Q. Our study group recently had a lesson on the “doctrine of election”. Many of us were confused to the point that we are going to continue the teaching next week. Can you please shed some light on this subject? We were told that God chose those who will be saved “before the foundations of earth” and everyone who wasn’t chosen then has no hope. We know God is a just God and would not create people who had no chance of being saved. Can you help?
A. The Doctrine of Election is a misapplication of Scripture that began by confusing Israel and the Church. It’s clear that Israel was chosen by a sovereign act of God. There was nothing to commend Abraham and his descendants above the other nations. In Deut. 7:7-8 Moses told the Israelites: “The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
But when it comes to the Church, the Bible has this to say,
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
A rule of interpretation says that we should use the clearest verses to help us understand those that are less clear, because God can not contradict Himself. These are a few of the unmistakably clear verses I could cite that tell us it’s our choice to be saved and whoever asks for salvation will receive it, irrespective of merit.
Also, a study of the character of God shows that He could not create some solely for the purpose of condemnation. After all, He sent His Son to die for us so we could be saved. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God doesn’t want anyone to perish but for everyone to come to repentance. 1 Tim. 2:3-4 confirms that God wants all men to be saved. These are clear indications that He didn’t just choose some of us and leave the rest to perish.
Jesus could not have said that belief in Him is the only thing God requires of us (John 6:28-29) if He created some who are not able to meet the requirement. And God could not have said some will perish because they refused to love the truth and be saved (2 Thes. 2:9-12) unless everyone has a choice in the matter of salvation.
As far as choosing those who would be saved before the foundations of the Earth were laid, the Bible doesn’t say that. The definitive passage on that issue is Romans 8:29-30. In effect it says that God, who knows the end from the beginning, knew who would choose to be saved before any of us were created and then predestined it to happen. When Paul said that God chose us before the foundation of Earth in Ephes. 1:4, he had to have been using an abbreviated version of the process he had outlined in Romans 8:29-30 three years earlier. Otherwise he would have been contradicting his own teaching.