Updated: Sep 6, 2019
Why do we hold so strongly to the doctrine of election as reformed Christians? Is it really such a matter of importance that one believes in a sovereign God who not only foreknows His people, but by His decree elects them to this estate? My answer to this question is unequivocally Yes! Not only is it important, it is necessary.
When we think of what it means to be “saved”, what do we really think about? Do we conjure up images of sinking in the ocean? Utterly alone and helpless grasping for safety? Do we see ourselves struggling to find meaning and truth to life…searching for answers? If so, then WE don’t understand salvation at all. What we have managed to assimilate in our minds is not salvation but instead we have fallen victim to the belief that man’s helplessness has limits. Limits that must exceed God’s sovereign grace. Allow me to elaborate.
First, what does it mean to “be saved”. Biblically speaking, we have all the description that we need. We find something very interesting in the words of the Scripture as it pertains to salvation. Salvation is life from death. Ephesians 2:5 says, “even when we were dead in our trespasses”. I find Paul’s use of the word “dead” in this passage to be interesting. What could he mean by that? Well, he meant exactly that. DEAD! Not simply sick or injured, wounded by sin or oppressed. But literally completely dead. Devoid of spirit, empty of life corrupted by sin to the utter core. This is our state prior to Christ. We are corpses. Lifeless, fulfilling only the lusts of our own desires and seeking only to please our mortal flesh.
How powerless is a dead man to help himself? How can someone whose life has ceased do anything? Why would Paul call us “dead” if there was some life in us? Because sin and death are the same thing! Death came to man because of sin. Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into all the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”. Therefore, we are born in that very sin that is the cause of our death. Therefore, IF we are sinners, by default we are dead IN those sins! We are helpless. We do not need a mere helping hand or simple healing. We need LIFE.
So, now we see salvation is not just an escape. No, it is life! Life that did not exist before the grace of God. Life everlasting, seated not in man’s works or deeds. A life resting solely on the actions of the Son of God. Our life is a result of the life and death of Christ. His righteousness is imputed to US. Meaning that His righteousness, through His life and death, is now our righteousness before a holy and just God. He became the work that no man could ever be so that those that are His might have life and life more abundant.
Second, who can be saved? Most universalists will declare that the grace of God is for “all men”. Through this means God shows His great unending love to His creation. But does God love everyone with this great love? This is where things can get messy to say the least.
Many will use the heavy hitter (as they suppose) John 3:16 to show the universal love God has for “all people everywhere” they cite word usage such as “the world” and “whosoever” to attack any who might say God had a specific group in mind at Golgotha's ghastly redemption. We will not spend too much time refuting these claims but suffice it to say that one important line must be included with the use of this verse. Never forget that it also says “believeth”. More specifically it states “all the believing”.
This is a dilemma for the universalist and/or Arminian. If all those who believe have access to the Father through the grace of Christ, then that means somewhere at some point in time, something must happen that brings them to life in order that they might believe. We have already established we are dead in our sin. So then, can a dead man believe? Of course not. No more than a dead man can move his arms or breath in air. By definition he is helpless. Belief then becomes as much a part of the gift of God as the actual saving redemption. We cannot believe unless first we are brought to life.
We are spiritually Lazarus. A man who is lifeless laying in a tomb. Laying there until we hear the voice of the Master calling us from the tomb. At the cry of His voice, our heart begins to pump. Blood flows through our veins and our muscles gain strength. We arise and go to the Master who called us from death. We respond ONLY because He first calls unto us. There is no other reason.
Third, can God change? The Arminian view of salvation states that God has a purpose and a plan for each individual. But only in the confines of our decision can God be allowed to influence our lives. God, in this sense, remains subservient to the will of man and is only as sovereign as man allows Him to be. God does not exercise ultimate authority because man’s free will cannot be violated.
Because of this, God is now subject to man’s discovery. If God is subservient to man’s will, then God also must wait on man to choose before He is able to redeem him. All aspects of salvation in this pattern of soteriology depend upon God’s discovery of man’s choice. If God can discover, then God can learn. If God can learn, then God is not omniscient. If God is not omniscient He is not perfect, which means He is not God.
God cannot “learn” who is to be saved nor can He experience emotional transition and change. This is consistent with Hebrews 13, where we are told Christ is the same “yesterday, today and forever”. Emotional experience, such as humans have, is not an attribute of God. He cannot change.
God’s unchanging nature or impassibility is why we know He is sovereign. He decreed all things before time began and now His knowledge, our actions and all things that transpire flow from that decree. This is why the doctrine election is a necessity!
If we existed in a world where nothing is under God’s absolute decree, we would be hopeless. An existence where God can learn and develop, discover and change is an existence where there is no true heavenly authority. God cannot be God unless He is never changing. Without His sure eternal declaration there is no hope for His people. Therefore, election is necessary because man is fallen. Man will not choose God for man seeks only to please the lust of the flesh. Man does not seek out God for he makes his own perverse sins a god.
Man MUST be elected. He MUST be chosen. Otherwise his own sin nature would keep him separate from the living God. God MUST choose us in order for there to be salvation, for in our existence we have already chosen sin.
Micheal Manis is pastor of Pine Acres Missionary Baptist Church in Gilmer, Texas adhering to the LBCF of 1689. He currently resides in Royse City, TX with his wife, of 14 years, and their four children. He praises God for His immeasurable grace and mercy everyday.