Section 6: Salvation — Part 1
Week 2: Election: God Chose Us before the Foundation of the World
Day 3: Election Is Based on God’s Sovereign Choice
2 Tim. 1:1-12
If God’s choice to save us isn’t based on our foreseen faith, what is it based on? As hard as it might be for us to accept, it’s based purely on his sovereign will (Ephesians 1:4-5, 2 Timothy 1:9). Many find this troubling. God chooses who comes to faith and is saved. That’s great… for those who come to faith. But not everyone comes to faith, and, as a result, not everyone is saved. That’s why some react so strongly to this issue. If God is the one making the determination who comes to faith and who doesn’t, and if he made that determination before the world even began, that sounds like some never had a chance. They were doomed to eternal damnation long before they were born.
That doesn’t seem fair, especially when you consider that those of us who are saved don’t deserve salvation more than those who aren’t. The flip side of that of course is they don’t deserve eternal damnation any more than we do either. The only thing that differentiates those who are saved and those who are not is God’s sovereign choice. That feels arbitrary to many people, including many believers.
It’s important to realize God’s choice isn’t arbitrary simply because we don’t understand it. Take a look at how Paul handles the issue of the apparent unfairness of election in Romans 9:
Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad–in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls–she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath–prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory– even us, whom he also called…
How does Paul deal with the accusation that God’s choice to save some and not others is unfair? Does he give a detailed explanation of God’s reasoning to help us better understand and accept it? No. He basically tells us we shouldn’t question God. Does Paul say that because he’s callous? No. He says it because we ultimately don’t know why God chose some and not others.
In fact, we wouldn’t be able to understand the reasons even if God did explain them. Because we aren’t omniscient, we aren’t always in a position to understand why God does what he does. The fact that we don’t understand his choice, though, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have reasons for it.
We’ll have an opportunity to tackle this issue in more detail the Digging Deeper section. For now, it’s worth noting the issue is similar to our discussion of why God allowed evil into the world. As we said in the context of that discussion, we don’t always understand why God does what he does, but he has given us plenty of reason to trust him. Remember God didn’t have to choose to save any of us. The fact that he chose to save anyone, knowing the cost to himself, is a testimony to his goodness and love.
Why do you think God doesn’t explain Himself? Can you think of other areas where He doesn’t give us the reasons He does the things He does?
List 5 reasons you can trust God, even when He doesn’t explain.
Want to Dig Deeper?
The doctrine of election is a difficult one because it raises a number of difficult questions. We attempt to tackle some of those questions in the Digging Deeper section.