Soteriology: The Doctrine of Salvation – Part 4
by Jonathan Hamilton
See Part 1 here for an explanation of this series. See what we covered last time here. Please remember: these posts will only be as meaningful as the effort you put forth to engage with the texts of Scriptures referenced throughout.
Calvinist Understanding of Election
God chooses for salvation based solely on His own good pleasure, not based on anything that He sees in anyone.
- God does not want (or wish for) anybody to be lost. He gives everyone room to repent. 2 Peter 3:9
I understand this to imply that there is no double predestination (the view that God also chose some to be lost).
- God does want (or wish for) everyone to be saved. 1 Tim. 2:4-6
Draw a distinction here between two levels of willing. There is a level of willing at which you wish something to be true, and there is a level at which you determine a thing. I wish I could play the cello, and if I wanted I could play the cello. But if I were to commit to this it would come at the exclusion of many other things in my life. So I am willing to make the wish, but not the determination. God wishes some things that He does not determine to be the case. Not everyone will be saved. But because God wishes everyone to be saved, God has provided salvation for everyone. 1 Tim. 2:4-6 (Remember, we have two sides of salvation: provision and application. This passage is talking about the provision side so you cannot use it to argue the application side.)
- No one seeks after God. Romans 3:11
But aren’t there unbelievers who seek God? Yes, of course! That’s the restoration of moral ability that God provides (either to the elect only, or to all men, depending on which view you take).
- Certain people were given to Christ by the Father. John 6:37; 10:29; 17:2, 6, 11, 24
You get the distinct impression that His followers are given to Him by His Father.
- God chooses individuals, and not merely a category, or a group. Romans 8:28-30
Foreknowledge –> Predestination –> Calling –> Justification –> Glorification
Focus on the level of justification. Does God justify categories, or just individuals?
You (if you are saved), personally, are justified. You individually have been robed in the righteousness of Christ. You are in God’s sight as righteous as Jesus Christ is. And He does this for you individually, not just for a category into which you opt. And if justification is individual, everything else in this list has to be individual because the logic doesn’t work if you change the meaning at different points. It’s all individual. Yes, it’s more than one person, and the conglomeration of individuals can be put into categories, but God does this for individuals, not categories.
- These individuals who are elect are chosen in Christ. Ephesians 1:4
When God chooses individuals, He chooses them with Calvary in mind. He doesn’t choose individuals and then figure out how He’s going to make them His own. In other words, the provision of salvation doesn’t depend on election. Rather, He determines how He’s going to save and then elects (sublapsarianism; see chart from Part 2).
- The ultimate result of God’s choice is the individual’s justification. Eph. 1:5-6; 5:25-7
The same people whom God justifies will also be glorified. No justified person can possibly fail to be glorified. The ultimate goal is glorification. The work of salvation is not done until our bodies have been redeemed, which is to say, until we are glorified. And this is more, I think, than just the reception of our glorified bodies at the Rapture. After we are caught away, we stand at the Bema seat of Christ, and are rewarded for our service for Christ. And I understand those crowns to be capacities to glorify Christ for all eternity. All of this is part of glorification. Not just the glorified bodies at the resurrection, but the glorification that comes through the rewards Christ gives us for what He has done through us. He did it, we were just willing. (And yes, there are categories there, but the glorification happens to individuals.)
- These individuals were chosen before the foundation of the world. Eph. 1:4
We get an analogy in Romans 9:11. We’re talking about God’s choice of Jacob over Esau. God chose Jacob to have preeminence over Esau before either was born so that it would become very clear that Jacob was not chosen because of his own virtues and Esau was not passed over because of his demerits. Rather, they were chosen ahead of time that it might be clear that it was God’s sovereign choice according to His own purpose. If that analogy holds, we’ve got a hint as to the answer between conditional election (Arminianism) and unconditional election (Calvinism). Being elect before the foundation of the world means God chose us without respect to what He foresaw we were going to do. It’s not a final case, but it certainly gives us a preliminary indication of the way things have to go. If this were the only evidence, I still think it would be enough to tilt the balance in one direction or the other. God’s choice could not have been based on “foreseen faith.”
- These individuals were chosen according to God’s foreknowledge. Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 1:2
We have to decide what the word ‘foreknowledge’ means when we use it of God. What is God’s foreknowledge and how does it work? What we have is two competing definitions of foreknowledge. Your view of foreknowledge is going to determine your view of election. I am going to suggest that God’s foreknowledge is not merely God’s awareness (Arminianism) but his forethought (Calvinism).
(More to come on that in the next post)
- These individuals were chosen according to God’s good pleasure. Eph. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:9
If you choose unconditional election, you are always going to be nagged with this question: “Why did God choose me?”
And I think the best answer at the end of the day is that it delighted Him to do so. Somehow God fastened His love on you. This is what we call “grace.” There’s absolutely no reason God should have done it. But He did. That’s grace. There is nothing good in me that attracted Him.
Remember our hourglass from the first post in the Hamartiology series. We are now at “foreknowledge,” the fulcrum of our discussion on sin and salvation.