THE CHRISTIAN’S COMPASS.

Point Two: UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION

Various Verses.

 

 

          Today we will turn our attention to the second point of the Christian’s compass. The ‘U’ in the mnemonic word TULIP. Let me remind you of what each letter in that Mnemonic corresponds with.

 

  1. T- Total Depravity: Men and women can’t save themselves because the fall that took place in the Garden of Eden was a total fall.
  2. U- Unconditional Election: If men and women are going to be saved then God must save them. Therefore, since God is the one who is going to save then He must be free to save whoever he wills.
  3. L- Limited Atonement: Since God has chosen to save certain people, then those are the people for whom Christ died on the cross.
  4. I – Irresistible Calling: Since God chose certain people and Christ died for certain people then the Holy Spirit will call those same people into the experience and enjoyment that Christ purchased for them by His blood.
  5. P – Perseverance of the Saints: Because our salvation has its beginning in God, then He will be the one to see that it all comes to its proper conclusion. What this means is that everyone who He has chosen, and bought with Christ’s blood, and called by the Holy Spirit, will enter into the eternal enjoyment of heaven.

 

          First, let me ask those of you who were here last week. Do you accept what you heard last Sunday? Your answer to that question will influence how you accept what I am going to say this morning. What I mean is, if you agree with what I said the Bible teaches last Sunday: That, even though God reveals Himself to people every day through His creation and His Word, they not only can’t hear His voice, but they don’t hear it. Last week we learned that they can’t hear Him, see Him, love Him, chose Him, want Him, desire Him, or move towards Him. They are spiritually dead.

            And yet still we witness the amazing fact that, everyday some people do come to life. But if they can’t move themselves then how do we explain their spiritual rebirth? The answer is, God must have given them life! Based upon that fact then, I’m confident you will see the truth of what I am going to say today. Because it too, is found directly in the pages of the Bible.

          Last week we correctly diagnosed from the Bible what the sickness is that has plagued humanity since the fall in the Garden of Eden. The result of that truthful diagnosis (what is wrong) is that we could then see the prognosis (what the future will hold). And now based on that information we can begin to see the cure that is offered.

          Unfortunately, if you don’t accept what a real mess we are in because of Adam and Eve’s sin. The totality of the fall from grace that they experienced and that now we all experience as their descendants then, it is unlikely that you will understand or accept what the Bible teaches about election. This teaching is that God chose, but there was nothing found in Humanity that caused Him to choose them. All the reasons for the choice were God’s alone and that is why it is called unconditional. That is the truth we are going to look at today. And if you think about it, it logically follows what we talked about last week.

          This phrase, Unconditional Election, may seem like a strange theological term but really, it is just a summary of what the Bible teaches about how people are ‘chosen’ for salvation. You may hear this teaching go by other names such as, “unmerited favor,” “sovereign election” or my own personal favourite “adopted by God”. But what is more important than the name we use is, does it describe accurately the Bible’s teaching on this important subject?

          It’s important to understand that when we look at what the Bible teaches, we are not just considering some vague philosophical idea. When we read and study the Bible we are dealing with the truth. This story of predestination and election is the story of the Bible and if you do not believe in predestination and election it is because you have not seen it revealed plainly throughout the pages of the Bible.

          So, let’s begin with the story of Abraham. Abraham was called by God out of the pagan culture of Ur of the Chaldees. All the Christians I have met in the world believe that God chose Abraham and not anyone else out of the darkness of paganism. What is that if not ‘unconditional election’?

          Christians also have no difficulty accepting that, out of all the nations of the world, God chose Israel. Why did God choose them? Remember that we asked this same question in our series on the Book of Exodus? Well, we don’t have to guess at the answer because God gives it to us in Deuteronomy 7:7. God said through His servant Moses, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you.”

          Again, we see this aspect of Unconditional election in that God didn’t choose Israel because of anything he saw in them or anything that they would do in the future. He chose them purely because of His love and grace.

          We see this again when we come to the story of Isaac. He had twin sons who were named Jacob and Esau and, according to the custom of the day, the older would take priority over the younger. But let’s go to Romans 9 and read verses 10-13. And no one disputes this account either, Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

          The passage we just read is the basis for the biblical teaching of unconditional election. Verse 11 is especially important as it reveals that God’s choice was not based upon any works the twins were doing. They weren’t even born yet. And it wasn’t based upon anything they would do. The choice was God’s alone and it was according to His own purpose. This was unconditional election; God took one and left the other.

          The next passage we are going to look at is important for us to understand because it is what the Lord Jesus preached. That is why I preach it here at UCC and anywhere else I am sent. Turn with me to Luke chapter 4 and verse 25-29. This incident took place just as Jesus was setting out on His ministry of preaching to the public. First, we will read verses 25-27, “I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

 Why would Jesus teach this? Even though there were so many suffering Israelites, His people, but on both occasions, the ones who were chosen were from outside of Israel.

          Now look at verses 28 and 29 and we will see the reaction of those who listened to the preaching of Jesus. “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff”. They hated the doctrine of unconditional election. And if you can’t get rid of the truth then at least try and get rid of the person who proclaims it. That is how the devil works. But they couldn’t because it was Jesus the Lord of Glory and His Word. He passed through the angry mob.

          Now the next passage, I just want you to listen to, without any comment from me. This is a special privilege that we have now in this modern world isn’t it. We are able to listen to exactly what the Saviour said and taught. John 6:37-40, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Do you hear Him? What a wonderful promise.

           

          Then in John chapter 10:26-30, we read,but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.

          In this passage, Jesus clearly explains why some people will never believe, you do not believe because you are not my sheep”.  That is the exact opposite of what we hear many preachers preaching these days. No wonder so many who attend churches and claim to be Christians are lost and confused. When they try to live the Christian life they quickly discover that they cannot. Many modern preachers teach what Arminius taught. They say, ‘you are not His sheep because you do not believe’. But Jesus said, “you do not believe because you are not my sheep”.  This truth of Unconditional election is quite clearly affirmed in John 15:16 when Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”

          Then in Acts 13:48, Luke describes the situation after Paul and Barnabas had been preaching, “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed”. I don’t think it can get much clearer than that.

          It is unfortunate though that we can still find some Bible translations that change the word order and say something completely different, even though the original Greek is also very clear. These mistaken translations say, “That as many as believed were appointed to eternal life.” Well, it doesn’t say that, it says, “all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” This just adds to the confusion.

 

          Romans 9:15-16, says,I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. 16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy”. Maybe someone sitting in this chapel right now is beginning to feel a little uncomfortable maybe even afraid? It is not your desire or your effort that saves you. You are saved because God chooses to save you.

          Let’s turn to Ephesians and read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers. Let’s go to chapter one from verses 3-5, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him (WHEN) before the creation of the world (WHY) to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, (For What REASON) in accordance with his pleasure and will— 

 

          You are not just hearing my opinion of what the Bible says, you are hearing what the Bible actually teaches. All of these verses and many others teach the same thing, and together they all become a point on the Christian compass. This is the truth of Unconditional Election. Election means choosing and unconditional means it is not based upon anything in us. It is God’s free choice.

            Of course, there are those who think differently, and they will point to their favourite verse. Romans 8:29 they say, contradicts this doctrine of Unconditional Election. So, let’s read that verse, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” It seems like this verse is teaching that yes there is the election, and also God saw those who would believe beforehand and therefore chose them to receive eternal life.

          Now we need to look very closely at that verse. It doesn’t actually say what they say it does. It doesn’t say that God foreknew that they would accept Christ or that they would accept the gospel. It is the people that God foreknew not any action that they would do. It just says that he foreknew “them”.

          In order to understand what this means we go all the way back to Adam and Eve. When the Bible says that Adam ‘knew’ Eve it means that he loved her dearly in the most intimate way possible. To ‘foreknow’ then means to ‘dearly love beforehand’.

          So, we could then legitimately translate Romans 8:29 as, “those he loved dearly beforehand he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son”. In other words, God chose us not because we were going to accept His Son. No, He chose us so that we would accept His Son. He didn’t choose us because He looked into the future and saw that we were going to have faith. No, He chose us so that we would have faith.

          Let’s turn to Ephesians 2:8-9, which you can probably guess by now is one of my favourite verses, reminds us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Maybe we should not be arrogantly ignoring what God’s Word teaches and instead we should humbly say, “Yes Lord”.

         

            So, why do we believe in unconditional election? Because it is in the Bible. Why do we believe in human responsibility? Because it is in the Bible. Why don’t we try to explain why both can be true? Because the Bible doesn’t explain, it teaches. If you are lost then it is your fault, that is what the Bible tells us. If you are saved it is by God alone because that is what the Bible says.

          Every day I find myself looking up to heaven and echoing what my sister said a few weeks ago in chapel, “Lord, Why me?” I was lost, I couldn’t save myself, but I very much needed saving. I came to the realization that only someone outside of myself could save me.

          You can’t find your way to Him, but He can find you. The only thing you can do is say, God! Be merciful to me a sinner! Then the doors of heaven will be opened wide for you.

          My question, Your question, “Why me”? Finds its answer in the fact that God did choose you, He did come looking for you, He did give you the faith. For no other reason than He loves you.

            So here is another question that also needs an answer. If the doctrine of unconditional election is true, why do so many Christians refuse to believe it? If it is so clearly taught in the Bible, then why do they oppose it and try to twist its meaning? Why are so many true Christians against this doctrine? The answer is simple, people refuse to believe in unconditional election because they think it makes God look unfair.

          Where do we get the idea that God is fair and just in the first place? We get it from the Bible. Deuteronomy 32:4 just to name one verse among many, “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. This tells us He is holy and just in all He does. So, how can we accept what the Bible teaches about the justice of God and yet still reject what it teaches about predestination?

          Both truths are taught in the Bible, but we accept one and reject the other. Why? The answer to that is also simple. Because we put human reason above the Bible. And when we do that, we are putting ourselves in the place of judge over the Bible. We think we know better than the Bible in certain areas. We become lovers of ourselves and proud. And Pride is the starting point for all other sins.

          Therefore, we don’t need to just change our opinion on the subject. What we truly need is a change of heart that confesses to God our pride and repents.

          Quite frankly, if you believe in a god who does not choose or predestine, then you believe in a god who does not exist. Your god is a figment of your imagination. You want a god that is not all-powerful, all-knowing, or everywhere. You want a god whose ways are like your ways and whose thoughts are like your thoughts. You want a god that you can control. That is idolatry and that needs to be repented of along with our pride.

          I often find myself asking why is it the people don’t want God to be God? Why don’t we seek to glorify Him alone? Why don’t we like the idea that we are weak and powerless and dependant? It is because there is something wrong with our spirits, they are totally depraved, they are unteachable and rebellious. God loves you and it grieves Him when we won’t believe what He reveals about Himself.

          In conclusion, I would like to point out that God’s Unconditional Election is just one link in the unbreakable chain of salvation that is revealed in Romans 8:29-30, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”. This is the solid truth that confirms for us that all who are predestined will be saved because they are the ones that God the Father gives to Jesus the Son who will raise them up at the last day. They are Christ’s sheep who hear His voice and for whom He died to give them eternal life and to keep them secure in the hand of God.

          We can see quite clearly that the Bile does teach accurately on the subject of election and predestination. Of course, we also quickly become aware that even though these 5 doctrines of Grace, the five points on the Christian’s compass can stand by themselves as important truths that teach about salvation, they also build a step by step picture for us of what salvation is.

          The doctrine of Total Depravity tells us about our very real need to be saved but that we are unable to accomplish this by our own strength. We are left with the question, “Who then can be saved?” The answer to that question we find in this doctrine of Unconditional Election. It is God’s sovereign choice to save some from every tribe, tongue, and nation despite their totally depraved nature. This He accomplished by predestining them for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.

          So, when we understand the teaching of this doctrine properly the result should not be to question God’s justice but to celebrate His great mercy. The question we should all really be asking is not, ‘Why does He only choose to save some and not all?’ but, ‘Why should He choose any at all?”

          Father in heaven who alone deserves all the praise and glory, who created this world, the whole universe and everything in it. You continue to provide for Your creation through your great merciful blessings. Lord that alone should be enough for us. We cannot demand anything else. But you revealed yourself as a personal God who wanted to have a special relationship with His ultimate creation, humanity. And even though we turned our back on you and rebelled, ignored, and even tried to kill you, You, in your great love still had mercy on us. Even though we were totally under the control of our sinful natures, and deserve only death, you chose to be merciful to some. You called out to those you had chosen from the beginning and gave us the faith to respond. Father for that we are forever grateful. Lord help us today, and every day, to live the life you have called us to. The life that will bring glory to you through our actions, our thoughts, and our words, as you reveal your truth to us through Your Holy infallible Word. We pray everything through the Almighty name of Jesus. Amen.