Let us again read the Remonstrants position with regard to election. They do believe God elects to save believers. However, they insist that God choose them because he foresaw their faith in him. Remonstrants imagine God going through the corridors of time and then looks at those who will believe and then choose them afterward. For them, the free choice of believers take logical priority over God’s sovereign choice. Their opinions about the condition of election are found in the 1618 document and paragraph 1 and 2 read:
- God has not decided to elect anyone to eternal life, or to reject anyone from the same, prior to the decree to create him, without any consideration of preceding obedience or disobedience, according to His good pleasure, for the demonstration of the glory of His mercy and justice, or of His absolute power and dominion.
- Since the decree of God concerning both the salvation and perdition of each man is not a decree of the end absolutely intended, it follows that neither are such means subordinated to that same decree by which the elect and the reprobate are efficaciously and inevitably led to their final destination.
In sum, God’s election is based on the choices of each individual persons make either they will believe or reject God. Again, human free choice reigns supreme.
So does Scripture support such doctrine? CoD denies. For the delegates of the Synod defines Election as part of God’s decree of predestination of the elect. Conversion flows from Election and not vice-versa. In CoD, First Heading, Paragraph 7 defines Election as:
….the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, He has out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom He from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect and the foundation of salvation. This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God has decreed to give to Christ to be saved by Him, and effectually to call and draw them to His communion by His Word and Spirit; to bestow upon them true faith, justification, and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of His Son, finally to glorify them for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of the riches of His glorious grace; as it is written: Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:4-6). And elsewhere: Whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified (Romans 8:30).
Ultimately, the CoD in contrast to the Remonstrants answers the question: “How come some believes and others do not?” and they answer: “Because God decrees it so”. Given the common misery of mankind under sin, no one will be saved apart from the mercy of God. God gives his son to die for those whom he loves in Christ and he did so for the demonstration of his glorious grace.
This means those whom God elects, he regenerates and converts. Our salvation all comes from God and what separates the elect believers and reprobate unbelievers is God’s election. God decrees the salvation of his elect and permits the damnation of the reprobates. God demonstrates his love towards sinner by electing some to salvation in Christ and show his wrath against sin by passing over some to perdition. God’s grace and justice brings all the glory to himself as the object of all worship and praise.
This doctrine of election brings so much offense to most Christians today and while it is important not to bring unnecessary of offences to anyone, we are called to bring to light this important teaching about God’s sovereign election. It is the purpose for this Lord’s Day sermon to bring clarity on the matter and encourage everyone to believe in them.
Our preaching this morning will explore these themes about God’s Election in relation to God’s Decree, Love, and Glory. We examine Scripture’s teaching about these matters. The sermon will explore three areas which are: 1) Election and God’s Decree; 2) Election and God’s love; and 3) Election and God’s Glory. In the end, by way of conclusion, I will close with an exhortation in relation to some misconceptions.
Before we begin, let us pray…
Election and God’s Decree
Election is part of God’s decree of predestination. God decrees everything that comes to pass according to his counsel and will, and good pleasure. It means that, in particular, the individual persons who will believe in Christ, they were preordained by God as part of his eternal and unchangeable decree.
Now, the fact that God elects is almost self-evidently explicit in Scripture. In the Old Testament, God chose Abraham out of from the lineage of Set and passed over the rest from Cain’s descendants (Genesis 12). God’s choice of Jacob over Esau even though he is younger and not morally superior compared to Esau (Genesis 25 to 36). Also, God declared to the nation Israel that he chose them not because they are great but actually they are weak. In Deuteronomy 7:6-8, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” God’s election of Israel over against the rest of the nations was because of his covenant love for them.
Now, the fact others believe and others do not is not because they met a condition (i.e. faith) but it is due to the predestination God ordained for each individual persons. This is what Paul explains in Romans 9:10-13, “…Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 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 him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” God’s electing purposes must stand and based on Paul’s reasoning the selection between Jacob and Esau was based on God’s sovereign choice to love and to hate. And that is prior logically to the historical birth and credentials.
Paul was arguing for the inclusion of the Gentiles and all nations was based on God’s electing choice for those believes and calls on the name of the Lord. This means salvation as fully revealed in the coming of Christ is not limited by race, gender or even ethnicity but by the possession faith. Luke narrates in Acts 13:48, “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.” This means those who were given eternal life possess true faith.
Finally, Jesus explains that those who were given to him by his Father are granted faith and eternal life. In John 6:37-40, “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.” Jesus reveals to us the divine purposes of God to save those who were elected for it. God’s electing love are in Christ and this is what we will further explore in our second sermon point.
Election and God’s love
Our election to salvation is bound by our loving union with God in Christ by the Spirit. God’s choice for election is by his good pleasure, mercy and love. The CoD First Heading, Paragraph 10 affirms, “But the cause of this undeserved election is exclusively the good pleasure of God. This does not involve his choosing certain human qualities or actions from among all those possible as a condition of salvation, but rather involves his adopting certain particular persons from among the common mass of sinners as his own possession. As Scripture says, “When the children were not yet born, and had done nothing either good or bad …, she [Rebecca] was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’ ” (Rom. 9:11–13). Also, “All who were appointed for eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Again, this means God based his choosing unto himself.
And we know from Scripture how God asserts himself always as the God who is sovereign over all things. He revealed to Moses in Exodus 33:19, “And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Paul alluded to these verses in Romans 9 when he was defending God’s sovereign choice over those who accuse God of injustice. He explains, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Paul reminds everyone of God’s free compassion. This mirrors God’s compassion to Israel and love for them in spite of their small number. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 4:35-39, “To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them[c] and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.”
Paul explicitly states the electing love of God towards his people in Ephesians 1:4-6, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Paul was addressing “…the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful[a] in Christ Jesus (verse 1b). And in the same way Peter encouraging the pilgrim Christians of the diaspora address the saints in the same way God addressed Israel back in Exodus 19 where it reads, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)”
Then finally, John explains how God’s love adopts us as his children because of his Son. He wrote, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)”. This means our redemption in at its aspects, namely planning, accomplishing, and even applying is by divine initiative and Scripture supports the witness of this reality. But to what end? This brings us to our final sermon point.
Election and God’s Glory
Ultimately, God deserves all the glory and all his creation glories him and praise him for who He is and what He has done. This is true not only in creation and providence but also in redemption. In John’s book of Revelation we see the vision of all creation praising God for his mighty works. In the throne of God in heaven, all creation exclaims, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)”
God who is creator of all things, works out the redemption of God’s people, brings all things to its consummate end, and rules over new heaven and new earth is worthy of all our worship and praise. And yet men continue to rob him of this glory whenever we view God as unjust, and murmur and complain against his good, wise, and gracious purposes.
The doctrine of unconditional election solicits emotional responses against God and his glory. Most misconceptions stems from misguided feelings about it. Even while Scripture explicitly command us to “…be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election (2 Peter 1:10)”, most of us gets offended when the teaching about how God elects makes one fearful and even uncomfortable by the mere thought. And yet it is important we examine ourselves. Paul exhorts in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” And finally even James reminds us, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:6-7)” The command to self-examine demands that we need to clearly teach the doctrine of election.
And yet some may complain:
- So kayo lang maliligtas?
We do not believe that salvation comes by simply teaching election. Rather, it is always by God’s grace through faith in Christ. So no, hindi namin itinuro na kami lang maliligtas. It simply means that the God who saved is the God who elects
- So hindi na kailangan mag-evanglize ganun?
This is a caricature and a common misconception. We believe in the God who elects is also the one who commands us to preach this good news to all nations without any discrimination. Also, we evangelize because because all are sinners (elect and reprobates) and both are called to repent and believe.
Paul also answer some of these complains from Romans 9 and ends with praising God for his marvelous work. Paul wrote, “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 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?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 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, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:14-24). Ultimately, we are all created for God’s glory and instead of murmuring and complaining, we are called to praise God for his work.
In the end, we are called like Paul to receive comfort from his Word knowing God will surely deliver God’s people regardless of our individual circumstances and conditions. Paul reflects from Romans 8 to Romans 11, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-29)….Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)”
ZCRC(Imus). God ordains God’s people solely by his divine decree, brought about by his divine love, and all these are for the glory of his marvelous work. Let us be diligent in making our election and calling sure, take comfort from God’s Word that nothing separates us from God’s love, and worship and praise God for all his glorious grace. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.