CAN WE CHOOSE GOD, OR DOES HE CHOOSE US?

salvation 2

Dear Friends,

What will you say to God on judgement day if He asks, “Why did you believe on my Son while others didn’t?”

Would you say “Because I was smarter”? “Because I had the good sense”?

Of course you wouldn’t. I would bet that we would all be so overwhelmed with God’s glory and our own unworthiness that it may be hard to put two words together much less put any attention upon ourselves.

From a reading of Colossians 2:13, if we have been saved, it is because God has raised us from spiritual death.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins”.

Logic would then tell us that for those who have not been “made alive”, it is because God has not raised them.

The doctrine of unconditional election (salvation brought about by God’s sovereign choice, not according to any action, merit, or condition met by the believer) is probably one of the most analyzed and debated subjects in Christendom. God’s choosing of some and not others does not fit into our natural and limited ideas of what is right or fair.

To this objection, I refer now to Nathan Pitchford and John Hendryx at the Christian Publication Research Foundation who make an eloquent and biblical response:

In Romans 9, when Paul is speaking very clearly of God’s unconditional election of some, and not others, to eternal salvation, a hypothetical objector to this doctrine raises that very question:

“If it is as you say, Paul, and God loved Jacob and hated Esau before they were born, or had done anything good or bad, just so that his own purposes might stand in election, does that not mean he is arbitrary and unjust?” (see Rom. 9:14). Paul’s response to this is a resounding, “Of course not! May it never be!” God is not arbitrary or unjust – but he does elect individuals to mercy and hardens others as he sees fit, and for no good will or exertion that he sees in anyone (Rom. 9:15-16). He hardened Pharaoh according to his purpose of displaying his glory in all the earth, and he sovereignly chooses to have mercy on whomever he will, to display the glory of his grace (Rom. 9:17; cf. Rom. 9:22-24). In sum, “Therefore, he has mercy on whom he will and he hardens whom he will” (Rom. 9:18).

Just because God chooses to have mercy upon some does not make him unjust or arbitrary for giving to others their just deserts. It is his free, undeserved mercy and grace that he holds forth in salvation, and he may do with it as he will. We may not fathom the deep and mysterious ways of God (Rom. 11:33-36); but woe to that one who foolishly says, “I see no reason for why God chooses some and not others, so he must be arbitrary and unjust”. On the contrary, O foolish man, you would do well to say with Job, “Behold, I am of little worth; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand upon my mouth” (Job 40:4).

We would challenge you to wrestle with the following verses. Paul encountered this very same argument against election in Romans 9:18-23; that it would make God unjust and arbitrary:

18  So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19  You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”20  On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?21Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same  lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

Paul is saying that God has the sovereign right to do with us whatever He wants.  Will you deny Him this right? This points to an even greater truth: that there is no higher principle in the universe than God Himself. God is the ultimate Truth and therefore, if He determines something it is, by definition, not arbitrary. In other words, there is no better reason for anything than the fact that God determines it. We should draw no comfort from the theology that promotes a god who must yield to something greater than Himself.

In His counsels and works no cause is apparent, it is yet hidden with Him, so that He has decreed nothing except justly and wisely according to His good pleasure founded on His gracious love towards us.” (Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics) Just because we don’t know His internal reason for choosing some to faith and not others is not reason enough to reject it.  The “foreseen faith” people are, in effect, saying that they cannot trust God in making this choice and prefer it to be left up to the fallen individual, as if he would make a better choice than God. This would also make God’s love toward us conditional and based on some inherent talent, wisdom or strength found in the individual rather than in God Himself.”

What I have come to love about the doctrine of unconditional election is that it elevates a rightful, high and glorious view of God and keeps me humble. What great security we have in knowing that our salvation starts and ends with Him! Jesus prayed, saying that “all that the Father gives me will come to me”.

Friend, if you have come to profess Christ, and trust in Him as Lord and Savior, then you are of the elect! If you have not, how do you know that you are not? Come to Him this day. He will NOT forsake you!

Comments welcome 🙂

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “CAN WE CHOOSE GOD, OR DOES HE CHOOSE US?

  1. romans 11:32 is the only sense in which unconditional election can be viewed as moral rather than immoral and arbitrary. there is a deep perversion in the happiness or contentment on thinking god’s elect are not every person who has ever loved or will.

  2. “friend”, election means there is NOTHING a person does which makes him a member! second, no one can choose what to believe about god. we believe whatever we think the case is, whatever the question. third, you believing something about god doesn’t obligate god to “save” you. finally, epistemic belief is NOWHERE a requirement in scripture for salvation. “pistis” is the word used and translated “faith”. it is the natural draw all of us have to the good, and brought about through god’s active presence in the world, ie grace.

    salvation is responding to the draw to the good (which is god) and participating in the good; the experience of it bringing transformation through atonement.

  3. The above is a very myopic reading and commentary on Roman’s 9 in my opinion. It is as if the commentators are reading this chapter while ignoring the rest of Romans, and misunderstanding the argument Paul is making.
    I also fail to see why Colossians 2:13 should be taken to mean we had no choice in salvation. Yes, God is the author of faith (he must convict us or we can not respond to him) Yes, he does all the work in salvation, we only accept or reject him.
    And finally, in your interpretation I must actually be more merciful then God. Because if God has irresistibly chosen me for salvation while irresistibly damning my son, then I volunteer to switch places with my son. As Paul says in Romans, I could wish myself damned so that they might be saved. Was Paul more Christ like then God? But the God of Calvinism apparently looks nothing like Jesus, who died once for all.

    “If you have not, how do you know that you are not?”
    Oh, my, what a weak appeal to sinners! “Come to Christ, if you can. There is a very small, minute chance that you might be one of the lucky lottery winners who he will actually accept. But more likely, you were born damned through no fault of your own, so deal with it!”

    • Dear Friend,

      I apologize for the delay! Life and computer issues have caught up with me. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m not sure what you mean by your interpretation of Romans 9, if you can expand on that.
      As for Colossians 2:13, the reason we had no initial choice in salvation is because this verse says “when you were dead in your transgressions…” meaning we are spiritually dead, with no spiritual pulse, and have no ability to conjure up faith to believe in God in our natural and unsaved disposition. This verse says “He made you alive together with Him” meaning God, through the Spirit, breathes into us spiritual life, quickens our spirits and, as James 1:18 says “He brought us forth by the word of truth…”

      I believe that God is very merciful in that He is not obligated to save anyone, for all people without exception are headed for eternal condemnation because we have sinned in Adam (see Roman 5:12-21), have broken God’s law and are guilty before God, deserving His justice. All men deserve hell because of their sin against God and their suppression of the truth (see Romans 1:18-32), not giving glory to God. God is merciful in that He chooses some sinners (whom He does not have to choose) for salvation while leaving others to face His justice. This is mercy because we all deserve hell and not His mercy – we have sinned against God, as explicitly seen in Adam and Eve even in a perfect environment.

      Friend, how do you know he has “irresistibly damned your son?” We must understand that God does not damn people to hell, or elect people to hell like He does when He chooses some for salvation, because, since we are already dead spiritually, sinned against God and suppress the truth, all God needs to do is display His justice by withholding His grace and mercy from sinners… and we all deserve it.

      The answer is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, trusting in Him for deliverance from sin and condemnation. And, God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to save man from sin (see 1 Corinthians 1:21).
      No one is saying “Come to Christ, if you can”. The gospel, agreed upon by Armenians and Calvinists, is “Come to Christ and believe in Him that your sins be forgiven”. The issue is not if I am elect or not elect, but rather appealing and preaching the gospel to every man to come to Christ by faith. God has chosen the preaching of the gospel to save men. We simply preach and proclaim Christ and God will save whom He desires.

      • I really don’t know where to start. I don’t understand how you can not see the contradiction in saying God doesn’t elect people to damnation but you say he does elect them to salvation. Well, doing one is doing the other, and John Calvin would agree. Too bad Calvin’s followers are rarely as consistent, but prefer to add a lot of smoke and mirrors to the mix.

        Romans 9-since I can’t take the time to go through the whole chapter, let’s focus on the objector. The commentator says: “ Paul is speaking very clearly of God’s unconditional election of some, and not others, to eternal salvation, a hypothetical objector to this doctrine raises that very question:”

        But is this what Paul is talking about? And who is this mystery objector? Look at Romans 3, where we have parallel verses to Romans 9. He goes through the same argument, that there is a great advantage to being a Jew and he asks the same question: Does their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? And gives the same answer: “Certainly not!” Only in Romans 9 he simply states that God’s word has not failed because of of their rebellion.
        and then again in Romans 3:
        5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly,what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? 7 Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!

        This is the same argument the objector in Romans 9 is making. The objector is a rebellious Jew trying to justify his sin. What Paul is laying out here is a brief account of how God brought salvation to all through the messiah and through Israel. He has to explain this to the Jews, he has to give them a history lesson, because some still haven’t understood what Jesus being messiah means.

        Why did God have to put up very patiently with vessels of anger? Because they would have the opportunity to become vessels of mercy! He is explaining to the Jews that salvation is also for the Gentiles. And it isn’t until verse 31 that he gets around to explaining anything about how salvation is obtained. The point here is not that God is picking some individuals for salvation and rejecting others. It’s 1. That God is just, and has not abandoned his promise, even if he brings salvation by temporarily hardening some of his own people. and 2. That salvation is not of works, which is where the Jews missed it, but of faith. And we are assured in chapter 11, verse 11 that the objector, the rebellious hardened Jew did not fall beyond recovery. He would get his chance for salvation also. It is very clear that from Chapter 9 until chapter 11:13, Paul is talking to the Jewish people. You can’t read Romans 9 in isolation and apply it to yourself and expect to understand what Paul is saying.

    • wildswanderer said, ” Yes, he does all the work in salvation, we only accept or reject him.”

      With respect, then, He didn’t do ALL the work…we did some. IMO, if we could do something to gain salvation, then it would violate this:

      ” Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
      6 And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” ( Romans 11:5-6 )

      If salvation is of grace, then God did it all. If it is of works, then we did something to gain it. From my perspective, that effort runs all the way from praying a prayer, getting baptized, “going forward”, asking God to save us, and even carefully believing “all the right theology”…if mankind is responsible for anything pertaining to salvation, then it is works, not grace, as I see it. To me:

      Grace = God’s efforts towards mankind.
      Works = Unregenerate mankind’s efforts towards God.

      In addition, I see Paul displaying his own compassion towards those that God had not foreknown ( see Romans 8:29-39 ), by very clearly stating in Romans 9:1-3,

      ” I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
      2 that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
      3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: ”

      …that he could wish himself accursed from Christ, not that he would. I also notice that Paul is speaking of them as his kinsmen according to the flesh…not his kinsmen according to the spirit / Spirit, which is what those in Christ are, IMO.

      To me, the “god of Calvinism” isn’t the focus here…the issue is, what does Scripture actually say? It says that the believers at Thessalonica were chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth ( 2 Thess 2:13 ). It says in Ephesians and Colossians that even believers were dead in their trespasses and sins, and that they were “quickened” ( made alive ); It says in John 6:64-65 WHY the majority of the crowd, and even many of His own followers, did not truly believe on Him…because no man can come to Christ unless they are given to Him by His Father. It says in John 10:26 why the Jews did not believe:

      ” But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.”

      …because one has to be one of Christ’s sheep in order to believe.

      All of these and many more, when put together, give me not only the idea, but the proof I need to credit my salvation to God in its entirety. If I made the choice, then something I did purchased salvation for me. If God did it ALL, then I have nothing to stand on except his grace. THIS is monumental for me, whether or not it resembles something some man in Geneva taught 450 years ago.

      I did not always see this, nor did I have the luxury of having anyone explain it to me like some have had; I have read Scripture over years and years, and this is what comes out. Why does this seem to offend so many who profess Christ? I’m not entirely sure, except to speculate that perhaps it offends our carnal minds…the same mind that desperately wants to do something, anything to pay God back or to determine our own destiny…the same mind that God promises to transform ( Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23 ) for the believer.

      To me, the God of the Bible rips these efforts out of my hands and shows me why He saved me…according to His own purpose and grace ( 2 Timothy 1:9 ) as well as this:

      ” But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” ( Titus 3:4-6 )

      According to His mercy He saved me, not according to my belief…which, incidentally, is a gift of God, as I see this stating:

      ” For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; ( Philippians 1:29 )

      It is given by God to a believer… to believe. It’s that simple, and it gives God all the glory. Finally, and I hate to point this out, but I see a contradiction when someone tells me that God did all the work, BUT…

      Either He did all of it, or He didn’t. Either this is true or it isn’t:

      ” Blessed [is the man whom] thou choosest,
      and causest to approach [unto thee], that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, [even] of thy holy temple.” ( Psalm 65:4 )

      As I see it, IF I’m a believer in Christ, then He chose me and caused me to approach Him in faith.

      wildswanderer, I’m not showing this to you because I enjoy a good fight…quite the contrary. I’m telling you that, to me, there are many details to our salvation as believers, and those details are right in God’s word. Some of it is hard to understand ( 2 Peter 3:16 ), and I know that a true and complete understanding of God’s word comes over time and diligent study, and nothing can replace that. My perspective seems strange to many of my brothers and sisters in Christ…but I can honestly say that I once believed the same as you appear to, and that because of my obedience to God’s command in 2 Timothy 2:15, He is leading me into all truth.

      I wish you well, and may God bless you greatly in the knowledge of His grace.

      Dave.

      • I’m not sure my comments will actually be posted here, so I’ll just ask a simple question: “Is faith a work?” There is such a clear distinction between faith and works in scripture that you really need to ignore or twist a ton of verses to make your argument work.

        • Hello Wildswanderer, unless a comment is vulgar or attacking someone else, I will welcome it into the discussion, and I certainly welcome and appreciate you input and thoughts. Is faith a work? I would say faith is a response to salvation, but even that is a gift from God.

          For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (2:8–9)

          • Exactly, by grace though faith, so why are ya’ll saying that faith is about me doing something.. as Dave says: “With respect, then, He didn’t do ALL the work…we did some.”

            No, we didn’t, because faith is not a work. Yes, salvation is a gift and that is what is not of ourselves, so we can’t boast about somehow saving ourselves. There is nothing in this verse that tells me that some are irrevocably chosen and some are not. A gift, by it’s nature can be accepted or rejected. If it can’t be rejected, it’s not a gift, it’s an obligation.

            Faith is the opposite of works. Faith is about ceasing to strive against God’s promptings, and surrendering. It’s the opposite of me doing something to earn my salvation I think the Calvinists are confused when they say even faith can’t be the person’s choice, because they somehow view faith as a person willing themselves into God’s kingdom. When it’s actually laying down your will and accepting the gift.

          • Hello Wildswanderer,

            You asked, “Is faith a work?”, and I think we both agree that faith is not a work. It cannot be, because we as sinners were dead in our trespasses, which means that we are incapable of faith until God puts that within us as a gift unto itself.

            By contrast, if a work is seen as a means to salvation, (and not a response to it), then it gives credit to man and not to God for that salvation.

            If I decide that my faith, that is the decision to lay down my will, (however passive or yielding, however small or insignificant), is to my credit, then hasn’t that in itself become a work?

            Can someone decide, even humbly, to lay down their will without God first changing their heart to do so? If the answer is no, (which it rightfully is), then what credit is here to myself anyway?

            Grace and Peace

          • “Can someone decide, even humbly, to lay down their will without God first changing their heart to do so? If the answer is no, (which it rightfully is), then what credit is here to myself anyway?”
            Of course, they can decide. Why are there verses urging us to believe or verses urging us to increase our faith if we can’t choose to? Prevenient grace is grace is that goes before salvation and enables a choice, it does not make that choice for us. If it did, everyone would be a Christian. God is not willing that any should go to hell If the answer is no, then we are all just robots dancing to whatever tune God programs for us. If that’s the case, praying, serving and obeying are all pre programmed into some and not others and all the verses telling us to obey are pointless, because we have no choice whatsoever in the matter.

          • wildswanderer,

            I once believed that 2 Peter 3:9,

            “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. ”

            …spoke with respect to God not being willing that any of mankind should perish, but that all of mankind should come to repentance. Having heard the word of God, believing it, being baptized and being raised in a church that used this verse often, I was shocked when this realization hit me during my reading:

            Who are the “us-ward” in verse 9?

            It wasn’t until I started reading Scripture as a book or series of letters that I stopped seeing the verses the way I had been taught, and just “plugged them back in” as part of the overall text of the letter of each epistle or Gospel.

            One day I was reading along in 2 Peter, letting Scripture “flow” from one passage to the next and suddenly it hit me…

            The context of 2 Peter 3:9 is with respect to the other verses around it. In other words, I see the “us-ward” as being the “beloved” from verse 8. Once I realized this, the usage of the verse as I had come to believe it for literally decades, simply fell apart. Let me lay it out for you as I see it.

            Here’s the passage widened a bit for context:

            ” But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
            9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
            10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” ( 2 Peter 3:8-10 )

            Now let’s see the way I understand it in context with the verses around it:

            ” The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward ( the beloved ) , not willing that any ( of the us-ward or beloved ) should perish, but that all ( of the us-ward or beloved ) should come to repentance. ”

            To me, the Spirit of God through Peter is not speaking with reference to all of mankind in verse 9, but rather in regard to God’s children… and that God is long-suffering ( exceedingly patient ) towards His children, not willing that any of them perish ( see John 3:16 linked with John 10:28 and so forth…none shall perish ), but that all of His children should come to repentance.

            Blessings to you,

            Dave.

  4. Margo,

    What I said after your prior post. Also, THIS is what makes the Gospel, a Gospel ( good news ) of grace. The good news of salvation for the believer is, “He sought me and found me…when I wasn’t looking for Him.” ( Isaiah 65:1, Romans 10:20, ” But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.” )

    IMO, if we could choose God, then that would make salvation something we could boast about…making the right choice, when the ” other guy/girl ” didn’t. His choice of the believer gives Him all the glory, and we stand on nothing but His grace and mercy to us…sinners, who deserve nothing but His wrath.

    I know of far too many false gospels out there that deny God His right to bestow His mercy, grace and kindness to whomever He wants…sadly, the church I was called in by His word is one of them. They don’t even get near the doctrine of election. To me, it’s amazing how many profess, and yet do not understand ( and even fight against ) this. Perhaps they are believing in another Christ. 😦

    You said, ” God’s choosing of some and not others does not fit into our natural and limited ideas of what is right or fair.”

    Amen, sister. As I see it, far too many of those that profess Christ get angry at this idea; Yet, it is right in the pages of His word ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 ). What is right and fair? That we all deserve Hell. What’s NOT fair? That any of us are saved at all…that some of us get the exact opposite of what we deserve!

    THAT is salvation, and THAT is God’s amazing grace.

    Dave.

    • Thank you, Dave, for your God-exhaulting comment. I so apologize for my delay, but it is appreciated nonetheless. I don’t think any of us will truly understand the great mystery of God’s mercy. I think if we did, we would understand the kindness of anything, anything at all from His hand. All I can say is that it’s not up to us to understand, but that He is altogether Holy, Righteous, Good, and Just.

  5. Pingback: WHAT’S SO IRRESISTIBLE ABOUT GRACE? | Ministry in Words

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s