The goal of this series is to magnify God’s grace and to humble man’s pride.
This is blog post is based on Covenant Reformed Seminary of Asia’s session on The Sovereignty of God and the Doctrines of Grace: Unconditional Election Part 2
In this blog, we will answer the common objections to Unconditional Election, since many are still unable to accept this teaching. Before we dive into the discussion of the objections, we must remember our definition of election: It is God’s gracious choice of individuals, from eternity, for salvation, based solely upon His love. It is gracious. It is personal. It is eternal. It is unto salvation. Its ground is nothing but His love in Christ.
- Election is unto service
- Election is unjust or unfair
- Election destroys evangelism
- Election imputes partiality to God
- Election is based on foreknowledge
# 1 ELECTION IS UNTO SERVICE
This objection points out that election in both OT and NT is an election to office and service.
- In the OT Saul was chosen as king 1 Samuel 10:24
- In the NT Judas was chosen as an apostle John 6:70
In both of these cases, these were chosen for office and service but neither were chosen for salvation
We agree that there’s an election to office or service. We agree that at times the Scriptures speak of this kind of election.
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”
John 6:70 ESV
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
John 15:16 ESV
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
John 15:19 ESV
But the Scripture also speaks of election UNTO salvation. To limit election to office or service is to miss important biblical texts that clearly speak of election unto salvation. The passages below are clear that God has chosen the believers in Thessalonica that they were chosen for salvation.
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
2 Thessalonians 2:13 KJV
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Romans 8:32 KJV
Thus, while we do not deny that Scriptures speak of election unto mere office or service, it also teaches, an election unto salvation.
#2 ELECTION IS UNJUST OR UNFAIR
This is a very common objection. This objection states that election suggests that God sends people to hell for no reason but His will. They wrongly believe that “If God chooses some for salvation He must choose others for damnation.”
The Order of God’s Decree
This may be confusing and difficult for some because the order is not chronological, and it is hard for us to think of the order in eternity. We never had an experience outside of time.
While we speak of the order of God’s decrees, these are actually one eternal act in God. This refers to the logical order of God’s decrees. Logically, according to the Scriptures, God decreed to create, allow the fall, and then elect a people. This means that God elects a people out of fallen humanity, and He leaves the rest to justly perish in their sin.
This is where many people go astray. They think that God chose to create man, elect some to leave others to hell, without any concern for their sin and guilt. This is about infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism.1
Reasons why God’s decree of election follows the fall logically.
- Election views man as fallen and guilty.
- Romans 9-11 have an important connection to chapters 1-3 where all men by nature are equally depraved and in need of redemption. Chapters 4-8 show that there’s one common salvation for all men whether Jew or Gentile. It boils down to one basic theme: All men are lost in Adam and all men are recovered in Christ.
- Now we ask, does this mean that the promises of God to Israel have failed? In verse 6 he says, Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.
- If God has a people within a people, who ultimately make this decision? Who chose Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau? In verse 11, 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;. In verse 18, we see God’s prerogative in showing mercy, and in verses 21-23, we see God’s prerogative is further illustrated as the potter over the clay.
- This means that only fallen humanity can be the object of God’s mercy.
- Election is gracious and unto life.
- NT speaks of election as God’s positive choice of some to life. This means, while God elects some to eternal life, He bypasses the others, leaving them justly in their sin.
- Both election and reprobation view mankind as fallen and corrupt. Election is gracious and reprobation is just. For God to save some, he must do something, but to reprobate some, He simply leaves them alone. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Romans 9:18 KJV
- Election is in Christ
- even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him (Ephesians 1:4 ESV). The Father chose us in Christ. We have blessings in Christ, election (4), adoption (5), redemption (7).
- Our election viewed us as fallen, and thus, the fall was prior to election in God’s eternal decrees.
- God decreed to create a world, allow man to fall into sin, He then chose Christ as the Savior of the world. and elected people to be saved in Him. God’s decree to save follows His decree to create and allow the fall.
- Canons of Dort (1st Head, article 15) “Some are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal election of God, whom God decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves.“
- LBC—“By the decree of God, some men and angels are predestined, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of His glorious justice.”
# 3 ELECTION DESTROYS EVANGELISM
If God has already chosen a people for salvation then why preach about salvation? If God has already determined who will be saved, then why do anything about it?
- This objection contradicts Scripture and experience.
- The Scriptures and church history are filled with missionaries who believed in election. Paul says in 2Ti 2:10, Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. Here, Paul took the gospel and endure all afflictions and sufferings. Why? It is for the sake of the elect. All of the greater missionaries throughout church history have, almost without exception, been Reformed (Whitfield, Muller, Judson, Brainer, Carey, etc.)
- According to Bob Selph, “History provides all the evidence necessary to prove the ludicrous nature of the claim that election kills evangelism. Consider all the major missionary movements, along with the Great Awakening in America. Consider the Great Protestant Reformation in Europe. It is easily demonstrated that believers in Unconditional Election have led the way in missionary zeal and effort.”
- This objection fails to understand election is one part of God’s decree
- Eph 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.
- Some ask, if everything has already been decreed, then why do anything, why not just lie down and die?
- God’s decree in no way denies the reasonability or free actions of men. Acts 2:23 says, this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Those who crucified Christ were responsible.
- This objection fails to understand that God decrees the ends as well as the means.
- Election isn’t salvation. It is unto salvation. But all who are elected will certainly be saved.
- 2 Thess 2:13-14 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake
- Joel Beeke—”One consequence of locating election in the larger decree is that the goals of election cannot be attained apart from the means decreed by God. The elect must and will hear the gospel call, respond with justifying faith, and persevere in faith unto glory.”
- George Whitfield (in a letter to John Wesley in 1740, responds to Wesley’s first objection to election, ‘If there be an election then is all preaching vain; it is needless to them that are elected; for they, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be saved’)— “Oh, dear sir, what kind of reasoning is this! Has not God, who has appointed salvation for a certain number, appointed also the preaching of the word as a means to bring them to it? Does any one hold election in any other sense? And if so, how is preaching needless to them that are elected, when the gospel is designed by God himself to be the power of God unto their salvation.”
- God has also decreed the preaching of the gospel to realize the goal of election which is unto salvation.
# 4 ELECTION IMPUTES PARTIALITY TO GOD
This objection says that “If God chooses some and not others, then God is not impartial” according to Rom 2:11. But according to the context, this means that God rendered to all men in accordance to their works regardless if they are Jew or Gentile. God shows no partiality with regards to nationality, gender, age, or social status—-all are dealt with equally.
Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands
God is not impartial because He doesn’t owe any man anything—God is free to show mercy to whom He wills.
Shawn Wright rightly comments “He’s the Creator; we’re his creatures. He’s the potter; we’re the clay. He determines what is right; we don’t. We must seek to understand the Bible on this topic; not import our ideas of what God can and can’t do” (40 Questions about Calvinism, 167).
The fact that God chooses one man but rejects another arises not out of regard to the man but solely from His mercy, which ought to be free to manifest and express itself where and when He pleases.John Calvin
# 5 ELECTION IS BASED ON FOREKNOWLEDGE
Some objects that God elects those He foreknew would believe.
This distorts the nature of God. To assert that God looks into the future to know it, dishonors God. God does not need to look into the future to know anything—God knows all things past and future perfectly and simultaneously. False teachings largely are the result of a faulty and more grievously a low view of God.
This ignores the clear teaching of the NT that election is based upon God’s will and not man’s faith (1 The 1:4-5).
This misunderstands the meaning of foreknowledge—within the Scripture, to foreknow is to forelove. It is not a knowledge that he has before but a love that He has before (Gen 4;1, Matthew 7:23, Romans 8:30, 1 Peter 1:1-2). The objects of God’s foreknowledge are persons, “whom He foreknew”, Paul says in Romans 8:29. “So, for God to truly know is for God to truly love… God’s election of His people is His seal that He loves them… He is so passionately and intimately in love with His people that He offers His own Son to go to Calvary for them. (Beeke, Living for God’s Glory, 63).
If foreknowledge of God is looking at the future prior to God’s decree, what God will see there is NOTHING since there is no single object has been decreed yet.Jhun Balanon
There is no place for any human effort—whether faith, obedience, or perseverance, or any combination of them—as the reason for God’s predestination of the elect. He chooses to love them because that was His choice, not because He foreknew what they would do.Shawn Wright, 157-158
True Christians can deny unconditional election. Some believed (hyper-Calvinists) that one must embrace unconditional election in order to be saved. But we are not saved because we believe in the doctrine of election. We must not equate election with the gospel.
How are we going to treat non-Calvinists or those who do not believe this precious doctrine? Humbly, patiently, and truthfully, let us handle professing Christians who deny unconditional election. A true understanding of grace should produce these Christian virtues.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
1Phillips, R. (n.d.). Lapsarian Views. The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/lapsarian-views/
Beeke, J. R., Ferguson, S. B., & Al, E. (2013). Living for God’s glory : an introduction to Calvinism. Reformation Trust.
Wright, S. D. (2019). 40 questions about Calvinism. Kregel Academic.