Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Biblical Case Against Unconditional Election

There have been statements made that those who do not accept the teaching of unconditional election despise it because they would like to get credit for their own salvation. While that may seem like a plausible statement, it is untrue for those who believe the Biblical Gospel.

The Biblical Gospel is that “Christ died to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Those supporting this doctrine have claimed that the word world does not mean world at all times. But Jesus used it four times in two sentences. I think that the rules of grammar (which were created by the Inventor of Languages Himself) state that unless you do some serious modification, words that are repeated in a sentence must have the same meaning throughout the sentence.

Furthermore, Jesus gave us a parable of election in Matthew 22. It sounds nothing like Reformed Theology:

And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

“Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

“Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.

“And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.”

What distinguished the few that were chosen from the many that were not? The chosen obeyed the King! They willed to do as He commanded. They were counted worthy, not because of their history, not because of their status, but because of their obedience on these two things: Come to the feast and wear a wedding garment. That’s it. The King’s prize list rejected the King’s wishes.
Christians are called to do two things: Repent and believe the Gospel. They are rewarded for keeping these two commands. Obviously, these are not works of the Law, for by them no man can be justified. However, Paul says that God will take vengeance on those who “obey not the Gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8); therefore, obedience in this matter does not constitute works, because this commandment is not of the Law but of Grace. Since we cannot keep the Law, God offers a pardon through His Grace and commands us to take it, else we die. Those who obey the Gospel (repent and trust) are rewarded as the chosen of God. It would seem that Reformed Theologians have it all wrong.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon is often quoted by those who hold the Reformed position as being a Calvinist. But listen to what else he said in one of his sermons: “As it is my wish [and] your wish…so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved…He is no less benevolent than we are.”

In His statements to the prophet Ezekiel, twice God said that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but desires that the wicked repent (18:21-23; 33:11). These statements are the basis for both Paul’s and Peter’s statements in the New Testament:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. –1 Timothy 2:1-4

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. –2 Peter 3:9

These are very clear statements of the Love and Character of God Himself, comments made by God Himself and then repeated by His Apostles. To deny these truths is to call God a liar. And that is what Reformed Theologians have done.

No matter the difficulty of reconciling these passages to others, we cannot let ourselves lose sight of what God Himself has said about Himself. We must interpret all Scripture in light of all Scripture. We cannot take single verses that appear to contradict these plain statements and create an opposing paradigm—no matter how many scholars support that paradigm.

Romans 9 is a chapter often cited in support of the doctrine of unconditional election, because of its statements about Esau and Pharaoh. However, nothing in God’s counsel here condemned either of these men to eternal damnation.

Concerning Esau, God only said that Esau would serve Jacob—nothing to do with his soul. That did not mean that Esau was condemned to do only the things which he did that cost him his birthright. The counsel of God would have stood one way or the other. This is just the way it played out. There were many other ways that it could have happened, but this is the way it did.

He had picked this man to be Pharaoh at this time in order to show His power over the Egyptian gods, of whom anyone holding the title of Pharaoh was one. Thus His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was intended for the salvation of many Egyptian souls, which did happen (the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt with the children of Israel). It did not mean that Pharaoh necessarily had to go to Hell. He still could have repented of his sins and humbled himself after such a disastrous defeat at the hands of a clearly Superior God.

Another argument is made that God’s glory is lessened if we have anything to do with our salvation. What!?!

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5)--Paul contrasts work with belief! Our repentance and faith are not works, in God’s economy. They are simply choices. We can continue to drown in perdition or we can allow the Savior to rescue us. There is no work involved in that.

No glory comes to the man who is saved by the lifeguard, only glory to the lifeguard for saving him. But there is blame placed on the man who doesn’t trust in the lifeguard to save him from sure death. That is the Biblical picture of salvation.