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Answers to Objections to the Doctrine of Election

Some discussion about Calvinism and Reformed theology at church Sunday night following the Q/A session reminded me of this material I did a couple of years ago. You can hear the audio version of this at www.fulkersonpark.com/audio. But here is the print version.
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Answers to Objections to the Doctrine of Election
A Study from Romans 9-11

Introduction

The doctrine of election is met with two vastly different responses.

For example, the Bible teacher A.W. Pink once began a sermon by saying, “I am going to speak tonight on one of the most hated doctrines of the Bible, namely, that of God’s sovereign election.” [Arthur W. Pink, The Doctrines of Election and Justification (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Book House, reprint) 12. (Available online at: The Doctrines of Election and Justification]. And many people do hate it. That may have even been your feeling as you listened this morning.

On the other hand, Jonathan Edwards wrote in his Diary: “From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life; and rejecting whom he pleased; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear a horrible doctrine to me. . . there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, with respect to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty . . . God’s absolute sovereignty and justice with respect to salvation and damnation, is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of anything that I see with my eyes; at least it is so at times. But I have often since that first conviction, had quite another kind of sense of God’s sovereignty than I had then. I have often since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has very often appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.” [Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974) xii-xiii.]

So, while Edwards initially resisted and objected to the doctrine of election (as most people do), his heart and mind changed and it became to him “exceedingly pleasant, bright, and sweet.”

Now, one of the reasons why I think we tend to initially object to it is because we misunderstand it. We think that if this is true, then certain other things must also be true. For example, if election is true, then prayer is pointless, missions is meaningless and evangelism is a waste of time, because que sera sera, whatever will be, will be.

I hope you didn’t walk away feeling that way this morning, and if you did, I hope tonight will relieve your mind.

The other reason why we tend to object to election is because we tend to react to out of either our emotions or our logic. We either feel our way through or try to think our way through, but most often our thinking and our feeling needs some serious reshaping by Scripture.

So, if you are struggling with this tonight, that’s okay. Most of us have. I have wrestled with these ideas for years and have spent hours and hours studying and restudying, discussing and reading, and restudying again to come to terms with just exactly what the Scriptures say. So, it is no problem if you are struggling to believe this.

My only plea is this: don’t write it off without going to the Bible for yourself.

Now, what I would like to do tonight is walk with you through portions of Romans 9 – 11 and answer the most common questions and objections that rise against the doctrine of election.

Let’s begin by setting the context, by reading verses 1 through the first part of verse 6.

Romans 9:1-6a (ESV)
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— [2] that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. [3] For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. [4] They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. [5] To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. [6] But it is not as though the word of God has failed.

Paul writes these words with an incredible burden for the lost condition of his fellow Israelites. In fact, he is so burdened that he says he could wish himself damned in their place, if they could be saved. And the problem he is wrestling with is how the lostness of these Jews can exist in light of the incredible privileges that God had given them.

Sam Storms unfolds the context well: “The question or problem Paul is faced with is this: If Israel is God’s covenant people, to whom so many glorious privileges have been given (vv. 4-5), why are so few Israelites saved? Why are so many of them ‘accursed, separated from Christ’? Has God’s ‘word,’ his covenant promise and eternal purpose, failed? Has the rejection of Jesus Christ by the majority of Israelites thwarted God’s purpose? Has the trustworthiness and fidelity of God’s word been undermined by the unbelief of many Jews? Although Paul was himself willing to take the place in hell of his kinsman according to the flesh, his response to the question raised is a resounding no! God’s word has not failed (v. 6a).” [C. Samuel Storms, Chosen for Life: An Introductory Guide to the Doctrine of Divine Election (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Book House, 1987) 77-78.]

What Paul goes on to show is that God’s word has not failed, because God had never promised to save all Israelites, simply because they were the physical descendants of Abraham. Rather, his plan was to save a remnant.

Romans 9:6-7 (ESV)
But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, [7] and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

And he gives us two examples as case studies: Isaac and Ishmael (vv. 7-9) and then Jacob and Esau (vv. 10-13).

Romans 9:7-13 (ESV)
And not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. [9] For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” [10] And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, [11] though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call— [12] she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” [13] As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

In other words, Paul’s answer to the problem is the doctrine of election.

Now, we will know if we understand Paul correctly here if we find ourselves asking the questions that he is answering in the text. And it is right at this point that we raise one of the most common objections to election.

I. If election is true, then God is not fair!

And this is exactly what Paul deals with!

Romans 9:14 (ESV)
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!

Paul categorically and unequivocally denies that God is unjust or unrighteous. God is not unfair to save some and not save others. And there are at least three reasons why He is not. (1) Because He is God. We are not. He makes the rules. We do not. And God is not to be measured by human standards of fairness, but by His own standard of righteousness, which is Himself. (2) Because we all deserve hell, therefore anytime God sends someone to hell, He is giving justice. And (3) Because God always acts in righteousness.

This is the import of verses 15-18:

Romans 9:15-18 (ESV)
For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” [16] So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. [17] For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” [18] So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Now the primary questions for us to ask at this point are these: why does Paul defend the righteousness of God by quoting from the Old Testament (Exodus 33:19)? And what does Paul mean by the righteousness of God, when he defends the righteousness of God in verses fourteen through eighteen? What is the righteousness of God?

The clue to Paul’s understanding of the nature of God’s righteousness is found in his reference to Exodus 33:19 in verse 15.

Romans 9:15 (ESV)
For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Now, do you remember the context in which the Lord said this to Moses? God had delivered Israel from Egypt and given them His law. And they rebelled and worshipped the golden calf. God had told Moses that he was going to cut Israel off as a nation and start all over with Moses. Moses interceded and God relented. And now God is sending them on ahead to Canaan – the promised land, and Moses is begging the Lord to go with them. In fact, he says, “I’m not going, unless You go with us.” And the Lord says that He will and then Moses makes the most bold and daring request that anyone has ever made to God in verse 18:

Exodus 33:18 (ESV)
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”

Verses 19-23 record God’s answer to that request.

Exodus 33:19-23 (ESV)
And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. [20] But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” [21] And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, [22] and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. [23] Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

So, Paul is connecting the righteousness of God with God’s answer to Moses’ request to show him His glory. God says, “I will declare my name to you.” And then He says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

Commenting on this text, John Piper makes this stunning observation: “It is the glory of God and his essential nature to dispense mercy (but also wrath, Ex. 34:7) on whomever he pleases apart from any constraint originating outside his own will. This is the essence of what it means to be God. This is his name.” God’s righteousness is “his absolute faithfulness to act for his name’s sake and for the preservation and display of his glory.” [John Piper, The Justification of God: An Exegetical & Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Book House, 1993 Second Edition) 88-89, 150.]

So, when Paul says that God is not unrighteous, he means that God is doing the right thing in electing some and not others, because God is acting in accord with what is right, namely, upholding the glory of His name!

This is really the crux of the whole issue. You will struggle with election as long as you have man at the center. As long as you think that men deserve to be treated graciously and equally, or as long as you think absolute free will must be upheld, rather than the supremacy of the name and the glory of God, then you will struggle.

The bottom line question we have to answer is this: will I receive this, no matter how I feel about it, no matter what I think about it, if I can see that the Bible teaches it to the glory of God?

A second objection is raised and answered in verses 19-21:

II. If election is true, then we are just robots and God cannot hold us accountable!
Romans 9:19-21 (ESV)
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” [20] But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” [21] Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?

Note first of all that Paul doesn’t back up and say “Oh, no, you’ve misunderstood me! I didn’t really mean that God shows mercy and hardens heart just as He wills.” That’s not what Paul does. Rather, he shuts our mouth with: “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”

Then he uses a familiar image: that of a potter who is sovereign over his clay. And he says that just as the potter has the right to make one vessel for an honorable purpose, and another for a dishonorable purpose, so does God have the right to do what he pleases with his creatures.

Here is the bottom line issue we have to deal with regarding the sovereignty of God. Does He have the right, the authority, the freedom to do whatever He pleases? If you can answer that question in the affirmative, you can receive what Scripture teaches about God’s sovereign freedom in election.

So, are men robots and without accountability or not? Can man resist His will? Answer: men are not robots, because everything man does, He does willingly and voluntarily. Man is not an automaton. He does not act mechanically. And men are accountable, because they act willingly. But ultimately, man cannot resist the will of God. God’s purposes will be done.

Here is the tension that Scripture leaves us with: God’s sovereign and absolute authority and power on the one hand, and man’s total responsibility and accountability to God for his actions on the other hand. Whether we can understand it or not, both truths are taught in Scripture.

III. If election is true, then why would God save some people and not others?

Next we might ask, “Why would God save some people and not others?” Why would He do it this way? If God has the power to save everyone, why doesn’t He? And we must affirm that He does have this power, otherwise God is not omnipotent. He is not all-powerful. And if He is not all-powerful, then He is not God.

So, how do we understand this problem? Why did God allow sin? Why did God create a hell? And why doesn’t God save everyone? Why does He elect some and not others?

The answer to this question is found in verses 22-23.

Romans 9:22-23 (ESV)
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, [23] in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

God desires to show His wrath. He desires to make known His power. And the reason why He does is this: because the richness of His glory in showing mercy shines more greatly against the black backdrop of His wrath.

God’s purpose in the Universe is to display His glory. His righteousness is His allegiance to upholding what is most valuable in all reality: the glory of His name. And in order for Him to fully demonstrate all aspects of His glory, He allowed sin and created hell and chose not to save all. Because His mercy could never be known were there not a horrible reality called hell to save us from. The fullest display of the glory of God involves the showing of justice and mercy, and the showing of justice for the sake of showing mercy.

IV. Isn’t this talking about the nation of Israel, rather than individuals?

A fourth argument people make against this text is that it is talking about the nation of Israel, not about individual salvation. But verse 24 dashes that objection to pieces!

Romans 9:23-24 (ESV)
in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— [24] even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Paul is talking not just about Jews, but also about Gentiles. And, he is obviously talking about individuals, not nations, because that is the only interpretation that makes sense of the context.

Storms rights this: “How does an appeal to the collective election of Israel or the election of Jacob and his seed to earthly, historical prominence solve the problem of unbelieving, eternally lost Jews? How can that solve the problem when that is the problem? In other words, it was the fact that ethnic Israel as a whole was God’s chosen, covenant people that created the problem in the first place (vv. 4-5!) If all individual Israelites are God’s covenant people, why are so many individual Israelites accursed and separated from Christ? Simply to reaffirm that God has elected the entire nation collectively and destined it for historical prominence is no answer: That is the problem! Paul wants to explain why not all individual ethnic Israelites are eternally saved (their lost condition being the source of his overwhelming grief). What possible benefit would it be to assert that the line of Jacob, not Esau, was elected to be the beneficiary of mere earthly, nonsaving, nonredemptive, purely national covenant blessings?” [Storms, Chosen for Life, 80.]

Verses 25-33 then go on to explain why it is that Gentiles are being saved, while Jews are not.

Romans 9:25-33 (ESV)
As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ “
[26] “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ “
[27] And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, [28] for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” [29] And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”
[30] What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; [31] but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. [32] Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, [33] as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

At this point, we turn a corner from dealing with more philosophical objections to more practical problems. And these problems are dealt with in chapter 10.

V. If election is true, then why should I pray for people to be saved?

The simple answer to this question is that Paul prayed for people to be saved!

Romans 10:1-4 (ESV)
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. [2] I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. [3] For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. [4] For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

So, whatever Paul understood the doctrine of election to mean, he did not see it as a reason not to pray for people’s salvation.

It will help us to answer this particular objection, along with objections six, seven, and eight, if we consider what the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 stated:

“As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so He hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto; wherefore they who are elect, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.” [The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, Chapter Three, Article 6.]

God has not only ordained the end (who would be saved), but also the means to the end (that is, everything necessary to lead to their salvation, carry out their salvation, and preserve them in that salvation to the end). And prayer is one of those means.

John Piper wrote: “Prayer for the salvation of the lost is rooted in election. Prayer is one of God’s appointed means of bringing the elect to faith. Thus God loves such prayers with the very passion that moved him to choose a people for His glory. . .” [John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Portland, OR: Multonomah Books, 1991) 224.]

Now, think about this from the other side. It really makes more sense to say this, if election is not true, then why should we pray? Because if election is not true, then God has already done everything He can to get every person saved and the only thing that He is waiting on is their free will to kick in. And if election is not true, then God can’t or won’t interfere with their free will. He will not influence them too heavily, lest that freedom be violated. And if that is true, what are we praying for God to do? Prayer makes no sense at all, if the final decision regarding a person’s salvation is in that person’s hands rather than God’s.

J. I. Packer wrote, “You pray for the conversion of others. In what terns, now, do you intercede for them? Do you limit yourself to asking that God will bring them to a point where they can save themselves independently of Him? I do not think you do. I think that what you do is to pray in categorical terms that God will, quite simply and decisively, save them: that He will open the eyes of their understanding, soften their hard hearts, renew their natures, and move their wills to receive the Saviour. You ask God to work in them everything necessary for their salvation. You would not dream of making it a point in your prayer that you are not asking God actually to bring them to faith, because you recognize that this is something He cannot do. Nothing of the sort! When you pray for unconverted people, you do so on the assumption that it is God’s power to bring them to faith. You entreat Him to do that very thing, and your confidence in asking rests upon the certainty that He is able to do what you ask. And so indeed He is: that conviction, which animates your intercessions, is God’s own truth, written on your heart by the Holy Spirit. In prayer, then (and the Christian is at his sanest and wisest when he prays), you know that it is God who saves men; you know that what makes men turn to God is God’s own gracious work of drawing them to Himself; and the content of your prayers is determined by this knowledge. Thus, by your practice of intercession, no less than by giving thanks for your conversion, you acknowledge and confess the sovereignty of God’s grace. And so do all Christian people everywhere.” [J. I. Packer, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1991 reprint) 15-16.]

Our practical theology is oftentimes better than our systematic theology!

The sixth objection is this:

VI. If election is true, then why is it important for people to believe in Jesus?

Again, the answer is right in the text, particularly verses 9-10:

Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Again, this question is answered, when we understand that although election is true, the end (salvation) is not accomplished without the means (believing in Christ).

It is important to remember this: election is not salvation. It is the choice of God for who will be saved. And when God makes that choice, He is choosing them not just for heaven, but also to believe, to repent, to obey, to surrender, to be holy here on earth. He is choosing them for new birth, regeneration, for conversion, for justification, for sanctification, and for perseverance. And no one receives the end (eternal life) without the means leading to the end (faith, repentance, etc.)

Romans 8:29-30 shows how these different steps in the process are all joined together. Foreknowledge is followed by predestination, but note that Paul doesn’t jump from predestination all the way to glorification. He also includes calling and justification. And implied in calling is the call to believe in Christ through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:13-14).

Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [30] And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

I would also refer us to Acts 13:48 where belief is the result of being appointed to eternal life.

Acts 13:48 (ESV)
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

Spurgeon, preaching on this text, said: “Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I will not waste time in answering them. I read ‘as many as were ordained to eternal life believed,’ and I shall not twist that text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to it every man’s faith. Is it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not He in every case dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it by accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for Him to have purposed to give it before that day; and since He changes not, it was right for Him to purpose to give it from eternity.” [Quoted in Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Book House, 1984 reprint) 52-53.]

Believing in Jesus is important, indeed vital, because it is the condition for salvation – for justification. We are justified by faith. But at the same time, believing in Jesus is certain for the elect, because all who are ordained to eternal life are brought to faith.

VII. If election is true, what about the “everys” and the “alls” in Scripture?

Objection seven: what about the everys and the alls? Where do they fit in? Look at verses 11-13:

Romans 10:11-13 (ESV)
For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” [12] For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. [13] For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Some theologians and preachers have a hard time with words like every and all, but I think that is because they want to preserve a system of theology more than they want to be biblical. We need to interpret words in context, but we do not need to explain them away. Paul evidently did not feel the need to qualify statements like “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” and neither should we.

I think everyone of us should be able to look any person on earth square in the face and say, “if you will call on the name of the Lord, you will be saved.” I have no hesitancy whatsoever in doing that.

Let me read something that R. C. Sproul wrote that might be helpful to you: “After giving a brief survey of these doctrines of sovereign grace, I asked for questions from the class. One lady, in particular, was quite troubled. She said, ‘This is the most awful thing I’ve ever heard! You make it sound as if God is intentionally turning away men and women who would be saved, receiving only the elect.’ I answered her in this vein:
“‘You misunderstand the situation. You’re visualizing that God is standing at the door of heaven, and men are thronging to get in the door, and God is saying to various ones, ‘Yes, you may come, but not you, and you, but not you, etc.’ The situation is hardly this. Rather, God stands at the door of heaven with His arms outstretched, inviting all to come. “Yet all men without exception are running in the opposite direction towards hell as hard as they can go. So God, in election, graciously reaches out and stops this one, and that one, and this one over here, and that one over there, and effectually draws them to Himself by changing their hearts, making them willing to come. Election keeps no one out of heaven who would otherwise have been there, but it keeps a whole multitude of sinners out of hell who otherwise would have been there. Were it not for election, heaven would be an empty place, and hell would be bursting at the seams. That kind of response, grounded as I believe that it is in Scriptural truth, does put a different complexion on things, doesn’t it?’ If you perish in hell, blame yourself, as it is entirely your fault. But if you should make it to heaven, credit God, for that is entirely His work! To Him alone belongs all praise and glory, for salvation is all of grace, from start to finish.” [Quoted by C. J. Mahaney on www.sovereigngraceministries.org.]

So, yes! We totally affirm the everys and the alls. God freely offers to save any, every, and all who will come to Him. Election does not deny that. Election simply ensures that some will come.

Spurgeon also dealt with this in his Autobiography. He said, “I do not think I differ from any of my Hyper-Calvinistic brethren in what I do believe, but I differ from them in what they do not believe. I do not hold any less than they do, but I hold a little more, and, I think, a little more of the truth revealed in the Scriptures . . . . The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two; and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. For instance, I read in one Book of the Bible, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” yet I am taught, in another part of the same inspired Word, that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” I see, in one place, God in providence presiding over all, and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases . . . . That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can clearly see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory, but they are not. The fault is in our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict one another.” [C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, Vol. 1, The Early Years, 1834 – 1859 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1973 reprint) 173-174.]

That is exactly what I believe. That is biblical balance.

The eighth objection is: why do missions and evangelism?

VIII. If election is true, then why do missions and evangelism?

The answer is clear in verses 14-17.

Romans 10:14-17 (ESV)
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? [15] 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!” [16] But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” [17] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Again, God ordains the means as well as the end.

I haven’t documented the reference, but I have heard that Spurgeon was once asked why he preached the gospel if he believed in election. His answer was classic. He said that if God had chosen to identify the elect by painting a yellow stripe down their backs, his ministry would consist of lifting up shirttails! But since God chose to identify His elect through their faith and trust in Christ, he preached the gospel.

Election, rightly understood, never ever leads to apathy in evangelism and missions. It certainly didn’t for Paul. It didn’t for Spurgeon. And it didn’t for a generation of missionaries who crossed land and sea and risked life and loved ones in order to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to lost and unreached peoples. And it shouldn’t for us either.

IX. I still don’t understand!

Finally, even with everything that we have seen in Romans 9 and 10, you might be thinking “I still don’t understand. This just doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t wrap my mind around it.” If that is how you feel, take heart. Read Romans 11:33-36:

Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
[34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
[35] “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
[36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

We cannot fathom what is unfathomable and there will always be mystery surrounding the ways of God. So, when all is said and done, we are left with our hands on our mouths and are hearts in humble adoration of a God whose ways are beyond our ways.

Conclusion

I close with two exhortations.

(1) Do not abuse this doctrine.

Do not use it as an excuse for indolence or sin or disobedience or prayerlessness or apathy when it comes to missions. Let it function in your life to produce zeal for missions (2 Tim. 2:10), prayer for the lost (Rom. 10:1), adoration and worship of God (Eph. 1:3-6), assurance of salvation (Rom. 8:28-39), and confidence in witness (Acts 18:9-10). Let it function in your life the way it functioned in the lives of the New Testament writers. Do not abuse it.

(2) Do not refuse this doctrine.

Our tendency is to respond to this kind of teaching from either our emotions or our reason. We want to either scream out “that is unfair!” or we want to tie every loose end of logic into a perfect system. And so, we either end up rejecting the truth or we try so hard to take the mystery out of it that end up out of balance with the rest of Scripture. Resist both temptations. Put your emotions and your reasoning under the Word of God. Affirm the sovereign freedom of God to save whom He will. And keep your heart aflame to spread the gospel to every creature. If you do, God will be glorified and men will be justified as they believe in Jesus by God’s sovereign grace.

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