Recently several friends have asked me to share my understanding of election. I have been very tentative in doing so, and will very cautiously attempt to provide a brief outline of my beliefs here. I find it very difficult to discuss election alone, so I will include aspects of depravity, grace and atonement as well. Bear in mind, I do not claim to be a theologian nor an eloquent author; just an ordinary woman seeking to know Him better.
For a clearer understanding from a theologian’s presentation, read the statement of beliefs on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s website here.
This is neither intended to persuade nor ignite heated debate; it is purely a brief statement of my beliefs for those who have asked. Disclaimers in place, here it goes…
I believe our elect status is determined by our position in Christ. For example, looking at Ephesians 1: 3-8
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. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
We are chosen “in Him” – that is through our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our Sovereign God, omniscient and unbound by time – seeing the end from the beginning, knew before the creation of the world that man as He created Him, a free moral agent, would choose disobedience, sin and ultimately death. So, before the foundation of the world He chose His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the perfect sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of the world (1 Peter 1:20). At that time God predestined that all who turn and believe in the Son unto salvation would receive the gift of new life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit granted by God’s grace. God freely offers this gift to all mankind, drawing all to him through Holy Spirit conviction, and the presentation of the gospel message from the Living Word of God (John 12:32; John16:8-11; Romans 1:16-17). Just as in the Old Testament, He sets before each of us life and death, and tells us to choose accordingly (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). As Charles Stanley often says, “What will you do with Jesus?” Your answer to Jesus is your choice of life or death. Accept or reject, it’s up to you to decide (John 5:24; John 3:35-36). Salvation is by grace, through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). The”work” that brings salvation is believing (John 6:29). “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'” John 11:25-26
While I do believe He calls all men unto Himself, I also believe a person’s unbelief and repeated rejection of His offer may result in spiritual hardening (Hebrews 3:7-19). The hardened unbeliever may be spiritually blinded by Satan. (2 Corinthinas 4:4). If they die spiritually blinded, they will indeed perish, but it is the result of their unbelief and willful rejection of Him (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11). I take courage and persist in praying passionately for our unsaved loved ones, knowing that “the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) We know that it is His desire that none should perish, and that everyone would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). So, we may approach His throne boldly, praying within His will, and on their behalf that He will orchestrate circumstances to bring them to a place of brokenness, and that He will open their blinded eyes so that they may see The Way and repent (John 15:22-24).
In the New Testament it is clear that man’s final condemnation unto death is the result of his rejection of Jesus Christ. Knowing that God’s character is unchanging, and He Himself proclaims His kindness, justice, and righteousness (Jeremiah 9:23-24), it certainly seems a contradiction to damn much of mankind for not believing in a plan they were never given the ability to believe in. If men are so blinded by their total depravity that only through a regenerating work of God can they see their need for Him and call upon the name of Jesus, certainly those who remain blind because they were not given the ability to see would not be found guilty. Christ himself says in John 9:39-41:
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
And similarly in John15:22-24:
If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.
Another contradiction arises when we look at the efficacy of the sin of Adam in comparison to redemption through Christ. Why would sin enter through Adam condemning all, but the blood of Jesus be spilled and not atone for all? Examining Romans 5:18-19, it doesn’t fit to say that salvation is only available to a select few individuals specifically chosen in advance.
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19
It seems very clear here, just as sin entered through Adam, bringing condemnation for all; so also life is made available to all through Christ. It clearly states that Christ’s death, being the one act of righteousness, brings life for all men. Meaning all men are given the right to life, and the opportunity to become son’s of God, being made righteous through belief in Christ (John 1:12). Not all are made righteous, because not all choose Him, but many will be made righteous through faith in Him.
I stand in awe of His plan for us, the elect, the chosen, the redeemed children of God. I rejoice in knowing there is room for all at the foot of the cross, if only they will believe. As I look at my precious children, I am confident their fate is not predetermined. It is certainly foreknown by Him, but not predetermined by Him. I will raise them as He has instructed me, training them in the admonition of Him, we will discuss Him and His ways throughout the day (Deuteronomy 11). I praise Him that I can have full confidence that Christ paid their sin debt, enabling them to be reconciled to Him, our Holy God, if only they will believe. Prayers of this mother will rise daily, that He will draw them in, revealing Himself clearly to them so they will choose to cling to Him alone. In the end if they reject Him, I’m left knowing He gave them every opportunity to receive salvation. His Word clearly tells me He loves them, draws them and has predestined that if they believe in Christ they have the right to become sons (and daughters) of God.
There are many more passages that could be quoted and arguments that could be made. I’ve presented a few that are most prominent in my mind, answering the original question as to what I believe. Having acknowledged the disagreement on election, I will also acknowledge my choice to respect those who are committed to a belief in Unconditional Election. They are certainly able to argue their perspective, and I believe time has proven we won’t agree on the correct interpretation this side of heaven. So from here, the best thing we can do is agree to disagree. As passionately as I am convicted on this issue, I am mortified by the attitudes I see displayed on blogs all across the internet. This is a critical doctrine, worthy of much discussion and debate, but it must always be done in love and with respect. Jesus’ parting words to us include the following:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
May our words always reflect our love for one another, that the world may see His love in us and know that we are His.