This article is the first of a series of 5 on the 5 points of Calvinism.
Having been asked to write an article for Beacon Lights on each letter of TULIP, or the Five Points of Calvinism, I gladly comply.
My first article will deal with the subject of Unconditional Election or Predestination, the second letter of TULIP. Why? Because the truth of God’s unconditional predestination is basic and fundamental. With this truth the other truths as represented by TULIP stand or fall. How well the Arminians of the seventeenth century knew and understood this! How they hated the truth of God’s absolutely sovereign election and opposed it! This also applies to the Three Points of 1924. The first of these points concern the preaching of the gospel as a general well-meaning offer of salvation. Fundamentally, this means that this first point speaks of a general, universal love of God to all who hear the preaching of the gospel. Scripture uses many words and expressions to denote this election of the church. Of course, there is the word “election,” as in Eph. 1:4, 1 Thess. 1:4, etc. But there are also several other words and expressions. In John 3: 16 and Deut. 7:7,8 we read of the love of God. In Rom. 8:28 we read of God’s purpose. In I Pet. 2:7-9, a very pertinent passage, we read of double predestination; election and reprobation, as also in Matt. 11:25,26. In Heb. 6:17 we read of the heirs of promise and the immutability of God’s counsel. And in John 10 and Rom. 8:29,30 we read the words, “know” and “foreknow”. Of the Father and the Son we read that they know the sheep.
God’s election of His church is surely sovereign. When we say that it is sovereign we mean that the ground of election never rests in the sinner, but that the Lord chose and reprobated as He did only because He willed to do so. This sovereignty is denied today. Indeed, we say that it is denied openly. Today the truth of reprobation is brazenly denied. And, of course, if we deny reprobation we must also deny election. The two surely either stand or fall together. To believe in election means that we believe that God elected some and that He did not elect all.
Notice how the Scriptures emphasize this sovereign truth. First, I call attention to Deut. 7:7,8. Please look this up in your Bible. I do not have the time or space to quote these passages. Did God love and choose His people because of anything in them, because of their attractiveness? Indeed not! He did not choose or love them because they were more in number. Why did He love them? The answer is: He simply loved them because He would keep His oath toward them. And may I add that these people of Israel surely “tried their hardest” to have the Lord forget this oath and change His attitude in respect to them.
Secondly, I call attention to Eph. 1:4. Again I ask you to look this up in your Bible. The question is: did God elect and reprobate because of faith and unbelief, or is the cause of God’s predestination solely in the Lord. so that faith does not precede God’s election but follows from it as its fruit? What do we read here? That God chose us because we were holy (conditional election) or in order that we should be holy? We read: “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” So, God’s election is surely unconditional: “that, in order that we should be holy . . . .”
Thirdly, I call attention to Matt. 11:25,26. In this passage Jesus thanks the Father because He had hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes, and He adds: “Even so. Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Here we read that this hiding from the wise and prudent, etc., was according to, and because of the Father’s good pleasure. God’s good pleasure is the eternal, sovereign cause of it.
Another passage is John 10:26 – “But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you.” Were they not of His sheep because they did not believe? Was their unbelief the cause of their not being Christ’s sheep? No! We read that they did not believe because they were not of His sheep. And, as far as His sheep are concerned (see John 10:29), the Father gave them to Christ before the foundation of the world.
Another passage is I Pet. 2:7-9. Some people would have us believe that the truth of reprobation is not taught in the Word of God. In this passage, however, both are taught, election and reprobation. We therefore speak of double predestination. That verse 9 speaks of election is obvious. But, were the wicked reprobated because of their disobedience? This would be conditional reprobation. However, we read here that they were appointed to stumble and to be disobedient. This is surely unconditional reprobation, even as in Matt. 11:25,26. Notice that we read this at the conclusion of verse 8: “whereunto (this disobedience and stumbling of verse 8) also they were appointed.”
We now call attention to another passage: Rom. 9:9-13. Here we read that the Lord loved Jacob and hated Esau before they did good or evil in order that the purpose according to election might stand. God’s eternal love of Jacob and hatred of Esau, according to this passage, were not because of Jacob’s good and Esau’s evil, although it is true, of course, that the Lord hates all wickedness. However, in Rom. 9:9-13 the apostle is speaking of God’s eternal sovereignty. Two questions are very pertinent here. First, why was Esau born first? Now Jacob was surely the heir to the birthright blessing. That Esau was born first was surely no accident. God, of course, worked this. Imagine all the grief and misery that could have been spared Isaac and Rebecca, and Esau and Jacob, had Jacob been born first! That Esau is born first and Jacob inherits the birthright blessing is, of course. to emphasize God’s sovereignty, that He reverses the natural law, as it were, to reveal that He does what and as He wills. But, there is also another question which we wish to ask here, namely: why is it revealed to Rebecca before the twins were born that the younger shall rule over the elder, and that the elder shall serve the younger? We understand, of course, that this is revealed in Scripture for our sake. It was, of course, revealed for the sake of Isaac and Rebecca. But, that the Word of God speaks of it is, of course, for our sake and for our instruction. If we were to judge Esau and his failure to obtain the birthright blessing in the light of history, in the light of how Esau conducted himself, we could possibly conclude that Esau did not obtain it because he had made himself unworthy of it. And it is, of course, true that Esau did reveal himself as profane. He is surely profane, a despiser of God’s covenant. This is his sin and he is held accountable for it. Nevertheless, it is revealed to Rebecca and to us, before they are born, that the elder would serve the younger because we must understand that this history unfolds itself as it does according to God’s sovereign will. and that God loved Jacob sovereignly, and hated Esau sovereignly, before either did good or bad. And this means that the truth of double predestination is a divinely sovereign truth.
What a wonderfully comforting truth is this truth of God’s sovereign predestination! It is a wonderfully comforting truth as far as the personal child of God is concerned. Now he knows that, once saved. he will remain saved forever. Now he knows that his salvation is anchored in the eternal, unchangeable and unconditional will of God. Now he knows that nothing can ever separate him from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ, his Lord. Now he knows that his everlasting salvation and glory are assured because nothing is dependent upon the will of the sinner. His salvation now rests upon the Rock of Ages, the unchangeable God of his salvation. This is one tremendous comfort. However, to this we would add another truth. The doctrine of sovereign election is also the driving motive behind all true mission work. It has been said that a church can do mission work only if it teaches a universal love of God and a universal atonement of Christ. Nothing is farther from the truth. A universal love of God is a love of God that loves all men, also those who perish. This universal love is not almighty, but impotent to save countless millions of lost souls. But the will of God that is almighty and efficacious, and a love of God that is always first, accomplishes their purpose, and never fails. Now, performing mission work, proclaiming this love, the church may and can do mission work, and need never fear, because that church knows that they who have been given Christ of the Father, will surely come to Him. May we as churches, particularly as young people, never lose sight of God’s unconditional predestination, unconditional double predestination.