Monday, June 20, 2011

Excursus: God Chose Some

"For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you ..."  1 Thess. 1:4 ESV

In my last post, I mentioned that God's choice of some and not others for salvation, the doctrine of election, is a "can of worms." If you are familiar with the doctrine, I do not need to explain WHY it is controversial. If you are not familiar with it, the following discussion will most likely reveal to you why it would be a touchy subject.

Paul has written elsewhere about the doctrines of election, predestination, and God's sovereignty in these matters. We will touch on some of these passages as well as what other Biblical writers have to say.

In order to be clear, let me state the doctrine first, and then we can look in the Bible to see what Jesus, Luke, and Paul have to say about it.

 By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels
 are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise
 of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation,
 to the praise of his glorious justice.
-from the 1689 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chp 3.

So basically, when it comes to salvation, people are saved because God chose them to be saved. God made his choice long before he even created the world. His choice was never based on Him looking into the future and choosing those whom He saw would choose Him. Rather, God chose WHO WOULD CHOOSE HIM. If someone never believes the Gospel, it is because God did not choose that person to do so. Most people who hear this for the first time do not like it and will often respond by saying it's not fair, or the Bible doesn't teach such a thing. I had a similar response the first time I ever heard this teaching. But let me show you from the Bible why I now believe it...

Jesus taught it:

"Jesus said to them,'I am the bread of life;whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.'" John 6"35-40

Jesus says that ALL that the Father gives him will come to him (v.37). This loudly implies that those who "are not given" will not come.

"So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, 'I am the bread that came down from heaven.' They said, 'Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, "I have come down from heaven"?' Jesus answered them, 'Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. '"
John 6:41-44

The Jews are complaining that Jesus is claiming to be from Heaven. Jesus tells them to stop grumbling and that (v44) "No one can come to me unless the Father...draws him." Jesus is saying no one CAN come to him. That is, no one IS ABLE to come to him unless something first happens. No one can come to him unless the Father DRAWS HIM. God the Father must first DRAW a person to the Son in order for a person to have the ability to come to the Son.

But why would people NOT have the ability to come to God/Jesus?
Romans 5 gives us some insight. There Paul tells us that through one man's sin (Adam's sin), "many died" v 15, "death reigned" v.17, "death spread to all men" v.12. And also in Romans 3, he tells us, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God..." v.10-11esv.  Paul paints an unflattering picture of mankind. We are dead in sin, we do NOT seek after God and in chapter 8 of this same book, Paul tells us that those who do not belong to Christ have "a mind set on the flesh" and this mind "that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot" v.6-8esv.

Taking what both Jesus and Paul said, we see that mankind is dead in sin and CANNOT submit to God's law! I would paraphrase this: people in their natural, unconverted state, do not seek to be made right with God and they do not have the ability come to him anyway!

I may or may not write more about this. Let me know if you have questions. I would LOVE to interact with you over what the Bible teaches.

For now, when Paul says that "we know...[God] has chosen you," he's saying to the Thessalonians that they know God had chosen them for salvation and that this choice of them is the reason they are saved, not any desire or ability in themselves...

Remember, God is all Sovereign!

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