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Elected! John MacArthur

Posted by Scott on June 11, 2008

Considering Election (Not Politics)

John MacArthur

Election is the act of God whereby in eternity past He chose those who will be saved. Election is unconditional, because it does not depend on anything outside of God, such as good works or foreseen faith (Romans 9:16). This doctrine is repeatedly taught in the Bible, and is also demanded by our knowledge of God. To begin with, let’s look at the biblical evidence.

The Bible says prior to salvation, all people are dead in sin — spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). In this state of death, the sinner is utterly unable to respond to any spiritual stimulus and therefore unable to love God, obey Him, or please Him in any way. Scripture says the mind of every unbeliever “is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8, emphasis added). That describes a state of total hopelessness: spiritual death.

The effect of all this is that no sinner can ever make the first move in the salvation process. This is what Jesus meant in John 6:44, when He said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” 

This is also why the Bible repeatedly stresses that salvation is wholly God’s work. In Acts 13:48 we read, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Acts 16 tells us that Lydia was saved when, “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

Romans 8:29-30 states, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

Ephesians 1:4-5,11 reads, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

Ephesians 2:8 suggests that even our faith is a gift from God.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, the apostle Paul tells his readers, “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.”

Second Timothy 1:9 informs us that God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

Occasionally someone will suggest that God’s election is based on His foreknowledge of certain events. This argument suggests that God simply looks into the future to see who will believe, and He chooses those whom He sees choosing Him. Notice that 1 Peter 1:2 says the elect are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” and Romans 8:29 says, “whom He foreknew, He also predestined.” And if divine foreknowledge simply means God’s knowledge of what will happen in advance, then these arguments may appear to have some weight behind them.

But that is not the biblical meaning of “foreknowledge.” When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person. The word “know,” in both the Old and New Testament, refers to much more than mere cognitive knowledge of a person. Such passages as Hosea 13:4-5; Amos 3:2 (KJV); and Romans 11:2 clearly indicate this. For example, 1 Peter 1:20 says Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Surely this means more than that God the Father looked into the future to behold Christ! It means He had an eternal, loving relationship with Him. The same is true of the elect, whom we are told God “foreknew” (Romans 8:29). That means He knew them — He loved them — before the foundation of the world.

If God’s choice of the elect is unconditional, does this rule out human responsibility? Paul asks and answers that very question in Romans 9:19-20. He says God’s choice of the elect is an act of mercy. Left to themselves, even the elect would persist in sin and be lost, because they are taken from the same fallen lump of clay as the rest of humanity. God alone is responsible for their salvation, but that does not eradicate the responsibility of those who persist in sin and are lost — because they do it willfully, and not under compulsion. They are responsible for their sin, not God.

The Bible affirms human responsibility right alongside the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Moreover, the offer of mercy in the gospel is extended to all alike. Isaiah 55:1 and Revelation 22:17 call “whosoever will” to be saved. Isaiah 45:22 and Acts 17:30 command all men to turn to God, repent and be saved. First Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 tell us that God is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all should be saved. Finally, the Lord Jesus said that, “the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

In summary, we can say that God has had a special love relationship with the elect from all eternity, and on the basis of that love relationship chosen them for salvation. The ultimate question of why God chose some for salvation and left others in their sinful state is one that we, with our finite knowledge, cannot answer. We do know that God’s attributes always are in perfect harmony with each other, so that God’s sovereignty will always operate in perfect harmony with His goodness, love, wisdom, and justice.


4 Responses to “Elected! John MacArthur”

  1. mike Roberts said

    why in acts 2:36-40 did peter go on exhorting them to be saved from this perverse generation. it would be upsetting to believe that they really didn’t respond. Why was paul to to why do you delay arise and be baptized washing away your sins and calling on the name of the Lord. People must have the first response. John 3:16 Whoever

    • Mark said

      There are many in the churches today who simply rely on a “profession of faith” to stake their claim to eternal life. They point to an exact moment in time where THEY chose to believe and receive Christ as Lord and Savior. While they may be correct in their using passages of Scripture to show that Christ is “unwilling that any should perish”, and that “all who come to me in no wise should I cast them out”. Let”s consider this one thing. I and you, you and I, all humans from the beginning of time have inherited the problem of sin…which means each of us has a sin-infected carnal mind whereby we are enemies with Christ before he saves us. If I rely on the “carnal mind” to make a profession of faith and leave it at that, then I am surely as lost as I was from the start. On the other hand, the Bible is filled with promises, that if we turn from our sins, Christ will hear our prayers and listen…(not a hint that he listens only to the elect)…yet we know by comparing Scripture with Scripture that only the Elect will become saved and without the guidance of Christ, even we would go astray and die in our sins. I came out of the Baptist churches because I became convinced they no longer teach the fundamental truths of Salvation through Christ alone. Being taught by many in the church that Election and Predestination were unbiblical and violated their doctrines of “free-will”…I searched and searched for a true meaning to the differences. I decided to leave when I approached a minister on the doctrine of Election and his response was “I don’t believe a just God would choose to save one and not another”…the Bible teaches all are lost and deserve the eternal punishment and wrath of God…why he would choose to save anyone is a divine mystery. The proof of Salvation is a broken and contrite heart doing the will of God and one who has an intense hatred for sin and all that is displeasing to God. There are many good commentaries at familyradio.com on the subject of Election. Just my thoughts…we should be looking for the return of Christ and pleading with him for mercy day in and day out. In Christ, Mark

      • Scott said

        Well, I agree with that you have said. I think it is pretty much what the post says. But none the less good. I too left the Baptist denomination. After leaving it about ten years ago my eyes and heart were opened to the real theology of the Bible. You are correct in stating that many Baptist churches and ministers today teach “Free Will” and the Scriptures simply dont teach that at all. I grew up with this, but over the past ten years I have been convinced by God through the Scriptures and good Bible teaching that “Free-Will” is man made and unbiblical. Thanks for commenting.
        My new site is http://www.EnGhedi.com if you want to visit it. This will become my main site within the year.

  2. Scott said

    Ok Mike, I want to thank you for commenting first of all. We welcome nearly all comments…a few come in that we cannot use, so thank you.

    Now, your post did not make alot of sense, but I think I know exactly what you were trying to say. However, go to the post I did a few weeks ago https://devoteddads.wordpress.com/2008/06/11/whosoever-will/ as it explains this position very well.

    “Whosoever will come” does not conflict with the Election view taught in scripture at all. Also, you have mentioned Paul, who taught more on election than anyone else all throughout Romans, was simply preaching and teaching the gospel as we are commanded by God to do. Again, this is not in conflict with election. None of us including Paul know who God’s elect are. So, you must preach the word of God to all who are in front of us and the Holy Spirit does the regenerating work on the hearts…man cannot respond without the Holy Spirit’s work on the heart. The first response does not come from man by any means, without the Holy Spirit first having opened the persons heart. Read Romans 9:10-18…one key verse in context with this is verse 16 “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire [will] or effort [actions or works], but on God’s mercy.” The [] is what I have found in the greek and commentaries in order to understand the fullness of this verse. You see it does not depend on man’s free will. God will never put His Sovereign will aside in order to wait on man’s will. God steps aside for no one…He injects His mercy so man can respond. Man’s free will is at war with the Sovereign will of God and I can guarantee you that God’s will and mercy is going to win everytime. He is patient in waiting on His elect to come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as 2 Peter 3:9-10 explains. God is not slow in coming back as we think of slowness, but is patient not wanting any one of His elect to perish, but that each one of them would come to repentance of their sinfulness…through the grace of God this will happen, guaranteed!

    Pressing on in Christ,

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