Calvinism: Total Unconditional Election

By Larry Ray Hafley

1. Introduction:

A. Definition of Unconditional Election.

1. “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated to everlasting life, and others are foreordained to everlasting death.

“These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and un-changeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either in-creased or diminished.

“Those of mankind that are predestinated un-to rife, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or my other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.

“As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Whereby they who are elected, 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 my other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

“The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice” (The Westminister Confession, Chapter 3).

2. “The Reformed Faith has held to the existence of an eternal, divine decree which, antecedently to any difference or desert in men themselves, separates the human race into two portions and ordains one to everlasting life and the other to everlasting death” (Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 83).

3. Statements by John Calvin:

a. “We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment.”

b. “When God prefers some to others, choosing some and passing others by, the difference does not depend on human dignity or indignity …. If what I teach is true, that those who perish are destined to death by the eternal good pleasure of God, though the reason does not appear, then they are not found but made worthy of destruction … the eternal predestination of God, by which before the fall of Adam he decreed what should take place concerning the whole human race and every individual, was fixed and determined …. God chose out of the condemned race of Adam those who he pleased and reprobated whom he willed …. “

4. Unconditional Election describes the choosing of God of some unto salvation without conditions.

B. Election is a Biblical subject, a divine act, but the Calvinistic concept of unconditional election is not taught in the Scriptures.

II. Discussion:

A. Scriptural Examples of Election.

1. Christ was God’s elect (Isa. 42:1; 1 Pet. 2:6). But His submissive obedience was required (Jn. 12:27; Matt. 26:39, 53; Heb. 5:8, 9).

2. Paul was chosen, selected to preach, not unto salvation (Acts 26:16-18; Gal. 1:15, 16), but obedience was required (Acts 26:19; 1 Cor. 9:27).

3. Exposition of Romans 9.

a. “It is important to bear in mind that the selection throughout is regarded as having reference not to the final salvation of persons, but to the execution of the purpose of God. Underlying the whole section is the special object of Saint Paul to justify himself in preaching the gospel to the Gentiles” (Cambridge Greek Testament).

b. The Jews desired acceptance from God by the flesh (Matt. 3:9; Jn. 8:33, 39).

c. But not children of the flesh, but children of promise are counted for the seed (v. 8).

d. Isaac came through “word of promise” (v. 9), not through flesh primarily, for flesh was dead (Rum. 4:19). Ishmael was son of Abraham, but not from “word of promise.”

e. Jacob and Esau – Jacob chosen, elect, through whom promise was fulfilled (v. 11). This was not a choice for individual salvation. Statements in verses 12 and 13 made concerning nations descending from Jacob and Esau (cf. Gen. 25:23; Mal. 1:2, 3). God alone determines His plan to bring salvation, to execute His purpose, not man.

f. None can object to God’s purpose to bless whom He wills.

(1) But whom does He will to bless?

(a) Jews say “us,” fleshly Israel, descendants of Abraham.

(b) No, it is God’s prerogative to determine whom He wills to bless, and He designs to bless all, Jews and Gentiles (v. 24).

(c) Prophecy tells us that Gentiles are included as well as Jews because salvation comes not through the flesh, but through the word of promise (vv. 25, 26).

(2) Verses 30-34 tell us God wills to bless all who seek righteousness by faith, not by works. Jews stumbling foretold (v. 33). As the heirs were children by the word of promise, not through the flesh, so salvation is afforded, not through the flesh, by works, but by faith.

4. Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-14.

a. This election is corporate, general, not particular and individual.

b. Compare general statements (Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:22).

(1) Corporate fulfillment certain (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 5:27).

(2) But individual fulfillment conditional (Col. 1:23; 2 Pet. 1:10).

(3) Compare general election of Israel (Dent. 4:20, 37; 7:6-8); but their individual salvation conditional (1 Cor. 10:1-12).

5. Romans 11:5, 6.

a. Note context of statement (v. 1) Is Israel cast away?

(1) No, 1, Paul, am an Israelite and saved.

(2) Elijah thought he, too, was alone, but he was not (vv. 2-4).

(3) So, now (w. 5, 6).

(4) Verses 5 and 6 do not mention “unconditional election of grace.” He does not say, “It is no more of conditions.”

(5) See verse 28: It sums up argument from verse 13f.

B. The “How” of Election.

1. The saved are the elect (1 Thess. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:2).

2. The Thessalonians:

a. Received the word (1 Thess. 2:13).

b. They turned to God (1 Thess. 1:9).

c. They were chosen “to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel” (2 Thess. 2:13, 14). Thereby were they called to God’s kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12).

3. The “strangers” of 1 Peter 1:2.

a. They were redeemed by the blood (1 Pet. 1:18, 19).

b. They were begotten, born again, by the word (1 Pet. 1:23).

c. They were saved by baptism (1 Pet. 3:21).

d. This was accomplished when they purified their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit (1 Pet. 1:22).

4. Acts 13:14-48.

a. The word was preached (v. 26).

b. The invitational promise was extended (vv. 38, 39).

c. The admonition against unbelief was given (vv. 40, 41).

d. Judgment rendered according to response (vv. 46, 48).

III. Conclusion:

A. The Consequences of Unconditional Election:

1. It makes God a respecter of persons in the very area where He affirms that He is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, 35; Rom. 2:6, 11; 1 Pet. 1:17).

2. It denies that God wills the salvation of all men (1 Tim. 2:5; 2 Pet. 3:9; Ezek. 18:23; 33:11).

3. It eliminates man’s responsibility (Matt. 11:28-30; Lk. 13:34; Jn. 5:40).

B. God has “chosen us in him” (Eph. 1:4); Are you “in him” (Gal. 3:26, 27)?

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 14, pp. 424-426
July 21, 1983