Sunday, February 7, 2010

Election – The Love of God Before Time

From pulpits all over America we are being told that "from eternity God saw who would believe the Gospel when it was preached to them and He chose them because He saw beforehand that they would accept Him."

By following this course of reasoning the Christian has arrived at a supposed truth untaught in scripture. But for me the most horrible irony of all is that those who are supposedly dedicated to represent the word of God are the every one crediting man with that which rightfully belongs to God.

I’m sure that it would be a surprise to many to know that in 1610 when this doctrine was introduced and even after, the vast majority of Protestant theologians rejected it as heresy. In fact they maintained that the Bible taught a system of doctrine quite different, viewing salvation as a work of God and His grace from beginning to end. In no sense did they believe that the sinner had any part in saving himself or even contributed in any way to his own salvation.

They believed that all men were by nature spiritually dead and their wills were in bondage to sin and Satan. (Eph. 2:1-3). The ability to believe the Gospel was itself a gift from God, (Eph. 2:8b) bestowed only upon those whom God had chosen to be the objects of His unmerited favor. (John 6:44).

If this heretical doctrine were just a matter of semantics we could dismiss the debate. But it is more than that. It is not only a matter of essentials but of discrediting God, giving man credit for that which God has accomplished. Put aside for a moment the essential of being honest with the Word of God, of being a diligent seeker of truth. There is something much more important that needs to be considered and that’s the matter of honoring God for His amazing gifts to us. Crediting Him as the initiator of His wonderful and glorious salvation.

Is it honest to consider such scriptures as Romans 9; John 6:44,65; Acts 13:48; Ephesians 1:4,11; Romans 8:28-31; or John 15:16 and force upon them the notion that they all speak of man's choice determining God's? It has never failed to surprise me that men who should know better have set aside these significant verses by simply remarking "Well, God saw who would believe and then He chose them." "...Man chooses God then God chooses Man... Man chooses God then God chooses Man." To hear its constant repetition you would almost think it was an inspired quotation.

In spite of the fact that it is not in the Word of God, this notion prevails among many Christians today. It is the standard rebuttal to anyone seeking honest information about the grand words of Election, Calling, and Predestination.

But the truth of the scripture is that the very nature of the teaching of election makes man totally subject to God. A real understanding of election makes a man stand back and accept the fact that his God really is his absolute Lord. God will do what He desires. He will always act in harmony with the perfection of His personality, but those actions will not always be acceptable to man. Man rejects this position of submission. He hates the absolute monarchy of God. His very nature cries out against any force which does not explain its motives and purposes to him. Man feels his own sovereignty is jeopardized by any one, especially God, who can act in a sovereign manner over his destiny. But the man who sees election as the Bible teaches it will feel a lessening of pride and self-reliance, and in it he will be truly humbled.

From the time in the Garden man set out to rule his own world, to have things his own way. And the battle of "Who shall rule?" has raged ever since. In the Garden the clay determined to control the Potter. It said, "I will make of myself what I want to make of myself. And even in the Christian world today these words find an echo as men reply to God, "You can only make of me what I allow you to make of me; you may save me, but it will only be with my permission." Every atom of the human spirit rejects the idea of being "mere clay."

However election forces him to accept the fact that he’s not only incapable of governing his own world, but he cannot and did not choose God. He did not just become a believer, God made him a believer.

What happens when a new believer searches the scriptures and come across words like, ‘Election’, and ‘Predestination.’? "What do they mean?"
Asking his minister, he is told these words are talking about the fact that God knew beforehand that the believer would choose Him and so God chose the believer to be His.
But reading further, he come across scriptures like "Chosen before the foundation of the world" and "that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my father." And "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." What is the meaning of all this? How can it be?
I thought I chose. I thought my will brought about my being a new creation. Did I not will to be saved? Certainly. But what was behind that will? What moved it? Could it be that I sought Him because he moved me to seek him? Could it be that He put it into my heart to come? Could it be that I am that low? That I was that dead?

Once the believer realizes that he has been in God’s mind from eternity there dawns upon his consciousness a settled assurance, which surpasses any security he has known on earth or in his previous faith. And this is the point of what Paul is saying to the Roman church in Romans 8:28-30. He desires them to know that since they were "marked off" (predestinated) for salvation by God before the world began they will surely be glorified by God to bear the image of Christ. And since nothing can stand in the way of the will of the Sovereign God they will without question be glorified into that image in the eternity to come.

Once a believer see himself as being chosen on an unconditional basis before the world began, he can also see himself glorified in the future with no possible event or trouble having the capacity to prevent it. This understanding of God’s purpose is the vision Paul sets in Romans 8:28-30.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

For whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

These are magnificent words. They connect the Christian to a God who chose him and despite tribulation, distress, and peril will not be prevented from having His ultimate will in that child's life. That may seem strong to some. But is that not Paul's intention? He sounds definite when he says, "All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose." He speaks from the perspective of the divine plan, not from the standpoint of what man is doing for himself. Notice that he speaks of God's activity in foreknowledge, God's decision in predestination, God's calling, justification and glorification. It is God's activity and God's activity alone which is the subject of the message.

Paul is showing that there are five links in the chain of redemption:
Foreknowledge, Predestination, Calling, Justification and Glorification. He is clearly stating that all the links are forged by God; they are not of human origin. Not one link will fail. God foreknew those whom He wanted to be His. He marked them off (predestinated) to be His and to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Then in the proper time He called them and made them willing to come to Christ. When they came He justified them by imputing to them righteousness. And as the final and culminating action of His grace upon them He glorified them (note the past tense, for it is already accomplished in Christ).

All of those that were predestinated were called and all that were called were justified, and all that were justified were glorified. That this is the true thought of Paul is evident in the manner in which he writes. The repetition of the words "whom" and "them" prove this fact. Look at verse 30. "whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified; them he also glorified." The same persons are taken up by each repetition of the word whom and carried forward to the word them so that there is no fluctuation or loss in the prosecution of the divine purpose.

All of the "foreknown" persons are included in the last link of glorification. In the end all of the chosen, without the loss of any, are glorified. God is not to be thwarted.

We must now look at the word foreknowledge in verse 29 to discover its real meaning. If it does indeed signify a choice made by God based upon his foreknowledge of what men would do, then election is not a scriptural doctrine. But if foreknowledge is something other than God's previewing of human response to the Gospel then election stands.

The word "foreknowledge" occurs five times in the New Testament according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. These references are: Acts 2:23, Romans 8:29, 11:2, 1 Peter 1:2, 20. The English translation of the Greek renders the word "foreknowledge" in Acts 2:23, Romans 8:29, and I Peter 1:2. It is found as "foreknew" in Romans 11:2 and as "foreordained" in I Peter 1:20. The Greek word is proginosko in Romans 8:29,11:2 and I Peter 1:20. The Greek word is prognosis in Acts 2:23 and I Peter 1:2. Both Greek words are compound words made up of the Greek word for "prior to," or "in front of," pro; and the Greek word for "to know," ginosko. Ginosko is capable of other connotations, among them are the following: allow, be aware of, feel, knowledge, perceive, and to understand.
Strong offers the simple definition of to know beforehand, i.e., to foresee. He also suggests "forethought."

In his book, Biblico-Theological Lexicon, Cremer suggests a meaning drawn from the word itself. He says that "ginosko in New Testament Greek often denotes a personal relationship between the person and the object known -- to suffer oneself to be determined thereby; for anything is known only so far as it is of importance to the person knowing and has an influence upon him so that a personal relationship is established between the knowing subject and the object known".

"The prefix pro to this word simply carried us back to an anterior period, and here it denotes that the ginoskein is already present in the divine decree before its manifestation in history; i.e., the union takes place between God and the objects of His sovereign grace. Therefore we may render whom God hath beforehand entered into fellowship with. This view also preserves the distinction between foreknowledge and foreordination. The former, foreknowledge, being an act of conscious perception, and foreordination, of specific volition."

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia offers this commentary on Romans 8:29,30 under its discussion of the word "Foreknowledge:"

In Romans 8:29,30 the word "foreknow" occurs in immediate connection with God's predestination of the objects of salvation. Those whom God foreknew, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son. Now the foreknowledge in this case cannot mean a mere prescience or foresight of faith (Meyer, Godet) or love (Weiss) in the subjects of salvation, which faith or love is supposed to determine the Divine predestination. This would not only contradict Paul's view of the absolutely sovereign and gracious character of election, but it is diametrically opposed to the context of this passage. These verses form a part of the encouragement which Paul offers his readers for their troubles, including their own inward weakness. The apostle tells them that they may be sure that all things work together for good to them that love God; and these are defined as being those whom God has called in accordance with His purpose. Their love to God is evidently their love as Christians, and is the result of a calling which itself follows from an eternal purpose, so that their Christian love is simply the means by which they may know that they have been the subjects of this call. They have not come within the sphere of God's love by their own choice, but have been "called" into this relationship by God, and that in accordance with an eternal purpose on His part (p.1130).

After all this theological mumbo jumbo we may conclude that the word ‘foreknowledge’ never had as its object something seen in man which could be the basis of God's choice. And if it is not there in the text, we must forbid ourselves to supply it. Let God be true and every man a liar.
The Bible teaches that God chooses people to be saved before they were even born (Ephesians 1:11). And while men may have a will, according to scripture it’s not free. The Bible tells us that our will is either controlled by sin, or it is controlled by the Holy Spirit.
God chose us for Himself that it might be for His glory. Ephesians 3:10 tells us that the reason God put the church together was to display His wisdom to the angels, not to show them how wonderful we are.

You see, our salvation had absolutely nothing to do with what we did or did not do, or with what God anticipated we would or would not do. We were chosen in Christ before the world began according to His own purpose and the grace that was given to us in Christ.
Salvation from beginning to end is 100% the extraordinary work of our Lord and Savior. We discredit God when we teach that man is the initiator of God’s mercy and grace. When we pervert and distort the word of God in order to give a dead man the power to choose a living God, we diminish the worth of that marvelous free gift that the Father gives (not offers) to those that are His.

Throughout Christendom, the theory is held that man determines his fortunes and decides his destiny by his own "free-will". But to insist that some men, at least, do thwart God’s will and overturn His counsel, is to repudiate scripture ...."And what His soul desireth, even that He doeth". (Job 23:13) "For the Lord of Hosts hath purposed, and who shall dis-annul it"? "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure". (Isa. 46:9,10)

Once again the appeal here then is not to the popular beliefs of the day, nor to the creeds of the churches, but to the testimony of my God and Father, Yehovah. "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" ( I Thess. 5:21).
Ephesians 1:4-5
"Long ago, even before He made the world, God CHOSE us to be His very own, through what Christ would do for us, He decided THEN to make us Holy in His eyes, without a SINGLE fault--we who stand before Him covered with His love. His UNCHANGING PLAN has always been to adopt us into His own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And He did this because HE WANTED TO."
Ephesians 1:11
"For as part of God's SOVEREIGN plan we were CHOSEN from the BEGINNING to be His, and all things happen just as He decided long ago."
II Thessalonians 2:13
"But we must forever give thanks to God for you, our brothers loved by the Lord, because God CHOSE (Greek- Haireomai- to take one for oneself, prefer) from the VERY FIRST to give you salvation, cleansing you by the work of the Holy Spirit and by your trusting in the Truth".
I Peter 2:9
"But you are not like that, for you have been CHOSEN by God Himself --- you are priests of the King, you ARE Holy and pure, you ARE God’s very own".
(Here Peter is talking to and about Israel)
John 15:16
"You didn’t choose me! I chose you!".
Romans 9:11
"For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth"
Romans 9:16
"So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy"
Acts 13:48
"When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
John 6:44
"No one is able to come to me unless the Father who sent me attracts and draws him and gives him the desire to come to me; and then I will raise him from the dead at the last day. (THE AMPLIFIED)

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