By Kathy Beardsley
Before I understood what follows in this article, my answer to the title question would be “yes, because when a gift is offered we have the choice to take it or leave it.” After all Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And, “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2:8, 9.
But after I heard the following point made by different people, I could not argue the simple fact of it. Dead people cannot do anything for themselves because they are dead! This applies to being spiritually dead as well. Dead in your trespasses and sins spiritually is an image of being dead physically. We cannot choose to resurrect ourselves from physical or spiritual death. Lazarus, for instance, lay in his tomb four days unable to resurrect himself. He only regained life when Christ commanded it John 11. So it is with us. Furthermore, until God’s gift of life is given us, we possess a carnal (unregenerate) nature—we are forever in bondage to a deceitful and wicked heart Jer. 17:9. As Rom. 8:6, 7 tells us, “to be carnally minded is death;” and “…the carnal mind is enmity [hostility; hatred] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” No one but God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, can bring life to the dead. Pondering this fact, I concluded that the gift of God is not offered with the choice for us to accept or reject. It is an eternal gift of love bestowed from the moment we were chosen “…they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Heb. 9:15.
No one can come to Jesus except the Father draw him. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44. Life is drawn back into existence (spiritually through rebirth). Also, consider in John 6:38, 39 Jesus says, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.”
Jesus knew before he came in the flesh what his Father’s will for him was. If he had a choice in the matter I assume he would have made his choice known beforehand. Choosing to go against his Father’s will would be disobedience—as it is impossible for God to lie, so it is impossible for His Son to disobey. For example: while praying in the garden Jesus knew the fate he would soon be facing so (in the anguish of his flesh) expressing a desire for a different outcome is simply that and nothing more thus, ending his prayer with “thy will be done.” This example and so many more, including the most important—his dying on the cross, was, and has always been, the Father’s will. As stated in the verse above, Jesus came not to do his own will but his Father’s. On the subject of salvation, neither Jesus’ choice nor ours has ever been in the picture.
Some may say, “I can’t believe that God would condemn more to Hell than He would save into heaven.” In virtually every story in God’s word that consists of pending judgment on a multitude, only a remnant is saved and God announced his intent for that outcome prior to carrying it out, Rom. 11:5 for example. Why should His divine election be any different? Because that is what we want, or deem fair? God only, is sovereign, and we do not have the right to judge Him or His will for His creation. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Matt. 7:21
Few will find themselves on the narrow path leading to life—most will follow the wide path to destruction. Matt. 7:13, 14. Think of it this way; parents choose to bear children into their family, the children cannot choose to bear themselves. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:5, 6. God the Father in his sovereignty, has the just and perfect right to choose out of all his creation who will become his children and join his Son as joint heirs.
The focus of a recent discussion I was part of centered on whether infants are automatically saved because their age prevents them from comprehending salvation. The best answer is God’s answer: Rom. 9:10-14, but I will emphasize verse eleven “(For the children 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;)”. We must not allow our personal feelings to displace the truth. God chose his children before the foundation of the world and in His good timing He will draw them to Himself.
If you are still not sure, here is another illustration: God the Father has a magnet and because of the Father’s irresistible grace, those whom He chose are the steel. It is only by drawing the steel to his magnet that his chosen will be saved. Six days before the Passover (and the crucifixion) while they were in Bethany, Jesus told his disciples, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw men unto me.” John 12:32. The steel is irresistibly drawn, not by its own choice, but by the power of the magnet doing the drawing. The steel has no power to draw itself, nor would it be drawn if the magnet were not there to do the drawing in the first place. The best part is, unlike the imperfect physical magnet that can lose its magnetism, the spiritual bond with God the Father is perfect thereby saving you perfectly forever. “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” John 17:1, 2.
Notice it does not say “as many as have chosen to accept him.” I have heard countless times from personal testimonies to all manner of sermons that “because of our sinful nature we cannot save ourselves, it is the work of the Holy Spirit who leads us to salvation.” Yet, at the same time the proclamation of having free will to choose puts the power of salvation in our own hands. Is this not a contradiction? And if we have that power, who do you suppose would get the glory for it? Because of our sinful nature we would boast that of ourselves, not of God and shamefully, by doing so, we would be declaring our Savior’s death for our salvation as unacceptable.
Some (I used to be one of them) say it seems cruel and unfair to create a group of people who are not given a choice for salvation and then are punished by sending them to eternal damnation. Again, who are we to question the sovereignty of God? Read Rom. 9:14-26. No one will be without excuse, Rom. 1:20. John 3:19-21 tells us why. We must keep reminding ourselves it is God’s will, not our own, that reigns supreme. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Eph. 1:4-6. We are accepted, not the other way around. If you say, “I chose to be saved” instead of “God chose to save me,” you’re saying God can’t save you unless YOU “will” it.
The reason we recoil at the thought of divine election is because we don’t have a say in the matter. Our flesh wants to rebel against things we don’t like or understand especially if it can be emotionally charged. In the Rom. 9:14-26 verses I referenced above, God says he will have mercy and compassion on whom he will, so, verse 16 “it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy.” And paraphrasing verse 21 “Does not the potter of the whole lump of clay have power to make one vessel unto honor and one vessel unto dishonor?” The clay does not say, I choose honor or I choose dishonor. We do not choose to go to Heaven, or Hell.
From a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon:
I shall endeavor now to prove, form the quotations of a few Scriptures, that the Doctrine of Eternal and Personal Election is a Scriptural and Divine Truth. Jesus Christ, Himself was said to be “chosen of God and precious.” [1 Pet. 2:4] He is God’s elect, for Jehovah Himself says, “Behold My Servant, Mine elect in whom My soul delights.” [Isaiah 42:1] Angels that continue in their unfallen dignity and felicity are termed elect angels. [1 Tim. 5:21] Elect angels are employed as ministering spirits to those who shall be heirs of salvation. Elect angels will be employed in the gathering of God’s elect into the heavenly world.
The Jewish nation was a chosen nation, and as such they were privileged with the oracles of God, and stood as a representative people. They were chosen not because of their personal worth, they were chosen not because of their goodness, but they were chosen to be a separated people, a people that should be God’s peculiar treasure, and should be holiness unto the Lord. Of them it was said, “For you are a holy people unto the Lord your God—the Lord has chosen you to be a special people unto Himself, above all people who are upon the face of the earth.” [Deut. 7:6] Jesus Christ Himself, in the 24th chapter of Matthew, speaks of certain days being shortened because of God’s elect.
The Psalmist craved to be remembered with the favor that God was pleased to bear towards His people, that he might see the good of His chosen [Ps. 106:4, 5]. And Jesus Christ Himself said to His disciples, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” [John 15:16, 19] And the Apostle Paul very often in his writings has brought out this great and profound Doctrine. He says, “There is a remnant according to the election of Grace.” [Rom. 11:5] He speaks to the Ephesian Church, and says, “You are chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world that you may be holy, and that you may stand before God without blame in love.” [Eph. 1:4] God has in the exercise of His Sovereignty chosen a people in Christ to salvation before time began—it was before the foundation of the world, here is its antiquity—it is in Christ according to the riches of God’s Grace, and it is to holiness and salvation. Paul, in his addresses to the Church at Thessalonica, said he could but thank God that they were chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and the belief of the Truth.” [2 Thess. 2:13]
If we would only give our attention to the simple teachings of the Spirit of God by the prophets, by the Psalmist, by Christ, and by the Apostles, we could not have one moment’s doubt as to the Doctrine of Divine Election being a Scriptural Truth.” (emphasis and ref. in brackets mine)
In conclusion: Though the general message was the same, the apostles, in their own words, committed themselves to obedience in spreading the gospel of Jesus to all Mark 16:15 because like us, they did not know whom God would draw to himself. Rom. 10:17, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Jesus says he came (and died) to do his Father’s will and that he would lose none of those whom his Father has given him. Like the illustrations of being born again, and the magnet, God chooses to bear you into His family, then draws you to himself through his Son and by the Holy Spirit.