Does God Save By Election?
by Ed Stevens
By what process does a person get saved—what does he do to get saved, what does God do to save him and why? These are the most important questions that have ever confronted man for they vitally affect his peace of mind and heart and they have to do with his eternal destiny. Though the Bible furnishes plain answers there has been continuous disagreement between theologians to this day. We find professing Christianity largely divided under two doctrinal viewpoints such as were championed in the 16th century by two theologians named John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius. The latter's views predominate in religious belief today. Briefly, these two viewpoints are as follows:
(l ) That man can do absolutely nothing on his part to obtain salvation since he is "dead in trespasses and sins" and needs therefore to be "quickened"—made spiritually alive before he can believe the gospel. That God quickens only certain ones whom He chooses or "elects" to eternal salvation and sonship, leaving the rest of mankind to proceed without His intervention towards the lake of fire and eternal torment. That Christ died only for "the elect." This is Calvinism, so-called.
(2) Opposed to this is the teaching upheld by Arminius that man possesses ability to accept or to reject God's gift of salvation, offered to all, but that permanent possession thereof is conditioned upon good behavior—being "faithful to the end" of his life, there being constant danger of forfeiture through backsliding or failing to obey God's commands. We repeat, this teaching is definitely the most widely promulgated today, although there are many who do believe in eternal security.
Thank God, we can by humble study find in His precious Word, comparing Scripture with Scripture, beyond doubt or contradiction a true and transparent answer as to the process and duration of one's salvation. Erroneous doctrine will always be found to be not only inconsistent and contradictory but to be founded on only a portion of God's Word. The whole Word, and that rightly divided (II Tim. 2:15) will definitely expose and, annihilate all false doctrine. As a member of Christ's "one body" only (Acts 2:47; Eph. 4:4), this writer is "outside the camp" of man-made religious organizations and their Calvinist and Arminian dogmas.
Yes, man is truly "dead in trespasses and sins" as Eph. 2:1 tells us. All saved people were quickened "when we were dead in sins" (v. 5), but in what sense? This word "dead" has reference, of course, to a spiritual deadness but not like that of a corpse, as Calvinism interprets it; neither is the quickening like that of a corpse coming to life. Adam died spiritually when he fell through disobedience, and so "death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:12). But how "dead" was Adam after the fall which brought total depravity upon him and his posterity? Could he not hear God's call? Was he not guilt-conscious, feeling his need of covering, hiding also from God? Could he not come to God? Could he not arrogantly try to justify himself? Could he not understand God's message containing the good news, or gospel of redemption through the woman's promised "Seed" (Christ) ? Genesis 3:10, 11, 15, plainly answers, Yes! "And he said I heard thy voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself. The woman whom thou gayest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat." Certainly, we see man portrayed here as a capable free moral agent after the fall. Before the fall it was: "eat" and "eat not after the fall it was: "And now lest he take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever . . ."
We know man was created in the likeness of God (Gen. 1:26) as a tripartite being, having body, soul, and spirit (I Thes. 5:23). Before the fall, Adam was united to the life of God through spiritual fellowship, living in full harmony with God's will. After the fall his spirit could have no fellow-snip with God, being "alienated (estranged away) from the life of God" (Eph. 4:18), but 114 spirit was not as lifeless as a corpse any more than was his soul or body, for all three did not and do not now in unsaved men cease to function. Electionists themselves admit that "by the fall man did not cease to be a creature endowed with understanding and will though spiritually dead," but they rub it all out in their contradictory statement that "only through the grace of regeneration is freedom of the will restored and only then are they given a hearing ear and ability to believe." They arbitrarily teach that man has free will enough to reject salvation but possesses no free will to accept it!
God's Word teaches that none are too dead to feel (some are "past feeling"---Eph. 4:18, 19), or to hear (John 5:24; Rom..10:13-17), or to receive, take, or accept (Luke 18:17; Rev. 22:17; John 1:11, 12), or to be convicted and to believe (John 16:8-10), or to repent and come to "the obedience of faith" (Acts 17:30; Rom. 16:26).
Since being "dead" in sin is to be estranged away from the life of God, therefore, being "quickened" or regenerated—being "born again" is to be brought back into union with God's life, and, more than that, according to the apostle Paul's God-given revelation, we are positionally placed "in Christ." being made a "new creature" in Him (Ti Cor. 5:17). Just when one is quickened is now the question before us. Is it before and apart from believing the gospel of the grace of God as Calvinism teaches? God's Word declares it takes place the moment one believes, as seen for instance in John 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you he that heareth my Word and believeth Him that sent me hath eternal life and cometh not into judgment but hath passed out of death into life" (R. V.). So also in Eph. 1:13, ". . . in whom having believed, ye were
sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise."
God Moves First
What does a man do and what does God do that a man might be saved? Scripturally, the order of action is not man doing something first, for it is God who moves first for the salvation of every man. as seen in Rom. 2:4, ". . . knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee TO repentance." Such repentance (having another mind) is of course associated with acquiescent, or willing response to God's goodness. Otherwise, as stated in verses 4 and 5, His goodness is spurned: "Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." God commands "all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17: 30). The word "longsuffering" in Rom. 2:4 and 9:22 certainly implies free will in man does it not?
The Spirit of God strives with all men, though "not always", or without cessation (Gen. 6:3), to lead them to repentance and salvation. Let Electionists who glibly quote Isa. 45:9 and Rom. 9:20, assuming that man as inanimate clay in the hands of the Lord is made by Him into vessels of "honour" or "dishonour," wrath or mercy, only by His sovereign choice (or whim)—let them remember that in Isa. 45:9 we also read: "Woe to him that striveth with his Maker." Man can respond one way or another towards God's actions towards him!
God very definitely acts in the life of every human being for his possible salvation. He is "long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). "Who would have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:4). "The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men" (Tit. 2:11, R. V.). Christ "was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). Why, we ask, is light given man (John 3:19, 20) ? The Calvinists' lame explanation of this verse (difficult for them) is that while here is seen one of God's "common graces" to mankind, this verse only shows man to be in the position of being totally unable. Accordingly, thus, this is as far as this "grace" ( ?) goes for they further teach that the natural man is incapable of seeing spiritual light. That this is quite unscriptural is proved from the following texts:
"While ye have light believe in the light, that ye may be children of the light"—John 12:36.
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened . . . if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance ... "—Heb. 6:4-6. See also 10:26 and II Pet. 2:20; Rom. 1:18,21,28.
We ask, How about God's nation Israel, were they not much enlightened, but very many died unsaved? God enlightens "every man" because He knows response is possible on man's part for either his salvation or his damnation (Mark 16:16; John 3:18; 12: 46-48). This answers the question, What chance have the heathen without missionaries ?
Salvation Or Faith The "Gift"?
One of Calvinism's primary arguments is that accepting Christ is "good works". They then pose the question, Can man act outside the bounds of his nature which is only evil as pictured in Psalm 53:1-3; Rom. 1:29-32; 3:10-18? Thus, they argue, if the natural man can accept Chris', with some help from the Holy Spirit, then man can do spiritual good and is not totally unable and depraved. This seemingly indisputable argument is easily broken down. What saith the Scriptures?
The word "act" does not necessarily imply only works of the flesh which we know are utterly useless for salvation. God does, however, require one act on man's part to be "born of the Spirit" in regeneration. As recorded in John 3:14-16 our Lord pointed out this act in the typology of Israel's experience with the brazen serpent which Moses "lifted up". He
made the looking on the serpent to obtain physical healing to be a clear-cut parallel to believing on Him for spiritual healing or receiving "everlasting life". And that such life is available for all men is abundantly testified in the twice repeated words, "WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in Him". Thus also, God spake by Isaiah, "LOOK unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth ... " (Isa. 45:22). Yes, man can "act" in a look of faith in Jesus Christ, the only act that can and will save him.
Though lost, man exists in the created "likeness" of God (Gen. 1:26), (though in a sadly fallen state) having God consciousness, with ability to love, hate, despise, learn, choose, repent, fear, desire, "call on the name of the Lord" (see Acts 2:21, 40), reject or accept spiritual light (John 12:36), yield to or resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). Please ponder Prov. 1:20-33 as an outstanding passage confirming all this. Man with free will can be persuaded, as was Abraham (Rom. 4:21,29). See also II Cor. 5:11 — "we persuade men", and Luke 16:31 — "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead".
Ephesians 2:8,9 touches the very heart of the question as to how a man is saved. Does its construction teach us that faith is the gift or salvation only? The Electionists stoutly maintain that faith is the gift first and foremost, connecting this with "and that not of yourselves". They ask us, "Is faith inherent in man ?" We reply that if it is not, why should "the God of the spirits of all flesh" command "all men everywhere to repent"; why exhort, yea, plead with men with outstretched triads
(Rom.10:21) to believe His message of free salvation for all? There are hundreds of such verses.
Men constantly believe or disbelieve whether it be things temporal or things spiritual. Men believe in idols as they bow to them. The Athenians believed in an "unknown God" and were told by Paul that this God whom they ignorantly worshipped would have them "seek the Lord if haply they might feel after Him and find Him though He be not far from every one of us" who are "the offspring of God" (Acts 17:27,29).
The wording of Ephesians 2:8,9 points to salvation as being "the gift", as a result of faith. Rotterdam's clarifying translation here is supported by the entire Word: "For by His favor have ye been saved through means of faith, and this hath come to pass not from you, of God the free gift! Not from works lest any many should boast". Never is faith said to be a "free gift"! Salvation and not faith is referred to as being "not of works", or, "not by works of righteousness which we have done" (Tit. 3:5). In v.8 the words "it is" are interpolated—"not of yourselves: the, gift of God" is the correct reading. "The, gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our lord" (Rom. 6:23)
A gift is not a gift hen works enter in; neither is it offered without, knowing it can he accepted, or refused as a person's inclination (free will) may manifest itself. The humble accept God's gift of salvation; the proud reject it (Matt. 18:3; I Tim. 6:3,4).
"It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure", we read in Phil. 2:13. Calvinists use this text to teach that God's Spirit must first enter a man in order to make him willing and able to spiritually see and believe the gospel. This is doing violence to God's Word and "handling it deceitfully" (see II Cor. 4:2). Please note that this is addressed "to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi" (1:1) and that "in you" God worketh — present tense.
Some will even use Gal. 5:22—"the fruit of the Spirit is . . . faith", as though faith is not possible without first being indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
God's Word plainly teaches that the moment one believes with the heart on Christ, he is quickened and entered by the Holy Spirit, who then wills, performs and produces "fruit". For proof see John 5:24; Eph. 1:13 and John 7:39 — "But this spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive".
Christ is not said in Heb. 12:2 to be the originator of "our faith" — "our" is interpolated. It should read, "the captain and perfecter of faith" (see R.V. margin). In view of the heroes of faith of chapter 11 Christ was supreme as a leader in what He "endured".
Let those who insist on believing that God must first make (coerce) men to want to get saved, reflect on these inspired words as they appear in Matt. 23:37; Isa. 30:15; Neh. 9:30; Prov. 1:24-33: "I would, but ye would not." Just as men sin because they want to sin, so no man is saved unless he WANTS to be saved. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness (who want it) for they shall be filled" (Matt. 5:6). According .to Heb. 10:26-29 unbelievers will come under the "judgment and fiery indignation" of God because they sinned "WILFULLY" in NOT BELIEVING on God's Son who died for them and gave them "the knowledge of the truth."
All of man's triple, interrelated being co-operates in his becoming saved. In body, the physical ear or sight of the eyes; in soul, the emotions, volition, desires, etc.; in spirit, God consciousness, conviction, reasoning—"Come let us reason together, saith the Lord" (Isa. 1:18; 43:26). "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching the innermost parts" or the entire man (Prov. 20:27, R. V.). Compare I Cor. 2:11: "for what man knoweth the things of a man save the spirit of man which is in him?" Man's spirit can have intimate relationship with God. The Spirit of God convicts the world of sin because they "believe not" on Christ, we read, in John 16:9. Man's accountability is declared in that all unbelievers are termed "children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2; 5:6).
"Covenant Child" Doctrine
In their dogma that "infants are to be baptized as heirs of the kingdom of God and of his covenant" Calvinists teach that salvation comes by "covenant" and by the WORKS of water baptism. This is contrary to God's Word (Tit. 3:5; Eph. 2:8-10). Episcopalians more brazenly teach that baptized infants are "made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of God"! Lutherans hold similar teaching. Plainly, here is a carry-over from Roman Catholicism. The Lord only knows how many souls have' gone to a Christless eternity through trusting in such false unfounded doctrines.
In Acts 16:30, 31, we find a jailor asking, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (if they likewise believe individually, for no one is ever saved because he, as born of saved parents is a so-called "covenant child"). One of the great errors of Calvinism is the unwarranted spiritualizing and appropriation of the temporal portion of God's covenant with Abraham as connected with his physical seed and the land which his physical seed would possess. Please read here Gen. 17:7-10. Their horrible doctrine that babies of unsaved, parents dying in infancy will be lost in eternal torment is refuted by John 1:29, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world". Thus all dying as unaccountables are redeemed in Christ. John 1:9 shows all others to be accountable.
All know that infant baptism is nowhere taught in God's Word. Electionists say it took the place of infant circumcision which was imposed on Abraham's physical seed as "a token of the covenant" between God and Abraham. Thus was formed the dogma that a child who is born of saved parents is an elect "covenant child" and is to be baptized as such. Salvation is in this way inherited, if you please, as though God makes a "covenant" with believers "and their seed in their generations," according to Gen. 17:7-10 (??). To this questionable theology is likewise added the misappropriated and misunderstood promise God made to Israel in the third commandment: ". . . showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments"—as though this reads, "unto thousands of generations."
God also promised Abraham a future Seed, Christ, and all who "walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham", i.e., having personal faith in Christ, thus being "in Him", become the spiritual seed of Abraham and are "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places" (Rom. 4:12; Gal. 3:6, 7, 16, 29; Eph. 1:3). Christ "came unto His own (Israel) and His own received Him not; but as many as received Him, to them gave He power (or the privilege) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name", we read in John 1:11, 12. The 13th verse does not describe the new birth as coming to pass oppositely from the natural birth, as Electionists read into it: "Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." it simply declares that sonship with God has no connection with the natural birth—the only birth "His own" had experienced. Contrast is pointed out. So also in John 3:6, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh: and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit".
Again, in James 1:18, the words "of His own will begat He us" must not be taken to mean man has no exercise of will at all in his conversion. The meaning is: God willed it that we who are begotten of Him "with the Word of truth", "should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures".
All the unsaved are "without excuse" in time and eternity. "Because that when they knew God (through enlightenment) they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful" for His kind and conciliatory attitude towards them. "Wherefore God also gave them up . . . " (Rom. 1:20,21,24). We can add to this John 1:9; 12:32; 16:8-11; Heb. 6:4. In foreknowing who would accept His testimony and who would not, God quickened accordingly. "The Son quickeneth whom He will", we read in John 5:21. The rejecters of His testimony God could not "will" to save, otherwise He would be a respecter of persons which He is not — see Rom. 2:11; Acts 10:34.
Through enlightening man's darkness (Psa. 107: 8-10; Isa. 42:7,8; John 12:46) the door is opened for saving faith in the conviction and apprehension of that light. "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word" — Rom. 10:17. When light is rejected man's "lamp" is "put out" — Prov. 20:27; 13:9; II Pet. 2:15,17. Only those who "believe not", please notice, are "blinded" by Satan thereafter, "lest the light of the glory of Christ should dawn upon them" II Cor. 4:4, R.V.).
FREE WILL IN THE GOSPELS
Electionists will quote various passages from the gospels in trying to prove that the Lord Jesus caught personal election to salvation and that man has no free will in this matter. In each case the context as well as the entire Word refutes this theory. Here are six of their favorite passages:
1. John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen me but I have chosen you and ordained you . . ." Who was here addressed and to what were they chosen? The Lord's twelve disciples, whom He had chosen and ordained to be apostles apart from their choice in the matter. In John 6:70, it is: ". . . have not I chosen you twelve and one of you is a devil?" The choosing is not to salvation, you see, for Judas "went to his own place" as a lost soul.
2. John 5:21, "For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.' Do not verses 25, 28, 29 reveal that it "now is" the Son's will that ALL "the (spiritually) dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and they that hear (i.e., hearken submissively) shall live", and also that in a future time "all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth (quickened physically) ; they that have done good (in a saved life) unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil (in an unsaved life) unto the resurrection of damnation"? Rev. 20:4,5 shows 1,000 years intervene between these two resurrections.
3. Matt. 11:27, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son and to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." From verse 23 and 18:3 we learn that the Father is not revealed to "the wise and prudent" but to "babes," or the humble minded who are willing to become "as little children."
4. Matt. 13:10, 11, 13, "And the disciples said, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? And He answered, It is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven but unto them it is not given . . . because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." But why was it "given" to the disciples to know and not to the multitude? Because the disciples believed on Him (Matt. 16:16; John 1:49; 6:68) and our Lord in His foreknowledge knew the multitude would yet clamour for His death (Matt. 26:47; John 19:15). Verse 15 explains why they could not hear, see, nor understand: "This people's heart is waxed gross (through neglecting light received) and their eyes have THEY closed, (like the masses today) lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and should understand and be converted (turned) and I should heal them." As foretold in Isa. 28:9-14, these "scornful men would not hear" — they would not come unto me." Therefore our Lord wept over Jerusalem saying, "How oft would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing and ye would not" (Matt. 23:37). "I am the door; by me if ANY man enter in he shall be saved . . ." (John 10:9).
5. John 3:27, "A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven." According to the context (v. 32-34), John the Baptist here referred to the heaven-approved ministry of Christ: "And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth ... for He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God." We read in John 7:17, concerning all mankind, "If ANY man willeth to do His will he shall know the doctrine . . ."
6. John 6:37, "All that the Father giveth unto me shall come unto me and he that cometh, unto me I will in no wise cast out. No man can come unto me except the Father which hath sent me draw him." But notice, please, who the Father gives to the Son and how He draws men to Him. Verse 44 states, "They shall ALL be taught of God (enlightened). Every man therefore that hath heard (submissively) and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." These are given to the Son. See John 5:40, "Ye (unbelievers) will not come unto me that ye might have life." It is not "ye cannot come" but "will not come", showing condemnation is not because of divine prohibition but of human rebellion. "He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God"—John 3:18.
The word "draw" of John 5:44 is again used in John 12:32, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth (on the cross) will draw (same Greek word) ALL MEN unto me." Why ignore this verse as well as John 1:9, "That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world"? We praise the Lord that He said, "I am come a light into the world that WHOSOEVER believeth on me should not abide in darkness" (John 12:46).
God's Word is beautifully harmonious and void of contradiction. We can be all of "one mind and one discernment" (I Cor. 1:10) if we will allow the Holy Spirit, the Author of the Word, to lead and guide us into all truth (John 16:13).
PREDESTINATION - TO WHAT?
Are some people predestined to be lost and others to be saved? Does the Bible teach such fatalism? No text can be found to teach that any one is predestinated or elected either to be saved or lost! It should be noted that all texts dealing with predestination refer in each case to a being predestined to some particular blessing or position coming as a result of being saved. Take for example, Eph. 1:4, 5, 11, 12:
"According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world that we (saved people) should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestinated us unto adoption of children . . . In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things according to the counsel of His own will: that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ." All who come by faith through the Door, Christ, into God's house will there receive dignity, and honor predestined for them.
As for II Thes, 2:13, 14: . . God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation (notice now what follows) through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, whereunto He called you by our gospel . . ." It is through "belief of the truth" that men are saved and sanctified, or set apart as God's chosen people.
We learn from Rom. 8:29 that God foreknew those whom He did "predestinate to be (again, `to be') conformed to the image of His Son." What was it He foreknew? Was it that which He Himself planned to do or was it foreknowledge of how each person would respond to His call—His command for "all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). The latter, of course. Only those who respond and are saved are effectually called. These He corporately terms "the elect" (Rom. 8:28; I Pet. 1:2; Rom. 11:7—"the election", or remnant).
In the light of the above, the expression in Acts 13:48: "as many as were ordained (not 'foreordained') to eternal life believed", is not hard to understand, for whom God foreknew would believe, these were ordained, or assigned to eternal life when they believed. Notice free will also in v. 46.
While those who hold the fatalist view of election independent of human volition think they have much proof for their doctrine in the ninth chapter of Romans, others find it a difficult chapter. If one comes to see that chapters nine to eleven, inclusive, form a parenthesis in Paul's writing, in which he with a burdened heart speaks of the condition and destiny of Israel, his "kinsmen according to the flesh," one will be helped towards seeing in this chapter how election is associated with only two people as individuals, and with two groups of people. In neither case is personal election to salvation the theme.
It is plain that only one of Isaac's two sons, Jacob and Esau, could be the forefather of the nation Israel and of the coming promised Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ. One of the two must be elected to that position through the sovereign choice of God. The Great Potter elected Jacob to be the "vessel unto (this) honor", it being not at all a question of salvation, you see, for Esau could be saved just as well as his brother —"For God so loved the world (including Esau) that He gave His only begotten Son that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life".
It was concerning the choice of Jacob as a forefather that "the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him that calleth" (v. 11). It is blasphemy to set forth that God hardens some hearts (as Pharaoh's) so that they cannot believe (just to make His power known) and that through deciding to withhold so-called "regenerating grace" from some, He turns out "vessels of wrath" (just as a human potter handles inanimate clay), and that such vessels are fitted to destruction because God wills not to have mercy upon them! Electionists will immediately answer this accusation by quoting v. 20: "But nay, O man, who art thou that repliest against God . . ." We reply not against God but against all false doctrine, desiring only to honor Him and to uphold His Word of truth.
After stating the case concerning Jacob and Esau. the apostle Paul explains a parallel case of election touching two groups of people taken from the "lump" of fallen humanity, how God elected one group to become "vessels of wrath" and the other, "vessels of mercy." From verse 22 we learn that Israel as a nation constituted "the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction," whom God "endured with much longsuffering" up to the very time Paul wrote this epistle to the Romans. Verses 23 and 24 designate all effectually called believers. "not of the Jews only but also of the Gentiles" as being made collectively "the vessels of mercy." "Who bath resisted His will" in His choosing thus to cast away His people Israel, collectively, though not individually nor permanently (see Rom. 11:15-27) and forming a collective Body, the Church, composed of Jew and Gentile, as being the vessels of mercy? Neither of these two groups may say, "Why hast thou made me thus?" (v.21). Incidentally, please notice how the last verse of Romans nine refutes personal election to salvation: "WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH on Him shall not be ashamed".
The 16th verse of Romans nine is a difficult verse for many. The key here is to know what the word "it" refers to: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy". The word 'it" can only refer to God's overall unmeritable grace to humanity, as the context instructs us. In v.15 we are referred to God's pure grace and mercy displayed to the nation Israel after their sinful calf worship. In pure grace He went on with them to Canaan (Exod. 33). This was not of Israel's willingness or her running but of God's mercy.
Thus it is by God's great grace apart from willingness or behavior on the part of mankind, men could be "justified freely (literally, 'without a cause' in them) by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"—Rom. 5:24. At the same time He is said to be the justifier only "of him which BELIEVETH in Jesus"—v.26.
The words "it is not of him that willeth", in Rom. 9:16, can not possibly have reference to whether or not one is willing to believe on or to receive Jesus Christ to be saved, for this very chapter informs us that the reason Israel "stumbled" and did "not attain to the law of righteousness" was "because they sought it not BY FAITH" — v.31,32. Note also v.8: "the children of the promise" refers to the promise made in grace to the human race, concerning Christ, the "Seed of the woman" (Gen.3:15; Gal. 3:14-18; Rom. 2:28,29; 4:20,24). Only believers in Christ are said to be such children (Ga1.3:26).
What is meant in v.18 by "whom He will He hardeneth"? We know that Pharaoh's heart was hardened by hearing God through Moses and then seeing God's actions in punishment and mercy. When Israel was hardened it was because "they harkened not unto me nor inclined their ear but hardened their neck" (Jer. 7:26; 19:15). See also Heb. 3:8,15. So in general, if men will not heed and respond believingly to God's enlightenment (John 1:9) they are thereby hardened (Prov. 29:1). That this hardening progresses without change in eternity can be seen by reading Rev. 22:11, R.V. margin.
That the words, "He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy and whom He will He hardeneth" (Rom. 9:18) apply also to the two groups above mentioned is plain, for we read in Romans 11:32 that God will yet "have mercy upon all". As to Israel, "all Israel shall be saved" (the one third left alive—Zech. 13 :8-9) after "the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (11 :25-2 7 ) , i.e., after the Church is completed and caught up. Because of Israel's "unbelief" God elected that she be broken off from "the root and fatness of the olive tree," i.e., from God's extended favor and mercy (11:17, 20) and that for an indefinite time He would show mercy to those who "in times past have not believed God. yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief" (11:30). Small wonder that those who deny the restoration of Israel (as does Calvinism) are so muddled as to the teaching of Romans nine.
It is quite true that the Calvinists in holding that some hearts are hardened simply because God wills it so, places God in a preposterous position, for there are four texts in His Word which tell us that God will "laugh" at the calamities of hardened unbelievers (Ps. 2:4; 37:13; 59:8; Prov. 1:26). Can you, dear reader, picture a God that hardens hearts so that later He can laugh at them, or a God who elects comparatively few to be saved but consigns most of the human race in wrath to eternal punishment because it is not His "sovereign will" to save them? May God help the blind to see who hold this error!
No "Limited Atonement"
When asked, "Why does God save a man?" we just quote John 3:16 as God's own reply: "For God so loved the world . . " Electionists tell us the word "world" here means the world of the "elect", for this word, they say, like the words, "all men", "every man", etc., has "different usages in Scripture". Furthermore, they teach "particular redemption", or a "limited atonement" -- that Christ died only for "the elect", not for all men. This is damnable heresy for it denies the full scope of Christ's vicarious suffering on the cross for all men.
The entire Word teaches that Christ was in our place—in the place of ALL MANKIND—forsaken of God on the cross when He cried, "My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken ME?" His was a substitutionary experience for all mankind that He "by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9). Only because men will not personally believe on Christ will they be eternally forsaken of God in the lake of fire! Christ was the only one who was ever damned of God for sin—He was "made sin for us who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (II Cor. 5:21). "He that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). Christ as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of THE WORLD" is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but for the sins of THE WHOLE WORLD" (John 1:29; I John 2:2). Jesus Christ "gave His life a ransom FOR ALL" (I Tim. 2:6). "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon ALL MEN unto justification of life" (Rom. 5:18).
According to Hebrews 10:29, all men are "SANCTIFIED" or set apart by "THE BLOOD of the covenant". Sore punishment awaits those who count it profane, sinning "willfully" in treading "under foot the Son of God" and insulting "the Spirit of Grace".
A final mouth-stopping text for deniers of the precious truths is II Pet. 2:1 —"But there were false teachers also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even' denying the Lord that BOUGHT THEM and bring upon themselves swift destruction". We do not say this verse applies to the Calvinists but it very definitely shows them to be false teachers as to their "partial atonement" dogma. We are acquainted with their dilemma here and their vain efforts to nullify the plain teaching, in harmony with all the Word — that Christ, our Sovereign God manifest-in-the-flesh Redeemer bought all mankind with His precious blood. If resorting to "the Greek" falls them some will say in desperation what no honest reader will see in this verse, that these men professed they were bought by Christ!
We can thank God for the blessing and comfort of His plainly revealed Word for all humble readers, with no need to resort to "Greek scholars" or to learn all the complications of that borrowed language. To this millions since Pentecost could say, Amen!
The logical course of the doctrine of personal election to salvation when pressed far enough will lead on to the false doctrine of the final reconciliation of all, for is it not stated in I Tim. 2:4 that God "will (`would', A.R.V.) have ALL MEN to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth," and in II Pet. 3:9 that the Lord is "not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance"?
The Final Reconciliationists use I Tim. 4:10
.. we trust in the living God who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe," to bolster their teaching that all mankind will eventually be saved, if not "specially" before death by election, then after an age or two of purgatorial correction. Since the doctrine of personal election to salvation is one of their mainstays, their whole -fabrication of error breaks down when such doctrine is shown to be without Scriptural support.
Praise God, He is righteously reconciled now to all men, "not imputing (charging) their trespasses unto them" (II Cor. 5:19) and He now invites all men to receive His freely offered salvation. "Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2). Hear His gracious invitation as found on the last page of His written Word, "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And WHOSOEVER WILL, let him take of the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:1?). "Make your calling and election sure" by believing "on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know ye have eternal life" (I John 5:13). God made it possible, it is our responsibility to make it actual — to be numbered with the elect body of believers.
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