Has God Already Chosen The Saved?
One of the biggest disputes in the religious world centers around the question of whether or not man has a part in his own salvation, with the central argument resting on the question of how God saves us. Contrary to the argument of many, one does not necessarily believe that man "saves himself" if he takes a part in the salvation process. I, and many others, believe man does play a part in his salvation, but know and willingly acknowledge that it is not he who does the saving, but God. Man's part is simply obeying the stipulations that God has outlined that bring salvation, the forgiveness of sins.
But the question of whether or not man has a part in his salvation is not the true root of the argument; the differences begin elsewhere. The argument arises because some teach and believe that man can have no part in his salvation because God has already determined who is (and consequently, who is not) saved. They say that God "chose to save some and to exclude others." They also say that those "who were not chosen to salvation were passed by and left to their own evil devices and choices He did this for some, to the exclusion of others "
And what if someone should be object to this "God" they put forth the one who has shown a great measure of partiality and indifference to the majority of mankind? Again, listen to what they say:
"It is not within the creature's jurisdiction to call into question the justice of the Creator for not choosing every one to salvation. It is enough to know that the Judge of the world has done right " and "The fact that He did this for some, to the exclusion of others, is in no way unfair to the latter group, unless of course, one maintains that God was under obligation to provide salvation for sinners a position which the Bible utterly rejects." [Both quotes are taken from the defense written by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1963)]
The problem with this argument, first of all, is that "the Judge of the world" they present has not "done right." This exclusion is unfair, and by saying this, in no way does it obligate God to provide salvation for sinners. What it simply does is point to the error of the position! The "Judge" they present is one who judges with partiality and without mercy. The "God" they present offers salvation to a select few while, at the same time, He offers absolutely no possibility of salvation to the rest. The picture they paint is a carrot of salvation dangled in front of the whole of mankind (the gospel that is preached to all men but worthless to the majority of those who hear), ensuring that some will get it while preventing the rest from reaching it. This is fair? This is just?
The answer is found and the truth may be understood when we consider the very nature of our God and Creator. When we consider that God is described as "a just judge" (Psa. 7:11), and who "so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Because of His justice and because of His great love, He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet. 3:9) In fact, He "commands all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30) He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:4)
The idea that God's salvation has gone out to a limited number of pre-selected individuals goes against Bible teachings, too. God's grace is not limited to the few, but "the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." (Titus 2:11) That grace was the very plan by which men could be saved, and when Jesus commanded His disciples to go "preach the gospel to every creature," He then said that "He that believes and is baptized will be saved." (Mark 16:15, 16) Faith is not the act of grace, but the giving of the word of God, by which our salvation is revealed. Paul said of the gospel, "it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes." (Rom. 1:16) And how does that faith come but by the word of God? (Rom. 10:17)
But predestination is a Bible term, and we must understand its proper use in the plan of salvation if we are to find the answer to the question of whether or not God has chosen all the ones already for salvation. In Ephesians 1:4-5, Paul does indeed say that God "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world," but for what were we chosen, or predestined? He goes on to answer, "that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." God "predestined" that those who would be called his children would be holy and without blame. To the Romans, Paul wrote, "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." (Rom. 8:29-30) It wasn't that God predestined particular men, but the character of those who could be called His children: holy, without blame, and conformed to the image (likeness) of His true Son, Jesus Christ. To say that God has already chosen the saved before man was even created and without any response of man involved would be to deny many Bible passages and would mean that God is not impartial, He is not just, and He is not merciful. I reject such doctrines.
This doctrine is widespread and it is popular among many who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. It is popular often because it puts all the weight on God and takes all of it off of self. If God has chosen us, then what does it matter what we do? We're going to be saved anyway! If we are not chosen, the same rule applies; it wouldn't matter what we did if we could not be saved. Why try at all?
But you see, it does matter. God has not already chosen those who are going to be saved, leaving the choice up to us to either accept or reject His desire that we be saved. And when we respond, we have in no way earned salvation, but simply obeyed the will of the Father and done what He determined would bring us forgiveness of sins. Eternal life is His gift (Rom. 6:23).
By Steven Harper
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