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The Election Of Grace

Election is a doctrine which has been the subject of much debate. Even among those of us who love and believe in Christ, there are some who believe and teach this doctrine and others who refute it. However, the fact remains that many have believed this teaching and have done so for a great many years. Dr. A. H. Strong, a Baptist theologian, said, "Election is that eternal act of God, by which in His sovereign pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, He chooses certain out of the number of sinful men to be the recipients of the special grace of His Spirit, and so to be made voluntary partakers of Christ's salvation." Another confession was drawn up by John Newton Brown in 1833 and was adopted by the New Hampshire Convention and accepted by Baptists in the northern and western states. In article 9 of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, there was a statement of belief in the doctrine of election.

Today we Primitive Baptists continue to teach and believe this glorious doctrine, while many others have now departed from this expression of faith. Our Articles of Faith declare "We believe that God chose a people unto salvation or eternal life and that this choice was eternal, particular, and unconditional" (Primitive Baptist Articles Of Faith - Article 3).

As we study this doctrine, the most important fact is not whether men have believed it but whether or not the Bible teaches it. From our personal experiences, we are all aware of the fallibility of man. We have believed things which were absolutely wrong. Nevertheless, if the Bible teaches election, then it does not alter truth even if mortals refuse to believe it. The indisputable declaration of Scripture is that election is true. Some Scriptures which unquestionably state the idea of divine election are: Matthew 24:22, 24, 31; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33; Romans 9:11; Romans 11:5, 7, 28; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Timothy 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:10, and 2 John 1, 13. Even if it were stated in only one verse of Scripture, that would be adequate to demand our attention and belief. Not only is election taught in many New Testament Scriptures but there are Old Testament Scriptures which teach it as well. There are also references which do not use the word elect or election, but embrace the doctrine and state it through the use of such words as choice or choose. An example of such is Ephesians 1:4, "...According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." This verse states: (1) that the choice was God's - not man's, (2) that it was done before the foundation of the world, and (3) that God has a purpose or design in election. Sometimes we state the reason for election simply as God's sovereign choice (Matthew 11:26). It certainly is a sovereign choice and such is the general reason. However, the specific reason or reasons we may never fully know or understand (Ephesians 1:11). Yet we must know that God is a God of purpose and the most obvious purpose of election is for the salvation of sinners.

Though sinners are embraced, it should be recognized that election is unconditional on man's part. God did not choose an individual because of some meritorious quality or good work. The Bible is emphatic on this point, stating "...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: 11). Some have misapplied the foreknowledge of God, assuming that God foreknew their faith or belief or some presupposed good work and therefore chose them. It is true that the elect are foreknown by God as stated in Peter 1:2, "...Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied." However it should be noted that the foreknowledge of God as relating to election is of persons, not things they did. Notice Romans 8:29, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren."

Notice that the doctrine of election is taught in the Bible by some of the greatest preachers of all time, Peter and Paul. In addition to them and others like them, there was One greater than them all who also taught divine choice and His name is Jesus. Jesus said, "But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:25-27). Both then and now, many are angered by those of us who teach and believe this blessed doctrine. Needless to say, we will continue to teach as did Jesus. He taught it and practiced it as He selected the lame man from the many who were ill (John 5:1-16) and chose His disciples from the multitudes (John 15:16).

Now to fully understand this doctrine, we must observe that there are at least three types of election spoken of in the Scriptures. (1) There is election that is national in dimension. We should recognize that God chose Israel to be a special nation. Moses said to the Jews, "For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all the people that are upon the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 7:6). If you believe that the Jews were a chosen nation of people, you should also believe that God has chosen a spiritual nation which is composed of the elect from all natural nations and families of man (Revelation 5:9). Peter had reference to this in saying, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). (2) Second, there is an election of individuals to an office or work. Jesus did this when He selected His disciples, saying, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you" (John 15:16). Do you believe that today God still calls ministers to the work of gospel preaching! Well, if God selects men to preach the gospel, why is it so difficult to believe that He also selects (elects) men to believe the gospel! Paul said, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48). (3) Third, there is the election of individuals from a state of death in sin to salvation by Christ Jesus. This is the foundation of all teachings about election. It is a doctrine which stands as a beacon light to declare God's divine choice; therefore the main emphasis of the Bible is the "election of grace" (Romans 11:5-6). It is not based on the deeds of fallen man but rests upon the foundation of the sovereignty of God, who does not fail. This truth of election will always declare the fact that man was dead in sin, for all Adam's family was plunged into depravity at the original sin. Left to ourselves we were all hopelessly lost, but God had already chosen a great number of Adam's seed, which He lifted out of sin by the sacrificial death of His Son and drew to Himself by the work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. It may seem strange to some that he did not choose all; stranger still is the fact that He chose any, for none of us deserved it.

Today many deny this truth and with their denials they accuse God of unrighteousness and injustice (Read Romans 9:13-16); however, God is innocent of the charges hurled by men. To deny His right of choice would be to deny the basic aspect of freedom which is sought by all humanity; the right to choose what we will do, where we will go, and with whom we will have fellowship.

Let us not demean or deny this doctrine but rather believe and endeavor to understand it. With a greater understanding of election will come a greater perception of God and His sovereign grace. We see now through a darkened glass of His Word, but one glorious day we shall see clearly (1 Corinthians 13:12). All questions about this doctrine will at last be answered to our satisfaction and God's glory!

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This page last updated on June 17, 2014