Election is Absolute
There are two things of great importance involved in this topicó non-revocability and independency. The decree is irrevocable on God's part, and independent as to human performances. The Lord will not go back on His purpose to save His people, nor shall their unworthiness make void or hinder His most gracious intent. And, hence, those various expressions of the same thing, namely, "predestinate, ordain, prepare, appoint," have nothing added to them that relate in any way to conditions. There is, indeed, a kind of condition, or rather qualification, that must, and always does, precede the final completion of election and that is repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, these may certainly be called conditions of salvation but not election.
Election is the great fundamental institute of the gospel: it is that which may be called in human terms, those terms being spiritual, "the supreme law" or "the law of God" which is both irreversible in itself, and requires that all inferior laws, such as man's laws, be in subjection to it. So the salvation of God's elect, being the highest law, that is, "the law of God", for it is the law of His kingdom and is therefore on a sounder and firmer ground than any other law and so the decree of election remains inviolable.
Election is the reason everyone and everything has its being. It is the plan wherein God designs to Himself the highest and greatest glory that can ever be. It is the plan that has been of the greatest cost and if it were possible for it to miscarry the whole of creation could not counteract or offset the damage. But God's plans cannot miscarry or He is not God.
Human affairs are exposed to a thousand incidents, which human prudence can neither prevent nor provide against. But with God it is not so; no event can be new to Him. Isa. 46:10a says "Declaring the end from the beginning...:, and so knowing the beginning and the end, no event can be new to Him. All things are not only known to Him but are part of His plan and His purpose. His judgment and purpose cannot alter. Job 23:13, "But he is in one mind, and who can turn him?" God is also immortal, and the "The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations," Psalm 33:11. No creature can exclude itself from His governmental control so we are told in Job 12:10, "In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." All is according to His purpose and His Will.
This is one of the reasons why election is said to be "from the beginning": or "from the foundation of the world," to show that whatever should be in time should be subordinate to election, which is all one so as to make it absolute.
Arguments for the Absoluteness of Election
Argument 1. If election unto salvation were not absolute then the only way a man might be saved would have to be by works and we are told in Ephesians 2:9 that salvation is "Not of works lest any man should boast." In Romans 9:11, even more explicitly, Paul when speaking of Jacob and Esau wrote, "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."
An important point for us to remember is that where there are works there must be law. Law will dictate which works are good and which are evil but no man can keep the law of God, for we read in Galatians 3:21b, "...for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." "...for if there had been a law...". "If" is a big word and here it tells us in no uncertain terms that there was not law that gave life and so there had to be another way to eternal life.
That way was by grace, that is, election unto salvation. The new covenant does more for us than the old covenant. The old covenant could not give life, it failed because it was conditional: not one of the laws could be broken without losing eternal life and perfection is only for God. Jesus was the only man who lived without breaking a single jot or tittle of the law and His righteousness has been assigned to His elect, those He came to die for. The law shows us our duty but does not give us the wherewithal to perform it. The new covenant does both by writing the law in the heart. Everyone under the covenant of works is without God, without Christ, and without hope and this because they are strangers to the covenant of grace, the grace of election.
When the day of salvation of an elect person comes about, he is of necessity better off than he was before, and so his election must of necessity be absolute. And that this might be so, the new covenant was made with Christ on behalf of the elect of God and is the grace given in Him as Paul wrote in Titus 1:2; "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began."
If the election of grace is not a gift of God, and therefore absolute, then God is a liar but as we know the Word says that God cannot lie. See again, Titus 1:2 "....which God, that cannot lie...", so in Romans 6:23, we can note again that election is a gift of God; "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Argument 2. The election of grace must of necessity be absolute because it is only by election that salvation can be insured. Consider Adam who was made upright but his being able to continue in that state depended upon how well he used what God had given him, and without any help. In him we can see the utmost that grace can do and what, when alone, man can do to himself. Man created upright but with a free agency illustrates for us what would happen if every man was allowed to depend upon free agency for his salvation.
How soon the uprightness of Adam degenerated and came to ruin! And not only ruin for him and for Eve but also for all his posterity for they have run the same course. All we need do is look about us to see that man is on a downward spiral and has been since the Fall.
In spite of all the helps which are given in common to men still they put their faith in their free agency and continue ever downward to hell. And it should be no surprise to anyone because since Adam's Fall, man is bent toward evil. He is like a tree; it grows as it is bent and so does a man- But consider that Adam had no bent for evil and yet his free agency led him to his doom.
If there is any advantage that we now know about and Adam did not, it is what is called the "new covenant" and because of this, our doctrine of the election of grace is confirmed. For the more helps that man has and still falls short "of the glory of God", as he does, then the more evident it is that nothing short of the election of grace can secure the salvation of any man.
The Old Testament teaches us this if we will listen, for consider the fact of the inventive faculties and clever minds of the pre-Flood generations, and the very long lives that they were given and so had the chance to turn away from their free agency and toward God, together with the preaching of Noah for what appears to be 120 years; still they had no inclination to change their lives. Their interest was still only in themselves, their lives still led them from bad to worse until the Word says in Gen. 6:5, "And God saw that the wickedness of man was very great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually...". This was not just part of the race of men but the universal state of man that was described. And in verse 12 we read a further description of the state of man's pre-Flood condition, "And God looked up the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." It is true that Noah was found to be righteous but as sure as he was found so in the world in which he lived it had to be election that made it so. Verse 8 of chapter 6 tells us that this is so, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." It was nothing that he did for God was the purveyor of the grace. A grace period in insurance is still a free time and my old Funk and Wagnalls dictionary says that one of its meanings is "unmerited favor or good will, clemency; hence, any kindness, favor or service freely rendered:". Also in the same dictionary I read that it has a theological meaning, "the unmerited favor of God in Christ; hence, free gift; the divine influence acting within the heart to regenerate, sanctify, and keep it...". And so if Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, then he found there the unmerited favor of God, clemency, a free gift; there was there the divine influence acting within the heart of Noah to regenerate, sanctify and keep it, and that is the election of grace.
In the same sense Paul obtained mercy as we see in 1 Timothy 1:16, "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." We know that Paul did not receive salvation because of his good works but we note that on the road to Damascus it was mercy that took hold of him. And mercy retained him after taking hold, kept him. It was not Paul's works or free agency that obtained his salvation but it was a gift of God, the election of grace, clemency; there was the divine influence acting within the heart of Paul as it had in Noah to regenerate, sanctify and keep it, - election.
We may also see the operation of grace in the nation of Israel who had over and above their common or natural grace many helps and more knowledge that others had for we read in Psalm 147:19-20 these words, "He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord."
The first covenant failed, such was the grace of our Lord, knowing it and decreeing at the same time, before the foundation of the world, the second covenant or new covenant by which he would secure the remnant that he had chosen, and this choosing and election was absolute and infallible, meaning, "exempt from fallacy or error and/or exempt from uncertainty or liability to error..." again I quote from Funk and Wagnalls dictionary. And so we have the covenant of grace, or translated, the covenant of the gift of God, the covenant of election, a covenant that does not depend upon the works of man for man can not by any means save himself. This is the grace that Paul in Rom. 5:21 says, "that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
And these are the "sure mercies of David," recorded in Isaiah 55. It is the fact that this new covenant is absolute that makes it a better covenant.
Argument 3. There is the same reason for the absoluteness of man's election as of the Second Person of the Trinity being the choice to come to earth to deal with man and his sin. The human body that Jesus was to assume and unite with was not ordained to that union upon any condition whatsoever. It was not said to him that He should have this body if He would fulfill all righteousness, destroy the devil, dissolve the devil's works and make atonement for the sins of the elect. There could be no conditions for He could not have done any of these things without the union with that body. That His ordination where this body and this work was concerned was absolute appears in Heb. 10:5, "A body hast thou prepared for me..." and in Luke 1:35, "...that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God...:, and again in Matt. 1:21, "...for he shall save his people from their sins...". These verses set forth the absoluteness of the decree that that human body was united to the Son of God, that it was absolute that He should be both God and man, the God-man.
Peter in his first epistle refers to Christ as elect; 1 Peter 2:6, "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture. Behold, I lay in Sion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded."
Based on this, then, it is evident that our election has parallels to that of Christ for it is no accident that I am the son of my mother and father. This body was prepared for me and my parents were those chosen for me, this I can rest in because John 17:23 says, "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast love them, as thou hast loved me." What a wonderful thought that God loved me even as He loved His† Son. That even as He prepared a body for His Son, so He prepared a body for me, set a time for my birth and a time for my salvation through the election of grace unto salvation. He set the date and time and the way in which I would hear His voice. There are no accidents where the plans and purposes of God are concerned. We are a chosen people, a people prepared to Serve God and to bring about His purpose in all things.
Argument 4. It was necessary that election be absolute because of the absoluteness of God's decree concerning the death of His son, which was foreordained by God and could in no way be repealed, consider the above statement based on 1 Peter 1:18-20; "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you...". Could anything be more clear? His death for our sins was foreordained before the world began, before its very foundations were spoken into being.
By His death he saved many who had lived before He suffered that death but these He saved on the credit of that decree. Rom. 3:25, Paul writing concerning Jesus says, "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God." In this passage the word "remission" and the word "forbearance" have to do with "tolerance" according to Strong's Concordance and some indicate that the word "remission" could be translated "Passover", and so we have a verse that tells us that God "passed over" or tolerated sins in the past and became the propitiation for those sins when he came and died. So the elect are not only of the times of the new covenant but also of the old covenant.
We can know for certain that Jesus became our sacrifice for we are told by John the Baptist that He is the "lamb of God. which taketh away the sin of the world," John 1:29, and also in Rev. 13:8, "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Both of these verses refer to a Lamb, the "Lamb of God" and the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." We know that in the Jewish religion of the old covenant a lamb would be slain for the sin of the one offering it so here, we have a Lamb that is given by God to die for the sins of the elect and that that Lamb was foreordained from the foundation of the world.
Peter in his sermon in Acts 2:22-23, tells us that His death was by determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."
It was absolute that He should be of the seed of Abraham and David, that He should be born in Bethlehem, that He should be born of a virgin, that He should live a perfect life, that He should be seen to be approved of God, and three times God said so, that He should die by the hands of the Jews and the Romans and be buried in a rich man's tomb and be raised from the dead after three days. All of this was decreed of God and all for His elect.
Concerning those saved under the old covenant, it might seem strange to some that the salvation would be given before the price was paid. But consider the wisdom of God. He could not decree the death of His Son for men's salvation, and still leave the salvation of those very elect an uncertainty which would have had to have been true if election were not absolute.
Argument 5. Further concerning the absoluteness of God's election, we might argue from the nature of the divine promises which are patterns or declarations of the decree of God concerning election. The promises touching spiritual blessings are absolute for they come from that Word which we have been told is forever settled in heaven; Psalm 119:89, "For ever, O Lord, they word is settled in heaven."
There is the promise that God will send the Messiah and He to be the Redeemer, Gen. 3:15, when God speaks to the serpent, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel."
Then there is the promise of the Holy Ghost to sanctify and to lead men into all truth in John 16:13, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will shew you things to come."
Also, His people are promised that He will sprinkle clean water upon them, that He will give them a new heart, and will cause them to walk in His statutes, that He will be their God, and they shall be His people and most of all that He will not depart from them, "And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart", Jer. 24:7. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them," Ezekiel 36:26, 27.
All the promises are for the good of His people but some announce chastisement. If His people sin He will chastise them with the rods of men, but his everlasting kindness He will not take from them, here speaking of the seed of David, "If this children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Never the less my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips". Psalm 89:30-34. God is faithful to His promises and commandments.
There is much here that is of great importance to believers. It is written there in Psalm 89 that he will never take His loving-kindness away completely. To me, this is the promise of "once saved always saved," and then He says, "nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." That's as absolute as anything can be. He will not go back on any promise given. The word spoken to David's seed applies to the children of God, His elect.
And not only that He will not break any promise given but He has made another very important promise to His people which, since I believe what has gone before I can believe this, that He will one day present me faultless before the presence of His glory. "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy," Jude 24.
All of these, with many others of like tenor, are delivered in positive and absolute terms without any show of reservation or condition. And if these, which are like transcripts of the decree, be absolute it follows that the decree itself must, also, be absolute. It is on this ground that the apostles and believers stand when Satan challenges all the world to nullify God's election as Paul illustrates for us in Romans 8:33-34. Why would Satan even bother to challenge this doctrine if it were not absolute under the sovereignty of God; "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? it is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."
The election of grace unto salvation is absolute.