Paul's Passing Thoughts

God’s Choosing in Election

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 26, 2018

Originally Published January 26, 2017

Much is made over any number of verses in the Bible that people will point to as a proof text for election, or Calvin’s notion of “unconditional election”, the idea that God chooses who will be saved and who will be damned. One such verse is Matthew 22:14.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” ~ Matthew 22:14

To the casual reader (which unfortunately describes many “Christians” these days who are not good students of scripture but rather leave the heavy lifting of study and critical thought to some “authority”) it would appear that Jesus is indeed stating that people are chosen. For those of you who are like me and are not casual readers but actually do think critically, a simple observation of the context and grammar of the passage shows otherwise.

This verse comes at the end of the passage where Jesus gives the parable of the marriage feast. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who prepares a grand feast for his son’s wedding. In the passage, the king sends out invitations, but only a few accept the invitation. The king then offers the invitation to more and more so that the wedding feast will be full of guests. The ones who reject the invitation are cast into outer darkness.

Among other things this parable teaches, one is that the “church” is not the Bride of Christ, but rather the “church” are the guests at the wedding. But this passage also gives us a clear understanding about the real doctrine of “election.” There is a distinction made between those who are given the invitation to come to the wedding and those who accept the invitation. It should be noted that those who reject the invitation do so by their own choice, not because God pre-ordained them to damnation.

I think the reason the concluding verse of this passage is so confusing, aside from man’s attempt to use orthodoxy as a means to control, is because of the lack of clarity in the grammar in all English translations. The key to understanding Matthew 22:14 is that we must recognize something that is clear in the Greek but not so clear in English. The words “called” and “chosen” are adjectives and not verbs. This means that the words identify or describe a particular group and do not indicate an action.

If we assume, as the common assumption is, that “called” and “chosen” are verbs, that is not necessarily a problem with the first clause. It speaks to the sending out of an invitation. To say that many “are called” is to acknowledge that an invitation is indeed given out to men- men are called to the wedding feast; men are called to accept salvation. But if we project that same grammatical usage onto the second clause, then we would necessarily be forced to accept the idea that the ones who respond to the invitation do so not by personal choice but by God’s determination alone. But this conclusion presents us with two rationally inconsistent ideas. Why would God bother to invite all mankind if He was only going to choose a few?

Let’s take a look at the grammar of verse 14. Here I have taken an excerpt from my electronic interlinear Bible that shows the verse parallel with the Greek text. The notations below the Greek indicate the part of speech and usage.

matthew-22-14-grammar

The first thing I want you to notice in this verse is that there is only one verb. The word “are” in the second clause “few are chosen” does not appear in the Greek text. Your Bible probably indicates this by having “are” italicized. As you can see by the notes above, the verb used is equivalent to the English word “is” or “are”, and it is used here in this verse as a linking verb. When a verb is a linking verb, that means the subject and predicate can be switched, and the meaning of the clause remains the same.

This is especially important when you realize that with the exception of the two conjunctions “for” and “but”, all the other words are adjectives. Not only are they adjectives, but the notation “_Nom” that you see beneath them indicates that they are used in the nominative case. That means they can be used in either in the subject or as a predicate nominative. And since they are all nominative case, that means that the phrases:

“many are called, few are chosen”

means the same thing as

“called are many, chosen are few.”

So you can see by grammatical analysis, that the idea of “chosen” doesn’t specify an action upon a group but instead it identifies or labels a group. What you have in this verse is the identification of two sets, one named “The Called”, and another named “The Chosen”. In addition, we are given some indication as to the relative size of each group, many and few. Please keep this in mind as we move on, this is important: these are not actions, they are people groups!

Moreover, the second group is a subset of the first group. Let me give a more mundane example to help illustrate my point.

spotted and speckledFarmer Jones has 50 white goats. 30 of them are all white, but there are 20 of them that have spots and speckles. So while the larger set of all 50 goats are indeed white, a subset of them (20) have spots and speckles. So it would be accurate to say that:

“Of farmer Jones’ goats, many are white but few are spotted and speckled”

Notice that “white” and “spotted” are not verbs or actions that describe something happening to the goats, but rather they are labels given to identify the larger set (white) and the subset within that larger set (spotted/speckled). To say that a number of goats are white isn’t saying something “whited” them. Likewise to say that a number of goats are spotted isn’t saying something “spotted” them. They are not goats on which somebody performed the act of speckling and spotting. It is a label only.

In this same sense, in Matthew “called” and “chosen” are not verbs or actions that describe something happening to the subject, but rather they are labels given to identify the larger set (“The Called”) and the subset within that larger set (“The Chosen”). Said another way, they are not the subject on which someone performed the act of “choosing”. It is a label only.

Many are Legos, but few are green.Let me use another mundane example. This one is a little more personal to me, but if you have kids you can probably relate. My five children (even the almost 16-year-old!) love to build with Legos. In fact, you could probably say that we do our fair share in keeping the Lego company solvent. We have TONS of Legos.

Now, consider this pile of Legos you see pictured at right. Notice that there is a pile of green Legos surrounded by another pile of assorted colors. The assorted pile are Legos, but they are not green, and the pile of green ones are still Legos. By looking at this picture, one could say, “There are many Legos, but few are green.”

Let me use one more example. My son’s birthday is coming up soon. Let’s say I have decided that I am going to host a birthday party, so I am going to send out invitations to all his friends and our family. Let us also say that I decided two months ago that I was going to host this party. And when I decided to host this party, I also decided that everyone who comes to the party will receive a door prize; a small bag of candy and other treats.

Now let us assume that I send out 100 invitations, but only 20 guests show up. Those 20 guests will receive the door prize. Remember, I decided that two months ago. So it could be said, that many were invited to the party, but only a few showed up to receive the prize.

Now consider this. Did I choose who would show up? No, of course not. I chose what they would receive when they got here. While I did not actually choose who would show up, the ones who did received the prize. Whoever showed up was a result of those individuals who decided whether to come or not. Those to whom I sent the invitations could be referred to as “The Invited.” Those who showed up to receive the prize could be referred to as “The Prized”. So, many are Invited, but few are Prized.

Now consider this passage at the beginning of Ephesians.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 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: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” ~ Ephesians 1:3-7

This is another favorite passage that many use as a proof text for the doctrine of election and determinism. But look carefully at what the apostle Paul is saying. The scenario is the same as that of the birthday party example.

election-chart

Careful examination of the grammatical structure of this passage makes it clear that God did not choose who would be saved. God chose what those “in Christ” would receive.

“The Called” are those to whom God sent out the invitation to receive eternal life. “The Chosen” are the ones who accepted the invitation and received the gift that God chose to give to all those who accepted the invitation.

What is remarkable about these conclusions is they are rationally consistent with the rest of what scripture teaches about soteriology. There is no need to perform theological gymnastics in order to force together contradicting conclusions or simply dismiss one or the other altogether.

~ Andy

God’s Choosing In Election

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on January 26, 2017

Much is made over any number of verses in the Bible that people will point to as a proof text for election, or Calvin’s notion of “unconditional election”, the idea that God chooses who will be saved and who will be damned. One such verse is Matthew 22:14.

“For many are called, but few are chosen.” ~ Matthew 22:14

To the casual reader (which unfortunately describes many “Christians” these days who are not good students of scripture but rather leave the heavy lifting of study and critical thought to some “authority”) it would appear that Jesus is indeed stating that people are chosen. For those of you who are like me and are not casual readers but actually do think critically, a simple observation of the context and grammar of the passage shows otherwise.

This verse comes at the end of the passage where Jesus gives the parable of the marriage feast. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who prepares a grand feast for his son’s wedding. In the passage, the king sends out invitations, but only a few accept the invitation. The king then offers the invitation to more and more so that the wedding feast will be full of guests. The ones who reject the invitation are cast into outer darkness.

Among other things this parable teaches, one is that the “church” is not the Bride of Christ, but rather the “church” are the guests at the wedding. But this passage also gives us a clear understanding about the real doctrine of “election.” There is a distinction made between those who are given the invitation to come to the wedding and those who accept the invitation. It should be noted that those who reject the invitation do so by their own choice, not because God pre-ordained them to damnation.

I think the reason the concluding verse of this passage is so confusing, aside from man’s attempt to use orthodoxy as a means to control, is because of the lack of clarity in the grammar in all English translations. The key to understanding Matthew 22:14 is that we must recognize something that is clear in the Greek but not so clear in English. The words “called” and “chosen” are adjectives and not verbs. This means that the words identify or describe a particular group and do not indicate an action.

If we assume, as the common assumption is, that “called” and “chosen” are verbs, that is not necessarily a problem with the first clause. It speaks to the sending out of an invitation. To say that many “are called” is to acknowledge that an invitation is indeed given out to men- men are called to the wedding feast; men are called to accept salvation. But if we project that same grammatical usage onto the second clause, then we would necessarily be forced to accept the idea that the ones who respond to the invitation do so not by personal choice but by God’s determination alone. But this conclusion presents us with two rationally inconsistent ideas. Why would God bother to invite all mankind if He was only going to choose a few?

Let’s take a look at the grammar of verse 14. Here I have taken an excerpt from my electronic interlinear Bible that shows the verse parallel with the Greek text. The notations below the Greek indicate the part of speech and usage.

matthew-22-14-grammar

The first thing I want you to notice in this verse is that there is only one verb. The word “are” in the second clause “few are chosen” does not appear in the Greek text. Your Bible probably indicates this by having “are” italicized. As you can see by the notes above, the verb used is equivalent to the English word “is” or “are”, and it is used here in this verse as a linking verb. When a verb is a linking verb, that means the subject and predicate can be switched, and the meaning of the clause remains the same.

This is especially important when you realize that with the exception of the two conjunctions “for” and “but”, all the other words are adjectives. Not only are they adjectives, but the notation “_Nom” that you see beneath them indicates that they are used in the nominative case. That means they can be used in either in the subject or as a predicate nominative. And since they are all nominative case, that means that the phrases:

“many are called, few are chosen”

means the same thing as

“called are many, chosen are few.”

So you can see by grammatical analysis, that the idea of “chosen” doesn’t specify an action upon a group but instead it identifies or labels a group. What you have in this verse is the identification of two sets, one named “The Called”, and another named “The Chosen”. In addition, we are given some indication as to the relative size of each group, many and few. Please keep this in mind as we move on, this is important: these are not actions, they are people groups!

Moreover, the second group is a subset of the first group. Let me give a more mundane example to help illustrate my point.

spotted and speckledFarmer Jones has 50 white goats. 30 of them are all white, but there are 20 of them that have spots and speckles. So while the larger set of all 50 goats are indeed white, a subset of them (20) have spots and speckles. So it would be accurate to say that:

“Of farmer Jones’ goats, many are white but few are spotted and speckled”

Notice that “white” and “spotted” are not verbs or actions that describe something happening to the goats, but rather they are labels given to identify the larger set (white) and the subset within that larger set (spotted/speckled). To say that a number of goats are white isn’t saying something “whited” them. Likewise to say that a number of goats are spotted isn’t saying something “spotted” them. They are not goats on which somebody performed the act of speckling and spotting. It is a label only.

In this same sense, in Matthew “called” and “chosen” are not verbs or actions that describe something happening to the subject, but rather they are labels given to identify the larger set (“The Called”) and the subset within that larger set (“The Chosen”). Said another way, they are not the subject on which someone performed the act of “choosing”. It is a label only.

Many are Legos, but few are green.Let me use another mundane example. This one is a little more personal to me, but if you have kids you can probably relate. My five children (even the almost16-year-old!) love to build with Legos. In fact, you could probably say that we do our fair share in keeping the Lego company solvent. We have TONS of Legos.

Now, consider this pile of Legos you see pictured at right. Notice that there is a pile of green Legos surrounded by another pile of assorted colors. The assorted pile are Legos, but they are not green, and the pile of green ones are still Legos. By looking at this picture, one could say, “There are many Legos, but few are green.”

Let me use one more example. My son’s birthday is coming up soon. I have decided that I am going to host a birthday party, so I am going to send out invitations to all his friends and our family. I decided two months ago that I was going to host this party. And when I decided to host this party, I also decided that everyone who comes to the party will receive a door prize, a small bag of candy and other treats.

Now let us assume that I send out 100 invitations, but only 20 guests show up. Those 20 guests will receive the door prize. Remember, I decided that two months ago. So it could be said, that many were invited to the party, but only a few showed up to receive the prize.

Now consider this. Did I choose who would show up? No, of course not. I chose what they would receive when they got here. While I did not actually choose who would show up, the ones who did received the prize. Whoever showed up was a result of the individuals who decided whether to come or not. Those to whom I sent the invitations could be referred to as “The Invited.” Those who showed up to receive the prize could be referred to as “The Prized”. So, many are Invited, but few are Prized.

Now consider this passage at the beginning of Ephesians.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 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: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” ~ Ephesians 1:3-7

This is another favorite passage that many use as a proof text for the doctrine of election and determinism. But look carefully at what the apostle Paul is saying. The scenario is the same as that of the birthday party example.

election-chart

Careful examination of the grammatical structure of this passage makes it clear that God did not choose who would be saved. God chose what those in Christ would receive.

“The Called” are those to whom God sent out the invitation to receive eternal life. “The Chosen” are the ones who accepted the invitation and received the gift that God chose to give to all those who accepted the invitation.

What is remarkable about these conclusions is they are rationally consistent with the rest of what scripture teaches about soteriology. There is no need to perform theological gymnastics in order to force together contradicting conclusions or simply dismiss one or the other altogether.

~ Andy

 

What is Election According to the Bible?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 24, 2016

ppt-jpeg4If the laity want sound definitions of biblical words in order to obtain truth, they will have to study the Bible themselves in order to show themselves approved of God. For example, Protestant scholarship has always defined “election” as the pre-selection of individuals for salvation and damnation. This conclusion can only be drawn by foisting presuppositions on many passages. Election often refers to things and people having no need of salvation. For example, according to Nave’s Topical Bible: Christ; Isa 42:1, 1Pet 2:6, National Israel; Dt 7:6, Isa 45:4, and angels; 1Tim 5:21.

Election is God’s choosing of things and people for specific purposes. It is interesting to note that things and people contrary to God’s purposes are never referred to as some kind of other elect class. There is only one elect category.

In conjunction with election, there is the “called” who are in essence everyone defined by three groups of people: the Jews, the Gentiles, and the “one new man” (Eph 2:15). The manifestation of the one new man is a word often translated, “church,” viz, “ekklesia” which means, “called out assembly.” This called out assembly is also elected (1Pet 5:13).

Election is the choosing of things, groups, and individuals that serve the purposes of God’s redemptive plan. Individuals are NOT chosen unto salvation or damnation, election pertains to God’s plan of salvation and what He chooses to serve that purpose. Election is about the means of salvation offered to all people as a gift. Man did not, or could not devise a plan of salvation, but he is able to participate in the plan of his own free will. The plan was not of man’s will, in fact, his tendency is to hide from God, but he does have the will to be persuaded to accept reconciliation on God’s terms. The plan of salvation and its terms are elected and offered to man as a “promise” contingent on faith alone.

Let’s begin to develop this with passages that speak of God’s election, or “purposes.”

Romans 13:1 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

So, governments are elected (“Instituted” or “ordained”) by God for what purpose? “…for he is God’s servant for your good.” But, are all governments elected by God? No, only those who are performing the purpose of election. Election is defined and qualified by its intended purpose. Now, in many theologies and philosophies, the purpose of election is reduced to whatever supposedly glorifies God. This makes election a determinism issue. Hence, everything that happens is God’s will and for the purpose of His self-love and glory. By reducing election to this single purpose, it strictly defines election in terms of God’s sovereignty or the “gospel of sovereignty”—a term that appears nowhere in the Scriptures. What God elects is confirmed by the application of its purpose, or the practice of its purpose (2Pet 1:10 ff.). Hitler’s Nazi Germany was not elected by God; their practice did not coincide with God’s purposes. Governments are elected, but not all governments are of God’s elect.

Therefore, election also speaks to generalities as well. As far as Christ’s called out assembly, what group of people did He primarily focus on?

1Corintians 1:26 – 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. 27 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; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

As far as calling, which includes the three aforementioned groups, God focuses primarily on the lower-class among those groups. And what is the purpose? His glory, because the upper crust tend to get credit for what God does. Does this mean God only saves the poor? Of course not. But culturally, God has always fought against man’s tendency to worship aristocracy, nobility, and errant authority. When Christ told the apostles that it was easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle in comparison to the salvation of the rich, He was using an extreme example to smash a cultural paradigm. Have you ever noted the response He received from the disciples? Who then can be saved? Christ then cited the impossibility of men to come up with plans and means of salvation which is, for all practical purposes, often attributed to the noble. Listening to men rather than studying to show one’s self approved of God is the worship of man’s authority. James also addressed this same problem in his epistle.

God does elect individuals to serve in His purpose of salvation. This election of individuals for ministry in God’s salvific purposes is often attributed to individual predeterminism. In contrast, people groups are chosen for a purpose, not salvation for the sake of salvation, or damnation for the sake of damnation. With that said, God does single out individuals, or elects them for specific ministries and purposes. The following concerns the apostles:

John 15:16 – 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. 17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Many are quick to jump on this passage as a proof text for individual pre-selection, but Christ is addressing disunity among the apostles and reminding them that it was Him who chose them for the task of apostleship which was being compromised by their selfish mentalities.

Also, as we shall see, those presently not fulfilling God’s purposes of election are not necessarily destined to continue in their rebellion, but before we move on, let’s pause to consider another point:

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Who are the “those,” and “many brothers”? We assume individuals, but could this not be referring to elected types or groups of people made up of individuals that accepted the free gift of God’s elected plan of salvation? Before you write this off as a stretch, consider the following:

Matthew 22:1 – And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Now, as in many of the English translations, “chosen” in verse 14 should really be “elect.” This conveys more of an idea of a group rather than those who were preselected. But one thing is clear: the “called” are both Jew and Gentile. Those who accept the invitation to the wedding feast become the elect. The real idea here is in essence, many Jews and Gentiles are called, but few are of the elect. Prevalent among the Jews of that day was the idea that being a Jew alone made you the elect. No, this parable refutes that idea and encompasses Paul’s purpose of calling Gentiles as well in order to make the Jews jealous (Rom ch., 11) and thereby save some of them. At any rate, the Jews and Gentiles both are called to Christ, and what is the PURPOSE of that calling?

Ephesians 2:15 – by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

The gospel is God’s elect plan to reconcile mankind to Himself, but also to reconcile and bring peace/unity between Jew and Gentile, in fact, this is the very “mystery of the gospel.”

Ephesians 3:1 – For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

1Corinthians 12:13 – For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Every diverse type and group of people imaginable are called to be baptized into this one new man of which Christ is the head. And what is the purpose of this calling?

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Who are the predestined? Groups and types of people who are called: “And those whom he predestined he also called.” However, it is very clear from Matthew 22 that all of the called do not accept the invitation, but if they do, they are also, “justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” How can someone who is not yet redeemed be glorified? They aren’t; the glorification of the group or the elect is what is predetermined. The purpose of election is to justify and glorify the called, but all of those called to not conjoin themselves with God’s purposes.

John Calvin was not oblivious to the contradiction in regard to the called for those who want to buy into pre-determinism, and therefore sought to rectify the contradiction by created a class of elect that were temporarily elected. Hence, the called (Rom 8:30) who are justified are justified temporarily as opposed to the other classification of elect: those who persevere.

In Romans 8 those who are predestined are called, but in Matthew 22 not all who are called are of the elect. That’s a contradiction. Therefore, this is best understood through the purposes of election: it is God’s predetermined purpose to justify and glorify all who are called, and in fact, has already done so through Christ’s work on the cross. Nevertheless, those who do not accept the invitation of the call remain disinterested in God’s purposes.

We will conclude with a look at Romans chapter 9 because it seems to emphasize individual pre-selection. Again, we struggle to not see this as individual predestination because of how we have been conditioned. But the point of the passage is God’s purposes in election through miraculous rebirth according to “the promise.”

Romans 9:6 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

God elected governments, but not all governments are his elect according to his purposes. God elected Israel, but not all Israelites are of His promise because the promise is through new birth, not Jewish birthrights. Those who are Israelites according to the flesh (born into nationality) are not the elect group, but rather those born into promise by the new birth. The whole passage should be interpreted in regard to elect/non-elect  groups, not individuals. Let me drive this point home by citing what Paul says further along in the text:

Romans 9:23 – in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people, ’and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

Romans 9:30 – What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.

Who is the “us” in Rom 9:24? It is the “one new man” called from among two other groups. Individuals are not in view here, elected groups are. And, not all of the called are part of that group; only those who respond to the invitation by faith alone. Remember, the backdrop of Romans 9 is Jew/Gentile. The purpose of election is to make Jew and Gentile one unified body—the goal is to reconcile the hostility between the two groups as a result of being reconciled with God.

In regard to the whole prepared vessels for wrath or glory in verses 19-23, Paul writes,

Romans 9:19 – You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 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?” 21 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? 22 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, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

But again, Paul clarifies what this speaks to immediately following in verse 24, “US,” as in, the one new man, not individuals. I believe this is key; God calls groups for His purposes, but it is their choice to accept or reject the invitation. Once they do one or the other, they themselves choose to remain in group A, or join group B. I believe Matthew 22 is the interpretive key for this thesis.

The vessels are people called to God’s elect purposes; those who are called into purposes and works prepared beforehand by God—not the salvation of individuals:

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

2Timothy 2:21 – Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

God elects the work and defines what is honorable or dishonorable, but note our choice to cleanse ourselves. We put God’s purposes into practice because this is why we choose the gospel in the first place; a desire to align our individual purposes with God’s elective purposes. We can only affect this through the new birth which only God can bring about, but we can accept the invitation or reject it.

This is another consideration in this passage; the new birth.

Abraham is the father of national Israel and its descendants, but the gospel (the promise) only comes through miraculous new birth. With Abraham, it was the birth of Isaac when Sarah was well beyond childbearing age. God’s offspring are brought about by God’s life creating work, not men. In the case of Rebekah, it was God prophesying that Jewish tradition would be reversed and the older would serve the younger.

Romans 9:8 – This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Please note, that once again, election is hitched to a specific purpose: to eradicate all notion of works from justification. No one can birth themselves. However, they can accept the promise of new birth through faith alone. This whole discourse regards…”that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls.”

Now, also note that many make, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” something that God did before the two were born. No, read the passage that Paul cites (Malachi 1:2-3). This is something that happened well after the fact. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy that righteousness would come through the promise of miraculous birth, not works via Jewish tradition or default salvation by Jewish heritage/nationality. This why God elected the one seed, Christ, and Paul continues on in explaining two more groups: the children of Jewish flesh (nationality), and the “remnant” that are children of the promise.

And finally, even in all of this, consider those who are in a group that is not of promise: “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious” (Rom 11:11 NIV).

Listen, proponents of the so-called “sovereign gospel” can’t have it both ways, and we also see yet another purpose of election; to make Israel jealous, which assumes cause and effect. Those in any given group can recover through the preaching of the word, or the casting of the life-giving-seed of God’s word which Paul also writes about in the same context.

Election is defined by God’s MANY purposes, not a reductionist “gospel of sovereignty.” God calls individuals to elect groups and purposes. His purposes are predetermined, not who will accept the free invitation which is to everyone because God “shows no partiality.”

Do you want to enhance your presentation of the gospel? Do a study and list all of the purposes of God’s election. Election is defined by God’s purposes. Give lost people a vison regarding what God is up to in his wonderful plan of salvation. This is a pretty deep topic, and per the usual, my goal and the goal of this ministry is to get the ball rolling in the right direction. However, it will take the collective efforts of God’s laity to unpack the wonderful doctrine of election.

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Election

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 4, 2014

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This will be our ninth and final lesson on election. We will now continue on in our verse by verse study of Romans. We will resume in Romans 14:1. Just three chapters left in our study of Romans. We are not quite ready to relent from our focus on justification in this gospel-illiterate age, so our next verse by verse focus will be Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

I wanted to divert into a temporary journey of discovery regarding election because it is an important part of Paul’s letter to the Romans. As I have stated before, I was comfortable skimming over the subject because of the overall ignorance in regard to justification. I somewhat rethought that position and decided to look at election closer. The first eight parts of our interlude have set forth a mostly logical argument against the idea of salvific preselection of individuals, but I believe our study here nails down a definitive doctrinal argument based on grammatical interpretation.

I have come to believe that individuals are not preselected, but it is the plan of salvation that is elected, and the end of it predetermined. Hence, the certain outcome of God’s plan for the ages is what is predetermined, and that is part of the good news: a hopeful outcome is predetermined, not specific people. Certainly, God knows who is going to be saved, but He does not preselect individuals for eternal life and eternal damnation. I have seen this vaguely in Scripture from time to time, but the first three chapters of Ephesians have convinced me of it.

This is why we are going to move on in the book of Romans; we could spend a lifetime learning about election, but I think basic understanding is enough for now as we will see more of the pieces come together in future readings.

Whenever election appears in the text of Scripture, the subject is almost always Jew and Gentile, and that is what we see in the first three chapters of Ephesians. Election is not about individuals, it is about God’s purpose for groups in His overall plan of salvation. Individuals are not excluded from the plan of salvation. The plan is offered as a gift to man, and there is no other way to be saved. That’s the theme of election—it is the offering of a gift; viz, God’s plan of salvation for all men.

Ephesians 1:3 – 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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

“Us” refers to both Jew and Gentile. Jew and Gentile were chosen before the foundation of the earth, not individuals. Paul will also cite the specific purposes of God’s plan accordingly. Two groups of people are in view here, not individuals. As we move along, this becomes clearer and clearer. These groups were chosen “in Christ.” His death made the inclusion possible. These groups will also be adopted sons, or part of God’s literal family.

Ephesians 1:7 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

What is elected is Christ and God’s plan for the ages. The “mystery” of His will is according to His purposes set forth in Christ. The purposes are, “to unite all things in him,” which includes heaven and earth, and to make it all “known to us,” that is, Jew and Gentile.

Ephesians 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, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

“We” is Jew and Gentile. But, “we” in verse 12 are the Jews only who were first to hope in Christ. God’s will is that they be the “praise of his glory.” Note “In him you also” (verse 13) is obviously talking about Gentiles. Individuals are not the subject here. What is in view is God’s plan, purposes, and the groups that He has chosen to bring about those purposes according to the counsel of His will.

Individuals enter into the privileges and purposes of God’s plan when they hear the word of truth and believe. It is when we hear the gospel and believe that we are “sealed.” Hence, it is God’s plan for people groups that is predetermined, individuals are saved in time when they hear the gospel and believe. It is “when” we heard and believed that we were “sealed,” we were not sealed before the foundation of the earth; we were sealed in time when we believed. There is a clear distinction in the text between these two ideas. We enter into God’s family and His plan for the ages “through” faith.

Ephesians 2:1 – And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 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— 3 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. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

“Made ‘us’ alive together with Christ” continues to show the dominant theme of Jew and Gentile and God’s purposes in making both groups joint heirs of God’s salvation and entry into His family. Now, many take note of “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”…

See! See! Your very faith is a gift. Not only is the plan predestined, your faith is predestined.

So, the question becomes, is it God’s grace (salvation) that is the gift, or faith? Let’s answer the question with Scripture:

Romans 3:22…For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.

Clearly, it is grace that is the gift, made possible by Christ’s death, and “received” by faith. In both texts, the fact that grace is the gift excludes boasting, not the idea that our faith is predetermined. Also, “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power” (Eph 3:7). Grace is the gift, not faith. Faith comes by hearing the word and being persuaded that it is the way of salvation.

Ephesians 3:11 – Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

This is the “mystery” that is now revealed:

Ephesians 3:1 – For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

And another purpose is stated:

Ephesians 3:8 – To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

The revealing of the mystery and its purposes in Christ is what is elected, not individuals. This is the very theme that is initially stated:

Ephesians 1:3 – 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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Again, “us” is both Jew and Gentile—that the two would be one is what is predetermined—not individuals. It is an “eternal” purpose (Eph 3:11). We gain “access” to this purpose and become part of its covenants and promises “through our faith in him” (Eph 3:11). Faith is distinct from the eternal purpose which is elected. God elected the means which are accessed through faith. If faith is the mark of those who have been preselected as opposed to those who haven’t been preselected, why wouldn’t the Bible state that fact in plain terms? This is why some peradventure to make faith a gift in the same wise as grace using Eph 2:8. Romans 3:22ff and many other texts refute that idea—grace is the gift. In one sense, faith is an indirect gift because without grace there is nothing to believe in, but in the biggest sense salvation is a legitimate offer and mankind’s choice to either accept the gift or reject it.

In this discussion, let’s consider Matthew 22:

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Again, the context of election is two groups: Jew and Gentile. Jesus directs this parable towards the Jewish leaders who were rejecting Him and leading the Jewish people to do the same. The original invitation to the wedding feast was to the Jews. When they, for the most part rejected the invitation, and even murdered those who invited them, the King orders His servants to call anyone they can find to the feast (the Gentiles). The one found at the feast without the traditional wedding coat represents a Jew who comes to the feast on his own terms.

What I would like to address is verse 14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Just about everywhere else in Scripture, the same word translated “chosen” here, is eklektos which appears 21 times in the New Testament and translated “elect.” So, a better translation here would be, “many are called, but few are elect.” Jesus was addressing the mindset of the Jewish leaders that they would be a part of the great feast because they were God’s chosen people. In reality, they were being called to God’s elect purposes which included Christ, the elect angels, and the election of Jews and Gentiles both. Their rejection of this elect purpose would condemn them to eternal punishment. The point saturates the context surrounding this passage.

This brings us to the infamous Acts 13:48:

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed (ESV).

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the various translations of this verse, the context is God’s predetermination that the Gentiles would become heirs of the promises made to Israel. There would not be two classes of people in the kingdom—Jew and Gentile would become one body in the commonwealth of Israel. That is the mystery of the gospel revealed in this age. Acts is the historical account of this plan being unfolded. The point in Acts 13:48 is the inclusion of a group, not the preselection of individuals. I do believe that many translations slant this verse towards that conclusion (individual selection), but clearly, it doesn’t fit the context and is off-topic.

It is amazing how we have been conditioned by Protestantism to interpret everything through the prism of individual selection. Every instance of intervention on God’s part is used to assume plenary predeterminism and thereby plunging the Scriptures into total confusion. God “opened” Lydia’s heart, so that means nobody understands anything unless God shows it to them. Hence, all ignorance is predetermined by God. “Study to show thyself approved,” but you aren’t going to understand anything unless God “opens” your eyes like He did to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

This extreme view of Scripture starts with plenary monergism, and can only lead to one place: a caste system that inserts philosopher kings as mediators between mankind and God. This is also why Reformed theology posits Christ as the primary member of the Trinity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit playing secondary roles: Christ is promoted to the role of Father so that men can assume His role as mediator between God and mankind. This is where a Platonist worldview is essential to the mediation of elitist philosophers construct. God predetermines certain men to rule over the great unwashed masses. This, in turn, leads to absolution and salvation being found in an institution run by elitists.

Yet another consideration:

Romans 9:6 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 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.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 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?” 21 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? 22 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, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Once again, what is the context? In fact, what is the context of what follows in Romans chapters 10 and 11? Answer, the whole Jew/Gentile issue… “even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” Because of God’s elected purpose, neither Jew nor Gentile has reason to boast. And again, it is grace that is elected, not individual choice. Does the Bible ever say directly that individual choice is predetermined? I don’t think so. Rather, freedom to choose seems to be assumed. For certain, what man can choose is predetermined, but the choice itself is not predetermined. Many things such as God’s intervention and helping us in our weakness is interpreted as plenary monergism—I think this is wrong—weakness does NOT equal total inability.

Furthermore, indeed, God hated Esau and loved Jacob before they were even born…or did he? Read the text carefully. Before they were born, he predetermined that the older would serve the younger based on what God knew about these two men and their lives beforehand. Esau would not be selected to further the linage of the coming Messiah because of what God knew about his character beforehand. If you read the Old Testament text that Paul uses to make his point (Malachi 1:2,3), you will find that God hated Esau because of his betrayal of Israel in time, not because God predetermined his behavior.

God elected the plan of salvation and His  purposes for the ages. All men are “invited” (klētos: Rom 8:28; Matt 22:14) to be a part of this plan THROUGH faith. Many are invited, but only those who love God are part of His elect group called out for His specific purposes. The plan, and the way he works all things together for the elect is His “workmanship,” not individuals per se. In other words, God doesn’t predetermine our choices as God’s elect. He may intervene at certain points to bring about our good, but we are responsible for our own choices. Unsaved people are free to accept the invitation or reject it.

This is why many of the Reformed make it a point to call the gospel an “announcement,” “herald,” or “proclamation.” The idea that the gospel is an “invitation” creates huge problems for them.

The so-called “church,” ekklēsia, is the “out-called,” ek (out) – klesia (called). It is not an institution; it is a calling to Gods purposes for the ages and an invitation to be a part of it. You are being called away from all other plans to God’s plans that have a certain end—you can also call that “repentance.” You are “persuaded” by the invitation and believe it.

You are then part of God’s elect.

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