Addressing the Doctrine of Election

Often times when people address the doctrines of predestination and election they go to one of two extremes. They deny it in its entirety or they think it is the only doctrine found in the Canon of Scripture. Its tempting to post the whole of Spurgeon’s sermon preached March 20, 1862. But, I feel the following words speak wisely to him who would deny the Doctrines of Grace and to him that is totally enamored with Ephesians 1:3-11 and forgetful of the rest of the Canon.

I have heard of one man who said he had read the Bible through thirty-four times on his knees, but could not see a word about election in it; I think it very likely that he could not; kneeling is a very uncomfortable posture for reading, and possibly the superstition which would make the poor man perform this penance would disqualify him for using his reason: moreover, to get through the Book thirty-four times, he probably read in such a hurry that he did not know what he was reading, and might as well have been dreaming over “Robinson Crusoe” as the Bible. He put the telescope to the blind eye. Many of us do that; we do not want to see a truth, and therefore we say we cannot see it.

On the other hand, there are others who push a truth too far. “This is good; oh! this is precious!” say they, and then they think it is good for everything; that in fact it is the only truth in the world. You know how often things are injured by over-praise; how a good medicine, which really was a great boon for a certain disease, comes to be despised utterly by the physician, because a certain quack has praised it up as being a universal cure; so puffery in doctrine leads to dishonor. Truth has thus suffered on all sides; on the one hand brethren would not see the truth, and on the other hand they magnified out of proportion that which they did see. You have seen those mirrors, those globes that are sometimes hung in gardens; you walk up to them and you see your head ten times as large as your body, or you walk away and put yourself in another position, a then your feet are monstrous and the rest of your body is small; this is an ingenious toy, but I am sorry to say that many go to work with God’s truth upon the model of this toy; they magnify one capital truth till it becomes monstrous; they minify and speak little of another truth till it becomes altogether forgotten.

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, sermon 442 ‘God’s Will and Man’s Will’ 

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5 thoughts on “Addressing the Doctrine of Election

  1. Where do you think that faith comes from? Calvinists say God gives us the Holy Spirit to allow us to believe, but that is nowhere in the scriptures. Scripture says that our faith comes from HEARING the word, see Romans 10:14. From hearing the word and being TAUGHT, Colossians 1:5, 7. From continuing in what we have been CONVINCED of, see 2 Timothy 3:14, and being PERSUADED, 2 Corinthians 5:11; and Romans 4:21. Again, nowhere in the scriptures does it say God gives us the Holy Spirit to make us believe, nowhere. We do not even receive the Holy Spirit until we believe and obey, see Acts 2:38; Acts 5:32; and the beautiful and powerful words the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said in John 14:23. Calvinist beliefs are man made beliefs and not the word of God.

  2. Hopefully I’m not putting a telescope to a blind eye. However, in my NIV Study Bible, this entire passage is identified as the “Spiritual Blessings in Christ” and seems built around verse 4 which says: For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless His sight.

    According to one of my college English teachers, a sentence should be able to stand on its own without prepositions. Granted, details might be lost. However, the overall premise of the sentence should stand.

    To which, Eph 1:4 with the prepositions highlighted reads; (For) He chose us (in Him) (before the creation) (of the world) to be holy and blameless (in His sight).

    As such, without the prepositions Eph 1:4 can be distilled down to: He chose us to be holy and blameless.

    It’s interesting to see the different meanings for the word “chose” in my trusty Webster’s dictionary – which include: “To select freely and after consideration” and “To decide”. For reasons beyond my language skills, I readily accept that the authors of the NIV Bible decided on the English word “chose” when translating Eph 1:4 from Greek to English – “chose” is the best translatable English word to convey Paul’s intention and meaning. 

    Using Webster’s common English understanding for the word “chose”, I believe a fair interpretation of Eph 1:4 is: God decided that we were to be holy and blameless before He created the world. 

    With this understanding as the basis of the passage, I’m hard-pressed to see the connection that this passage is dealing with God’s determination of who will (and conversely who will not) be saved. Even in verse 11 Paul appears to reiterate that God has already worked out the details (Christ’s death and our justification through faith) so that we’ll be holy and blameless.

    I would submit, then, that the premise of this passage has everything to do with God’s determination for holy living and that there isn’t sufficient evidence for Spurgeon, or any Calvinist for that matter, to reasonably justify the doctrine of unconditional election with this passage. That said, as a non-Calvinist, there are other verses and passages which I find more difficult in arguing against the doctrine of unconditional election. However, Eph 1:3-11 isn’t one of them.

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