Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 2, 2014
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.