5. Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election
5. Its Exemplification
Election and reprobation are plainly evident throughout the Old Testament. In the case of Abraham, who is the father of all them that believe, before God called him out of Ur, he was of an idolatrous stock which worshipped false gods. There is that heathen environment “the God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham,” but not to the other citizens of that city. The Lord reminds us, “I called him alone, and blessed him.”
Then there is the case f Jacob. He and his brother Esau were born of the same father and mother, twins. They stand as the classic example of election and reprobation in the words, “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth: it was said unto her, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’” (Romans 9:11-13). Why did the Lord choose Jacob in preference to Esau? He was not particularly winsome, whereas Esau was of a much more attractive personality. Jacob proved himself deceitful and could lie a string of lies five times in nauseating succession. Yet God came to him when he had nothing, deserved nothing but condemnation, only to promise him everything and to protect him everywhere he went.
Consider next the case of the nation of Israel. God chose that nation. He set His love and favor on it to the exclusion of all other nations. He provided the Passover lamb for that one single nation. There was no Lamb of God for the other nations. To the Israelites God declared, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2), i.e., I have, from the beginning of the ages, known you with a knowledge of love—you, only you, have I so loved. But all the other, heathen nations I would that they should walk in their own ways. They shall be My battle axes, My weapons of war, that with the I may break in pieces and destroy the kingdoms of this world, Why did the Lord choose Israel, and no the other powers? The Chaldeans boasted the advantage of antiquity. The Egyptians were experts in the whole range of worldly wisdom. The Canaanites had the fullness of number. But what had Israel? What, apart from Jehovah, was the excellency of Israel? Would we think to choose a nation hard-hearted, stiff-necked, carnal, unappreciative and rebellious? Was it because Israel had one milligram of goodness? Was it because Israel had one atom of “common grace”? Or was it not rather that God chose Israel in absolute sovereignty? Is it not rather that God never works from the point of view of what is in the creature, but from what is found in Himself, in His own will?
Then in the New Testament, why did the Lord choose angels to deliver the message of the birth of His Son? Why not have kings or emperors make the glorious announcement? Why did He choose poor shepherd to first receive the news? Why not the representatives of government, or the ecclesiastical leaders in Jerusalem? If angels must bring the glad tidings, why not have them do so in the temple? This is what we would think, but our thoughts are not God’s thoughts.
The Lord Himself, at the beginning of His ministry in Nazareth preached His first sermon on the truth of election and reprobation. “But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah; when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elijah sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:25-27). Moses and Paul preached the same predestination: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Wherefore He hath mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth.” But the people, unwilling to tolerate this great truth: “when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust Him out of the city” (vs. 28, 29). Take note of the fact that not the people off the streets manifested this hatred of the truth and its unique Proclaimer, but “all they in the synagogue”! In this connection, remember that the servant is not greater than His Lord. What conceivably would Christ’s attitude to such a response be? Certainly this: “Jesus rejoiced in spirit and said, ‘I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for it seemed good in Thy sight.” What should be our attitude to the preaching of this truth? This: “In this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
In the early history of the church, we have the oldest of the evangelical confessions, the Waldensian, which says of election, “God save from corruption and damnation those whom He has chosen from the foundations of the world, not for any disposition, faith or holiness He foresaw in them, but of His mere mercy in Christ Jesus, His Son, passing by all the rest according to the irreprehensible reason of His own free will and justice” (from “The Doctrines of Grace,” G.S. Bishop). Our own Canons of Dort say, “This election was not founded on foreseen faith, the obedience of faith, or any other good quality or disposition in man as the prerequisite, cause or condition” of election (I, 9). The latter was written especially in opposition to the philosophy of Arminius. The form was written against a creeping Arminianism, if you will pardon an anachronism, before Arminius was born.
The humanist we call an Arminian has always said, “God chooses people because he foresees their good, their choice of good, their faith and good works.” But in the whole human race, who has this good? “There is none good, no not one.” Then if there is none good, where are the good works God is supposed to see? If by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified, neither can any works be the basis of election. Then the reason God chooses people is because He chose to choose them. He chose them because it was His will to choose them. He did not choose them on the basis of their foreseen faith (there is no such “faith”). He chose them on the basis of His own eternal grace “Not according to our works (not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth), but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us before the world began.” God does not elect men on the ground of faith. For faith is a gift of God. But that does not mean that God bestows faith on those He foresees would take it. What God foresees, if He foresees anything, is that man will not take it; that he must be given grace so that he will want to take it. Election is not on the basis of something seen in man, but on something in God—grace.
Arminian radio preachers, every so often, will aver that there is an election taught in Scripture, but then they immediately proceed to tear it to shreds. They are never without their parroting of favorite texts to appear the great Bible students they would have men believe. Often they quote the words, “him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.” Why is it that they repeat and repeat this misquote? Why do they not quote the first part of the text, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me”? Why is it that we never hear them repeat, much less, preach on such texts as “No man come unto Me except the Father…draw him,” or “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you that ye should go and bring forth fruit,” or “I speak not of you all, I know whom I have chosen” or Christi’s words from His high priestly prayer, “I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me”?
That unconditional election is certainly the truth of Scripture is apparent from the intense hatred Satan has against it. He attacks the truth, not error. The people of Nazareth were enraged against this truth. Many of Jesus’ disciples refused to walk further with Him because He preached this truth in His Bread of Life discourse. Romanism, seed-bed of Pelagianism and Arminianism, opposed this truth in England, France and the Netherlands with murder and massacre. Today Rome still opposes this truth under the guise of an angel of light, as the leader unifier of the world church. Modern churchmen despise it under the pretence of zeal for God’s honor, ridiculing the truth as that which makes God a cruel monster.
In the recent confession perversions being perpetrated in the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., the doctrine of predestination is the first marked for extinction. Intimidation is employed against this truth. It is said that thought scriptural, it is too easy to misunderstand, therefore is more dangerous than edifying, and so unwise to preach it. With increasing creedal changes, the least semblance of this doctrine will finally be expunged from the modern Presbyterian churches. That is a practical reality already. For most Presbyterians have been sailing under a false flag, i.e., their true colors are and have been deep-dyed Arminianism. Is this not true of many who bear the name Reformed? Most such people, if they could only bring themselves to be honest, would leave the Presbyterian and Reformed churches to take up with the Unitarians. If they had one grain of honesty, they would not pose as advocates of “good Calvinism.” It is not their intention for a moment to have any kind of Calvinism. Their purpose is to brainwash their dupes with humanism.
As the presbyterial form of government in the Presbyterian and Reformed churches is dying out, and democracy, socialism and communism are fast increasing in popularity everywhere, while representative authority is more and more despised, it is no surprise that the authority of Scripture is denied. Following this thought, it is no surprise that predestination should find its worse foes in its own household. The writer was born, baptized and raised in what was then the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Before he was born, the denomination drew up and adopted a document of very shady character called “A Brief Statement of the Reformed Faith, 1902.” Since the church was founded on the wonderful, truly Reformed Westminster Standards, what was the purpose of this brief declaration? It sounded rather suspicious, but nevertheless, it was prepared in order to express the Reformed Faith “in un-technical terms,” suggesting that the Westminster Confession is beyond even above average intelligence. It was also to be understood that the Brief Statement was only for “giving information” and “not with a view of its becoming a substitute or an alternative of our Confession of Faith.” In this document we read, “God, out of His great love for the world, has given His only begotten Son to be the Saviour of sinners, and in the Gospel freely offers His all-sufficient salvation to all men… He has provided a way of eternal life for all mankind” (Art. VI). This is not “giving information,” but injecting the corruption of “universal redemption.” If this is not substituting another creed for the Westminster, it is a compromise of that Confession. It is an Amyraldian drawbridge between Calvinism and Arminianism. At another place election is said to be “unto holiness, service and salvation.” It is added that “those who come to years of discretion can receive this salvation only through faith and repentance” (Art. VII), which implies that faith and repentance are outside of salvation, are conditions unto it and are the ground of election, not the results of it. Faith, however, has its origin in the preordination of God. For He not only requires “faith in Him that they may be saved,” but also promises “to give unto all those that are ordained unto life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe” (W.C., VII.3). Further, the Brief Statement says, “the kingdom of God is to be made manifest” in the brotherhood of man (Art. XIII). But the W.C. states that the kingdom of God is to be made manifest in a brotherhood of the redeemed, which “consists of all those throughout the word, that profess the true religion together with their children, and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God” (XXV, 2). The drawbridge of 1902 was found too heavy for the orthodox, the conservatives to draw up and keep up. Then the liberals, as they intended, let it down with a crash. So the Westminster doctrine was given up to the enemy. In all too few places is its unadulterated form retained and defended.
(To be continued, D.V.)