PREDESTINATION AND ELECTION
B. H. CARROLL (1843-1914) — Founder and First President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
The last clause of verse 48, which reads thusly: "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” needs some explanation.
When I was a young fellow and had not imbibed the doctrine of predestination, I wanted that to read, "And as many as believed were ordained to eternal life." Perhaps that is the way you want to interpret it.
Brother Broadus said, "Let the Scripture mean what it wants to mean” and you let that passage stand — ordination to precede eternal life. Ordination to eternal life takes place in eternity.
Paul, in Romans 8, gives us the order. Many modern people do not believe it. We seldom ever hear anybody preach a sermon on it. I heard a strong preacher once say, "I just can't believe it." Romans 8:29 reads, "For whom he did foreknow, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son…and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified."
Justification comes at believing. So unless that passage reads, "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” it would break Paul's chain all to pieces.
Settle it in your mind that salvation commences with God, and not man.— (Pages 279, 280, Commentary On Acts.)
What is election? Choice toward individuals. When was this choice made? Before the world was. As we were not there then, in whom was it made? In Christ. To what end? That we should be holy and without blemish in love. He blessed us at that time in foreordination. What does that mean? To decree beforehand. Concerning whom? The particular individuals that were elected. Unto what? Unto adoption as sons. Through whom? Through Jesus Christ. According to what? According to the good pleasure of His will. To what end? To the praise of the glory of His grace, (page 79, Commentary on Ephesians).
Volume II, pages 598, 599
1. I believe that election is free and permanent, being founded in grace, and the unchangeable will of God. (Romans 11:5, 6; II Timothy 2:19).
2. I believe that this decree, choice, or election, was before the foundation of the world; and so before the elect themselves, had being in themselves: For "God who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Romans 4:17), stays not for the being of things, to determine His eternal purpose by; but having all things present to Him, and His wisdom, He made His choice before the world was. (Ephesians 1:4, II Timothy 1:9).
3. I believe that the decree of election is so far off from making works in us foreseen the ground or cause of the choice: that it containeth in the bowels of it, not only the persons, but the graces that accompany their salvation. And hence it is that it is said; we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), not because we are, but "that WE SHOULD be holy and without blame before him in love." (Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 2:10). He blessed us according as He chose us in Christ. And hence it is again that the salvation and calling of which we are now made partakers, is no other than what was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began; according to His eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:8-11; II Timothy 1:9; Romans 8:29).
4. I believe that Christ Jesus is He in whom the elect are always considered and that without Him there is neither election, grace, nor salvation. (Ephesians 1:5, 7, 10; Acts 4:12).
5. I believe that there is not any impediment attending the election of God that can hinder their conversion, and eternal salvation. (Romans 8:30-35, Romans 11:7, Jeremiah 51:5; Acts 9:12-15).
6. I believe that no man can know his election, but by his calling. The vessels of mercy, which God afore prepared unto glory, do thus claim a share therein. (Romans 9:24, 25).
7. I believe therefore, that election doth not forestall or prevent the means which are of God appointed to bring us to Christ, to grace, and to glory; but rather putteth a necessity upon the use and effect thereof; because they are chosen to be brought to Heaven that way; that is, by the faith of Jesus Christ, which is the end of effectual calling. (II Peter 1:10; II Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter 1:12).
Wrote the famous book THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS. Spent many years in old Bedford jail for preaching the Gospel. He still preached to sinners who gathered outside the jail and hundreds were saved.
JOHN A. BROADUS
Author of COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW; SERMONS AND ADDRESSES; JESUS OF NAZARETH; HARMONY OF THE GOSPELS; and other books.
Famous Baptist Theologian; Taught at Southern Seminary, Louisville
"From the divine side, we see that the Scriptures teach an eternal election of men to eternal life simply out of God's good pleasure." (Commentary on Matthew, page 450).
By J. M. PENDLETON
Outstanding Baptist Scholar of the late 19th Century; Author of CHURCH MANUAL, CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES, DISTINCTIVE BAPTIST PRINCIPLES, etc.
While there is nothing in predestination which forbids its use in the sense of the foreordination of all events, it is commonly employed with reference to human beings. It comprehends the purpose of election, and also, as will be shown, the purpose of "reprobation," as it has been called, which, as has been well said, "is nothing more than withholding from some the grace which is imparted to others." These two purposes may be expressed thusly:
"That God chose in Christ certain persons of the fallen race of Adam, before the foundation of the world, unto eternal glory, according to His own purpose and grace, without regard to their foreseen faith and good works, or any conditions performed by them;" and that from the rest of mankind He withheld His grace and left them to dishonor and the just punishment of their sins.
The ideas brought to view in this statement need and deserve expansion. I may therefore say—
1. Election Is Personal
The choice exercised is a choice of persons. It is a choice of persons as distinguished from nations. The Jews were in one sense an elect nation, but their election from among the nations had no special reference to eternal life, to which persons are elected; and in addition to this, they were the only elect nation the world ever saw. But to see that election is not national, we need only turn, to Revelation 5:9:
"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
Here we are plainly taught that salvation is not national deliverance, but that the saved are redeemed out of every nation. An electic operation is referred to— persons selected out of nations. The theory of national election cannot be maintained as the doctrine of the New Testament.
Election is not only personal as distinguished from national, but it is of individuals as distinguished from individuals. The line of discrimination runs between persons. When Paul says in Romans 16:13, "Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord," the reference must be to personal election, as also when he writes to the members of the Thessalonian church,
"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation." — II Thess. 2:13.
Peter, in writing to the "strangers scattered abroad," addressing them as "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father," must have meant personal election.
If it is said that the election of some is the rejection of others, it may be remarked: Rejection is a term needlessly strong, and it is preferable to say that God has left others as they were. The decree of election leaves them where they would have been had there been no election of any. No injustice is done them. The truth is, election is injustice to none, while it is an unspeakable blessing to some. It takes a multitude which no man can number, but which God can number, out of the fallen race of Adam, and raises them up to hope and Heaven.
In proof of this, the following passages may be quoted:
"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." — Ephesians 1:4.
"Who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN."— II Timothy 1:9.
"God hath FROM THE BEGINNING chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." — II Thess. 2:13.
After what has been said concerning the eternity of God, and the consequent eternity of His purposes, it is not necessary to enlarge on a point so plain as that His election of His people is from eternity. Election, being inseparable from the divine purposes, is as eternal as they. As it has to do with eternal life, it is eternal, as going back to the un-beginning past and forward to the unending future.
There are some who make faith and good works the ground of election. That is, they suppose that God elected His people because He foresaw their faith and good works. This view transposes cause and effect, for it makes election dependent on faith and good works, whereas faith and good works are Scripturally dependent on election. When we read, "chosen . . . that we should be holy," it is obvious that the election is not because of holiness, but in order to holiness.
The purpose of election contemplates the sanctification of the elect, and therefore regards them as sinners needing sanctification. The same truth is suggested by the words,
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son."—Romans 8:29.
Here evidently the predestination, including election, did not find its basis or reason in the conformity of the predestinated to the image of Christ, but the conformity is the result of the predestination.
As to the much-controverted passage in Acts 13:48. "And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed," the only natural interpretation is that they believed because of their ordination to eternal life. The Arminian view is without foundation in the Word of God; for election is the source, the only source, whence spring faith, holiness, and good works.
This is the only view of the matter that is worthy of God, changeable purposes would detract from His glory as an infinitely perfect Being. The purpose of election is not arbitrary; is not without reason. God does nothing without reason, but the reason or reasons of His action, He is not always pleased to reveal. Why He chose some persons to eternal life in preference to others, we do not know. But if the reasons of His choice were satisfactory to Him when the choice was made, they will be satisfactory forever, unless better reasons should present themselves to His mind — a supposition which the perfection of His character does not for a moment tolerate.
In short, there can be no philosophic belief that God will reverse His purpose of election, and the Scriptures confirm the teachings of sound philosophy.
Jesus says of His disciples, "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." — John 10:28, 29.
Here the security of believers is strongly asserted; but whence arises the security? Chiefly from the fact the Father gave them to the Son in the purpose of election. If, however, the purpose is reversible, there is no security.
We are also taught that "God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation." — Hebrews 6:17, 18.
The "strong consolation" grows out of the immutability of the divine counsel, which is confirmed by an oath; and the purpose of election, being included in the divine counsel, is as immutable as the counsel itself. It is not necessary to enlarge. Surely the purpose of election is irreversible.
It is well at this point to answer an objection that is often made to the doctrine of predestination. It is said that while the economy of Nature and grace illustrates the use of means, predestination renders their use unnecessary. Why unnecessary? Because the objector supposes a predestinated end will be accomplished without means.
There is nothing, however, to justify such a supposition. We can find nothing in the realm of Nature to countenance it. God said to Noah, "While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." — Genesis 8:22.
The object in view requires me to refer only to "harvest" as included among the purposes of God. It will not be denied that God has decreed the production of harvests while the earth remains; but has He decreed the production of miraculous harvests, that is, harvests without the sowing of seed? Manifestly not. "Seed-time" is mentioned as before "harvest," and clearly preparatory to it. No harvest is predestinated apart from seed-sowing. The means are appointed equally with the end.
Let the nations practically adopt the philosophy of the objection under consideration — namely that predestination supersedes the use of means — and what must follow? Universal starvation. But we need not anticipate this worldwide calamity, for men exercise common sense on every subject except that of religion.
Paul's voyage to Rome is often referred to as illustration of the connection between means and ends. The apostle had been assured by an angel of God that of the two hundred and seventy-six persons on board the ship, not one should be lost. But when he saw that "the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship," he "said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved."
The safe deliverance of all on board the storm-tossed vessel was the predestinated event, but it could not be accomplished unless the "shipmen" remained in their position and performed their duty. Thus in the natural world, on the land and on the sea, we see that means are predestinated as well as ends, and that ends cannot be accomplished without the use of means.
How is it in the realm of grace? The principle is the same, showing the God of Nature to be the God of grace.
"Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them, he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified."—Romans 8:30.
In this verse we have, if I may call it, a golden chain of four links, and this chain reaches from eternity to eternity. The first link is predestination, and the last glorification, while the two intervening links are calling and justification. The first link has no connection with the last, except through the intermediate links. That is to say, there is no way in which the purpose of God in predestination can reach its end in glorification, if calling and justification do not take place. But calling and justification are inseparable from "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
Repentance and faith, then, not to name other things, are means through which the purpose of God in election is accomplished. (Editor's note: Repentance and faith are termed by Arminians to be "conditions" of salvation. This is in harmony with the Arminian scheme; but repentance and faith are not conditions of salvation but rather, means of salvation, as Bro. Pendleton here points out, if the two were conditions of salvation, then the sinner would be the one to perform the conditions of himself, and salvation would be, in part, the work of the sinner. But since repentance and faith are means to salvation, not conditions of salvation, and since the means are the gifts of God, salvation is wholly of God's efficacious, irresistible grace.)
God, therefore, in predestinating the salvation of His people, predestinated their repentance, and faith, and all other means necessary to their salvation. If any inquire, as is sometimes the case, what will become of those elected to eternal life if they do not repent and believe, it is best to answer by asking what would have become of the persons in the ship with Paul if the "shipmen" had not remained at their posts of duty. If it is said that the "shipmen" did remain, I say, those chosen to salvation will repent and believe.
The following passages teach the use of means in connection with the purpose of God in election:
"God hath from the beginning chosen, you to salvation THROUGH SANCTIFICATION of THE SPIRIT AND BELIEF OF THE TRUTH” — II Thessalonians 2:13.
"Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also OBTAIN THE SALVATION which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." — II Timothy 2:10. (Also I Pet. 1:2; Eph. 2:10).
From the first of these Scriptures, we learn that election to salvation is indicated by "sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth;" from the second, that Paul's many trials as a minister had an instrumental connection with the salvation of the elect; from the third, that election is not only through sanctification of the Spirit, but unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ; and from the last, that the purpose of election embraces foreordination to good works. In view of these passages, it is plain that the doctrine of predestination does not supercede the use of means, but requires them.
Before dismissing this topic, it should be said that as God's purpose of election is "in Himself," we can know nothing about it till it is disclosed in the "calling" already referred to. Paul, for example, when he preached in Thessalonica, knew nothing of the election of any of its citizens to eternal life, but after the grace of God was displayed in "effectual calling," he did not hesitate to write,
"Knowing, brethren, beloved, your election of God." I Thess. 1:4.
Hence, too, Peter wrote to his brethren,
"Give diligence to make your calling and election sure."— II Peter 1:10.
It is observable that he puts calling before election. God begins with election, but man cannot. He must begin with the calling, and when he makes that sure, the election is sure. The calling is the only attainable proof of the election.
It will be seen, therefore, that the question of election is, in the hands of a sinner, the most unmanageable of all questions. The reason is, it is none of his business, and he can do nothing with it.
The time has been when in some places sinners, becoming serious on the subject of salvation, instead of repenting and believing in Christ, employed themselves in efforts equally earnest and fruitless to ascertain whether they were elect or non-elect. This was, is, and ever must be, an absurdity. That which is required of sinners is expressed in the words of Peter:
"Repent ye, therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."—Acts 3:19.