THE ELECTION OF GRACE

A Biblical Perspective

 

By

Gary Ray Branscome

 

God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world.

Ephesians 1:4

 

Long before the universe existed, or the first second of time had passed, our heavenly Father knew that Christ would take upon Himself the nature of man, and die for the sins of the world. It was never His will for man to sin, but knowing that man would sin He planned, from eternity, to send Christ into the world to save us from our sins (1John 2:2, Ephesians 1:4).

Furthermore, because God is not bound by time, that salvation has been available to all men from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). Adam and Eve were not saved by works, but through faith in the promised “seed” who was to crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Salvation has always been available to anyone who will admit his sin and seek God’s forgiveness. For that reason, all who are lost are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

             

The world around us provides everyone with ample evidence that God exists, and our own conscience testifies to the fact that we have done wrong. Therefore, it is only because of the deceitfulness of the human heart that all men do not seek God’s forgiveness (Jeremiah 17:9). Moreover, such self deception is so universal that apart from God’s grace no man could or would come to Christ (John 6:44). Our sinful heart would rather deny sin, excuse sin, and explain away sin than humble itself before God and seek His forgiveness. Men would rather believe lies, devise false religions, deny that God exists, and invent imaginary gods than admit that they deserve God’s condemnation and wrath. 

 

However, knowing that sin would blind men to the truth, God also decided, from eternity, to cause the Bible to be written, as a divine testimony to the salvation that is ours in Christ Jesus (John 5:39). That testimony has been there from the start. Everyone who reads the book of Genesis knows what it says about the entry of sin into the world. And, the fact that we have to work for a living, and eventually die, testifies to the fact that we have all sinned, and need God’s forgiveness. Moreover, the fact that Noah “found grace” in the sight of God, and that Abraham’s faith was imputed to him as righteousness tells us that we need to seek God’s grace, and ask God for a faith that will be imputed to us as righteousness.

However, even though the Bible fully and clearly exposes our sin and need of God’s forgiveness, the deceitfulness of our own sinful heart blinds us to what is being said, leads us to deny our sin, and fools us into believing that God will reward us because of the little things we do or don’t do. In fact, one reason evolution is so popular is because it provides people with a way of denying their sin, and deluding themselves into thinking that they will never have to account for it. Most people claim to be good people. Yet, when asked if they have ever said something that is not true, taken something that did not belong to them, were so angry they wanted to hurt or even kill someone, or entertained lustful thoughts they will admit that they have. But, they would rather deceive themselves than humbly admit those sins and throw themselves on God’s mercy (John 1:47, 2Timothy 2:25). That is one reason why the Bible tells us that our heart is, “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). It is also, why no one can come to Christ unless the Father “draws him” (John 6:44). And, why, “no one can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1Corinthians 12:3).

 

However, knowing the blindness of our sinful heart, and the fact that no one can or will come to faith in Christ without His help, God has chosen to go one step further. So that Christ’s death will not be in vain, He has chosen to bring millions of people to faith in Christ in spite of their own blindness and resistance. That is what the Bible is talking about when it tells us that, “God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world,” (Ephesians 1:4). And, those whom God has chosen are His “elect” (Romans 8:33 and 11:5). He has chosen to bring us to faith in Christ (2Thessalonians 2:13). And, that faith is a gift of God, “not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8).

 

Therefore, God’s provision for our salvation involves three steps. 1- His decision to send Christ to die for the sins of the world. 2- His decision to cause the Bible to be written so that we would know about that salvation. 3- And, His decision to bring untold multitudes to faith in spite of their resistance. 

 

The Jews and Election

 

            If many Jews are not saved, it is not because God does not want them. His Word plainly tells us that He has “no pleasure” in the death of those who are lost (Ezekiel 33:11). In fact, God has given the Jews every advantage. He gave them His law, and raised up one prophet after another to call them to repentance. Time after time, He brought their nation back to Him, while letting other nations go their own way (Malachi 1:2-3). If they are lost it is not because God does not want them, but because they are so intent on establishing their own righteousness that “they have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3-4).

            They have part of God’s Word, and that Word was given by God to bring them to faith in Christ (John 5:39, Romans 10:17). But, they have made that Word of “no effect” by their traditions (Matthew 15:6, Mark 7:13). Those traditions not only explain away the laws that condemn them — thus blinding them to their need for God’s mercy — but also give them a false assurance of peace with God, “when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14 and 8:11).

            Nevertheless, because God will not let His Word be made of “no effect,” when the Jews made its influence on them of “no effect” by explaining it away, He turned to the gentiles (Romans 9:6). For the true Jews (the true descendants of Abraham) are not those who are physically descendants of Abraham, but those who are his spiritual descendants (Romans 2:28-29 and 9:6-8). At the same time, God went one step further by bringing many Jews to faith in Christ in spite of the hardness of their hearts, the Apostle Paul being a prime example (Romans 11:1-5).

In the world today, I see a parallel between what happened to the Jews and what is happening in our society. As many in the west turn away from God, using evolution and other lies to make His Word of “no effect,” He seems to be replacing them with millions in the “third-world” countries who do not make His Word of “no effect”.

 

Letting the Bible Speak for Itself
 
Whenever we study the Bible it is important not to read our own ideas into the text, or jump to conclusions. But, when it comes to the doctrine of election many people do just that. When they read the words, “God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world,” they assume that God first decided which people He wanted to save, and then decided to send Christ to save them. Of course the Bible says no such thing! They simply assume it. Then, on the basis that assumption, they jump to two conclusions 1- that He does not want to save everyone, and 2- that Christ did not atone for the sins of everyone, but only for the sins of those God wanted to save.
Now, we know that those conclusions are wrong because they contradict what the Bible says. The first conclusion is wrong because the Bible tells us that God, “wants all men to be saved,” is “not willing that any should perish” and has, “no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” (1Timothy 2:4, Ezekiel 33:11, 2Peter 3:9).

            The second conclusion is wrong because the Bible tells us that, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,” that Christ is, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, and that, “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2, John 1:29, 2Corinthians 5:19).

Those two conclusions are wrong because they are based on an interpretation of Ephesians 1:4 that is wrong. That interpretation assumes a certain order of events, and those who reason from that order of events wind up contradicting Scripture. Then, when they see that their conclusions contradict Scripture, instead of rejecting those conclusions, they rebel against God by explaining away what the Bible says (Isaiah 8:20, Psalm 107:11).

 

Therefore, in order to have the correct doctrine, we must start with an understanding of the words “God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world,” that does not lead to conclusions that contradict the Bible (Ephesians 1:4). For example: I have just pointed out that If we assume that God first decided to save certain people and afterward decided to send Christ to die only for those He wanted to save, that assumption will lead us to conclusions that contradict the Bible. However, If we hold that God first decided to send Christ to die for the sins of all men, and then, because no human could or would believe without His help, chose to bring us to faith through His Word, we would not draw those unbiblical conclusions.

 

Now, I want to make it clear that I am not saying that God thinks of those events in that sequence. I do not believe that we can even comprehend how God thinks. However, if we think of things happening in that sequence, we will not draw unbiblical conclusions. Therefore, a Biblical view of election starts with the fact that God did not want man to sin in the first place. However, because God knew that man would sin, He decided from eternity to send Christ to die for the sins of all mankind. Furthermore, since no one would ever know that Christ had died for their sins without divine revelation, He also decided to cause the Bible to be written and the gospel to be preached. And finally, knowing that no man left to himself could or would believe, He determined to bring untold millions of people to faith (in spite of their resistance) through His Word. This view of election does not lead to false conclusions, but instead agrees with everything that the Bible says.

 

1- It agrees with those passages of Scripture which tell us that Christ died for the sins of all men. (1 John 2:2, 2 Corinthians 5:19, John 1:29)

 

 2- It agrees with the passages of Scripture that tell us that God wants all men to be saved. (1 Timothy 2:4, Ezekiel 18:23,32, Ezekiel 33:11)

 

 3- It agrees with the passages of Scripture that tell us that faith is a gift of God and no one would or could believe without God's help. (Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 Corinthians 12:3)

 

 4- It agrees with the passages of Scripture that tell us that no man can be saved unless God chooses to save him. (John 6:44, John 6:65, Romans 8:28-30, Romans 11:7)

 

 5- It agrees with all of the passages that tell us that the lost are lost because of their own fault, not because God wanted them to be lost. (Matthew 23:37, Romans 10:21, 1 Timothy 2:4)

 

 6- And, it even agrees with the passages of Scripture that indicate that we have a free will or must make a choice, because from our point of view it does look like we are making a choice. However, we know from Scripture that without God's help no man would ever make the right choice. (Revelation 3:20, Joshua 24:15, Hebrews 3:7-8, 2 Corinthians 3:5)

 

 7- Finally, it agrees with what the Bible says about time and chance playing a role in salvation. For if you think about it, a man born in seventeenth century England would have a far better chance of being saved than a man born in seventeenth century Algeria, or first century England. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

 

CONCLUSION

 

There are two major errors concerning the doctrine of election, and they both have to do with the sequence of events mentioned previously. I have already explained why those who assume that God decided which people to save (election) before deciding to send Christ to save them err. However, there are others who err because they assume that God only chose to save those that He knew would believe. We know that they have erred because they not only contradict what the Bible says about salvation being by grace alone, but also contradict those passages that tell us that our faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 6:44, 1Corinthians 12:3).

The Biblical doctrine that I have presented avoids those errors by placing God's election between God's decision to provide atonement, and His bestowal of the gift of faith.