TULIP: Unconditional Election, 2

Intro | Total Hereditary Depravity 1 | Total Hereditary Depravity 2 | Unconditional Election 1 | Unconditional Election 2 | Limited Atonement 1 | Limited Atonement 2 | Irresistible Grace 1 | Irresistible Grace 2 | Perseverance of the Saints 1 | Perseverance of the Saints 2tulip

by William J. Stewart

Every false doctrine has a series of Bible verses that are pulled as support. Today we will examine the proof texts used by supporters of Calvin’s doctrine of Unconditional Election.

Ephesians 1:4 | “…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…”

This and other texts speak of God choosing us from the foundation of the world or from the beginning (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Apart from their context, such verses might lend validity to the Calvinist position, but a text out of context is a pretext.

In 2 Thessalonians 2, the lost are identified as those who:

…did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved … who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:10, 12)

The saved are those who have received and stand fast in the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

As much as Calvinists say there is no room for personal pride in their doctrine, the fact is Calvinistic predestination is about individuals. Individuals are either accepted or rejected by God. In Ephesians, Paul reveals Biblical predestination. It is not about individuals, but about Christ. Notice the emphasis throughout the first chapter:

  • All spiritual blessings are in the heavenly places in Christ (v 3)
  • He chose us in Him (v 4)
  • Adoption by Jesus Christ (v 5)
  • We are made accepted in the Beloved (v 6)
  • In Him we have redemption (v 7)
  • He will gather all things in Christin Him (v 10)
  • In Him we have an inheritance (v 11)
  • In Him you trusted via the gospel and were sealed with the Holy Spirit (v 13)

Biblical predestination is not about selected individuals, but an elect group—those who are in Christ Jesus. As we indicated last week, if God chooses one person over another, for no particular reason, He becomes a respecter of persons, and yet the Bible clearly tells us that He is not (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 2:11). Rather, He has appointed salvation to those who are in Christ, and that is made available to any and all who will come to Him in response to the gospel.

Acts 13:48 | “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Obviously that is Calvinistic predestination, right? Take a look at the preceding verses. Paul spoke to the Jews present:

…It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ’I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ (Acts 13:46-47)

The context does not support a Calvinistic approach to verse 48. God did not reject the Jewish audience in Antioch of Pisidia; they rejected His message. God did not judge them to be unworthy of eternal life, they judged themselves to be unworthy. And so the apostle and Barnabas now turned their attention to the Gentiles, not to just a select few, but that the light of the gospel might go to the ends of the earth. There is no hint of unconditional election in these statements.

But what about the word appointed in the NKJV or ordained in the KJV? Our Bibles are translations from the Greek text. I am confident that translators do their best to use the best words to render what is in the Greek. Yet at times, and perhaps due to changes in the common use of words in our language, an unintended conclusion might be drawn. I am not an expert in the Greek language, but let me share with the Greek word here:

to arrange in an orderly manner, i.e. assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot); addict, appoint, determine, ordain, set. (Strong’s)

This word is not used anywhere in the Bible to convey the idea of unconditional election. In 1 Corinthians 16:15, τασσω is used of the household of Stephanas, who addicted (KJV) or devoted (NKJV) themselves to the ministry. They were not forced into ministry; this was of their own volition.

The same word of earthly governments:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed {τασσω} by God. (Romans 13:1)

The institution of government is appointed by God, but not specific leaders (if He is responsible for specific leaders, then their wickedness is chargeable to Him). Equally, eternal life is appointed by God, but not to specific individuals. God has provided eternal life by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; we must respond to His call through the gospel. That is what distinguishes the saved from the lost; do they come to the Lord or reject Him?

Romans 8:28-30 | “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

A text about election, absolutely. Unconditional election? No. There is a series of items here. Those affirming Calvin’s doctrine fail to start at the beginning. Those who (1) love God are (2) the called whom God (3) foreknew and who are (4) predestined to be confirmed to the image of His Son. These (4) predestined who have been (2) called, God has both (5) justified and (6) glorified. They are the called and predestined because they love God, not the other way around.

He foreknew them. Doesn’t that mean God knew who would obey His word, and He specifically selected them beforehand? We only have the ability to know past events. God can know future events. However, foreknowledge is not the same as decreeing something to be so. God can know who will love and obey Him without forcing them to do so. God does not violate man’s will; we are free to choose right or wrong (Romans 6:16).

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