau (before they were born according to Romans 9) the choosing of who would betray His Son (Acts 2:23), the choosing of the disciples, right down to the choosing and election of the church, his bride.)
Webster's dictionary defines election as follows: "ELECT: to determine in favor of, to designate, choose or select as an object of mercy or favor, predestinated in the divine counsels, one chosen or set apart, one chosen or designated by God for salvation, collectively, the saved. ELECTION: Divine choice, predetermination of God, by which persons are distinguished as objects of mercy, become subjects of grace, are sanctified and prepared for heaven, the elect."
If one does a word study of the following words: elect, election, chosen, called, appointed, ordained, predestined, predestination; he will find that election is indeed a biblical concept (unlike the term "free will" which is never found in the Bible) The following is a small list of the many passages which mention election, and being chosen.:
2 Thessalonians 2:13 "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation..."
Titus 1:1 " Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledging of the truth."
Colossians 3:12 "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;..."
Revelation 17:14 "And they that are with Him are called and chosen, and faithful."
Romans 11:5 "Even so then, at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."
Romans 11:7 "What then, Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded."
2 Timothy 2:10 "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
Mark 13:20 " But for the elect's sake, whom He has chosen, those days shall be shortened. (22,27)
Luke 18:7 "And shall not God avenge His own elect...?"
Romans 8:33 "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?
Romans 16:13 "Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord"
Psalm 33:12 "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance."
Peter 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.."
James 2:5 "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world..."
1 Corinthians 1:27-31 "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, and the things that are not to nullify the things that are; so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
b) TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Despite its many appearances in scripture, the doctrine of election/predestination is one that very often confuses and divides. It does raise a lot of questions (all of which are answerable with scripture) and it strikes some sensitive nerves.
The biggest nerve that is struck when free will is denied and God's sovereignty upheld is man's pride. Man, in his sinful nature seeks independence from God. He has the "me do" attitude of a toddler. He wants to achieve his own salvation and stay in control of his own life. Finally, by the grace of God he is convicted of his sin and the Holy Spirit brings him to an understanding of His need for a saviour. Yet that desire for control still lingers in the flesh.- If man can say "I chose God", he can still in his mind have control of his life. If he was willing and that willingness is the closing factor in his salvation, he still has the final say. God is in his life only because he gave him the permission to be there. It is tough on man's ego to admit that he is totally dependant upon God for all. That he is so wretched and depraved that He can do nothing in his salvation. That even his believing and repentance is given to Him through God's grace; such is a reality that takes much humbling in a person in order to be accepted. It is easier on man's pride to declare that he in some fashion chose God...
If man's will really was free and man was able to choose God to determine that he will go to heaven, a natural result is that this would give those of us who are saved, boasting rights. If God drew all men equally and did in you nothing more than He did in anyone else, and if the only difference between you who is saved and the other guy who isn't is that you chose God and he didn't, you can pat yourself on the shoulder and take pride in your "wise decision". If however, you understand that you were spiritually DEAD, unable without the Spirit to understand the things of God (see 1 Corinthians 2:14), unable, unwilling, and in your state of sin, undesiring of God but that God in His grace, "according to the good pleasure of His will" (Ephesians 1:5) chose you and revealed Himself to you, causing you then to believe and place your faith in Him; you can only give God the glory.
1 Corinthians 4:7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Ephesians 2:8&9 says: "For by grace are we saved through faith, and that (the whole first part even faith) not of ourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.
Free will glorifies man. It says that man has in him the ability to wisely choose for God. Election glorifies God. It says that only God is wise; only God is sovereign and in being sovereign is utterly able to control and make the wisest of decisions.
We live in a society that is very man centered. We talk about self esteem, self help, and focus on self images; while the Bible talks about humility, submission, dying to self... Sadly this man- focused pattern of thought often finds itself within our churches. Emphasis is commonly placed on what man must do, on his free will and ability to choose... little is said of god's sovereignty, of His infinite wisdom, of His omnipotence...
As Chuck Swindoll once said: "No other doctrine (than election) so highly upholds the perfect character of God" And yet, how often do we seek instead to uphold man's dignity in allotting him "freedom and wisdom to choose." When the final deciding element in man's salvation is his election, not his will; God gets all the glory. Man gets none.
Ephesians 1:11-12 "...In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything according to the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
c) HOW ABOUT ELECTION BASED ON FOREKNOWLEDGE?
In trying to reconcile the verses about election with their concept of "free will", many people explain election this way: God foreknows our faith and elects us on the basis of our choice of Him. This theory, although it suits the free will idea, is based on a misinterpretation of 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)."
One only needs to ponder briefly the implications of the previous assertion to understand how impossible this system would be. For if God chooses man based on their choice of Him, it really is no choice at all on the part of God. He is merely rewarding His creation for a choice they made. (As Chuck Swindoll puts it: "that's not pre-destination that's post-destination". It would also follow that God's will would then be controlled and defined by the will of His own creatures. (For He could only chose to save them if they would chose Him.) Yet Jesus Himself declared: "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you..." (John 15:16)
Another essential point to consider regarding this line of thought is this: Supposing that man is foreordained to salvation based on his foreseen acceptance of God, one would have to ask, how would that man have been able to chose God without it first being of God? For according to the above verse, only those who have been predestinated are called unto salvation, are justified and glorified. Without God first predestinating man, there would be no faith to foresee.
Or, to put it another way, if man is dead in his sin (as previously established), if he, left to himself, does not desire to come to God and depends solely on God's calling and drawing to come to Him, God could not have looked into eternity to come and seen that I would choose Him; for in fact I would not, were He not the one choosing me first. ("We love Him because He first loved us ") The free- willer puts the cart before the horse.. He asserts that God gives faith because man is willing. But the bible teaches that "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy".. (Romans 9:11) Again, the free-willer (Arminian) says: God chose me because I am willing. But I say, (and I believe the scriptures affirm) that I am willing, because He chose me.
Charles Spurgeon explains it in a similar fashion: "Did my savior die for me because I believed on Him? No; I was not then in existence; I had then no being. Could the Saviour therefore have died because I had faith, when I myself was not yet born? Could that have been the origin of my Saviour's love towards me? Oh! no; my Saviour died for me long before I believed. "But," says someone, "He foresaw that you would have faith; and therefore, He loved you." What did He foresee about my faith? Did He foresee that I should get that faith myself, and that I should believe on Him of myself? No; Christ could not foresee that, because no Christian man will ever say that faith came of itself without the gift and without the working of the Holy Spirit."
While considering this issue of faith based on foreknowledge, one must also take a close look at Romans 8:29 "The first few words clearly say "For whom He did foreknow..." Note that it does not specify "for those whose faith He did foreknow.."; it does not say that there was anything in particular in us that He foreknew, but it says WHOM He foreknew. He foreknew people. And those people that He foreknew, he predestinated, He called, He justified and He glorified. . If one would try to say that it was our faith that He foreknew when the text does not say so, another could just as easily say that He foreknew our works, and that would be equally false.
God's sovereignty & man's responsibility to believe