Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Is unconditional election fair?

Last Sunday, I preached on John 15:16, where Jesus declared, "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you."

The idea that God sovereignly chooses some for salvation while bypassing others, and that this choice is not conditioned upon any future faith or works of the believer, is known as "unconditional election." I believe in this doctrine because the Bible clearly and consistently teaches it (cf. Deut. 7:7-8; John 10:3; Ac. 13:48; Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:5; 1 John 4:10).

But some wonder how God's election can possibly be fair. Doesn't God's choice eliminate our sense of "free will" or human responsibility? Is it possible a person could want to be saved, but not be elected by God? Charles Spurgeon answers this objection in a very helpful way:
But there are some who say, “It is hard for God to choose some and leave others.” Now, I will ask you one question. Is there any one of you here this morning who wishes to be holy, who wishes to be regenerate, to leave off sin and walk in holiness? “Yes, there is,” says some one, “I do.” Then God has elected you. But another says, “No: I don’t want to be holy; I don’t want to give up my lusts and my vices.” Why should you grumble, then, that God has not elected you to it? For if you were elected you would not like it, according to your own confession.

If God, this morning, had chosen you to holiness, you say you would not care for it. Do you not acknowledge that you prefer drunkenness to sobriety, dishonesty to honesty? You love this world’s pleasures better than religion; then why should you grumble that God has not chosen you to religion? If you love religion, he has chosen you to it. If you desire it, he has chosen you to it. If you do not, what right have you to say that God ought to have given you what you do not wish for?

Supposing I had in my hand something which you do not value, and I said I shall give it to such–and–such a person, you would have no right to grumble that I did not give it to you. You could not be so foolish as to grumble that the other has got what you do not care about. According to your own confession, many of you do not want religion, do not want a new heart and a right spirit, do not want the forgiveness of sins, do not want sanctification, you do not want to be elected to these things: then why should you grumble? You count these things but as husks, and why should you complain of God who has given them to those whom he has chosen? ("Election," Spurgeon's Sermons, Vol. 2, p. 75-76)

6 comments:

  1. I'm not sure if the issue is that of it being "fair" or "unfair" but of it being Biblical. If it's Biblical, we accept that God is just and fair beyond our understanding.

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  2. I might note, if I may... that all of the verses cited refer to God's choosing for salvation. It does not speak of a negative election; ie: Predestine for hell.

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  3. Couldn't we say that the people who don't want religion could have been saved if they had been chosen? If God had chosen them, they would have had the gift of faith. Also, how about the people in other religions, abstaining from alcohol and other pleasures all in pursuit of the true God? Couldn't they have been followers of Jesus had they been elected? I know that regardless of the answer God is just, but the above theory doesn't seem to hold water

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  4. Couldn't we say that the people who don't want religion could have been saved if they had been chosen? If God had chosen them, they would have had the gift of faith. Also, how about the people in other religions, abstaining from alcohol and other pleasures all in pursuit of the true God? Couldn't they have been followers of Jesus had they been elected? I know that regardless of the answer God is just, but the above theory doesn't seem to hold water

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  5. Couldn't we say that the people who don't want religion could have been saved if they had been chosen? If God had chosen them, they would have had the gift of faith. Also, how about the people in other religions, abstaining from alcohol and other pleasures all in pursuit of the true God? Couldn't they have been followers of Jesus had they been elected? I know that regardless of the answer God is just, but the above theory doesn't seem to hold water

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  6. Hi Wagari, thanks for your comments. Here are my replies:

    "Couldn't we say that the people who don't want religion could have been saved if they had been chosen?" Yes, we could say that. The fact is that because of our fallen natures, none of us naturally desire to worship the one true God (Rom. 3:10-18).

    "If God had chosen them, they would have had the gift of faith." That also is true. But that's the whole point of unconditional election. None of us seek after God. None of us naturally do what is good. All of us equally deserve hell. But God in his grace has chosen to open the eyes of some, woo them to Christ, and bestow upon them everlasting life. It is a free gift, that he dispenses sovereignly by his grace and for his glory.

    "how about the people in other religions, abstaining from alcohol and other pleasures all in pursuit of the true God? Couldn't they have been followers of Jesus had they been elected?" All religions, including some so-called Christians, pursue a works righteousness. But these attempts at good behavior can never attain God's perfectly holy standard. All our righteousness, and our best efforts at religion, are but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). They earn no favor with God. Only the atoning death of Jesus could satisfy his holy wrath. And only the perfect obedience of Jesus can gain the favor of our great God. We bring nothing to the transaction but our sin. Salvation is a free gift through Jesus Christ.

    "I know that regardless of the answer God is just, but the above theory doesn't seem to hold water." I'm so glad you agree that God is just. He is perfectly fair, right, and good in all that he does. In fact, he DEFINES what true justice and righteousness is. Those categories only exist insofar as they measure up to his perfect standard. You are right that God is just. WE may not always understand how divine sovereignty and human responsibility coexist. But this much we know -- the Bible teaches both, and we must equally embrace both.

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