Called for Election in Christ

uitverkiezingBy drs. Piet Guijt        vlag

Introduction

Recently I spoke to a young enthusiastic Christian who is very keen to pass on the gospel to people who come to his shop. And the Bible is clearly visible on the counter. We had a good conversation about the good news, but at one point he said, to my amazement, that he was convinced that God would have determinedin advance who would and who would not be saved forever, so that some people were destinedfor hell by God in advance. Apparently this disastrous thought still lives with some Christians.

Franca Treur (2), who has abandoned faith, also says about her book Hear my voice nowthat it is about "a faith in a God who chooses and rejects. And that God has thought in advance whether you will come into heaven or hell when you are dead". Reverend Paul Visser (16) notes that believers in reformational circles get stuck "by a certain explanation of the doctrine of election".  Apparently the idea of the (double) election, a caricature of the Christian faith, still lives in certain church circles. The intended concept of election or predestination is the idea that God is sovereign and determines and establishes everything that happens, no matter what a person wants. Within this reasoning there are two variants: 

  1. a. The single predestination, which means that God has determined in advance who will come to heaven. And the double predestination, which means that God would have determined in advance who will come into heaven and whocould never be saved, and therefore be predestined to hell (9,12). 

On closer inspection there is no substantial difference between the two variants, for the result would be the same. 

In this article, we want to examine how this ‘dual predestination’ view could have beenable to emergeand why it is completely in conflict with the gospel of salvation through personal faith in Jesus Christ.

History

God is love (1 Joh. 3:1) and does not wish for anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Petr. 3:9). Why, then, did very intelligent theologians such as Augustine, Luther and Calvin and a whole synod full of learned men arrive at the predestination doctrine on the basis of studying the Word of God? (15). According to Augustine (who regarded man as sinful through and through), the decisions of grace for the salvation of a few by God have already been fixed for all eternity at the beginning of time, and there is nothing left to be quibbled about for a man (9). Calvin wrote in his Institution (Institutio Christianae Religionis) the astonishing sentences: "All are not created on equal terms, but some are predestined (destined) for eternal life, others for eternal destruction" (14). "As for those who have been rejected, God has decided not to give them the opportunity to know the Gospel, or to know it in such a way that it hardens their hearts" (Institution, p. 733-741) (17). Someone like Arminius rightly opposed this (17). 

In his most important work The unfree will, Luther wrote: "For if we believe that it is true that God knows and determines all things in advance and that nothing happens without His will, then as a logical consequence there can be no free will in a man, angel or any other creature" (Ibid. p. 317, paragraph 19)(14). Further reflection on this sentence reveals all its inaccuracy, for Luther assumed that God determines everything, but that is a false assumption, for it is contrary to the free will, given to man by God (4). 

Some texts that seemto confirm election

We will discuss some Bible texts (that sometimes are looking contradictory) that cause problems for some Christians and make them think that God is an arbitrary God. Thus one could read from Romans 2:5-11 that man is judged by the practice of his life, by his own works and decisions. But in Romans 8:28-30 and 9:11-18 Paul writes about God who will and chooses (9). However, in order to understand these texts properly, it is very important to know that God is love and wants all people to be saved (14).

  1. No one can come to Me unless the Father, Who sent me, draws him(John 6:44). This text is often interpreted in such a way that someone only comes to Jesus when the Father draws him. And to this is linked the (wrong) thought that someone is privileged that God draws him and that others 'thus' would not have been drawn by God (14). How should we understand this text? 

In the verses preceding verse 44, Jesus says that He is the true bread, that He gives eternal life, and that people should believe in Him. Therefore He calls upon men to follow Himas the promised Messiah. But for the Jews it was always clear that they should follow Godalone. Therefore it was very difficult for them to accept the call of Jesus (so that people should follow Him). Therefore Jesus emphasizes the deep unity between Him and the Father they already knew (14). 

So, the fact that the Father draws a man, certainly does not mean that the Father would not be willing to draw everyone, but expresses how someone comes to Jesus. Jesus says: "The only way to Me is if you let the Father draw you. I am in unity with the Father and do not bring an unknown new religion". So God draws allpeople to Jesus, but not all people let themselvesbe drawn (14). God has made salvation possible in Jesus Christ for everyone who desires it. 

  1. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him(Eph 1:4). When reading this verse, one can wrongly emphasize "He chose us"and interpret the text as Calvin did (14). 

However, if we carefully note to be chosen in Him, in Christ, then a completely different picture arises. Actually, there is nothing different than what can be read in John 3:16, namely that God gave His Son so that anyone who would (want to) believe in Him would not perish (12,14). We have been chosen in Him to be accepted as sons (Eph. 1:5) and to become conformed to the image of Jesus, the Son of God (Rom. 8:29). Every person is called/invited, but the question is whether someone accepts the invitation, so wantsto belong to the elect. Think of the parable about the wedding in Matt. 22:1-10 and of the book of Jonah in which it is told that God wants to save an ungodly pagan city (Jonah 4:11).

  1. A part that also reflects this very beautifully is 2 Tim. 1:9: "Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was granted us in Christ Jesus"

In this light we can also see Matt. 22:14: "For many are called, but few are chosen"(eklektoi). The latter does not point to a preliminary predestination, but to the consequence of choosingfor Jesus. The elect (e.g. Matt. 24:22 and Luke 18:7) are those who obey the call for repentance and have chosen for Jesus. But if people reject God's offer, it is their own choice and responsibility that they are lost (6).

  1. So, as those who have been chosen (eklektoi) of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience(Col. 3:12). ‘As those who have been chosen ofGod’ would suggest that Godhas chosen them, but in the original text it says 'as God's elect', which are those who have chosen for Jesus themselves. Paul speaks to the believers.
  1. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for Hisgood pleasure.(Phil. 2:12b and 13). The text seems contradictory, but it is a collaborationbetween what God does and wants, and the man who responds to it. 

The Letter to the Romans

For many Christians, Romans 9 is a difficult chapter. It is often cited to 'prove' the election. It should be noted in advance that a distinction must be made between two types of election. On the one hand the election for salvation in Christ, and on the other hand the election for a certain taskwithin God's plan of salvation (14). 

The central idea in chapter 9 is that Paul wants to make it clear to the Jews that they are not saved by keeping the law (human measure), but by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus (God's measure). Also verses 15 and 16 indicate that everything depends on God's grace which He gives to every human being, and not on the effort (keeping the law: legalism) by man (14). 

In Romans 9: 9-13 Paul writes about Esau and Jacob. God chose to let Jacob (even though he was not the firstborn) be the bearer of the promise (task within God's plan). So not the human measure but God's measure. God decided that Esau should serve Jacob. This submission of Esau to Jacob certainly does not express the fact that God had decided in advance who to save and who to condemn, because that is not what this is all about. But it expresses that God already decided before the birth of Jacob and Esau who would be the bearer of the promise. Therefore Jacob could not be proud of it and say that he would have earned it through works (verse 12) (14). It is about an election for a place or task here and now in time. Also think of Paul who was chosen to proclaim the gospel (Acts 9:15). 

I should like to add a side remark on verse 13. This verse is often interpreted as it has been revealed to Rebekah before the birth of the twins, that God would love Jacob and hate Esau. But that is wrong, for verse 13 is a quote from Malachi 1:1-5 that was written many centuries after the death of Esau and Jacob. This text was written to indicate that God had rejected the people of Esau (the Edomites), because from the beginning they had an enmity attitude toward Israel (Num. 20:14-21). So it is not about Esau's personal destiny (14). 

Then Romans 9:18 - So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.How should we understand this verse? Paul refers to the story about the prelude to the exodus from Egypt in the book Exodus. The chapters 5 up to 11 deal with Moses' request to Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go. If you read these chapters, you see that firstit is Pharaohwho hardens himself, with the resultof the hardening in the heart of Pharaoh. 

The fact that God hardens the hearts of people has to do with the fact that those people firstconsciously rejected God themselves (6). The choice of man precedes the hardening (12). Even though there are some texts (e.g. Ex. 7:13, 9:12, 10:27) that seem to suggest that God hardens the heart of Pharaoh, this would not be compatible with a righteous God, because it would be completely unjust if you actively put the hardening in someone's heart and make it pay for the punishment. 

The book of Exodus is not about the eternal destiny of the Pharaoh, but about the permission for the Israelites to leave Egypt. Even if the Pharaoh had allowed the Israelites to leave the land, it would have been possible that he would not have changed his faith anyway and would have remained an idolater. In this example it is clear that Paul does not want to explain why the Pharaoh would go to hell and was not chosen by God, but that it is about his wickedness, because he opposed the Jewish people (14). Despite undeniable miracles, he did not want to be convinced.

Finally Romans 9: 22-24. Here Paul writes about the objects (vessels) of wrath and the objects (vessels) of mercy. With the latter group he identifies the Christians from the Jews and from the Gentiles. The objects of wrath are those who have chosennot to follow God. We see that in these verses Paul means the theme of the eternal destiny of men. So he certainly does not mean that we cannotinfluence our destiny, but that people must submit to God and follow His rules of life (verse 23).  

No biblical ground for the Calvinist doctrine of election (12,14,15)

From the discussion of the texts above-mentioned, it can already be derived that the disastrous doctrine of predestination is incorrect and untenable. The doctrine of double predestination is even totally unbiblical, and in fact an appalling and God insulting absurdity, for it is the will of God that all people be saved (12). 

For God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but repeatedly calls for repentance (e.g. Deut. 30:19; Eze. 18:30,32; Matt. 23:37; 2 Cor. 5:20) so that man may be saved. This assumes that it is possible! Man may and can choose (John 3:16,18; 2 Thess. 2:10). When He calls us and says: "Repent", He does not command you, but He encourages, admonishes, asks. 

But there are other arguments:

  • According to the doctrine of predestination, man does not have a free will, but that is contrary to various texts, e.g. choose for yourselves today whom you will serve(Jos. 24:15),but you were not willing(Isa. 30:15; Mat. 23:37). 
  • If someone without his own choice were destined for an eternal life with God, it would be impossible to leave God (and be lost eternally), so the consequence would be that apostasy from faith is not possible (cf. Acts 7:51).
  • Election also means that even if someone would want to repent today, he cannot do so, because he has to wait for God to convert him. This means that no one can begin to lead a holy and godly life, although Hebrews 3:7-8 and Ps. 95:7-8 state, "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart”. The doctrine of election leads to passivity and fatalism. Any call to repentance would be senseless.
  • When it is said that God has appointed before creation the people who would be saved, this means that these people were already in Christ before creation, before their birth. But that is not possible, for no one is in Christ until he has accepted Jesus (John 1:12) and is born again (John 3:3). For every man was/is in Adam, because Adam died spiritually (1 Corinthians 15:22, Romans 5:12). Even those called 'the elect" by Calvinists were not in Christ, but were "children of wrath", "without hope" and "without God" (Eph. 2:1,3 and 12). This is what Paul says to the believing Ephesians!
  • The doctrine of election misrepresents God. If God were to decide, independently of the will of people, who is saved and who is not, God would be unjust! After all, it is not just to punish people for something they cannot do or change in principle.
  • The doctrine of election devalues man by denying that he is a person with a will, who is able to act consciously and freely with certain motives and goals. 
  • The doctrine of election is contrary to the promise that everyone who believes in Jesus will not perish (John 3:16).
  • Jesus' promise that everyone who perseveres in faith will be saved to the end (Matt. 10:22; 24:13) would be a lie.
  • The doctrine of election would mean that God has planned in advance that man should sin and that He wants most people to go to hell. This would make God the author of sin, which is contrary to 1 John 1:5 (God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all). 

How is the election meant to be?

Election is the eternal decision of God, originated from love, with which He has drawn up a historical plan for salvation for every human being. By doing so, He has given every person the opportunity for eternal salvation, namely in Jesus Christ! In principle, every human being is chosen in Christ. God has chosen Jesus Christ to be the only and absolute Mediator between God and mankind (14). But God does ask us to believe in Jesus as our Redeemer. Election is not meant as an obstruction, thus as a wall through which you cannot come to God, but as a gate to salvation (1). Someone sketched the following picture: You can see the election as a gate with large letters: CALLED. And when you have entered, there is on the other side: ELECTED.

God does not choose arbitrarily, but on the basis of man's decision(which He, as an eternal God Who is outside of time, knew or did not knew in advance; but that is not essential, because that foreknowledge does not make God responsible). Against this background, we should certainly not see, for example, Romans 8:29,30 and 1 Peter 1:1,2 as an indication or proof of the doctrine of the double predestination, which is in fact an insult to God. After all, God in His love wants to elect (choose and save) everyone to be with Him forever, but He does not force anyone to have a relationship with Him. Think of 1 Tim. 2:3,4 and 2 Peter 3:9 where we read that Goddesires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.That’s what makes God’s heart beating, that is His passion and Jesus showed it in His life, and therefore Jesus also gave His life out of love for God and man (John 14:31). 

God Who is love wanted to share His love and glory with people and enter into a love relationship with them. Love and free will are indispensable in this relationship. A relationship is based on love when both parties have the freedom to choose. God made man with a free will to choose: for or against Him (John 3:36). If someone is forced to be with someone else, it is not an expression of love. If you have power over someone's will, he has become a puppet. God has not created puppets, but people who have the choice to love Him with all their hearts and with all their souls and with all their strength (Deut. 6:5) and to serve Him with joy (Ps. 100:2), or to reject Him. When we have accepted Jesus Christ, we have become children of God and are destined to become conformed to His Son, and to receive an eternal inheritance. 

With this grace He has pardoned us, accepted and adopted us in His Son, in the Beloved, as Eph. 1:6 says (12). We have a God who much rather wants us to be saved than many a person seeks his own salvation in Christ! (3).

Conclusions

With this subject, we see that even well-known Church Fathers were mistaken in interpreting the concept of election. As a result, by proclaiming the doctrine of double election, they have conveyed a false image of God as if He had predestined some people for hell, and what has been a torment for many believers for many centuries. And yet there are many texts that could have made it clear to them that their vision was not right. We only need to think of the best-known Bible text (John 3:16) that God gave His Son to save every man. If there are texts that are not so clear, then one should look at them from texts that are absolutely clear, and not the other way around. This shows that it is very important to know the whole Bible and the heart of God, and to always ask for the light of the Holy Spirit in understanding the various texts in God's Word. 

drs. Piet Guijt

translated by Ursula Moestapa

November 2018

Literature list

  1. Am I really elected?Source: http://www.benikweluitverkoren.nl/brochure/online-lezen
  2. Faith building.Retrospection: Franca Treur, dr. Paul Visser en Irma Verduijn in conversation. Source: https://cip.nl/68155-terugkijken-franca-treur-dr-paul-visser-bij-geloofstoerusting
  3. EGouda, The Doctrine of double Predestination. Source: http://www.refoweb.nl/vragenrubriek/14700/dubbele-predestinatieleer/
  4. Piet Guijt, The human will and the sovereignty of God. In the Promise Magazine of April 2012. Source: https://stichting-promise.nl/pastorale-onderwerpen/de-vrije-wil.htm
  5. Is there no election then? Source: http://benikweluitverkoren.nl/brochure/online-lezen/is-er-dan-geen-uitverkiezing
  6. Dirk-Jan Janssen, Uitverkiezing (Election). Source: http://www.dirkjanjansen.nl/site/index.php/bijbelse-onderwerpen/18-bijbelse-themas/42-uitverkiezing
  7. H. Kieskamp, Johannes 3:16 en uitverkiezing.(John 3:16 and the Election). Source: http://www.refoweb.nl/vragenrubriek/14988/johannes-3-16-en-uitverkiezing/
  8. Jan Peppink, De kerkleer tegen het Licht van de Bijbel. (The doctrine of the Church in the Light of the Bible). Uitverkiezing en verwerping (Election and condemnation). Source: https://peppink.nl/index.php/uitverkiezing-en-verwerping/
  9. Source: https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predestinatie

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