Election Controversy?

Election controversy is nothing new. Whether we’re talking about political elections or biblical election we’re bound to run into controversy. In today’s post I want to deal with a few objections that typically come up when we’re considering the biblical doctrine of divine election.

“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.” Ephesians 1:3-4

The doctrine of divine election is not without controversy in various circles of Churches and in the minds of some. Some of the most common objections are these…

  • Objection 1 – Election stunts evangelism. “If God knows His elect then why bother sharing the gospel, after all the elect are going to be saved anyway.”
  • Objection 2 – Election generates a prideful people. “I’m one of God’s elect and you’re not.”
  • Objection 3 – Election isn’t fair. “Election means that God plays favorites and that just isn’t fair.”

Just a quick word about each of these objections…

1) The objection that divine election stunts the work of evangelism is an age old objection. Some say that this doctrine leads to a defeatist attitude in the heart of believers. “Well if God’s going to claim His elect regardless, then what’s the point of sharing the gospel?” The point of sharing the gospel is precisely that God has ordained that means as the means by which people will hear and believe on Christ. The apostle Paul speaks directly and clearly to this point in Romans 10 when he writes,

“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they 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? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:13-17

Remember that the context of Paul’s writing in this chapter comes right on the heels of his expounding upon the sovereignty of God in making free choices in Romans 9. Israel’s unbelief (and all of ours) can only be overcome by the preaching of the gospel. This is God’s ordained (decreed) method of bringing His elect into Christ.

What a privilege it becomes then that God allows us to be used in bringing many to the saving knowledge of Christ. What confidence then this brings to us as we share the gospel, knowing that the results don’t depend on us – our eloquence, our knowledge, etc… – but upon God’s Spirit working.

2) The objection that says that election lends to creating spiritual pride in believers stands to reason, until we understand that no person can be saved who stands before God and others in pride. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 The gospel call demands spiritual lowliness, a coming to the Lord in recognition of weakness, sinful depravity, and a human helplessness that sees clearly its need for divine rescue. There is no pride in this coming. We have no money to purchase salvation. We have no power strong enough to grab hold on it. We have no wisdom of our own that is sufficient to intellectually wrestle salvation from God and to ourselves. Our resources are worthless before God and our righteousness is wretched. Divine election actually works humility in the heart of a genuine believer. He or she is humbled that God would look on them with favor. “Who am I that God would be mindful of me?” That’s the exclamation of the one truly born again.

3) This actually leads into the next objection that this simply is not fair. What about those who are not elect? This is a difficult objection to overcome in our minds, until we change our perspective from one that looks on God as being unfair to a mindset of wonder and awe that God would choose any of the human race to be brought under the umbrella of His loving grace. I think those who would call God unfair often come at this doctrine with a mindset of “man deserving” rather than “divine generosity.” The fact that God would save any of us should leave us in awe and wonder. Of course, as we’ve seen in our study of Ephesians 1 (or will yet see), He does so for based on His own will and for His own glory.

This being said, the Bible also teaches the responsibility of people to hear and believe. No person will be able to stand before the Lord and say, “You just weren’t fair!” The law of God is written on every man’s heart and all of creation declares the reality and glory of God. I realize that my response to this objection is lacking in some nuance, but for the sake of keeping this brief and in light of the fact that many, many books have been written on this subject by people far smarter that me, I’ll leave my response here.

The biblical teaching of divine election is an amazing doctrine when we stop to consider the wonders of God’s choosing Christ as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world and then consider that in Christ the Father chose some unto salvation to be a people holy and blameless before Him. One of the worse things one could do is to get hung up on wondering whether or not they are one of God’s elect. Simply call on the name of the Lord and be saved! Turn from your sin and trust Him! It’s your call in response to His gracious invitation to “Come.”

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