Today we continue our journey through the Doctrines of Grace, otherwise known as the five points of Calvinism. These five doctrines include Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. The best way to recall these doctrines are through the acronym TULIP. Today we are unpacking the Biblical doctrine Unconditional Election.
First, I want to warn you. Some of you will not like today's message or next Sundays. Something in your flesh will resist the next two doctrines: Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement. Having said this, we still must push forward because I am 100% convinced that scripture is abundantly clear that these two doctrines are true and that they are potentially the most precious of the five doctrines, but more on that later.
Definition of Unconditional Election
To begin today, I want to start with the definition of unconditional election. The reason I want to do this is because I want you to feel your resistance to it. I want you to recognize your desire to not submit to what I believe the Bible clearly and overwhelmingly teaches.
The first definition is from the Westminster Confession of Faith: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined to everlasting life, and others are foreordained to everlasting death.“
Here is a definition by John Piper: “Unconditional election is God’s free choice before creation, not based on foreseen faith, to which traitors he will grant faith and repentance, pardoning them, and adopting them into his everlasting family of joy.”
Circumstantial Evidence of Unconditional Election
To start I want to show you how unconditional election is supported by what we have already learned up to this point. Four week ago, we examined Ephesians 1:1-14, and we saw that God desires us to know the doctrines of grace, so that we praise his glorious grace. God wants us to know that our salvation is entirely dependent upon him, and not us. Why? Because God does not share his glory with man, he does what he does so that he gets all the glory. This is why we were created, to glorify God. In light of this, we would all have to admit that unconditional election gives God 100% credit for our salvation. If God chose us to be saved through Christ before the foundation of the world, than the only person who can get the credit for our salvation is God alone. Therefore, we have to admit that unconditional election best supports the praise of God's glorious grace.
Three weeks ago, we examined God's sovereignty. I quoted several dozens scripture versus from all over the Bible to show you that God is in control of everything; from the dice in Vegas to Geo-political conflicts, it all rests in God's hands and completely under his control. God is eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all present. None of us would deny this foundational truth. The doctrine of unconditional election perfectly aligns with the reality that God is sovereign over all things, including our salvation. Anything other than unconditional election undermines God's sovereignty.
Two weeks ago, we examined the utter sinfulness of man. We looked at text that said that we are desperately sick, that our hearts are stones, that we do not seek God, that we don't understand, that we are enemies of God, that nothing good dwells in us, that we are blind, dead, wretched, that the intentions of our hearts are only evil continually. We concluded that scripture is painfully clear., and we are completely unable to please God and completely unable to place our trust in Jesus due to the totality of our depravity. Therefore, if we can't choose God, the only way for us to be save is if he chooses us first, which is the doctrine of unconditional election.
Last week, we examined Irresistible Grace. Irresistible Grace is the understanding that because of our sinfulness, God must work a miracle in our hearts before we repent from our sin and place our faith in Christ. We commonly call this being “born again.” Without the new birth that comes from the Spirit, no one will see the Kingdom. In our study we looked at two conversion stories, Paul's and Lydia's. Paul was met by Jesus in dramatic fashion or the road to Damascus, and it was unmistakable that Jesus overwhelmed Paul with His grace in a fashion that Paul had no option but to follow him. In the story of Lydia we saw that Paul spoke the Gospel into her life and, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” It was by God's grace that Lydia saw treasure that is Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Once again, if you believe in irresistible grace, you must believe in unconditional election. For it was God who chose them first and gave them eyes to see His Son.
Therefore, even though I am only preaching on unconditional election today, I really have been preaching on it all along, not because I am crafty, but because I am merely preaching what the Bible teaches.
Direct Biblical Evidence of Unconditional Election
With that said, please open your Bibles to Ephesians 1:1-14. As I stated four weeks ago, Ephesians 1:1-14 is perhaps one of the most Calvinistic text in the entire Bible. It is a text that many of you have read, but perhaps you have not pondered their reality. We will use this text to understand that election portion of unconditional election.
- Ephesians 1:1-14 - “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. ”
- Galatians 1:15-16 - “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles “
- John 17:6-9 - “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.
Who was Jesus praying for? Those whom God gave him. Peter, John, Thomas, and the rest of His followers. Before these followers placed their faith in Jesus, they were God's. How is that possible? Election. They were God's since the beginning. What about others? Maybe only Paul and the early followers were handpicked?
- Acts 13:48 - “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. “
- Who believed after hearing the gospel? “As many as were appointed.” Isn't this wild. Belief is only possible if you are appointed to believe. If you are not appointed, you will not believe. Listen to this example, straight from the mouth of God, Jesus Christ.
- John 10:24-29 - “So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." 25Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.“
What Governs God's Election?
With that said, what governs this choice, this election, by God? Many people who want to deny the existence of election recognize that they cannot argue away its existence, because the Bible clearly teaches the reality of God’s choice of man. So what they argue is that God chooses based on man’s choice. So what they effectively argue is that God does not choose, but man chooses. They way they do this is to say that God in eternity looks forward to your existence and sees whether or not you choose him. If you do choose him, then he chooses you. Perhaps I am wrong, but I cannot find anywhere in the Bible that this is taught. The classic verse that these people run to is Romans 8:29.
- Romans 8:29 – “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.“
In addition, the other way to look at it just doesn’t work in the context of the passage. The climax of Romans 8 is God’s unbreakable love for you, not the idea that God has a crystal ball. Not to mention what comes in Romans 9, the next chapter. Romans 9 is the most point blank unconditional election passage in the entire Bible. Even more than Ephesians 1. So let us know look at potentially the hardest chapter in the Bible.
- Romans 9:19-24 – “For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son." 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls-- 12 she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? “
I have only touched the surface this morning on unconditional election. There are so many more passages that I could point to to show you this truth that God has revealed to us in His Word, but time will not allow. So I want to move on to the question, why should we care?
Why should we care?
- God has revealed it to us in His Word
Unconditional election is not in the dark corners of the Bible. God is not hiding it from you. It is the story of the Bible, God chose Adam, God chose Noah, God chose Abraham, God chose Moses, God chose David, God chose Isaiah, God chose the disciples, God chose me, and I pray that God has chosen you. This is the story of the Bible. This is the Gospel. By God's grace we are saved. We love because God first loved us, and God's Word explicitly tells us this reality reaches into eternity past.
2. Must Beautiful Words in the Bible
I want you to picture yourself sitting on God's lap in eternity and looking into his eyes and saying, “Father.” And Him responding, “Yes, my child?” “How long have you love me?” “Forever. I have loved you forever.”
The doctrine of unconditional election is the deepest regions of the ocean of God's eternal love for you. When we swim into these water the vastness of his love for us is overwhelming. And when I am alone, and scared, and broken, what do I need to hear? I need to hear God words, “I have loved you forever and will love you forever.” These are the sweetest words we will every hear.
I want you to imagine one more thing. Imagine the one you love most being sent off to war. And imagine them writing you a letter, and in that letter it says, “I have always loved you and will always love you.” Now imagine the post master who delivers the mail to your front door, opening up this letter and erasing that sentence. This is what every pastor does when he refuses to teach on the doctrine of unconditional election. He is erasing the most beautiful words in the entire letter. The Bible is God's love letter to his elect, therefore, let us read it and and let the tears of our joy stain the pages.
3. The deeper our roots, the stronger the tree
What sustains you in your walk with the Lord? When the world is shifting to the antichrist, when America is slipping farther into darkness, what is your anchor? Is your anchor your will? If you anchor is your will then the waves of this world will destroy you, because your will is no match for Satan's, the most powerful being God created.
No, you need an anchor that holds. You need a will that is unchanging. A will that is unshakable. A will that is sovereign. The roots of your salvation must reach into the eternity of God's will. If you believe the doctrine of unconditional election and the reality that God has loved you from eternity past, than nothing will separate you from this love.
- Romans 8:33-39 - “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. “