When last I left you, in part 1 of this series, we discussed "Total Depravity." It is a necessary prelude to this second post in the series of God’s sovereignty in salvation, if you have not read it, please do so before you engage this post.
At the end of the first post I left with a very open ended question. The question in itself was one that make’s the soul in whom God is working despair. The question in essence was this: "If what Scripture teaches is true, and no one seeks for God and no one can choose God, and apart from God there is no salvation, what hope does mankind have?"
Scripture does clearly teach that this is the state of mankind. Lost, and hopeless to do anything about it. No amount of good works can save, because in God’s eyes "...No one does good, not even one." (Romans 3:12) If we were left alone to do what our heart desired, no one would ever choose to follow God. All would be lost.
So what hope do we as sinful humanity have? God’s Sovereignty is our hope of salvation. It is His free-will that He has, that saves those whom He chooses. God unconditionally elects, or chooses, those whom He will save.
Unconditional Election can be defined in this way:
"God has shown us in His word that from eternity past He has elected some sinners to be saved from the condemnation that is justly deserved by all, purely on account of His gracious mercy and love, not because of any foreseen merits in those sinners. Because of the fact of total depravity, salvation must originate with God, and we read in the Bible that it is God’s sovereign will alone that has determined the recipients of salvation."
Now, as always, let us turn our attention as well as our hearts and minds to the Scriptures, so that we can see that this is the teaching of God and not man.
"3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory."
What incredible language God uses here! "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." This rules out any possibility that our works justify us before God. God chooses us before we had the chance to even exist. Let’s look at some more Scripture.
"9For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son." 10And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call-- 12she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
"28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."
Clearly, it is the teaching of Scripture, that tells us it is God who is completely responsible for salvation. Look what Jesus says in John 6:44.
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."
Is this not merely compatible with what Scripture teaches about mankind’s fallen condition because of sin? We do not want God, seek God, know God. Therefore, because we are unable to turn to God ourselves, God must draw the sinner to Him by His power and grace. Indeed this is what Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches.
"8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
Grace is a gift of God.
Salvation is a gift of God.
Faith is a gift of God.
None of these thing are our own doing, they come from God who is the "the founder and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2)
If you accept the clear teaching of Scripture regarding the fall of man and the doctrine that has been called "Total Depravity" then you must see that this is the only way anyone could be saved. The doctrine of "Unconditional Election" is also very clearly taught in Scripture as I hope you have seen.
What about some common objections to this doctrine? For instance, often it is proclaimed that when Scripture talks about God foreknowing someone as in Romans 8:29, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined...", that it means God looked into the future and saw that a person would accept Jesus as savior and so God predestined them to salvation.
Obviously, however, that cannot be the case. Why? Because man is depraved and no one seeks for God. If God simply let us do our thing and did not intervene, no one would choose Him, and no one would be "elect" if this were how God did things. The problem with this view is that it is man centered. Man likes to assume that he is in control of his life, and yet that is just not true. As we discussed in one post ( http://reformationinprogress.blogspot.com/2007/03/does-man-really-have-free-will.html ), man’s will is enslaved to either sin or to God, but it is never truly free.
So "foreknowledge" does not mean to know in advance what is going to happen. In fact if you do a word study here, you will find that the root word here "knowledge" is the Greek equivelant to that of the Hebrew word "yada" which also means know. Let’s look at a few places where this word is used in Scripture, both in the Hebrew and the Greek.
"Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten
a man with the help of the LORD."
"And the LORD said to Moses, "This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name."
To quote from James White’s book "The Sovereign Grace of God", which you all should read by the way, and can buy it here: www.aomin.org, this is what Dr. White has to say about this same issue.
"Hence, we have seen that "to know" in Scripture, especially when it is God who is doing the "knowing" and when the object of this "knowing" is personal (a person, or a people, as in Israel), refers not to a knowledge of data and facts, but a personal relationship between God and the "knowee." With this concept in mind, let us now look at the concept of God’s foreknowledge in the New Testament." (White; 145)
"this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men."
This again is the exact same word as we saw in Romans 8:29. Let’s put in place here in Acts 2:23 the same meaning that many try to place upon Romans 8:29. If we were to do that, it would read something like this:
"This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan of God, well, definite that is, because God looked into the future to see what Jesus (who is God) would do and since He saw that Jesus would indeed be crucified, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men."
You see the problem? Foreknowledge is not God’s knowledge of future events. Foreknowledge is God’s decision to enter into a personal relationship with a person from before they exist. Or in Jesus’ case God has known Him (or Himself within the trinity) personally for all eternity.
Clearly God chooses on the basis of His own free-will, and not on the basis of anything we do, whom He will save and whom He will not. As for other objections to this doctrine here is what
God says through Paul in Romans 9:14-24.
"14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"
Ultimately it comes down to this. God is God and I am not. I am unable to save myself, so my only hope is that God will save me.
If you accept the clear Scriptural teaching of Total Depravity, you must accept the equally clear Scriptural teaching that God chooses people by His own free will, unconditionally, apart from what we do. That is Unconditional Election.
In Him -Jacob