DIVINE ELECTION
Questions and Answers

When did God "elect" you?

Did God look ahead in time to find out who would decide to
"accept" His Son as their Savior,
and then "choose" those whom He discovered would believe?

Or, was God's choice based entirely on his own infinite wisdom and grace,
and not at all based upon any virtues supposedly possessed by future members of Adam's fallen race?

 

by R.L.B.

We recently attended a Bible conference at which a number of worthwhile books and booklets were sold.  One of the items we purchased was a booklet with an intriguing title, Bridal Blessings, Election and Predestination, by David B. Wilkinson.  On reading this booklet, however, we were disappointed by the author's apparent lack of understanding of certain basic features of truth taught in the Scriptures, and by the author's negative characterization of God's actions in Election and Predestination based on his invalid presuppositions.  In the booklet the author builds a 'straw-man,' (or 'straw-god'), out of these faulty understandings of God's sovereignty in election, then unceremoniously demolishes that image of straw.  In doing so we fear he has demolished truth from the eternal sovereign God.

The author rightfully acknowledges the important fact that man is a sinner:

     Sin made man unfit for the presence of God.  Eden's expulsion is proof of this.  God's Word states that God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13).  Therefore, if man is to be brought into fellowship with God, a transformation of our very nature is essential.  Thus, Christ's work of redemption. (Bridal Blessings, Election and Predestination, by David B. Wilkinson, Fort St. James, British Columbia, Canada V0J 1P0, p. 29)

But he speaks of transforming (refurbishing) our old nature, rather than the more biblical concept of making us part of a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17).

     "So if any one be in Christ, there is a new creation . . ." (2 Cor. 5:17, New Translation by J. N. Darby)

And while his above quotation acknowledges the truth of the 'depravity of man,' nowhere in the booklet does he acknowledge the biblical truth of the 'TOTAL depravity of man.'

This belief in 'partial depravity' colors his misunderstanding of the wonderful truth of election.  For example, the author directly contradicts holy Scripture by stating:

        Especially vital at this point is the fact that election is not initiated until faith is exercised.  God exerts no pressure but does provide the Holy Spirit to help us see both our condition of spiritual destitution and the beauties and worth of the Lord Jesus. . . .  The result of such an act of faith is to become the elect (chosen) of God.  -  (Ibid p. 30)   [emphasis ours, and so throughout]

       We are courted and wooed by Christ via His Holy Spirit.   Those who respond to this proposal become the gathered-out-of ones, the elect. . . .  When we respond to His love, He chooses us as His Bride.  (Ibid p. 31)

        What it does not mean is that people were pre-selected before the world began. . . . (Ibid p. 32)

Others likewise teach that believers are 'chosen' (elected) at the time they place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation.

    " . . . you and I were as crooked as they come, spiritually speaking, but we were chosen by God in Christ when we believed on Him."  (Pastor Ricky Kurth, The Lady and the Elder, The Berean Searchlight, February 2012, p. 15)

There are three serious errors manifested in the above quotations:

  1. The implication that our fallen nature possesses the innate ability to understand spiritual things.  (The Holy Spirit merely 'helps our old nature to see').
  2. God is not really the One who sovereignly elects us:  rather, it is the faith possessed by our old nature that somehow responds to spiritual information, and that faith, generated out of the depths of our old nature, is the root cause of our election.
  3. Election is said to take place at the time a person believes, and, in fact, is the direct result of that belief. It does not take place "before the foundation of the world."

Scripture, on the other hand, clearly states that Divine election occurred in the far distant past, before the creation of the world, not at or after the point at which a person exercised faith in the Savior.

     "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Eph. 1:4)

Some who reject the biblical teaching of the total depravity of mankind in essence espouse a non-biblical belief in partial depravity.  Accepting this non-biblical presupposition permits the error that our fallen human nature possesses the attribute of God-consciousness.  In other words, Scripture must be rewritten to say:

'The natural man actually does receive the things of the spirit of God, even though they are spiritually discerned (because the natural, unquickened, unregenerate man possesses the divine spark of life necessary to understand these spiritual things)'  (sic., sic., sic.)

And now that the natural man supposedly has the power to decide his own spiritual fate, it is an affront to that natural man to allow God to have a meaningful part in 'election.'  Thus, the precious biblical doctrine of Divine election is downgraded to a 'rubber-stamp' doctrine, whereby God simply affirms the real decision made by a not-totally-depraved man.  Thus, the author is able to say, as previously quoted:

Those who respond to this proposal become the gathered-out-of ones, the elect. (Ibid p. 31)

When we respond to His love, He chooses us as His Bride. (Ibid p. 31)

. . . the plan of redemption was purposed before God began the human race due to His anticipation of man's need of salvation.  What it does not mean is that people were pre-selected before the world began any more than Christ died before the world began. (Ibid p. 32)

In other words, the author is conveying the impression that 'God looked ahead in time to see who would believe and be saved, and then, after they believed God put his stamp of approval on these individuals, calling them the elect.'  This, of course, completely drains the precious truth of Divine election of its significance.

The author's deficient appreciation of the total depravity of man and of the infinite wisdom and mercy of God is apparent because nowhere in the booklet does he recognize that man, as a spiritual descendent of Adam, is spiritually dead!  Nowhere in the booklet does he state that before a dead man can believe he needs to be quickened [i.e., made alive] (John 5:21; 6:62; Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13).  It is assumed that in spite of Adam's fall, a 'divine spark of life' remains within us, a 'spark of life' that has the ability to choose to believe.  Nowhere in the booklet does the author acknowledge that mankind, by nature, is totally incapable of spiritually understanding the truth of his fallen condition or of the salvation provided by God through his Son Jesus Christ.

     "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14)

The closest the author can come to acknowledging our utter helplessness to receive the truth of our Lord's redemption is a weak affirmation that

God exerts no pressure but does provide the Holy Spirit to help us see both our condition of spiritual destitution and the beauties and worth of the Lord Jesus.  The sanctifying (to set apart) work of the Holy Spirit commences prior to salvation to provide illumination of truth so we might know what to believe.  (Ibid p. 30)

Thus, individuals willing to repent of sin and make the Lord Jesus Christ the center of their affections and allegiance become in that act [of human free-will] a part of the elect Bride.  (Ibid p. 30)

In other words, man is not altogether dead.  He is just partially dead [whatever that means].  He just needs to have the proper information so he can exercise the faith that naturally resides in fallen man who, Scripture states, cannot know the things of the Spirit of God.  It would be a miracle for a dead person lying in a casket in a funeral parlor to suddenly sit up and respond to a mourner's words.  But God actually performs that miracle with a spiritually dead person.  By nature, descendants of Adam are not spiritually aware beings.  They must first be "quickened" by a sovereign act of God, and given a new spiritual nature before they can become spiritually aware and respond to an invitation to believe in Christ. 

     "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph. 2:1)

     "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." (Eph. 2:4-5)

     "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:13)

Furthermore, saving faith is not a so-called 'innate religious instinct' or 'inner God consciousness.'  The so-called 'faith' of the natural man can never respond positively to the word of God.  Just so, man's 'free-will' is a part of his Adamic nature, and can only choose what is against God.  Man, in his natural, spiritually dead, unregenerate, non-quickened, state can not receive, can not understand, and can not comprehend anything to do with the true God.  Man's so-called 'free-will,' being a part of his spiritually dead nature, does not, therefore, have any spiritual information on which to base a positive spiritual decision.

The question then arises, "If man is totally incapable of 'deciding for Christ,' how is it possible for anyone to ever come to him?"  The Lord Jesus clearly answers the question:

     "No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him." (John 6:44)

     "No man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." (Mat. 11:27)

     "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that [faith is] not of yourselves: it [faith] is the gift of God. . . ." (Eph. 2:8)

Thus, our salvation is entirely from God.  Neither man's so-called natural 'faith,' nor any other of man's fallen works of righteousness could possibly play any part in our salvation.

Without God's wonderfully precious sovereign work in electing us, quickening us, drawing us to Christ, revealing Himself to our quickened selves, and imparting the special gift of faith, we would never, and could never come to Christ.  Without God's gift of special faith, a faith which can only 'choose' the good and perfect will of God, and without that sovereign grace, without that Divine work which is entirely of God and is completely separate from any efforts of fallen humanity, absolutely no one could or would be saved! 

Failing to appreciate the fact that our election before the foundation of the world is a supreme act of pure love on the part of our merciful God, the author of the booklet before us comes to a totally distorted conclusion:

The extreme left of this concept is an ugly teaching, however modified, presenting God as the chairman of an ominous marketing board with defined quotas, choosing or designating certain people for salvation and the others to be eternally excluded from His presence.  This pathetic view of the character of God conflicts with everything revealed in Scripture regarding God's concern for man.  Most Christians reject such a position but due to the existing confusion engage in mental gymnastics to rationalize these terms so they won't interfere with the known truths of free will and faith.  (p. 2)

As to the supposed "known truths of free will and faith" a much more scripturally oriented writer has put it this way:

All men who have never been deeply convinced of sin, all persons with whom this conviction is based upon gross and outward sins, believe more or less in free-will.  But this idea completely changes all the idea of Christianity and entirely perverts it. . . .  If Christ has come to save that which is lost, free-will has no longer any place.  Not that God hinders man from receiving Christ--far from it.  But even when God employs all possible motives, everything which is capable of influencing the heart of man, it only serves to demonstrate that man will have none of it, that his heart is so corrupted and his will so decided not to submit to God, that nothing can induce him to receive the Lord and to abandon sin.  If, by liberty of man, it is meant that no one obliges him to reject the Lord, this liberty exists fully.  But if it is meant that, because of the dominion of sin to which he is a slave, and willingly a slave, he cannot escape from his state and choose good, then he has no liberty whatever.  He is not subject to the law, neither indeed can be; so that those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  (Letter on Free-Will, Elberfield, October 23, 1861, The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, Vol. 10, p. 185, Believers Bookshelf)

Man has a conscience; but he has a will and lusts, and they lead him.  Man was free in Paradise, but then he enjoyed what was good.  He used his free choice, and therefore he is a sinner.  To leave him to his free choice, now that he is disposed to do evil, would be a cruelty.  God has presented the choice to him, but it was to convince the conscience of the fact, that in no case did man want either good or God.  (Ibid, pp. 186-7)

We close this consideration by quoting brief phrases from a number of Scriptures having to do with God's sovereignty in bringing about man's salvation, in hopes that these words of God will will encourage the reader to search the scriptures daily to see if these things are so.  Please look up these passages, with their context, to see for yourself.

     "God has chosen you from the beginning to salvation and belief in the truth." (2 Thes. 2:13-14)

     "All that the Father gives me shall come to me" (John 6:37)

     "according as He [the Father] has chosen us in Him [the Son] before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4)

     "And those of the nations, hearing it, rejoiced, and glorified the word of the Lord, and believed, as many as were ordained to eternal life." (Acts 13:48)

     ". . . whose heart the Lord opened" (Acts 16:14)

     "For God has given to their hearts [the nations] to do his mind" [ie., to serve the beast] (Rev. 17:17)

     "God . . . has shined in our hearts" (2 Cor. 4:6)

     "God . . . has sealed us and given the earnest of the spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor. 1:22)

     "And Jesus said, For judgment am I come into this world, that they which see not may see, and they which see may become blind" (John 9:39)

     "God has not appointed us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thes. 5:9)

     ". . . but to the disobedient . . . who stumble at the word, being disobedient, to which also they have been appointed" (1 Pet. 2:7-8)

     ". . . the Most High God rules over the kingdom of men, and He appoints over it whomsoever He will" (Dan 5:21)

     ". . . having determined ordained times and the boundaries of their dwelling" ( Acts 17:26)

     "But our God is in the heavens: he has done whatsoever he pleased" (Ps. 115:3)

     "Jehovah hath wrought everything on his own account, yea, even the wicked to the day of evil" (Prov. 16:4)

     ". . . in Your book all were written . . . when as yet there was none of them" (Ps. 139:16)

     "my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my good pleasure . . . declaring the end from the beginning" (Isa. 46:9-10)

     "No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me draw him" (John 6:44)

     "No man can come unto me, except it be given unto him by the Father" (John 6:65)

     "Nor does any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son may be pleased to reveal [him]" (Mat. 11:27)

     "There is none righteous . . . understandeth . . . seeketh God . . . doeth good.  All unprofitable" (Rom 3:10-18)

     "But their eyes were holden so as not to know (recognize) Him" (Luke 24:16)

     "I was found of them that sought me not" (Rom. 10:20)

     "I pray not for the world, but for them which You have given me" (John 17:9)

     "Go ye into the highways and byways and compel to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23)

Because God does all this for us is the reason we can enthusiastically present the word of God to the lost, knowing that God has prepared the way, and He will use His Word to teach those He secretly chose (elected) before the foundation of the world and draw them with the cords of love to Christ.  Just think!  If it were left to man's fallen free-will, no one would come to the Savior and our preaching would be totally in vain! 

 

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