Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election

2. Its Origin


We have said that the decree of election originated in the sovereign will of God, that, in fact, God works all things according to the counsel of His own will. Beyond or behind the will of God no one can go. God’s will is the origin, the continuance and end of all things. From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. The will of God is God decreeing. The love of God, since God is love, is God executing His decree. The will of God acts in love. His will moves in the sphere of His being (its only limitation), which is love. Then God’s decree of election comes forth from electing love. Our confessions say that “the good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this gracious election.” Then a gracious election and election love are certainly one and the same thing. The love of God is the motive for election, as the Canons of Dort state, referring to “the purpose of God according to election…as it is written, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’” (Rom. 9:13). Election is also described as God’s “so great love towards” the elect (I, 13). The Word of God bears this out. God chose Israel to be a special people to Himself above all people. The Lord did not set His love upon them, nor choose them because they were more in number than any people, for they were the fewest of all people. But rather because the Lord loved them He chose them (Dt. 7:6-8). The Lord had a delight in them to love them, and He chose their seed after them (10:15). Notice, that the Lord loved them and chose them. He did both, the one the moving cause, and the other the effect. He loved them, therefore He chose them. Why did He choose them? Because He loved them! Why did He love them? Because He loved them, that is, because He willed to love them. His election is eternal; so is His love for the elect. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). His love from all eternity is in sovereign choice of the persons loved in Christ.

How, in the light of this, can the infralapsarian say that an object must exist before it can be loved? That is, “God cannot love a non-entity”? God’s sovereign choice and love of a people from all eternity, although not yet objectified in history, nevertheless make them real to Him. (Isa. 44:9, 10; Acts 15:18). They are in the decree f God. Then God loves them. Otherwise He could not love them from eternity. Men who are not in His decree of election He does not love.

The origin of election is the sovereign will of God. The sole cause of this election is the good pleasure and love of God (Canons I, 7, 10). The character of election is that of grace. Being a gracious election it is spoken of as “the free grace of election” (I, 13, 15, 18). Scripture mentions “the election of grace” (Romans 11:5). Grace is not the origin of election. Grace better fits in with the end of election than with its beginning. Yet God’s grace is not an abstract from His will. Certainly His will is a gracious will. Yet the end of election is expressed in the words “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6). The end of God’s decree of election was the magnifying of His grace. The phrase “the election of grace” is therefore not to be understood as containing genitive of cause or origin, but of quality or character, as “the Sun of Righteousness,” “the shield of faith,” and “the children of light.” Divine election is directly traceable to the invincible and indisputable will of God. We are predestined according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph. 1:5). He made known to us the mystery of His will (1:9), and did so “according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.” He works “all things after the counsel of His own will” (1:11). “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth” (Daniel 4:35). God wills Himself the ever blessed God, perfect in all His attributes. His wisdom is infinite, yet by a sovereign act of His will He determines the exercise and the manifestation of it (I Cor. 1:19-21). God is merciful, but He has mercy on whom He will. God is uncompromisingly just, yet His will decides whether He shall meet justice directly upon the sinner or through a Representative.

Then election is not to be conceived of as accomplished out of foreseen faith (Canons I, 9). What good is there to foresee in the spiritually dead and totally depraved sinner? In their natural enmity against God, and in their unregeneracy, all men are children in whom is no faith. They do not believe (Jn. 5: 38), they cannot believe (5:44), shall not believe (Acts 13:41). “All men have not faith” (2Thess. 3:2), but the men who do have it, possess it not of themselves, nor by any good quality or disposition in them; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:9). It is not a virtue which originates in or even operates by the power of man, but by the operation of God (Col. 2:12). The Arminian at least thinks, if he does not say it, that as many as believe are ordained to eternal life. But the Lord says, “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). The Arminian teaches that if you are not Christ’s sheep, it is because you believe not. But Jesus said, “Ye believe not because ye are not My sheep” (John 10:26). The Arminian says that some men are not of God because they do not hear God’s Word. But Christ affirms, “Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (8:47). The Arminian thinks that God blinds men’s eyes and hardens their hearts because they believe not. But the apostle taught that “they believed not,” in fact, “they could not believe, because that Esaias said, ‘He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see” (12: 36-40). The Arminian thinks that all who come to Christ, the Father gives to Him. But the Lord taught, “All that the Father giveth to Me shall come to Me” (6:37). The Arminian says, Believe on His name and you shall be born of God. But the apostle wrote, “them that believe (presently)…were (already) born… of God” (1:12, 13). The Arminian says you must hear the Word and believe it in order to obtain eternal life. But it is written, “he that heareth My Word and believeth Him that sent Me, hath (not shall have) everlasting life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death in to life” (5:24). It is therefore the one with spiritual life who hears the Word and believes it. The trouble with the Arminian is that he will not have the plain, bare Word of God, despite his loud boasts that he will. He wants the exact opposite to the infallible Word!

Nor were we chosen on account of foreseen good works. Men are chosen in eternity “being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand: not of works, but of Him that calleth” (Romans 9:11). The moving cause of our election is not our willing what is good, nor our running and holding out, but the mercy of God. Then “if by grace, it is no more of works” (11:6), “not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship (we are not self-made men), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:9,10). Again, He “saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal” (2 Tim. 1:9).

Nor were we chosen on account of foreseen holiness. God chose us in Christ “that we should be (not because we were) holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4). We were chosen to faith, to obedience, to holiness, and to every saving good. For “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13). Faith, holiness and the other gifts of salvation, including eternal life, are the fruits and effects of election, not a moving or contributing cause of it.

It was not the foresight of any good qualities in men which moved God to choose them. They never have any good in them except that which God ordains for the, promises and bestows upon them. Therefore God never has foresight of anything not in His decree. God cannot foresee without foreordaining. His foresight is founded upon His sovereign will. This foresight, or prescience, bare knowledge of things beforehand has been confused with the biblical term “fore-knowledge.” But foreknowledge as used in Scripture is not foresight, or an aspect of mere omniscience. Therefore, “whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate” (Romans 8:28f) does not mean that predestination is on the basis of foreknowledge (omniscience). That is Arminian. Foreknowledge in Scripture is a knowledge of approbation, a knowledge of love, a knowledge of one’s own. Whom He did foreknow, means whom He loved as His own—He predestinated them. So, “I never knew you” can only mean, I never loved you; as “the Lord knoweth them that are His” means, the Lord loves His own. When we read that Christ was
“delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23), we notice that the decree of God is first, preceding His knowledge of love. For Christ was delivered to death not merely by decree but also by the love of God.

The end God has in mind in His decree of predestination, in election and in reprobation, is His glory. As to the elect, “know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself” (Ps. 4:3). As to the reprobate, “the Lord hath made all things for His own end, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov. 16:4, marg.).

3. Its Well-Spring

The eternal purpose of God has a definite relation to Christ. First in His counsel is His decree of the covenant. To realize the purpose of His covenant, God ordained His Son to be the Christ, the visible representation of the invisible God. Christ became the Head, the Alpha and the Omega of the covenant. Charles Haddon Spurgeon in his unadulterated, unabridged and unedited works reveals a grand understanding of the truth. He said, “Search for the celestial foundation, from which the divine streams of grace flow to us, and you will find Jesus Christ the well-spring in covenant love. If your eyes shall ever see the covenant roll, if you shall ever be permitted in a future state to see the whole plan of redemption as it was mapped out in the chambers of eternity, you shall see the blood-red line of atoning sacrifice running across the margin of every page, and you shall see that form the Beginning to the end one object was always in view—the glory of the Son of God.” (John 11:4).

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; Mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth” (Isa. 42:1). Here is the initial election, the well-spring of election. Christ is the first o the elect. He stands at the head of the register in the book of election. The Son thus became the Fountain of life (John 5:26). He was preordained to be the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, and foreappointed to be the one Mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus. He did not thrust Himself into this office, but was called of God, as Aaron (Heb. 5:4), and was sealed to the office by the Father (John 6:27). He was set up, or ordained form everlasting from the beginning, before the earth was. It was then that He was beside the triune God, a co-equal, yes, a Father (Prov. 8:23, 30, Heb.). He was ordained the Father of Eternity and the Mighty God (Isa. 9:6), one chosen out of the people (Ps. 89:19), laid in Zion, i.e., predestinated in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, chosen of God (I Peter 2:4, 6). Since we have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, a valid implication is that Christ was chosen before we were, then we in Him. He was the principal object in the decree of God, there appointed especially to be the Firstborn among many brethren, the Firstborn of every creature, and such a Firstborn in the way of being the First-begotten from the dead. As the Firstborn, He came out of the womb of election, opening the way for His many brethren to come forth.
(To be Continued, D.V.)