Summary: This sermon gives an extensive treatment of Christian thought on the doctrine of election.
Series: Understanding God’s Grace
Grace And God’s Choice
Lesson Twenty Nine
A. Have you ever wondered whether you chose God or he chose you?
B. Further, if you chose God, does that mean you determined your salvation and God only responded to you?
C. Or did God choose you and you respond to him?
D. Such questions deal with the matter of election-a topic that has been a seedbed of debate among Christians from the earliest of Christian history and continues today.
E. It has also been a dividing line among Christians and denominations as well as a source of division.
F. The differences have been evident in our denomination and are of great interest at the present time.
G. The following is taken from my unpublished book, Grace Greater Than Sin.
A further question to consider as we examine God’s grace-and one that can certainly magnify our appreciation of it, is the matter of election or predestination. While not exactly the same, the second results in the first. This has been a hotly debated matter in Christian history with the word itself being variously defined. On one end of the spectrum, election is the choice of certain individuals for salvation. It can also refer to God’s choice of nations-such as Israel, as well as to his choice of individuals to carry out certain jobs. Jonah’s assignment to preach to the Ninevites would be an example. For the proponent of free will, election refers to the plan of God that all who believe in Christ will be saved. While it applies to individuals, the choice is the plan rather than the individual.
The doctrine of predestination originated in history with Augustine and was challenged by a British monk named Pelagius. New impetus was given to the discussion with the advent of the Protestant Reformation, materializing itself particularly in the persons of John Calvin and Jacob Arminius. It is a debate that continues to the present. While evangelical denominations hold to one of the two positions, there is a high degree of disagreement within the same denominations.
The debate involves such questions as “Does God pursue individuals based on good he sees in them?” Perhaps his foreknowledge allows him to see that one day they will believe in him. Or is his pursuit based solely on his grace and the fact that they are elect? These are questions that must be addressed as we examine this doctrine that has divided Christians. Where one settles on this issue will not affect a person’s salvation, but it will determine what part they see God as having had in the process itself. It is at this point that a healthy doctrine of sin is necessary (thus the extensive discussion in chapter three). Without this firm footing, one can interpret salvation as something other than deliverance from sin and can go even further by seeing no need of it or even believe that all have it whether they consciously exercise faith and repentance or not.
Before examining further elements of this subject, it is necessary to investigate the matter of special revelation. If a person is elect of God (in whatever way one might understand the meaning) and will thus be drawn to God by the Holy Spirit, it is advantageous to understand the various means that the Spirit works through. All of these means are a part of special revelation.
Defined, special revelation refers to the various means that God manifests himself to individuals that give that person enough information to enter into a relationship with him. As mentioned earlier, it is doubtful that general revelation is powerful enough to bring one into this relationship. As evidenced particularly in the Old Testament, God reveals himself in and through historical events. The reason for using the words “in” and “through” is because some theologians have understood a distinction in how God reveals himself in history. Revelation “in” history has led some to conclude that the Bible is not the Word of God but rather a record of God’s acts and humanity’s response to them. Revelation “through” history is associated with neo-orthodoxy. From this standpoint, God is experienced through the event. Revelation becomes personal. A more biblical view sees the historical revelation “as” history. Historical events do not merely contain revelation or become so because we experience it personally, but rather they are revelation.
Special revelation also involves divine speech or God speaking to people. How God does this overlaps with one’s understanding of inspiration, but the speech is there nevertheless. The divine word may come audibly or through an inward “voice” in the head of the one writing down the divine speech. The writer wrote what they heard God saying inaudibly in their minds. The latter is probably the means by which much of God’s divine speech was recorded. Another suggestion is that as the writer wrote, God placed in their minds what he wanted communicated. The writer may or may not have been aware that God was “inspiring” them, but the message they wrote was what God wanted communicated. God also spoke in visions and dreams. Historical events also come into play at this point-particularly in the Old Testament, as the writer interpreted the event and God’s message in it.