10 Facts about Divine Election

This Sunday morning I’ll preach, God willing, on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5.  Paul had heard of the effects of the gospel in the Thessalonian believers’ lives.  The fruits of their faith, love, and hope confirmed to him “their election of God” (v. 4).  I want to make some statements about the biblical teaching of election as I preach but I don’t intend to spend a major part of the sermon on it.  So I’m placing some thoughts here so those who wish can go over them at their convenience.

These statements are simple, and that is on purpose.  I usually think in pretty simple terms, and I think it helps the average person to see a complicated concept like this presented as clearly as possible.

They are also presented without much in the way of comment, explanation, implications, logical conclusions, etc.  I don’t intend to try to explain or defend the doctrine of election, just state facts.

There is one clarifying point I’d like to make.  There are three categories of election in the Bible.  God elected the nation of Israel for His special favor and blessing.  God elected people to offices or positions, the supreme example of which is Jesus’ election to be the Messiah.  And God elected individual lost sinners to be saved.  It is mainly this third category of election that I am writing about here.

1.  Election is in the Bible.

I count 19 occurrences of words in the vocabulary group associated with election (elect, election, chosen) that clearly refer to individual salvation.

Key verses include Romans 8:33; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:10.

2.  Election is an act of God.

God is the subject.  If God does it, it is good and should be accepted and revered.

3.  Election is a choice.

There’s no way around this.  The word “elect” in Greek is eklegomai and means to choose or select.

4.  Election favors some and not others.

Using the other categories of election as examples, God chose Israel and not other nations.  God chose Jesus and not an angel or another man.  And in the category of salvation, God chose “the elect” and not everyone.

5.  Election is based on God’s sovereign will and pleasure, not on anything we do.

Ephesians 1:4-5 says of God’s election of believers, . . . He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, 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 . . .

1 Peter 1:2 says we are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.  God’s foreknowledge in the Bible is not merely His awareness of what will happen in the future.  It is a knowledge that views something or someone in the future in a positive way.  See Acts 2:23.  God did not only know ahead of time that Jesus would die, He ordained it. His plan for Jesus to die was not conditioned on what someone else would do. Regarding our individual salvation, God did not merely know ahead of time that we would believe and base His election on that.  His foreknowledge is not merely cognitive.  It is determinitive.

6.  Election does not preclude human responsibility.

It is the responsibility of Christians to preach the gospel to every creature.  It is the responsibility of sinners to repent and believe.

7.  Election is a source of assurance.

See Romans 8:28-39.  Verse 33 says, Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?  The implied response is, No one, and the stated reason is that the ones God has elected, He justifies.

8.  Election is not Calvinism, it is Biblicism.

Whether you embrace or eschew the label of Calvinist, believing in election does not make you one.  If you are a Biblicist you will accept and embrace the truth of God’s election.

9.  Election forces us to accept things about God that are uncomfortable to us and don’t make sense to us.

People struggle to understand how God could elect to save some and not others.  If we attempt to shape God’s character, decrees, and acts in ways that fit our finite logic and feelings, we will be frustrated or will redefine the terms to our satisfaction.  To do so is to diminish the nature of God.  We must be willing to accept who God is and what He does as the Bible presents Him.

10.  Election glorifies God.

Ephesians 1:6 states that our election and predestination is to the praise of the glory of his grace.

It is not our place to dispute election, nor to make it any greater or any less than what it is.  It is not necessary for us to grasp it or to make sense of it.  God is eternal and sovereign, and what He does is right and just.  He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).  You must give diligence to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).  All are true.  Our place is to say what Paul did in Romans 11:33 after he expounded the truth of God’s election of the nation of Israel, Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

22 thoughts on “10 Facts about Divine Election”

  1. Helen, This is one of the questions of the ages. My simple response is, I do not have an answer for that. The answer for it lies in the mind of God, and He has not chosen to reveal it to us. His sovereign design does not fit our sense of what is just and fair, nor does it have to. We may have a fuller understanding of this in eternity; then again, we may not. Our place is not to try to figure out what He has not revealed, but to live by and proclaim what He has revealed.

    If you would like to read a sermon that includes several biblical examples and some very good points on this issue, I encourage you to go to

    Thanks for your question, and I hope this helps.

  2. The word “elect” in 1 Peter chapter 1 isn’t even in verse 2. It’s in verse 1 and it modifies choice “exiles” in the various cities, not those chosen to be saved. Your ESV shows it that way.

  3. The word “elect” is in verse 1 in the Greek, not verse 2. Love you my brother, but I just don’t see what you see. Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost, not the chosen. Also, the Greek word “eklektos” has the meaning of being “marked for gathering out of a greater number.” I got that mark when I got the Holy Spirit. I am ready for the harvest. Anyone can be. “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven GIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT to those who ask Him.” Luke 11:13 “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Rev. 22:17. As for the “adoption” to which I am predestined, like Paul as well as you and I, we are eagerly awaiting. Romans 8:23. Receiving Jesus began the process by which I have the authority to become God’s son (John 1:12), but the “adoption” of which Paul spoke is an event yet to happen. That’s why we wait for it. Romans 8:23. I am saved now, and I will be adopted, raptured or resurrected, a mortal who puts on immortality. Like Paul, I eagerly await the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body. It’s the first resurrection and I’m predestined for it because I have received the Son of God as Lord and Savior.

  4. Rick, Thanks for interacting on this.

    I see what you’re saying about the position of “elect” in 1 Peter 1 in the original text. It is a dative plural adjective, as is the word translated “pilgrims.” The dative case indicates they are the recipients of Peter’s epistle. It could be translated “To the chosen ones, exiles . . .” “Elect” doesn’t necessarily modify “exiles.” Both “elect” and “pilgrims/exiles” can be two different ways of referring to the same group of people. Or, to follow the way you interpret it, “exiles” could modify “elect ones.” But I think they are both labels Peter gave to the “ones of the dispersion of Pontus” etc. (all genitives of place).

    My conclusion from looking more closely at the Greek text is that Peter is addressing his epistle to the chosen ones, the pilgrims/exiles, who live in (the places listed). Then “according to the foreknowledge of God” (v. 2) modifies – what? Are they “pilgrims” by means of sanctification of the Holy Spirit for obedience, etc.? Doesn’t make sense. Are they “ones of the dispersion” etc. Doesn’t make sense either. Even though the “elect ones, pilgrims” is placed early in the sentence, the prepositional phrases in verse 2 must still refer back to them. So although moving “elect” to a position later in the sentence is messing with the original order maybe a little too much, I think it is still correct to take “according to the foreknowledge of God” to be modifying “elect.”

    Regarding the definition of “elect” that you gave, can you give me your source for that? I am not seeing that narrow of a focus in the definition of the word in any of my sources. It’s possible the word may have that use in a given reference somewhere, whether classical Greek or NT, but the basic definition is chosen, selected, picked out.

    Regarding adoption, I agree that when Paul uses this term, he is probably referencing the Roman practice of an adopted son coming of age and being fully vested with all the rights and possessions of a true son. This will happen, as you say, when we are given new bodies as well as the entire inheritance promised to us in Christ.

    According to Romans 8:28-30, predestination is one of the several works of God in relation to our complete salvation. God initiates them, enacts them, and completes them. As I said Sunday morning, this is God’s side of salvation. Our side is repentance and faith, for which we are fully responsible. These are not contradictory, but complementary, though we cannot, in my view, grasp how they fit together. To say that I am predestined to adoption because I received Christ is, in my view, going beyond what Scripture states. Does this statement come from Scriptural data or from a process of reasoning based on how we want to view God?

    Again, thanks for commenting. I hope my thoughts in response are clear. These are grand truths, and my simple mind continues to wrestle with them. I am open to a better, more precise understanding of them.

  5. Thanks for the reply. It is certainly interesting that the ESV editors “relocated” the dative adjective to verse 1 instead of leaving it in verse 2. I suspect they did that in light of the placement of the adjective in the original, and perhaps because of the prophesy found at Hosea 9:17. In light of that prophesy, given as part of God’s judgment on disobedient Israel, it does make sense for Peter to refer to those “scattered” among the nations as “elect exiles.” They were indeed chosen to be so. In big part, the Book of Romans is the fulfillment of Hosea’s entire prophesy. Paul’s heart was so heavy in Romans 9:1 because it fell to him to give Israel their pink slip. Hosea 4:6 NASB predicted their demise: “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being a priest to me.” God made the Gentiles His priesthood to spread the gospel thereafter, going on 2,000+ years now.

    The source for the definition is in Wuest’s Word Studies in the chapter entitled “Elect/Elected/Election,” p. 223 Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1961. Literally, “gather or pick from.” See Mark 13:27. We are marked for gathering out of a greater number by the earnest of our salvation. But the harvest is not yet. His winnowing fan continues to be in His hand, but He waits for a reason.

    But the common thread of election I see in scripture is about being chosen, set apart, in the service of God’s purpose. Chosen for salvation is an inference drawn from verses that don’t actually say that’s the “purpose of God according to “election.” Romans 9:11. Paul tells us “election” is the means of obtaining that purpose. But the purpose isn’t election itself. That much is clear from Romans. 9:11. God has always had another goal in mind, which I see fulfilled in the millennial kingdom when all Israel shall be saved in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. Paul takes note of that in Romans 11:26. Isaiah 65:17-25 described that blessed day of fulfillment, and God’s “elect” are right smack in the middle of that Isaiah passage.

    I love you my brother, but I see a much bigger picture here than the narrow interpretation of most who consider Romans 9. God was not speaking of either Jacob the man or Esau the man in Romans 9. He was speaking about their decendents. God always saw nations. And Romans 9 is about how one of those nations lost their election. I see “election” as consistently being about service in the purpose of God, not for salvation. God’s “elect” “anointed” “ordained” even include lost people throughout scripture. Cyrus, Judas Iscariot, Barack Obama and every head of state. Remember Romans 13:1. God chooses us for service, and ironically, the two criteria found at the end of Ephesians 1:4 speak of requirements for a priest, mirroring the Levitical principle of those set apart in the service of God. Ephesians 1:4 is about God’s elective purpose from before the foundation of the world that we “should be” priests to Him. But to get there, Ephesians 1:12 says we must first trust in Christ, after that we hear the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. I see that as the horse before the cart. There are many purposes in God’s word that we will only obtain if we are found “in Him.” Revelation 22:17 is a perfect example of that. Oh the tragedy of having a share in the tree of life, but never possessing it. God’s word warns that such a loss is indeed possible.

    One day it occurred to me that it would not do for me to agree with Spugeon, Sproul and Piper. They’re good men. God’s word is better. 1 Timothy 2:4 is the simple and clear passage against which all other passages must be measured. God does not contradict himself. The suggestion of some to celebrate apparent contradictions as somehow being evidence of God’s mysterious sovereignty, is wrong-headed and ill-advised. If I’m seeing a contradiction in scripture, the problem is with me, not the word of God. Ephesians 1 does not contradict 1 Timothy 2.

    While I see your thoughts on the believer’s “adoption,” I see no way around the fact that we continue to wait for the adoption. It is in my future and I am bound, on my way, predestined for it. So are you. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

    In the meantime, we both see that we must be about the Master’s business. The night comes when no man can work. There is an urgency that belies the notion that the number of the saints cannot be increased or decreased. The laborer are few. Jesus never questioned the viability of the potential harvest. But He did bemoan the size of the workforce. That’s the way I see it.

    Let’s go to lunch.

  6. Rick, This is the debate of the ages. I’m pretty sure you and I are not going to resolve our differing views, especially through this medium. I would be glad to have lunch, but again, I don’t think we will make a lot of progress in an hour. I’ve been sharpened by the thoughts you’ve offered. Due to time, as I’m sure you understand, I’m going to give some responses to a few of your points, then let it rest. Please take these in the spirit of “I love you brother” as well :).

    I did not say that the ESV editors “relocated” the word “elect.” If anything, the KJV/NKJV editors did. That’s what I was acknowledging when I said “moving ‘elect’ to a position later in the sentence is messing with the original order maybe a little too much.” I’m not sure why the ESV is being brought into this discussion. My quotes in the article and my message Sunday morning were based on the NKJV. I acknowledge that “elect” is positioned earlier in the sentence in the Greek. My point was that “elect” could grammatically designate the recipients rather than modifying “pilgrims” (NKJV). In addition, and this I think is even more significant evidence that “elect” refers to salvation, not being exiled, the prepositional phrases in verse two have to be modifying something, and it only makes sense that they modify “elect.” Peter is addressing people who have been “chosen . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in (by means of) the sanctification of the Spirit, for (unto) obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. “

    I looked at your reference in Wuest’s Word Studies. Here’s the full explanation given by Wuest:

    The adjective eklektoi is from the verb eklego, to ‘select out from a number.’ It refers to God’s choice of certain from among mankind who were as saved individuals, to be channels through which others might learn the way of salvation, this choice having been made before the universe was created.

    You said in your first response and put in quotes that “elect” means “marked for gathering out of a greater number.” Since it appeared you were quoting from some source, I asked for the source. In your second response you cited Wuest’s. Your original definition of “elect” is not from Wuest’s, as you can see above. Wuest uses the word “select” which is correct. Where did you get the idea of “marked” from? I’ve looked at Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, The Analytical Greek Lexicon, Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (includes uses of Greek words in literature outside the NT), and Ryrie’s Basic Theology. None of these sources gives the meaning of “elect” as “marked.” The verb means to choose, and the adjective means chosen. You’re adding to the basic definition of the word, then basing your argument on your own definition. To say “I got that mark when I got the Holy Spirit” is to bend the meaning of election to your own way of thinking. The biblical concept of election is God making a choice before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), not God making a mark when you or I got saved.

    I’m going to have to refrain from responding for now to your references to Romans 9-11. I’ll do some thinking and studying on that. My one thought is that we have to be careful about conflating the ideas related to God’s election of Israel with God’s election of individual believers.

    You mentioned Spurgeon, Sproul, and Piper. I don’t know if you were implying that their ideas may have influenced me, but I’ll address that possibility. As far as I know, I have not read any of Sproul’s or Piper’s material on election. I may have read a section from one or two of Spurgeon’s sermons on it. I have read a little of John MacArthur on it (e.g., see link in comment above). My primary study has been of the biblical texts, using basic Greek language resources and a few commentaries. I am not Reformed in my theology. I am not a New Calvinist. I’m sure I’ve been influenced by various figures, dead and alive, along the way. But I endeavor to let the Scriptures speak and not import someone else’s views into my understanding of them.

    You said, “1 Timothy 2:4 is the simple and clear passage against which all other passages must be measured.” On what authority do you say that?

    You said, “God does not contradict himself.” I did not say that He does. But I firmly believe that we cannot fathom all that God is, says, or does. I accept 1 Timothy 2:3-7, and I accept Ephesians 1:3-12. I have not arrived at a place in my thinking where I can reconcile the two. You are probably familiar with the concept of the black box. I think God’s sovereign choice and man’s repentance and faith converge in a black box with regard to our ability to comprehend. We can’t now, and maybe never will grasp how they come together. I’m content to leave it there.

    You said, “The suggestion of some to celebrate apparent contradictions as somehow being evidence of God’s mysterious sovereignty, is wrong-headed and ill-advised.” I refer again to Paul’s words at the end of Romans 11, verses 33-36: Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? OR who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

    Paul wondered at the unfathomability of God’s decisions (“judgments”) and the incomprehensibility of God’s actions (“ways”) and worshiped – celebrated, if you will.

  7. Rick, regarding the comment about the ESV “relocating” the word elect, I think I misunderstood what you were saying. I see now that you were saying “relocated” in relation to where it shows up in the KJV/NKJV. You’re just making the point that the ESV gets it right as far as the location of the word, and I agree.

  8. Thank you Dean. Please know that my love and appreciation for you is sincere. You and your family have been a tremendous blessing to my family for reasons we both well know. I greatly admire and respect you. We disagree on the matter of soteriology, but that need not be cause for division, I’m frankly too old for that any more. I know my alma mater teaches the “black box” analogy, but I don’t see that taught in scripture about scripture. Deuteronomy 29:29 says “The secret things belong to The Lord, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever….” God’s word is a lamp, not a black box. The word of God is that which is revealed. So I continue to believe that if it’s in the Book, it is meant for us and our children. It is certainly not a Book about which any one of our finite minds can get it all, but it is good when we get it, and it was meant to be gotten.

    Ironically, neither of us would put our respective understandings of Romans 9 or Ephesians 1 in the “black box.” We both believe we see clearly. You ask for the authority for my statement about 1 Timothy 2:4. My authority is Dean Taylor and the word of God. As you aptly said, “I endeavor to let Scriptures speak and not import someone else’s view into my understanding of them.” Those who hold to unconditional election to salvation are famous for finding a distinction (my word “contradiction”) between what they see in one verse like Ephesians 1:4 and 1 Timothy 2:4. They resort to theological inventions like “will of desire / will of decree” to explain the distinction. Those “someone-else’s-views” begin to import themselves, don’t they? You see “saved” in Ephesians 1:4 by inference and implication. I see “saved” in 1 Timothy 2:4 by letting the Scriptures speak for themselves. That word is actually in the verse.

    I have no desire to convince you to see it my way. That job of convincing is already taken. I only desire to point out that perhaps our inferential interpretations are just that. I have learned not to plant my flag too quickly. The danger of reading Romans 9 without having read the Book from cover to cover is that you’ll miss Paul’s reference altogether. The “cookie crumb” trail begins with “As it is written … in Romans 9:13. But few know the reference, or why our God spoke those words in the first place in Malachi. Few have delved into the rest of the quotation that Paul only quoted in part. I firmly believe you’ll never understand Romans 9 and Paul’s reference leading back to Malachi, outside of a firm grasp of Deuteronomy 2 and Obadiah’s prophesy. There was a reason why God uttered His pronouncement in Malachi 1. There is always a reason, and has nothing to do with “mystery” sovereignty or a black box. That reason will thoroughly explain Paul’s reference in Romans 9. I’m not conflating the various aspects of election, as you suspect. I’m gleaning them by letting the Scriptures speak for themselves. Truly, I love the word of God, as do you. “Precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” That requires cover to cover study.

    Wuest’s chapter goes on to explain that the Greek word “eklektos” is a compound word. “Ek,” as we both learned as Greek Minors at BJU, is the prefix or predicate word for “out of” or “from.” The root of the word is from the Greek word for “gather or pick.” So the point goes beyond a picking or selection. It is a picking or selection out of, or from. My reference to Mark 13:27 was intended to highlight the operation of that “election.” The “marking” of which I speak is from Ephesians 1:12. Whoever the “elect” are, or whatever they are “elected” for, the saved ones are “sealed” with the mark of the Holy Spirit, which means you and I are “marked for gathering out of a greater number.” Food for thought. Not trying to convince you.

    Let’s do lunch, just to do lunch, and to share stories of how our God has richly blessed us.

    Blessed to be in Him


  9. Enjoyed your article. I Tim. 2 vs. 4 does not stand against other scripture. The Lord opened Lydia’s heart not by her choice but His. If the Lord desires the salvation of all, then He is not sovereign because he does as He pleases Dan 4 vs.35, Psalms 115 vs.3, Psalms 135 vs.6. Paul asked in 1 Cor. 4 vs. 7 , “who make the thee to differ” and answers in 1 Cor 15 vs. 10. We are what we are by the grace of God. Jesus thanked His Father for hiding His truth from the wise and prudent. In Matt. 13 we read where it was given unto some to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven and hiding it from others. I see it 2 ways. If election is wrong as the way I see it then I’m guilty of placing to much power upon the Lord in salvation. If election is true, then the free willers are guilty of taking away from the Lord that which belongs to Him. The context in 1 Timothy 2 vs 1-3 is about those in authority. The Lord will save all types of people Rev. 5 vs. 9. Man’s repentance is a gift of God and it is not given to all Acts 5 vs.31, Acts 11 vs.18, 2 Timothy 2 vs. 24-25. In John 17 we read that Jesus has power over all flesh and He will give eternal life to those whom His Father has given Him. If salvation is a decision of man then he has made himself to differ from another. In John 10 Jesus says,”you believe not because you are not of my sheep”. Jesus is clear that they could not believe because they were not His chosen sheep. He did not say that they were not of His sheep because they believed not as if being in His sheep were of mans choice. The shepherd chooses his sheep.

  10. Scott:

    Thank you, first of all, for your thoughtful remarks and for joining in the conversation. The verses you cite and quote are wonderful and true. It’s the conclusions you have drawn from them that call for further comment, in brotherly love, even as you have shown for me. We both agree that the work of saving grace is from God’s hand. We are dead in trespasses and sins, and no man seeks God. Fortunately (understatement of all time) He is seeking each one of us. We do not disagree over the means of salvation. We only disagree over the scope. You do realize our God “hopes” the sinners of the world find Him, don’t you? Acts 17:27 The elizabethan word “haply”in verse 27 means “hopefully.” The NIV translates it as “hopes.” Even using the ESV or NKJV word “perhaps,” how can anyone “perhaps” find Him if such things are already settled from eternity past? “Perhaps” is instructive, though. It is a word devoid of any suggestion that such matters are certain. Here’s what is certain, though: Christ died for all men. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 All men are drawn to the Savior by the Savior. John 12:32 All men are called, indeed commanded, to repent. Acts 17:30 God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4 The “grace that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Titus 2:11 Christ Jesus is the “light that lights every man who comes into the world.” John 1:9 Those things are certain, and to insert your word “kinds” after God’s “all” or “every” is a dangerous proposition in light of Revelation 22:18 -19 I wouldn’t dare do it.

    Yes, Revelation 5:9 gives us a glimpse of ourselves sitting in glory from “every kindred, tongue, people, and nation.” From the scene being described, we can discern all sorts of men are there in that day. But you shouldn’t confuse the church of God AFTER the harvest with the church of God BEFORE the harvest. God is still adding to the church such as are being saved, during seedtime. The harvest is not yet. Our inheritance awaits. We eagerly await the adoption, to wit the redemption of the body. Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:13-14 That was my point earlier.

    Paul speaks of the rapture and the first resurrection in Romans 8:23 and Ephesians 1:13-14. Until then, we are to go into the whole world spreading the gospel seed, during “seedtime.” The way I see it Scott, we are in “seedtime,” not harvest. The word of God is the “seed.” Luke 8:11 The coming harvest is intended to separate the wheat from the chaff. That harvest awaits. 1 Thess. 4:16-17; Mark 13:27 Indeed, the very adoption to which we are ordained, awaits. Romans 8:23 We are “sealed” with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13-14) “who is the earnest (guaranty) of our inheritance (eternal life) UNTIL the redemption of the purchased possession ….” We are marked for gathering out of a greater number UNTIL that day. Said another way, we are engaged to be married, but not yet married. Revelation 19. One day, we will be His bride, but even the bride of Christ is not yet, not until He descends from Heaven with a shout. We are the bride of Christ in the aggregate, not standing alone. For now, we are engaged to be married as His beloved, His church.

    Speaking of Paul, I wonder if you have considered where Paul was during the scorching rebuke Jesus gave the Pharisees in John 10 and Matthew 23:27? You do realize Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin? He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews (Phil. 3:5) who “clerked” under the most revered elder and scribe of his day. Paul was a prodigy among those who studied the law, excelling beyond his peers. (Gal. 1:14) Gamaliel was Paul’s mentor/ teacher, who trained Paul from an early age. (Acts 22:3) Have you ever wondered where Saul was when Caiaphas called for the chief elders and scribes the night Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin? Matthew 26:3-4; Mark 14:53 Do you suppose he missed the trial of the century? I wonder where Saul was on the morning of Pentecost when Peter pointed his boney finger at the men who tried Jesus and sentenced Him to death, saying “you crucified and killed” the King of Glory. Acts 2:23 Do you not wonder where Saul was when the blind man was thrown out of the temple in John 9? Did he hear the rebuke of the Savior in John 10? Do you wonder where Saul was when Gamaliel tried Peter and John in Acts 5? Do you wonder where Saul was when Stephen preached like an angel in Acts 7 and said “You stiff-necked and UNCIRCUMCISED IN HEART AND EARS, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit.” Truth is, Scott, we need not wonder at all. Saul was there. Acts 7:58. He “gnashed” his teeth along with the rest of them. He didn’t hear God’s Spirit that day, because he wasn’t God’s sheep that day.

    Furthermore, we need not wonder how long Saul had been in Jerusalem before Jesus began his earthly ministry. We know that equally as well. When Paul stood trial before the very same Sanhedrin after his conversion in Acts 9 (after Acts 2, 5 & 7), he says: “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, YET BROUGHT UP IN THIS CITY at the feet of Gamaliel….” Acts 22:3. Hmmm. That’s certainly interesting. Paul was raised … in Jerusalem … from an early age. What do you think the chances were he never saw or heard the Savior’s voice in all the years of Christ’s ministry? ( “….and slim done left town.”) How could it be possible that those few disciples turned the world upside down, and yet Saul somehow missed the phenomenon that was Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior of the world? What do you think the chances were he was not there the night Caiaphas called for Gamaliel’s assistance in the trial of the Savior?

    I’m afraid the conclusions you have drawn from your reading of John 10 may have caused you to dismiss the reality that Saul was there THE WHOLE TIME. He was there when Stephen said the men who would kill him were of “uncircumcised hearts and ears.” Stephen was right about why they couldn’t hear. They weren’t sheep. Saul didn’t hear that day, and for the very reasons Stephen said. But thank God, Saul was not “one and done.” I think you may be reading way too much into John 10. Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice.” He said “But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep.” John 10:26 Jesus did not say they couldn’t believe, He merely stated they didn’t believe. Read the passage again. He even implored those same men TO BELIEVE at the end of that passage (John 10:38), which stands as an acknowledgement that Jesus truly does “desire that all men be saved.” 1 Tim. 2:4 Those men initially did not hear because they were not Christ’s sheep. You are right about that conclusion. You are wrong if you think they were forever barred from being sheep. Saul wasn’t, and praise God, neither was I. I suspect neither were you, if you are like most saints I know who did not respond favorably the first time they heard the gospel of grace. But you force John 10 to say more than it does if you conclude goats can’t become sheep. Before you dismiss that notion, hear me out.

    Jesus did rail on the Pharisees, and rightfully so. They were whited sepulchers full of dead men’s bones. They were vipers. They were also called to salvation, even in the last hours before the crucifixion. Just before going to Calvary, Jesus said to those same Pharisees he railed upon in John 10 & Matthew 23: “while you have the light, believe in the light, THAT YOU MAY BECOME SONS OF LIGHT.” John 12:36 We become “sons of light,” Scott. We are not born sheep. We do not come into this world blessed and highly favored. We are darkness. Ephesians 2. Paul even says we are just like “the others.” Ephesians 2:3 Goats can and do become sheep. The Savior said so. Even if they are whited sepulchers and vipers, like Saul of Tarsus.

    I recently remarked to a very close friend of mine who espouses Calvinism that he seems to read John 10 as if to say that God’s voice is like some “Augustinian dog whistle.” The question we both ponder is HOW is it possible that “uncircumcised hearts and ears” are EVER unstopped? The answer to that question is where the fault line lays between us. I well know how Lydia came to believe. The very same way you and I did. We were called out of darkness into His marvelous light. I do differ from other men because of that, Scott. We both do. The question isn’t whether we differ, but how, or what makes us to differ. Romans 10:17 tells us how that happens. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” God’s precious word isn’t just WHAT we need to hear, it’s HOW we will be able to hear it. Paul wasn’t being the slightest bit redundant in Romans 10:17. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is “quick and powerful.” It gives life to dead things. It provides God’s power to hear and understand. It discerns our thoughts and intents at the most basic level. Ps.119:130 tells us the “entrance of thy word giveth light.” God’s word illumines the darkness in our hearts. Proverbs 20:27 tells us “The SPIRIT OF MAN is the candle of the Lord, lighting the inward parts of the belly.” God uses OUR spirit as HIS candle to reveal our wicked hearts to ourselves. We all come with the lamp, Scott. What we lack is the oil. I understand, then, when John 1:9 says Jesus is the light that “lights every man that cometh into the world.”

    We do not save ourselves, Scott. That’s a straw-man argument. There’s no argument there and there never was. We chose to be saved. We EACH will choose. Not because we CAN. But because we MUST. God sets before us that choice (“life and death, blessing and cursing”) and then demands that we choose. Deut. 30:19 It’s not a request or a polite suggestion. We must choose. We will choose. We are predestined to choose. Some go away when their candles are lit, as they behold their faces as in a mirror. They forget what manner of men they were. James 1:24 Thank God, He continues to draw. John 12:32 Thank God, He continues to ask “Wilt thou be made whole” and “Why will ye die?”

    I will not blame God, then, when the seed of the word does not find root. I will not call that providence or predestination, because Jesus didn’t call it either of those two things. Jesus was quite clear when he told us it is the Devil who snatches the seed, and why he does it. Jesus said “lest they should believe and be saved.” Luke 8:12 Such men are not ordained to damnation because they are not sheep, Scott. Our God is not to blame. Read the parable again. The seed of God’s word ALWAYS finds its way to the heart of sinful men. Christ said so. It is ALWAYS “quick and powerful.” If it doesn’t find root, it is ALWAYS because it was snatched from the sinner’s “heart.” Jesus Himself tells us the men of that parable could have been saved, but for the work of Satan and the poor choices of sinful men. I see the “cares of the world” choking out the seed. Not one word about predestination was spoken by the Savior. I will not ascribe “agency” to Satan, as John Calvin did, when it comes to the work of Satan. Such thoughts are blasphemous. Rather, I will ascribe God’s good news (the gospel) to this: “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” So, when Paul says that “grace that brings salvation has appeared to all men,” I have no difficulty understanding his premise. It appears to all men because we are in seedtime, not harvest.

    The only thing left for you and I to decide is whether we will “go forth to EVERY CREATURE.” Why would be instructed to do that if only certain ones will ever be able to hear the gospel of their salvation? We ought not see a “scavenger hunt” when it comes to missions. We should see the great commission for what it really is: a rescue mission.

    On Sep 24, 2014, at 12:33 AM, Speaking of God wrote:

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    New comment on Speaking of God

    Scott commented on 10 Facts about Divine Election.

    in response to Dean Taylor:

    This Sunday morning I’ll preach, God willing, on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5. Paul had heard of the effects of the gospel in the Thessalonian believers’ lives. The fruits of their faith, love, and hope confirmed to him “their election of God” (v. 4). I want to make some statements about the biblical teaching of election as […]

    Enjoyed your article. I Tim. 2 vs. 4 does not stand against other scripture. The Lord opened Lydia’s heart not by her choice but His. If the Lord desires the salvation of all, then He is not sovereign because he does as He pleases Dan 4 vs.35, Psalms 115 vs.3, Psalms 135 vs.6. Paul asked in 1 Cor. 4 vs. 7 , “who make the thee to differ” and answers in 1 Cor 15 vs. 10. We are what we are by the grace of God. Jesus thanked His Father for hiding His truth from the wise and prudent. In Matt. 13 we read where it was given unto some to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven and hiding it from others. I see it 2 ways. If election is wrong as the way I see it then I’m guilty of placing to much power upon the Lord in salvation. If election is true, then the free willers are guilty of taking away from the Lord that which belongs to Him. The context in 1 Timothy 2 vs 1-3 is about those in authority. The Lord will save all types of people Rev. 5 vs. 9. Man’s repentance is a gift of God and it is not given to all Acts 5 vs.31, Acts 11 vs.18, 2 Timothy 2 vs. 24-25. In John 17 we read that Jesus has power over all flesh and He will give eternal life to those whom His Father has given Him. If salvation is a decision of man then he has made himself to differ from another. In John 10 Jesus says,”you believe not because you are not of my sheep”. Jesus is clear that they could not believe because they were not His chosen sheep. He did not say that they were not of His sheep because they believed not as if being in His sheep were of mans choice. The shepherd chooses his sheep.

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  11. Rick:
    I appreciate your response. I agree and disagree on some of the things you have written. As far as God desiring the salvation of all men I disagree. God is not a hand wringing God. He does as He pleases. If He desired all to be saved…all would be saved. In Romans 9 He is the sovereign potter. He made His vessels of mercy and His vessels of wrath. The clay does not make itself. He made these out of the same lump. Hitler, Stalin, Tojo and I are no different but by God’s grace. I disagree that it is Romans 10 vs. 17 that makes the difference but it is 1 Cor. 15 vs. 10…”I am what I am by the grace of God”. Faith does come by hearing but one must be given the hearing ear to hear. That was the difference between His Disciples and the Pharisees is that it was given to some and not to others. Paul “Saul” was around and he hated the teaching of Jesus. At that time He was of God’s elect. Election is before we were ever born Eph. 1 vs. 4, but he was not saved at that time. Saul was with a few others but the Lord only dealt with him. He heard the voice not the others with him. Why did the Lord not speak clearly to all them. Was it because He knew they would not believe? If so, then that would be a salvation by their work. The man at the pool of Bethesda was sought by Jesus. Jesus did not desire the healing of all the other multitudes of sick people. He could have easily healed them all. Why did God choose Israel for His people, why not choose all? I just disagree with you on some of the verses and the way you use them. You use John 12 vs. 32 for the drawing of all men. Does that mean everybody? I say no, because in John 6 vs. 44 Jesus links the drawing and His raising them up. He didn’t say that of some of them that were drawn He would raise up. In Hebrews 4 vs. 12 is that the written word or is it the “Word” 1 John 1 vs. 1-3. It is Jesus that discerns thoughts. The natural man does not understand God’s written word 1 Cor. 2 vs. 14. Unless the Holy Spirit quickens and makes one alive Eph. 2 vs.1, that individual will never understand. The word by itself is nothing, 1 Thess. 1 vs.5.
    I do agree with you that we are to go forth. I believe God has His chosen people. He knows who they are, I don’t. I am to be a shining light to all people. Remember when the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision in Acts 18 vs. 9-10, the Lord was sending him to the evil city of Corinth. Notice, the Lord told Paul that, “I have much people in this city.” They, His chosen people, belonged to the Lord before Paul ever got there. They were God’s by His sovereign choice. We are to witness, Paul planted and Apollos watered but God gave the increase. You and I must witness but salvation is of the Lord Jonah 2 vs.9. The Lord will reach His people as it pleases Him. He sent Philip to the Eunoch. He sent Paul to Lydia. Remember, Paul and his companions were not originally planning to go there. in Matthew 13 and the parable of the soils it is not the sower or the seed that made the difference. That was the same in each example. It was the good ground, those who were quickened by the Holy Spirit, they went forth being used of God Eph. 2 vs.10, Phillipians 2 vs.13.
    I enjoyed discussing these scriptural matters with you. I will pray for you and ask that you do the same for me.

  12. Scott:

    Your last remarks are helpful in understanding your particular theology. I would only add that you should never say the words of scripture standing alone are “nothing.” I will ascribe that to your youth, inasmuch as your last reply at around 1:30 am tells me you are a much younger man that I am. The words of scripture are inspired, standing alone. They are quick and powerful, standing alone. The are profitable, standing alone. Yes, the words are borne along by God’s Spirit, but that is so every single time they are heard or seen. That was Christ’s point about the “wayfarer” soil in the parable of the sower in Luke 8. Satan knows the power of the written word to save, even if we don’t. Satan is able to intercept that powerful word, even though the Savior says it was intended to cause folks to “believe and be saved.” Our Savior did not call that to our attention as some irrelevant factoid.

    I will only add that my fervent prayer is that we do not teach our sons and daughters the theology of the “unprofitable” servant found in the parable of the “talents.” Matthew 25 That man’s theology saw a God who was “a hard man, one who reaps where he has not sown, and gathers where he has not strawed.” That poor man had a skewed sense of his master’s sovereignty that led him to believe that nothing he did with the talent entrusted to him would ever matter. His master was sovereign, and he was going to do whatever he wanted to do. The “talent” turned out to be his soul, and his mistaken views on his master’s sovereignty and his master’s purpose in delegating his authority in the first place certainly cost him dearly. We were always meant to be “fruitful and multiply” for the honor and glory of our master who entrusted us with our eternal souls.
    “He that winneth souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30

  13. One last thing I forgot to add. Your conclusion that 1 Timothy 2:4 can’t mean what it appears to mean because if it did, all men would be saved. You base that on your assumption that God always gets what he “desires.” I wonder whether the whole “will of desire / will or decree” theological invention should be restated as “God gets what He wants depending on how badly He wants it.” Surely, you recognize a decree in Titus 2:12 which declares that God wants us to “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts” so that we “should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age.” But we don’t always deliver, do we? It’s a struggle isn’t it? Who will deliver me from the body of this death? The things I would not do, I continually do. God certainly desires that we live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age. Sadly, He does not always get what He wants because of who and what we are. But that day is coming in a different age.
    In a twinkling of an eye. God bless.

  14. Rick:The word of God is 100% truth and it is the Holy breathed word of God. However, the word of God is foolishness to the natural man. Rick, it was the same word of God that Saul the persecutor studied as it was for the Apostle Paul. The word had not changed… but Paul’s heart was changed. What made the change? It is obvious that it was not the word but it was the work of the Holy Spirit. In John 3 Nicodemus was rebuked by Jesus for not understanding as he should for a teacher. Jesus then tells about the work of the Holy Spirit in vs.8. Again Rick, in Matthew 13 it is the SAME word and preacher in each example. It was not the Preacher or the word that saved. Only those who were saved were able to take the word and use it and bring forth fruit. Read 2 Tim. 3 vs.16-17. The word does not save, but to those who are saved it thoroughly equips them for every good work. In Acts 13 vs.48 it was those who were appointed to eternal life who believed. Read 1 Cor. 2 vs.14, the natural man does not understand the word because they are spiritually discerned. Jesus plainly tells the Pharisees why they can’t understand His words in John 8 vs. 43-47. The Pharisees read and studied the word more than anyone, but we’re not quickened, and thus could not understand Jesus. Jesus was the greatest preacher ever and yet the early church was very small as in Acts they were numbered around 120. Jesus spoke in parables to the multitudes because it was not given to them to know. Jesus thanked his Father that He hid these things from the wise and prudent. If the word does save then how much of the word does it take? It was thousands of years before all the gospel was compiled and yet people were being saved.
    You keep referring to 1 Tim. 2 and I would like to discuss that in a greater degree in the future if you would like to. We certainly differ on the context.
    It seems are theological difference can be summed up with this statement. You believe that Jesus only made it possible for man to be saved. I believe that God choose a His people and gave them to His Son and He came to save them. Matthew 1 vs.21
    Until the next time, may the Lord bless as it pleases him.

  15. I think you still misunderstand (or missed) my earlier point about Saul not being “one and done.” The things of God were indeed foolishness to Saul, and for a lot of years. God never gave up though, did He? He kept drawing. He kept speaking by His inspired word. He kept prodding by His omnipresent Spirit. Your theology sees “selective drawing.” I see God “stretching forth His arms all the day long to a disobedient and gainsaying people.” (Romans 10:21, quoting Isaiah 65:2). Your vision of the drawing of God is simply too narrow. You will not give God more credit than your narrow view of “particular redemption” will allow. In the process, you render the word of God of none effect. I think you altogether miss the “effect” Jesus had in mind. Saul didn’t hear because he didn’t want to hear, not because he couldn’t and certainly not because God didn’t want him to. The lost choose not to retain God in their knowledge. Romans 1:28. They are not ambivalent towards God, they are at war with God. Psalm 2. When God’s Spirit attempts to apply the Inspired word of God to their consciences, they constantly “resist.” Acts 7:52. That’s what Paul did. That’s what we all do, as natural men, until we surrender.

    But the word of God keeps coming. It keeps working, drilling deeper and deeper. No one will ever be able to say on bended knee before the throne of judgment, “When did you draw me?” The reply will be “Every day, without fail.” His hands are still stretched forth all the day long, Scott. I don’t know why you don’t see that? Your earlier point that only God’s sheep hear His voice is clearly contrary to the revealed truth found in scripture. Saul didn’t hear, and for years. That’s because he wasn’t yet a “sheep” in the “other fold.” We become sheep by God’s grace. You now admit Saul didn’t hear for years in an effort to prove an altogether different point, i.e., that the written word has no independent power. Yes, as I have previously said, it takes the application of the inspired word of God by the Spirit of God. You just don’t think God’s Spirit is at work to do that very thing every time the word is preached. I do. If that weren’t the case, there would never be any “resistance” such as we find in Acts 7:52. What were they resisting, Scott? The resistance Stephen was talking about was the natural man’s response to the efforts of God’s Spirit to use the word of God to accomplish the one thing you see is reserved for the chosen few. That is to open uncircumcised hearts and ears. Clearly, Saul serves as the quintessential example of how that doesn’t always happen, though that’s exactly what the Spirit of God is trying mightily to do. And He keeps trying, every time the written word is read, spoken, preached. That is its purpose. Those words speak with power every time, though met with resistance. Thank God we are not “one and done.”

    I think the difference in our theology is that you just don’t see “surrender” as part of the sinner’s regeneration. Some men never do surrender, but that is not a function of “particular redemption.” It’s a function of the sinner’s resistance to the call of God as that call is repeatedly and faithfully sounded by the written word of God in the hands of the Spirit of God. Hope this helps you to understand my meaning.

  16. Rick:
    My brother I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. It is true that the natural man do nothing but reject God. The Bible in fact speaks about what man can’t do. 1 Cor. 2 vs.13 (cannot understand), John 8 vs. 43(cannot hear), John 3 vs.3 (cannot see), John 6 vs.44 (cannot come), Romans 8 vs.7 (cannot be subject to God). The natural man will never surrender on his own. Again, in John 17 we see that Jesus has power over all flesh. If it is up to man, then Jesus does not have all power and is waiting on man. The bible tells us that God gave them to Jesus. Are these the ones that God forsees who will believe? Many believe that Jesus died for all, but that doesn’t even fit their own theology. Some believe that God forsees who will and will not believe but why would God send His Son to die for those He knows will reject Jesus? Makes no sense.
    Saul was on the road to persecute more people. I ask you why did the Lord limit that experience to just Saul, none of the others were able to hear that were with him. You still have not answered why Jesus would speak in parables to the multitudes and that it was not given to them to know. That sure doesn’t sound like your theology.I believe that when the Lord effectually calls there will be no resistance Psalms 110 vs.3. Again the natural man will always resist the gospel message but when the Holy Spirit quickens then there is no resistance but a desire for God.
    Rick, you keep asking why I don’t see certain things and I feel the same way about you. You look to a defeated Lord who wants and wants but may not get. The bible is clear that God is sovereign. The bible always speaks about what God does and not man. The Lord opened Lydia’s heart. The Bible says nothing about her doing anything other than when the Lord opened her heart she then followed what Paul said. The Apostle Paul himself gave God all the glory to the Lord in 1 Cor 15 vs. 10. Under your theology, man must take some credit for his salvation because according to you he must accept or reject Jesus. That is completely opposite what Paul wrote when he asked “who maketh you to differ” in 1Cor. 4 vs.7. Under your theology it is man who makes the difference because God “wants” everyone to be saved. The difference between you and Hitler would be that you choose to accept and he didn’t. That makes you the one to differ because God would not desire you more than Hitler. Would he do more to save you than Hitler? That is a defeated God and not a Sovereign God.
    I think we are just spinning our wheels and should part ways on our discussions. I have no hard feelings and have enjoyed the discussions. Again, I wish you the best and will pray for you and ask that you do the same for me.

  17. Thank you, My Brother. The smartest thing you keep saying is “It makes no sense.” None of it makes sense, does it? Why God even bothers to look our way, “makes no sense.” I’ve enjoyed our exchange, especially the manner and spirit of it. You’re a good man. We are both blessed to be “in Him.”

    Sent from my iPhone


  18. Rick and Scott, I’m finally getting back to this. Thank you for your input. Our view of God’s infinite, multifaceted character is limited. Your discussion is to me a confirmation of point #9 in the original post. Glad you can interact and share your perspectives in a gentlemanly way. That is how it should be. Blessings.

  19. A question for Rick. From where, or what source does even the very inclination in a man to choose God come?

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