Why I Love the Doctrine of Unconditional Election
February 20, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This is part two of a five-part series where I explore the goodness of what is commonly known as the Five Points of Calvinism, summarized by the acronym TULIP. Historically, Reformed churches have looked to this acronym as a summary God’s work in our salvation. While we believe the truths are rooted in Scripture, the “five points” often solicit strong reactions. Let’s consider each, seeking to deepen our delight in the God who saves.
In my experience, it is easier for people to embrace the truth of total depravity than the truth of unconditional election. We encounter depravity on a daily basis. We are familiar with our hearts. We are broken, sinful people. But when it comes to our choice, we do not want to lose our freedom.
The doctrine of unconditional election says that God chooses those who will be saved free of any condition in himself or in us. It says that there is nothing in us that warrants God choosing us. Paul argues for unconditional election in Romans 9:6-13, where he explains that God chose Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau without regard to anything they had done.
He anticipates the common objection, “Not fair!” in verse 14. Paul continues in building his case, stating that mercy is not mercy and grace is not grace unless God is free to give them to whomever he chooses.
The struggle with unconditional election is rooted in our experience of making a choice to believe in Jesus. There even are invitations in Scripture to believe in Jesus. A misunderstanding of unconditional election states that there is no choice to believe in Jesus if God chooses us first. Unconditional election does not remove our responsibility to respond in faith to the Gospel call. What unconditional election does is explain how anyone ever has the ability to make that choice.
Remember, total depravity left us in this state: “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto” (WCF IX.3). This is the bondage of the will. In sin, our will (our ability to make choices) is trapped. We make choices, but only according to the sinful inclinations of our hearts… unless, God breaks through and revives our hearts and wills to choose Christ.
This is what unconditional election teaches us: God, in his grace, moves first to free our wills from the bondage of sin, so we can hear and see and believe the beauty of the Gospel. Why do I love this doctrine?
- It humbles me. I bring nothing. I add nothing. I accomplish nothing apart from the grace of God. By grace I have been saved through faith. This is not my own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of my works, so that I may not boast (Eph. 2:8-9). I am no better than anyone else because I have faith in Christ. My faith is not an accomplishment that I can boast about. It is the gift of God.
- It comforts me. I believe in Christ because of God’s gracious and free act of choosing me before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). There is nothing I can do to “un-deserve” his gracious act because I have done nothing to deserve it in the first place. I can rest in God’s love because it moves toward me unconditionally.
- It astonishes me. Many react to unconditional election by asking, “why doesn’t God choose everyone?” Some even build a theological position stating that God has chosen everyone. But that is such a man-centered perspective on election, as if people deserve to be chosen and God is wicked if he doesn’t choose everyone. I love what R.C. Sproul says about this. Our question shouldn’t be “why doesn’t God choose everyone?” but it should be “why does God choose anyone? Especially me?” I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I was dead in my trespasses and sins. Why me? I am astonished at God’s free, unmerited love and grace which he has lavished on me.