Sermon: Selected Texts: Some Thoughts on the Doctrine of Salvation

Sermon Audio

I do hope that you’ve been encouraged and edified in our study through the gospel of John. 29 sermons have beed devoted to this book so far, and we have just recently completed our consideration of chapter 6. A few weeks ago I had mentioned that, after working through chapter 6 verse by verse, I would devote one sermon to discussing the doctrine of salvation. This is that sermon. My reason for doing this is to, hopefully, bring clarity to some of the difficult things that have been stated in John 6.

It is here in John 6 that Jesus himself reveals that some people have been given to him by the Father. It is those – all whom the Father has given to him – who will come to him and believe in his name (6:37-39). It is here that Jesus reveals that no one can come to faith in Christ unless the Father draws that person – no one is able (John 6:44, 65). It is here that Jesus reveals that the will of the Father for him is that he would loose none of those whom the Father has given to him, but raise them up on the last day (6:39-40).

To state things in a most direct way, a careful consideration of John chapter 6 demands that the Christian come to terms with this truth: that it is God who determines the salvation of sinners. God not only provided the way for salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son, but he is also at work applying the salvation earned by Christ to a particular people – to an elect and chosen people – as he effectively draws them to himself through Christ and by the Holy Spirit

The doctrine of predestination, or election, is expressed here in John 6. More than that, the five points of Calvinism, as they are called, are found here.

  1. Men and women are described as being totally depraved – totally unable to come to Christ apart from the work of God. They are fallen, living in darkness, blind, and dead. Their appetites are set upon the things of the world. They are unable to understand Christ’s words. This is true so much so that Christ says in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” And again in 6:65, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Man is totally depraved, that is, totally unable to come to Christ by themselves.
  2. Some are said to be given to the Son by the Father – this is the doctrine of election. John 17:6 will build upon this, where Jesus says, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” And again in John 17:24 Jesus says, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” The doctrine of unconditional election is stated most clearly in the Gospel of John.
  3. The doctrine of limited atonement is also here in John’s Gospel. Christ himself says that the will of the Father for him is that he would loose none of those given to him. And so Christ’s mission is stated in the most precise terms here. It true that he has come as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of world. But it has already been demonstrated that the word world is used in the Gospel of John, not to refer to every individual person without exception, but to this fallen, sinful, and rebellious place; to all the peoples of the earth – Jew and Gentile alike. It is true! Christ is indeed the Savior of the world – there is no savior except him. But the Gospel of John is also more specific. The will of the Father for Jesus is clearly stated. It is that he would loose none of those given to him by the Father – that he would loose none of the elect. In John 10:11 Jesus utters these words: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And again in verse 14, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” The doctrine of limited atonement, or particular redemption, is found here. Christ is indeed the Savior of the world! All who come to him, Jew in Gentile, will by no means be cast out! But the deeper and more revealing truth is this – Christ came to die specifically for those given to him by the Father. They are his sheep – the elect.  This is the doctrine of limited atonement, or particular redemption, if you prefer that terminology.
  4. The doctrine of irresistible or effective grace is also found here. This is the teaching that God not only choose some, but that he is also effective in drawing them to himself through the Son and by the Spirit.  It is found in this most simple statement of Jesus: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he [the Father] has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:39–40, ESV) God the Fathers will for the Son was, and is, that none of those given to the Son would be lost. So a particular group was given – this is election or predestination – and God’s will for Christ is that none be lost. If even one is lost, then Christ has not accomplished the Fathers will. Is anyone really willing to say such a thing? I think not! Christ was effective in accomplishing salvation for all whom the Father had given. And the Father is also effective in drawing those who are his to himself: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:44–45, ESV) God is effective in drawing those who belong to him to himself.
  5. And finally the doctrine of perseverance is also here. Those given to the Son by the Father will indeed be preserved by God until the end. They will persevere. I hardly need to read any more of John 6 to you, for it has already been stated. The will of the Father for Jesus is that he would loose none but raise it up on the last day. John 10:27-30 builds upon this principle. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Those given to the Son by the Father will persevere until the end, not because they are strong in and of themselves, but because Christ is strong, and the Father is strong. He will keep them. They will certainly be saved to the uttermost! Those who appear to follow Jesus and then walk away prove to have never been true disciples. Jesus knew that Judas was a devil from the beginning – he never belonged to Christ. The multitude followed Jesus because the wanted earthly bread and an earthly king. These were not true disciples who lost their salvation, but false disciples, temporary believers, hypocrites. John speaks to the elsewhere saying, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19, ESV) Those who are given to the Son by the Father will persevere in Christ to the end, because God has promised to preserve them to the end.

I’ve decided to break now from our verse by verse consideration of the gospel of John in order to deal with this doctrine – the doctrine of salvation – in a straight forward way. My reason is this: Christians often struggle to understand the doctrine of election when they first encounter it. I struggled. Many of you have struggled. And I know that some of you are struggling now!

It seems that one of the reasons Christians struggle to understand the teaching of scripture on this point is because they fixate upon certain aspects of the doctrine, while failing to consider the whole of what the bible reveals.

It’s a bit like setting one piece of a puzzle on the table and trying guess what the image is. No one could do it! But as pieces are added, and as pieces are put into the proper place, the picture becomes clear. So it is with the doctrine of salvation. If we zoom in and fix our attention only upon what the scriptures have to say about election, or predestination, we will likely not comprehend it. But if we back up and consider what the scriptures have to say about salvation from a broader perspective, then the biblical teaching on election begins to make sense – it all begins to fall into place. And that is my goal this morning. I’d like to provide you with more puzzle pieces, if you will, so that you can set them into place and better understand what Christ means when he says that some people out of the many have been given to him by the Father, and that it those who will believe and be raised up in glory on the last day. 

I’ve already provided you with a brief overview of some of the main principles of the doctrine of salvation that we have come across in John’s gospel. What I would like to do now is to make some clarifying remarks and address some of the common questions that people have concerning this doctrine. My hope is that as each of these principles are presented it would be like setting a new puzzle piece down onto the table helping you to see this doctrine more clearly.

I. If we are to understand the biblical doctrine of salvation we must first understand what the scriptures have to say concerning our fallen condition

The first puzzle piece I would like to present is this: if we are to understand the biblical doctrine of salvation we must first understand what the scriptures have to say concerning our fallen condition.

This, in my opinion, is the most crucial puzzle piece of all. If you are missing this piece, it is unlikely that you will ever complete the puzzle. The principle is this: men and woman, in their natural state, apart from the work of the Spirt, are totally depraved and wholly incapable of finding their way to God or responding to the gospel in faith as they ought.

Article 1, under the Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine in the Canons of Dort (of which the so called Five Points are a summery) says that,

“Man was originally formed after the image of God.1  His understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator, and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright, all his affections pure, and the whole man was holy.2  But, revolting from God by the instigation of the devil and by his own free will,3 he forfeited these excellent gifts; and in the place thereof became involved in blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity, and perverseness of judgment; became wicked, rebellious, and obstinate in heart and will, and impure in his affections.4”

1 Gen 1:26-27; 2 HC 6; 3 Gen 3:1-7; HC 9; 4 Rom 3:9-18; Eph 4:17-19”

When we confess that man is totally depraved we are not saying that every person is a bad as he or she possibly can be (There are some people that we call good people. But they are good only when we compare them to others who are not so good. And they are good (to whatever agree they are good) only by the grace of God). No, total depravity does not mean that men and women are all as bad as they could be. It means that every aspect of their being – all of their faculties – having been corrupted by the fall, are averse to the things of God. Our minds are fallen – we do not reason as we ought. Our will’s and affections are fallen – we desire the wrong things and go after them. Our hearts are fallen – our love is misplaced. Instead of giving glory to the God who made us, we glorify ourselves. We worship and serve created things instead of the creator.

Here is what the scriptures say:

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’ ‘Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.’ ‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’ ‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes’” (Romans 3:9–18, ESV)

And so we must begin here with a proper understanding of the state that man is in. He is not good in the eyes of God. He is not good, or even neutral, morally speaking. No, men and woman, ever since the fall, are fallen. We are born in sin, in state of spiritual death, deserving of God’s judgement.

This is what John’s gospel teaches us. The principle is found in the prologue with the mention of the light coming into the darkness (1:4-13). It’s also found in the Jesus encounter with Nicodemus in chapter three: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:3, ESV) But it is most clear in John 6 where Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44, ESV) This is why some prefer the language of total inability, I think. For that is the point. We, in our fallen and sinful state, apart from the working of God through the Holy Spirit, are unable to come to Christ.

Just as a dead man cannot make himself live, and a blind man cannot make himself see, neither can a man in the state of spiritual death and spiritual blindness chose to live and see as he ought. He or she is totally depraved, completely incapable.

Paul says it this way in Ephesians 2:1-5:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:1–5, ESV)

It is only after we understand the depth of our depravity that we will be able to understand why it is that election, and irresistible grace, for example, are true and necessary. We can see that they are true simply by reading scripture. But many Christians fail to understand why it must be this way because they first of all misjudge our condition apart from Christ.

II. If the doctrine of election is to be understood it must be remembered that election is unconditional

The second puzzle piece I would like to present is this: if the doctrine of election is to be understood it must be remembered that election is unconditional.

That election is taught in the scriptures is hard to deny. It is taught in the Old Testament and the New.

In the Old Testament we read of the election of the people of Israel. They were God’s chosen people. They were chosen as a people – not all of them for salvation – but as a people, or race of men, in order to advance God’s plan of redemption on earth. They were called out of Egypt and set apart from all of the other nations by means of their unique laws and customs until the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ, would come.

But the Old Testament also reveals that individuals were elect in regard to their faith in God and unto salvation. I think of the distinction between Cain and Able. I think of Noah finding favor (grace) with God. I think of the call of Abram, and the distinction made between Jacob and Esau. The principle of election was clearly in force in Old Testament times.

But election comes front and center in the New Testament. Listen to the way that Christians are addressed in the New Testament letters:

To the Ephesians Paul writes:

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:1–6, ESV)

To the Thessalonians Paul writes: “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.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4–5, ESV)

When Peter writes to Christians he writes:  “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” (1 Peter 1:1, ESV)

More evidence could easily be presented, but it is hardly necessary. It is clear that those who are in Christ, are in him because they have been chosen by God – given by the Father to the Son that they might be raised up in glory on the last day.

But notice that we do not merely confess to believe in election, but more specifically, unconditional election. That word, unconditional, is of great importance. It means that God’s election, or selection of people was not based or upon something good or beautiful or deserving within the person. It was not conditioned upon something. This is how we choose. We see something lovely and then we select that person or thing based upon the loveliness that we perceive. God does not love as we love. He choses to love the unlovely and undeserving, and then makes the person lovely through the Son.

This is what Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8–10, ESV)

God’s election of sinners was an act of pure grace!

I emphasize this because I will sometimes here people object to the doctrine of election, saying, “well isn’t it arrogant to claim that you are the chosen of God?” I can understand the confusion. But that confusion is wiped away when you understand that the scriptures teach unconditional election. God’s election of sinners is not based upon any favorable condition within them.

Paul writes,

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:26–31, ESV)

God’s election of sinners was unconditional.

III. It must be understood that the doctrine of election (as well as irresistible grace and perseverance) does not take away our freedom of will

The third puzzle piece is this: It must be understood that the doctrine of election (as well as irresistible grace and perseverance) does not take away our freedom of will.

This is the question I encounter most often when discussing the doctrine of salvation with people. They will respond saying, “well if predestination is true, the what about free will? Don’t we have free will?” My response is usually this: “what do you mean when you say, free will?” I have found that a great deal of confusion exists when people fail to define the terms that they are using.

If by free will you mean that man, in his fallen state, has the ability to either reject God or choose him apart from any outside assistance from God, then I would say, “no, man does not have free will if that is what you mean.” Jesus himself has said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44, ESV) Man is unable to come to God on his own. He hears the gospel and rejects it every time when left to himself. Man is limited in his ability to choose things that accompany salvation. Man is in bondage – he is not free. He is in a state of death, not life.

But if by free will you mean that men and women make real choices from the heart, I would say, “yes, indeed! Man has this kind of free will!” Our choices are real choices. We do what we want to do. We make decisions, big and small, from the heart each and every day. We are not robots. We are not puppets on a string. We are humans, and we freedom of will in that our choices are real.

But notice that it is the condition of the heart which determines what we choose. Our will operates freely (we make real choices from the heart and are not coerced by anything external), but our souls – our intellect and our will – are fallen and deprived, dark and sinful. We tend, not towards God, but away from him. We love the wrong things and therefore worship the wrong things.

The will is free! But we are in a state of sin, apart from the work of Christ.

I do wish that you would grow more and more familiar with our Confession of Faith – it truly is outstanding. Perhaps you could resolved to read through it along with the scriptures on the Lord’s Day, or something like that (it can be found on our website under resources). Chapter 9 of our confession deals with the question of free will. I can’t think of a better summery of the Biblical position. Listen to it:

  1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. (Matthew 17:12; James 1:14; Deuteronomy 30:19)
  2. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God, but yet was unstable, so that he might fall from it. ( Ecclesiastes 7:29; Genesis 3:6 )
  3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. ( Romans 5:6; Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:1, 5; Titus 3:3-5; John 6:44 )
  4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by his grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruptions, he doth not perfectly, nor only will, that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil. ( Colossians 1:13; John 8:36; Philippians 2:13; Romans 7:15, 18, 19, 21, 23 )
  5. This will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone in the state of glory only. ( Ephesians 4:13 )

Notice three things:

One, the will of man is still active, even after the fall. We make real choices from the heart.

Two, the key is to recognize that man exists in different states of being. Before the fall man was in a state of innocency. He (Adam and Eve) “had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God, but yet was unstable.” Natural man after the fall is in a state of sin and is unable to do “any spiritual good accompanying salvation.” But there are some who God, by his mercy and grace, converts and translates into a state of grace. This is the new birth that Jesus spoke with Nicodemus about. This is a part of the drawing that the Father does according to Jesus in John 6. Those translated into a state of grace are freed from their “natural bondage under sin.”  By grace God “enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.” And yet, because of our remaining corruptions – the world, the flesh, and the devil – we do still struggle with sin. And there is one more state that we all look forward to – the state of glory. It will be then that we are free to only “will and to do that which is spiritually good.”

Three, notice that it is God who makes the difference. He is the one who transforms man to core of his being so that he can freely choose God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. When God effectively brings us to salvation he does not drag us to himself kicking a screaming against our will. No, he renews our will. He woos us. He changes our hearts. He opens our eyes and enlivens our soul. Whatever metaphor you prefer, the idea is clear. God draws sinners to himself through what the scriptures call new birth.

We have free will in this sense – our choices are real. They are so real that God will be just in holding people accountable for them at the judgement. But we are not free, in our fallen and sinful state, to chose God on our own, and apart from God’s saving initiative. We are unable to see Christ as precious and to say yes to the gospel, unless God the Father draws us to the Son by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.

We have free will if what you mean by that is that we make real choices and are not robots or puppets on a sting. But we are not totally free in our fallen state. We are unable to come to Christ unless the Father draws.

IV. Though the doctrine of election is certainly true, prayer and evangelism are still necessary and powerful

The fourth puzzle piece is this: Though the doctrine of election is certainly true, prayer and evangelism are still necessary and powerful.

This too is a common question: If it true that God has chosen some, and that all who are chosen will surely  come, then why pray? Why preach he gospel?

The simple answer is this: Prayer and the proclamation of the gospel are the means that God has determined to use to bring the elect to salvation.

Notice that in John 6, Jesus is simultaneously teaching that some were given to him by the Father – that those not drawn by the Father could not come, and he was making a free offer of the gospel. He was saying, ‘come, eat, drink believe!’ Why would he do this? Because evangelism – the gospel call – is the means that God uses to bring sinners to himself.

Listen to Paul’s words. As you know Paul certainly taught that election or predestination is true. And yet he says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16, ESV)

Listen to this phrase and put some thought to it: God has ordained the means and the ends. I’ll say it again, God has ordained (ordered, decreed) the means (the way that his purposes will be accomplished) as well as the ends (the end result of things).

Take your life, for example, and consider your testimony. Let’s say you came to Christ really and truly at age 25. Your coming to Christ, really and truly, is evidence that you are in fact among the elect. God has ordained the end, namely, that you would believe in the Son and have life in his name. But tell me, did you just magically believe one day out of the blue? Were you just walking down the street when all of a sudden, though you had never heard of Christ before, you suddenly believed? I think not! No, here is what happened. You grew up in a particular home. You had certain experiences. There were certain people who were influential in your life (some positively, and some negatively). And at some point someone decided to share the gospel with you. Someone was probably praying for you. Perhaps maybe many people were! God uses means to bring sinners to repentance. God works through his people as the pray and proclaim the truth of scripture.

I can’t even begin to explain how all of this works together; it is far to complex for my mind to comprehend. But this I know: No one will come to salvation except through the proclamation of the gospel and by the power of prayer.

To come to the conclusion that, because election is true, we need not evangelize or pray is a most ridiculous thought, and a terrible distortion of the scriptures. You and I may not understand how it all works, but we do have the command of God:

Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful…” (2 Thessalonians 3:1–3, ESV)

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV)

God has ordained the means and the ends. Prayer and evangelism are the means that God has determined to use to bring the elect to salvation. He is sovereignly bringing about both the means and the ends. I am sure of this, if we hope to see people come to Christ in faith, then we had better pray and share the gospel. People will not be saved except through the gospel.

V. Though it is true that God has chosen some to salvation, and has left others in their sin, he is by no means unjust

The fifth puzzle piece is this: Though it is true that God has chosen some to salvation, and has left others in their sin, God is by no means unjust. 

Sometime people will respond to the doctrine of election saying, “well that’s not fair. It is wrong of God to choose some and not others.” 

My response is to ask, “how so?” The response: “Well God must give everyone equal opportunity, equal treatment.” My response: “Why would you think that?”

We think that way when we assume that God is nothing more than a bigger and better version of us. But he is not like us! He is beyond us! He is the creator, we the creature.

Listen to the way that Paul responds to this same question in his letter to the Romans. He writes:

“As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:13–24, ESV)

God is God. We are his creation. More than that, we are his fallen and sinful creation. We have all rebelled against him. Why would ever think that God is obligated to save, obligated to show mercy. He is not. In fact, it is incredible that he has!

Listen to the Canon of Dort, Articles 1and 2 under the First Head of Doctrine entitled Divine Election and Reprobation

Article 1

As all men have sinned in Adam1, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death,2 God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin,3 according to the words of the apostle: “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God” (Rom 3:19).  And: “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).  And: “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).

1 Rom 5:12; 2 Rom 6:23; 3 Eph 2:1-3

Article 2

But in this the love of God was manifested, that He “sent His only begotten Son into the world, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (1 Jn 4:9; Jn 3:16).

By no means should the doctrine of election cause us to question the fairness or justice of God. God would be fair and just to save none. Instead, the doctrine of election should cause us praise his name and to stand in awe of his mercy and grace! And that is how the scriptures present this doctrine, with the intent that they would move us to praise. “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:5–6, ESV)


I am well aware of the fact that I have not provided answerers to all of your questions about the doctrine of election. Perhaps you had 1 puzzle piece out 20 when you came here today. Perhaps you knew that the doctrine of election was true from our study in John. Now, Lord willing, you have 5 or 10 puzzle pieces out of 20. You’ll need to work to sort them out and to set them down in the right place, but hopefully you can see the biblical doctrine more clearly. If you have question, please ask them. Come to me so that we can talk.

This complicated stuff, isn’t it? It’s especially complicated if you’ve been taught otherwise. You must relearn some things. So why do I bother to teach this?

One, I teach this because the scriptures teach it. I feel bound to the task.

Two, I teach this so that you might understand how salvation is accomplished and applied. You ought to rightly understand your own salvation. And you ought to understand how it is that others are saved.

Three, I teach this so that you might be moved to worship God in humility. Above all this doctrine should produce more humility and more worship.

This is not a doctrine hidden away in the scriptures. It is front and center. It is doctrine that impacts the people of God profoundly, driving us to understand who God is, who we are, and how it is that we came to him.

In the end we can only agree with Paul as he worships, saying,

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33–36, ESV)


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"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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