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Tuesday

Unconditional Election

This is the third post in a series that is my attempt to explain what I believe about God and why I believe it.  The first post can be found HERE. It details why I am writing these posts and attempts to define, in part, reformed theology. The second post begins our look at the Doctrines of Grace, which are reformed theology's understanding of God in salvation.  That post can be read HERE.
Today we will continue our look at reformed soteriology by considering the second of the Doctrines of Grace (or the U in TULIP).The U in the acronym TULIP stands for unconditional election.  This doctrine states that God selected (or predestined) those whom He would save before the foundation of the world not because of anything those people would do or be, but simply because it pleased Him to do so.  Before we dig into this subject, I think it would be helpful to remember a couple of truths about God.  In Isaiah 55:8-9 we are reminded that God's ways and thoughts are infinitely beyond our own.  I think we can take this, in part, to mean that we will completely understand everything that God does.  We do have a responsibility, however, to seek the truth in scripture and adhere to it even when we do not understand it completely.  A god we could comprehend fully would be no real god at all.

The first thing we need to do is get past our fear of the term predestined or predestination.  The simple fact is that the bible uses that term when speaking of God's calling us to Himself.  To deny any form of predestination is just willful ignorance on our part.  Romans 8:29, Romans 8:30, Ephesians 1:5, and Ephesians 1:11 all speak of predestination.  So the question then is not "Does God predestine people?", but is "What does it mean when God predestines someone?".


One of the foundational elements of the doctrine of unconditional election is the sovereignty of God.  In Isaiah 46:9-11 God declares that "My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose" and that "I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.".  Nothing can prevent God from accomplishing the things that He has planned.  Another foundation of this doctrine is the glory of God.  Isaiah 42:8 tells us that God will not allow His glory to go anyone else other than Him.  The majority of the first 3 chapters of 1 Corinthians is spent telling us that God's methods of accomplishing His purposes are intended to keep man from boasting in himself and ensuring that only God can receive the glory from what He does.

How do the concepts of God's sovereignty and glory tie in to unconditional election and salvation?
  1. Sovereignty leads to the idea that God can and will save whomever He chooses to.
  2. Glory leads to the means of salvation being in no way attributable to man.
While the above 2 points certainly seem to make sense (at least in relation to sovereignty and glory), that is not enough to base a doctrine on.  We must search the scriptures to see if God speaks the same things.  If not, no matter how logical our ideas may seem, we must discard them in favor of God's Word.  We will take each of these ideas in turn and compare them with what we see in scripture.

Sovereignty leads to the idea that God can and will save whomever He chooses to.
Does the bible teach this concept or is this contrary to scripture?  Consider these verses (emphasis mine):
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even 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 for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  ---Ephesians 1:3-6

In 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, ---Ephesians 1:11

  But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. ---2 Thessalonians 2:13

 These verses teach that God chose whom He would save before He laid the foundation of the world.  He chose us because He loves us and because it is a part of His eternal purpose to do so.  Scripture is clear on these points.

What about the means of salvation?  Has God ordained means for salvation that allow Him to receive all the glory and remove all cause for boasting on our part?  To answer that we have to first determine what the bible teaches is the means unto salvation.  Consider these verses (again, emphasis is mine):

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. ---Romans 1:16

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ---1 Corinthians 1:18

These verses teach that the power that actually accomplishes salvation resides in the gospel, the message of the cross.  How does the gospel reach people that need to hear it?

or since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. ---1 Corinthians 1:21

But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? ---Romans 10:14


Preaching the word is the means through which the gospel reaches people so that it might, through the working of the Holy Spirit, effect salvation in those whom God has called.  In Ephesians 2:8-9 we are taught that our salvation is accomplished by grace through faith and that we have nothing to do with it.  It is a gift from God.  It has nothing to do with any acts of our own, so we cannot boast in it.  All glory must go to God.  In John 6:44 Jesus teaches that unless we are drawn by the Father, we cannot come to Jesus.

To summarize: God has chose us before the foundation of the world was laid.  God initiates the process leading to salvation by drawing us to Himself.  We cannot believe in the Son unless the Father draws us. We then hear, in some form, the gospel preached to us.  It is the power of God for salvation and God uses it to bring us to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. This is obviously a gross oversimplification of a process that sometimes takes years to complete in the heart of a person, but it serves to show that every step of the process is authored by God.  We have no place to boast.  God and God alone receives the glory for the miraculous salvation that He bestows upon us.

In the next post I will address some of the more common objections to this doctrine.

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