Election is Founded Upon Grace
Election is founded upon grace or let us say the good pleasure of God's will is the only original cause and motive of election.
Election is a "promotion" that comes from no man, no company, no place or person except God Who as He chooses one passes over another and He does this as it seems good to Him and for His plan and purpose.
Here is testimony of this from Nebuchadnezzar 4:35, "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand or say unto him, What doest Thou?"
God does not have to give an account to any man for what He does or He would not be God nor would He be an absolute Sovereign, as we discussed in my first book. We are told in scripture that the thoughts of man and the thoughts of God do not in anyway agree. He knows our thoughts but we do not know His. We cannot think like God for He is too great for us. And so the basis or motive of divine election is very different from the basis or motive that man would like it to be. Man would have election based on who a man is and what he does, that is, on man's works. Man does not believe in taking something that seems useless and making it something great and wonderful but the Lord takes the weak and foolish, the poor and the base, Paul, the chief of sinners, Mary Magdalene and these He is pleased to make over in the very image of His dear Son, pillars in the very house of God. He takes the cast-off, Paul says the "off-scouring" of the earth, and makes them "lively stones” whereon He writes His Name. And by this He manifests His sovereignty. His holiness, His wisdom, power, righteousness and free grace.
The Lord's way of bringing His sons to glory is the best demonstration ever of the right order of causes for there is no concurrence of the many things that concern man such as cause and effect of one thing upon another. There is only one cause, God's will, and this leads to only one place, the good pleasure of God. This is the supreme cause and needs no previous cause or effect to bring it about. God's will is independent of all things. It shuts out all works and worthiness of men as being influential or the motive of election for God does not share His glory with any man or angel or any other being. Our God is a jealous God and His glory is His and His only and it is to His glory and for His glory that there is election. The whole current of the New Testament runs in this way, making the whole of salvation, both means and end, to depend completely and expressly on the divine will. "Fear not little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom," Luke 12:32. Also, "...thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes;..." Luke 10:12. In another place we read, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace,” Romans 11:5. These are just three references. There is also Eph. 1:5 and 7 and 9 in which Paul speaks of the predestination to the adoption of children, again, "...according to His good pleasure,..." and of redemption and forgiveness of sin, "...according to the riches of His grace,..." and in verse 9 of the "making known the mystery of his will:" and this also according to His good pleasure, something "which he hath purposed in himself."
Yes, all the operations of God, whether they be for us, or upon us or by us, they all have their beginning in the same place and live by this rule: "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." (Eph. 1:11).
In the Old Testament speaking of God's love for Israel, we have Deut. 7:8, "But because the Lord loved you...", and in Deut. 10:15, "Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all that therein is." God loved Israel because He loved them; what other reason is needed? God always loves His own because He loves them.
And so there are good reasons why election should be founded upon grace and, with respect to either God's glory or the security of the elect, why would it be founded otherwise.
Argument 1: Our first argument is from the sovereignty of God whose will being the supreme law, admits to no co-relationship, much less will it stand with sovereign power to be regulated by the will of any other. That would be a contradiction to the idea of sovereignty, for that which regulates must be superior to that which is regulated. Absolute monarchs of old, in order to show their prerogative, affirm their acts of grace to be merely their whim or for a personal unstated reason. The same thing is found in scripture where we find it said that "he will have mercy on whom" He "will have mercy," Rom. 9:18, "that he worketh all things," not my motives from without, but "after the counsel of his own will," Eph. 1:11 and "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy," Romans 9:16.
Whatever reason God has for election, His reasons, though unspoken, are both nobler and on a firmer foundation than any of man's could ever be for anything He does, and indeed. God's gift of election, is more than any creature deserves.
When, in the days of Noah, all but eight persons had been drowned because of their obdurate impenitent hearts, the descendants of the few that remained became as bad as those that had gone before; the law foresaw this, nothing was changed, man would still be the same. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23. Before the flood men were sinners, Noah and his family were sinners, and all of mankind since that time, excluding the man Jesus, have been sinners, all totally depraved.
If man were handling this situation he would long ago have come to what mankind thinks should be the natural result of anything that looks like a tailed experiment, trash it and not give it another minutes thought, it would be water under the bridge. But God's thoughts are not man's thoughts and He is merciful. Why, we do not know, but He said "...I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake: for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth: neither will I again smite any more everything living as I have done." Gen. 8:21b.
Note that God knows the hearts of all men. He lets us know in the above verse from Genesis that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked...," Jer. 17:9 and no one can know the heart of man but God and man's thoughts are not His but His mercy is His, and His righteousness is His and all His attributes are His and as Nebuchadnezzar said in Dan. 4:35, "All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"
And so, election is founded upon His grace, His sovereignty and His righteousness for who will maintain that God is not just, election is the most sublime act of His sovereign power and non-election, which is not a punishment but simply the withholding of a free favor or gift which God, being God, and so Sovereign Lord, may justly deny to one sinner while giving it to another.
Argument 2: Election must be founded only upon grace, because grace and works can in no way collaborate in the cause of salvation. The Word is very cautious in allowing anything to be concomitant with grace in this matter. But works is a thing that always accompanies grace and is an absolute necessity in the Christian life after salvation.
Even the thief on the cross did a work, he publicly acknowledged Jesus as his Lord and publicly placed his faith in Him for what was to come after he died. Our works like our salvation are pre-determined and we will accomplish those works for the Sovereign God Who decreed them.
The apostle Paul places grace and works in direct opposition and is very intent in the argument making it a teaching of vital importance. To see this, one must read and study Romans 11 where he first shows that amidst the general rejection of the Jews there was still a remnant whom God had reserved, and note that they did not reserve themselves but God reserved them. It was this remnant that Paul spoke of in verse 2, "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew..." this remnant of the Jewish nation were of the elect of God, they were chosen from the foundation of the world. We can believe this because in verse 7 we read, "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded," and so, though the whole of the Jewish nation has not obtained to eternal life the remnant has obtained it, and further more Paul uses an historical instance to illustrate the remnant and that from Elijah when he complained that he was the only believer left in Israel and God told him that that was not so that He, God, had reserved unto Himself 7000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal. God reserves unto Himself as pleases Him. The 7000 had not bowed their knee but had stuck to the true religion even when the rest of the nation found it easier to bow to the times and follow the crowd. Even as we see happening around us this very day.
If you study this passage along with chapters 9 and 10 you will see that he teaches that their election is founded on grace: and as for works, they had no part in causing God to choose them. By "grace" Paul means the free favor of God, who is not moved by any thing outside of Himself, what He does He does freely without respect to men's just desert, actually the fact that they are undeserving is a circumstance that can be taken into account in the act of grace.
When we speak of "works" what is it we are talking about? I understand them to be everything that self-righteousness, goodness, and conformity to the law or whatever else men may perform to try to attract the attention of God and man. And so, grace, is a work of God and the other is strictly the work of men trying to do something for their own good without the aid of God. The two concepts are as contrary as any two concepts can be. And if there is the least mixture, then neither would be of any use either to man or God. If the smallest uncertainty concerning works becomes involved then grace is no more grace for Paul says in Rom. 4:4, "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt."
Grace and faith are in agreement for they both have the same scope and end but grace and works have always clashed, the setting up of one is the deposing of the other. Either the ark must leave or Dagon goes down, one temple cannot hold them both. Gal. 5 has a discussion that touches this subject where Paul gives the allegory of Hagar and Sarah.
In Acts 15:1, we are told that some men came down to Antioch while Paul and Barnabas were away and taught that a man must be circumcised in order to be saved. Some were willing to give way to such teachings thinking to join the Savior in their circumcision and so also keep the Law of Moses. But this dabbling in two things that can not mix caused much concern to both Paul and Barnabas and there was a great dispute in the church there. Adding circumcision was to Paul dishonoring his Master and also undermined the very foundation of salvation and the church. He boldly tells them that these two things cannot mix, that it is impossible for them to stand together for if they become circumcised, then they must stand a debtor to the whole law and if we look at Gal. 5:3 and 4, we find Paul's answer to these people; "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." It's as though he said, "If you take part in any of the legal observances, no matter how small that part is, as though it is necessary to your justification you will forfeit the whole benefit of God's grace. The grace of God is sufficient for you. He is a Savior complete in Himself and if you put your faith in anything no matter how simple you renounce Him. He is Savior altogether or not at all." Paul states it finally and completely without compromise in Gal. 5:2, "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing."
And as a man cannot put in a claim for justification based on his works so he cannot put in that same claim based on his faith as if faith is a cause that merits Justification. For faith itself is seen by man as a believer's act and so we are asked to consider it a "work." So we need now to consider what part faith plays in this matter lest while we cast out "works" as not standing with grace we make a "work" of faith.
It is faith's office to make the soul live wholly on the power and grace of another, which is to renounce personal ability as much as the idea that we deserve something from God; and to perceive that righteousness by which grace justifies, and not only to be justified by our own believing but have it work in us that faith by which we perceive it, Rom. 5:2, "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
The one that comes must come not only as an ungodly person but as a man without strength to believe, Rom. 5:6, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." One coming as such must come to be justified freely by the grace of God, Rom. 3:24, "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." For only in Christ Jesus can a man have the strength to believe. One coming must reckon himself to be an ungodly man to the very instant of his justification. "The just," indeed, "shall live by faith," but the faith he lives by is not his own faith nor is his act of believing his own though he must live with both. This seems to be what the apostle is saying in Gal. 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live: yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Note that as faith is the life of the believer, so Christ is the life of his faith and he lives on in Christ by virtue of Christ living in him.
And notwithstanding all of this which must be constantly affirmed we must still understand that grace and works are still together in our Christian lives; the one does not extinguish or exclude the other. Not only are they colleagues but they are rather a workman and his tools who first must be given the tools and then he works with them. "By grace are ye saved," grace first, it is God's grace that saves us, "through faith;" faith that was given to us as part of God's grace and so making it possible for us to have that faith, "and that not of yourselves," again the faith is not of oneself, "it is a gift of God," again the faith is part of the gift of God, Eph. 2:8. Even this believing or acting faculty is part of grace's action and so in any hierarchy it is obvious that grace should be above it.
God's grace is so divinely sacred as not to admit the least human touch and for this reason the Lord has contrived that in His blessed design and plan of His glory that no room should be left for any boasting of man. We read in 1 Cor. 1:29, "That no flesh should glory in his presence." And in another place we read, "...not of works lest any man should boast."
God has excluded the possibility of any man boasting of having saved himself either by his own decision or by his great goodness and works for if any thing in the creature be shown to have been the cause of the creature's election then flesh will glory and instead of excluding man's boasting, grace itself will be excluded; Rom. 11:6, "And if by grace, then is it no more works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Next we will look briefly at three objections that some have to what we have so far discussed.
People always want to know how this doctrine can be true since the Bible teaches, in their minds, that God has a general love and good-will toward all mankind. It even says in the Bible that He would "...have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth," 1 Timothy 2:4. 1 Peter 3:9 speaks of it this way, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
If we take the word "all" to be universal then even unbelievers would have to be included along with everyone else, which certainly cannot be the meaning, therefore, we cannot rest on the literal sense of the word "all". It is evident in scripture that the word "all" does not always mean the "whole world" or even “everyone” but must be considered based on the construction and thought of the whole context.
We can also say that it may sound as if the word "all" embraces the whole of mankind but we know that elsewhere in the scripture the same word does not mean "everyone". For instance, in Luke 2:1 we read "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed." We know that not even Caesar could tax the whole world for no one at that time knew the whole expanse of the world. Caesar could tax the Roman world but nothing more, and so "all" in this instance does not mean the "whole world" but the "Roman world." And there are other instances just like this to be found in the scripture.
And though the "doctrine of general love" will not stand with that of special election, the doctrine of special election will stand without the "doctrine of general love" and will, indeed, stand against it. For there is nothing that is more plain in scripture than that there is an election unto salvation and that the genuine import of the doctrine of election is that God chooses one or more out of many. Of necessity it implies that some are not chosen and so the salvation of all mankind is not universal, there was no intention on God's part that there should be a universal salvation. We must note also that since God is Sovereign He cannot be resisted and so since He wills the end it is only natural that He wills the means. This is implicit in Isa. 46:10, "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." This agrees with Eph. 1:11 which says, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will." In other words God says “What I please to will, that I will have done,” what I mean is that what He wills has already been accomplished.
In considering the passage from 1 Timothy we must consider the whole context and when we do we find that the apostle is not here discoursing the extent of God's special love of all men universally but he is exhorting believers to a general duty, namely to give thanks for kings, and all in authority, because of the benefits we have by government, telling us we are to pray for them. And since we do not know the elect we should pray not only for them but for all men and God will do as He wills.
There is another instance that I think will help us to understand that "all" is not always "all". In Exodus 9:6 we read, "And the Lord did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but the cattle of the children of Israel died not one," and in verse 25, "And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field both men and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field," and yet other cattle are mentioned later and there is also a mention of other trees also said to exist. First in Ex. 9:19 we read, "Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all thou hast in the field;..." they were to do this because of the coming of the hail, but after the death of "all" the cattle in verse 6 we find that there are yet cattle in Egypt. So "all" can mean a large portion of instead of everyone.
Then in Ex. 10:5 there is this, speaking of the coming plague of locusts, "And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field." And so here, too, we find that "all" is not always "all" for this verse follows chapter 9 verse 25.
In the book of Joel chapter 2 verse 28, there is this statement from God, "...I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh." If we are believers we know that He has not given His Holy Spirit to every man, woman and child on the earth and it would take that for "all" here to mean the "whole of mankind." Rather I think that we can say with a certainty that what is referred to here is that He will pour out His Spirit upon some of every age, sex, and degree, without distinction; young, old, masters, servants, sons, daughters, etc. and so the meaning is that we have the Spirit being poured out on "all" types of mankind.
But to these universal terms do belong diverse restrictions which must be gathered from the scope and context: as where the gospel is said to have been preached to every creature under heaven. Col. 1:23. We have this statement, that every creature under heaven, and it is in the past tense "...was preached to...” so, that by the time Paul is writing to the church at Colosse, we could interpret it to mean that all men and all animals had been preached to. But the word "creature" must mean "men", and not all of them, for the Word at that time had not yet gone to the far reaches of Europe, Asia, not to North and South America, etc. The Word had only been preached, mainly, to the Roman world where the apostles and their converts had gone. The only other instance that I know of where it went to another section of the world was the Ethiopian eunuch whom Philip taught.
As to preaching to all creatures, other than humans, I do not remember reading anywhere that any of the apostles or their disciples preached to animals. We had to wait for Francis of Assisi for that particular madness.
And finally, on this particular objection to our argument concerning the fact that election is founded on grace, we read in Acts 15:21, "For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him...", we must understand that only the cities where Jews were living and where they had built synagogues were meant, and at the time when Luke wrote Acts there were very many cities indeed that had Jews and synagogues.
I trust I have at least made you think about the use of the word "all" in the scriptures and shown that just as we often use it and only mean some instead of the "whole of mankind," so it is in our Bible.
There is another argument that is brought up often questioning election's existence and that is; how can this kind of election be reconciled with Acts 10:34 that says, "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said. Of a truth I perceived that God is no respecter of persons:".
This is a scripture that convinces us of how difficult it is to live only with the absolute literal sense of words in our English instead of taking a firm look at the Greek and the context of the passage. This verse if taken only absolutely literally would have to remind us to take the previous objection to mean that all are included and then take this one and find that all are excluded, for God could according to this verse have respect for no man.
Taken this way, the Jews whom the Bible calls an elect nation would have to be brought to question for that would mean that God did have respect for them and according to this passage at its face value He could not. We would have a contradiction in scripture.
It is obvious that if we keep on reading we will find in the context that God respects no man's person, either less or more, for his outward condition, or carnal privileges. Until Christ died and Peter preached to Cornelius the partition was up, and God seemed only to regard the Jewish nation, allowing the rest of the world to walk in their own ways; Acts 14:16, "Who at times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways." At this point there is a change for God had now granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life, Acts 11:18, "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying. Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." God had given the same gift to the Gentiles that He had given to the Jews. And it was a gift — salvation by grace, through faith.
And now one might say, “If men are ordained to salvation absolutely, what is the need or use of good works?”
Good works always have good uses and good ends and there is a good reason why God would ordain His people to walk in them; Eph. 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them," but never supposing for a minute that we are elect because of these "good works". He has pre-ordained the "good works" of His people but they are of no value before salvation. Good works before salvation will not save.
Good works testify of our love of God for we, of this Church Age, have not such evidence of our love for Him as keeping the Old Testament commandments, though they should be Kept to the best of our ability, 2 John 6, says, "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it."
Good works also show forth the virtues of Him Whose offspring we claim to be. Matt. 5:45, says, "that ye may be," that is, that you may appear and approve yourselves to be, the "children of your Father which is in heaven:...".
Good works also convince those who are unsaved, that they, by our good conduct, may be won to the Lord and learn to do good works as well.
It is also true that "good works" can encourage the weaker Christians who are yet children in "good works" that the Father has ordained for all believers. Believers are most apt to be lead by example rather than precept. And I am not throwing out the teaching of precepts.
Good works also exercise our senses and our minds about holy things that we might become more holy and so more capable of communion with God while we live here in this sinful world.
Good works are a part of election and the elect are absolutely ordained to them as they are to salvation itself. John 15:16 says, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give you." Election is decreed and so are the fruits, the "good works" of the salvation that results from that election. There is no way out for the saved, he or she will do "good works," they will bear fruit and that will be good fruit for it will remain.