Election And Predestination
March 13th, 1974 @ 7:30 PM
WHAT WE BELIEVE:
ELECTION AND PREDESTINATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 11: 25-30
The course presently being studied is the doctrines of the faith. We are taking the Articles of Faith, and each night there is a lecture, a lesson, from the pastor on each one of the Articles of Faith. And tonight the article is on “God’s Purpose of Grace,” which is a discussion of election and predestination and perseverance.
Now because of the lack of time, and because instead of just citing Scripture I wanted to take time to read some of it tonight, I have divided the lesson into two parts. And the part tonight will be on election and predestination, and then the part next Wednesday night will be on the perseverance of the saints.
Now, “God’s Purpose of Grace”:
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is a glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
That is the passage in the Articles of our Faith regarding election and predestination. Then the other half of it pertains to the perseverance of God’s sainted people:
All true believers endure to the end—they shall persevere to the end. Even though they may grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, even bring reproach on the cause of Christ, and temporal judgments on themselves, yet shall they be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
That will be the discussion next Wednesday night. Now tonight, the lesson on election and predestination.
There are two, and apparent irreconcilable, doctrines that are clearly taught in the Bible. One is the sovereignty of God that we call election. And the other is the freedom of men, or what we would call “ree moral agency, the capability of a man to be free in his moral choices.
There is no doubt but that in the Holy Scriptures there is taught the doctrine of election. In Matthew 24:31, “And He shall send His angels with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” In the days of the great consummation, and denouement, and tribulation, God has His elect, over which He sovereignly, guardianly watches. And to spare them and to save them out of that horrible, indescribable judgment called the tribulation, God shall send forth His angels and shall gather His elect from the four corners of the earth.
Yet there is no less certainly taught in the Scriptures that a man is morally free. In Revelation 22:17 is the last invitation of the Bible, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come,” you choose to come, “And let him that heareth say, Come,” the man just passing by, let him repeat the glorious refrain, “And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Now those two doctrines are side by side presented in the Bible. How the two can be reconciled, how they can exist side by side, must ever and forever remain a mystery, a secret that God has kept to Himself. There is no man who has ever lived, who lives, or will yet live, there is no philosopher, or metaphysician, or theologian who has, is now, or ever shall live, who shall be able to reconcile those two doctrines. And for a man to attempt to do it is inanity. It cannot be done.
It is a mystery that God has kept to Himself. You cannot reconcile the sovereignty of God, the election of God, and the free moral agency of man. Yet the Scriptures present them with no sense or thought of contradiction. The Scriptures will present them side by side, in the same breath. They cannot be reconciled, yet the Scriptures will present them with no sense or thought or feeling of contradiction.
Now I’m going to show you that as an instance. The eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew closes with these words by our Lord, and I’m going to read starting at verse 25 to the end: “At that time,” this is Matthew 11:25:
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and Thou hast revealed them unto babes.
Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight.
All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.
Now that is the simple, plain, unmitigated doctrine of election: “No man knows the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him [Matthew 11:27],” to God’s elect. Now that is in the same breath with this. Now I’m at the next verse, verse 28:
Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you—you, take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me . . .
In discussing that with our School of the Prophets, I referred to the fact that it’s an old rabbinical term meaning, “Enroll in my school.” “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me, sit at My feet.”
For I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
Now there both of those doctrines are side by side in the same breath, uttered by our Lord with no thought that they are contradictory. The two are irreconcilable. They cannot be reconciled, that God chooses the one to whom He will reveal Himself and the Savior, Christ our Lord, God chooses the one [Matthew 11:27], and yet in the next breath, “Come, anybody, come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden” [Matthew 11:28]. There is no reconciliation of the two doctrines. They are side by side. We cannot understand the mystery of them.
Now, lest you think this is unusual, this is unusual, this is very unusual that there should be mysteries that we cannot reconcile that are presented here in the Bible, you live in a world like that. It is all around you. Now I’m going to take the simplest one that my mind could conjure up: a mystery that you look at all the time. And it is no less a mystery than this, and this is no less a mystery than the one that I’m going to point out to you.
All right, the little simple mystery that no man can explain, without which the globe with its life is impossible, is simply this. A law of physics says that when a thing gets colder it contracts, it contracts. It pulls in, and pulls in, and pulls in. And that’s a universal law of physics. When a thing gets colder it shrinks, it pulls in. It contracts.
Like a bridge; when they were building a bridge across the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee, they put the last span in the hot summertime. And the thing wouldn’t fit because the heat expands, and expands, and expands, and expands. That’s how a steam engine runs. You heat water and it expands, and expands, and expands, and finally it creates a great pressure against the container. And when you open a little valve it’ll spurt out and drive a big wheel.
Now that’s the universal law of physics. When it’s cold it contracts and contracts, and when it’s hot it expands, and expands, and expands. Well, when they were building that bridge across the Mississippi at Memphis, Tennessee, they put the last span, the last steel span, in the hot summertime, and it wouldn’t fit. It was about four inches too long.
So the engineer got ice and iced the thing down from top to bottom, and it cooled off, and cooled, off and cooled off, and contracted, and contracted, and then they just dropped the span into place. Now that’s why, when you make a sidewalk of concrete, there’ll be this much concrete, and then you’ll have a bar in there. And then there’ll be that much more concrete and a bar because everything that is hot expands, and everything that is cold contracts, and even concrete will expand and contract. And if you don’t put that little crack in there it’ll break up. And when you have a big steel bridge, there has to be an overlapping, a little flap in there to make allowance for that contracting and expansion.
All right, let’s take water. Let’s take water. Water, we’re going to cool it down, whatever hot it is it’s expanded up, so we’re going to cool it down, and cool it down, and cool it down, and it contracts, and it contracts, and it gets heavier, and smaller in space, and contracts, and contracts. And the water, as it gets colder, contracts and contracts. And then a miracle, a mystery that no man can explain: when it gets to thirty-two degrees it turns around and begins to expand, and expand, and expand, and expand. Now, why did God do that? A mystery that no man can explain, for it violates every basic law of physics, for when a thing gets colder and colder and colder, it contracts and contracts and contracts. And yet water, when it goes down and down and down, contracts, contracts, contracts, but when it gets to thirty-two degrees, it turns around and starts to expand though it goes right on down getting colder and colder. Now, why did God do that, a mystery no man can explain?
Well, life on this earth would be impossible without that little mystery, without that miracle. All the seas at the North, the ice would freeze, and if it were heavier, it’d go down to the bottom. And after that frozen sank to the bottom, why, then the water on top would freeze, and it’d sink to the bottom, until finally both of the poles would be covered with oceans of solid ice.
Now the middle of the earth would be boiling with the heat of the rays of the sun. The great ocean currents are made possible because of the cold water at the poles and the warm water at the sea, and that creates great currents in the earth and that distributes the heat and the cold in the earth so that life is possible.
Were it not for that miracle of the fact that water begins to expand and gets bigger so it floats—it displaces more water since it’s bigger when it freezes—were it not for that miracle, this would be a dead, dead, dead planet! There wouldn’t be a drop of life on it, not a speck of it.
All right, anybody in the earth, anytime that he pleases, any day that he chooses, let him stand up and explain that mustērion, that miracle that God kept secret. Why does it do it? Nobody knows. Nobody knows. It’s a mystery of God.
And we live in a world of inexplicable mystery. We don’t know. We don’t understand. We don’t actually understand anything. All we do is just observe it. We just see it and write it down. But we don’t explain anything.
So, here it is in the Bible, a mustērion: the election of God, the sovereignty of God, and the free moral agency of a man. They cannot be reconciled, but they are not contradictory. It is a mustērion. It is a secret that God has kept in His own heart. And when we get up there to heaven and stand in the presence of the Lord, we can ask Him about it and then let Him explain it to us as we’re going to ask Him ten thousand other mysteries into which we cannot enter.
There are two levels of speaking and thinking and description in the Bible. There is an “up there” language; there is God’s language, how God sees a thing and how God does a thing. There is a language in the Bible, a revelation in the Bible, an “up there” language, an “up there” revelation, an “up there” sovereignty. But there’s another language. There’s a “down here” language in the Bible, how a man sees it, how a man acts before it, and how a man describes it. And both of those are in the Bible and in our lives, an “up thereness” with God, and a “down hereness” with us.
We see things as they turn a corner, day at a time, moment at a time. That’s the way we see it. But God sees the whole thing. It is all present with Him; He sees the end from the beginning. There’s no yesterday, today, tomorrow, with God. The great I Am [Exodus 3:14], looks at everything in the present.
I can illustrate that. When I was in the seminary, I was in Chicago on Labor Day, and they had a tremendous Labor Day celebration in Soldier Stadium to which a presidential candidate was to speak. So I went there and I sat down on one of the lower tiers in Soldier Stadium and I watched the parade, the Labor Day parade. I watched it come through the north gate. And after sitting there seemingly for hours and that parade going through, I got tired of just being seated so long. So I climbed up to the top of Soldier Stadium, and when I stood on the top of that great horseshoe, I could see the entire parade from way up, seemingly miles up Michigan Avenue, as it marched column after column after column, row after row, clear on down to where it was coming through that north gate and into the stadium.
Now a man is down there in a hole. He’s down there on a lower tier, and to him things happen day at a time. They come through the gate of history day at a time and he watches it happen. But God is not like that. He is not down there in the hole. God is up there above the heavens, and He sees all history, all of it, moving from the beginning to the end. And He sees every part of it. It is all one with Him. Whether it was there in the days of Adam, or Noah, or Abraham, or David, or Isaiah, or Jesus, or John, or Paul, or Wesley, or Truett, or you, clear to the end of time God sees it all, and it is all present to Him. He looks at all of it. There’s no beginning, no ending, no start, no finish, no now, no tomorrow. It’s a part of all of God’s surveillance of all time and eternity.
Now there’s a difference in us and God, because He looks at it, always, in the present. And God chooses what is in that story. God intervenes, God elects, and yet these who are in it are absolutely free. How can that be? We cannot reconcile it. It just is.
Like a man who would compose a beautiful piece of music, and he has his baton out there. And the orchestra is before him and the choir is back of him. And he’s written the music. He knows every note that’s going to be played in it. He knows everything that’s been done in it. He did it himself. It’s all his, and yet, when the orchestra plays it and when the choir sings it, they look at those notes at a time. And it’s very interesting to them because that’s the first time they’ve ever seen it, let’s say, the first time they’ve ever practiced. But not the master musician who wrote it; he knows the whole thing from beginning to end. He did it.
And God thus surveys all of time and all of the characters that are in it. He sees you, and He saw you from before the foundation of the earth [Ephesians 1:4]. Before the world was created God saw you because all God had to do was just to look right there, and there you are, you little peanut, just right there. That’s where you are, just right there. And God knows the day you’re going to die. It’s right there. And God knows how you’re going to die. It’s right there. And God knows all the tragedy and everything about it. It’s absolutely open to Him.
Now in all of that, looking over the whole course and field of history, God is certainly sovereign. He chooses. God acts. God elects. The word “elect” is a Latin word. Ek, “out of” and allegere which means “to gather, to choose.” He chooses out. As God watches that vast field of history, God chooses. This is plainly, emphatically taught in the Holy Scriptures. And the only way that a man can escape that is to deny the Word of God. You can’t believe the Word of God, and at the same time believe the Bible and reject the doctrine of election, that God is sovereign.
Here in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, I’m going to read beginning at verse 29: “For whom He did foreknow,” now that’s looking at that great column of history as God looks at it, “whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate.” Isn’t that a good Bible word? “Whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son [Romans 8:29] . . . Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called,” and they heard His call, “and whom He called, them He justified.” He saved. He declared righteous, “and them He justified, He also glorified [Romans 8:30]. What shall we say then to these things?” [Romans 8:31]. Verse 33, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justified them” [Romans 8:33]. It is God that saved them. It is God that called them. It is God that redeemed them.
All right, we’re going to take another passage. In chapter 9 of the Book of Romans, beginning at verse 11: “For the children,” Isaac and Esau, “For the children,” Jacob and Esau, the children of Isaac and Rebekah,
(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;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger—
Esau shall serve Jacob—
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.
For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.
Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.
Now a man can say, “I absolutely refuse to accept that.” Then that is your moral choice. You are not one of the elect. You don’t believe God and you don’t believe the Word of the Lord. There is nothing more plainly or emphatically taught in the Holy Scriptures than the sovereignty of God and the election, predestinary purposes of God that are worked out in human history.
Well, now I’m going back to the life that we live. You say, “I don’t believe in such a thing as that. I don’t believe in election, and I don’t believe in the sovereign purpose of God. I am absolutely free. Look at me. I am absolutely free. I am absolutely unattached to and I am not associated with the elective purpose of God.”
Well fine, let’s let you stand up here and let me ask you just a few little simple sentences. You say that you are absolutely free, that you are not a product of the elective purpose of God. All right, I want to ask you just one or two little simple things.
Did you choose your parents? “No, I didn’t choose my parents.” Well, that’s strange because you say you’re absolutely free. All right, let me ask you another little simple question. Did you choose the century in which you were born? “No, I didn’t choose the century in which I was born. I was born at a certain such time and I had nothing to do with it.”
Well, let me ask you. Did you choose your nationality? “No, I did not choose my nationality.” Why weren’t you born a Hottentot? Why weren’t you born an Australian aborigine? How come you to be an American? Did you choose your sex? You are a girl, why aren’t you a boy? You’re a boy, why aren’t you a girl? Did you have anything to do with your sex? Do you have anything to do with your gifts and endowments? Did you have anything to do with how tall you grew?
Have anything to do with the color of your eyes? Did you have anything to do with the agility of your mind and all of those basic things that come from inheritance? And the more I ask you, the more you’re going to find yourself bogged down in the plain and simple fact that you had practically nothing to do with you, practically nothing. Isn’t that something?
And when you start saying all of this stuff about election and predestination is just theological stuff that the preacher’s talking about—no, we’re just talking about plain, ordinary life, how it’s put together, how things are. And as I say, “You don’t explain anything. You just observe it. You just look at it.”
There are these two boys; and I’m thinking of two boys now, they’re in the same home, same father and mother, same environment, same encouragement, same pleas, same begging of father and mother. They are raised in the same home. One of them is responsive to God, most so. And the other has no response to God at all. You just look at that. You just see it, that’s all.
Now we’re talking about some of these things that are categorically told, and it’s given to us in the Bible. There is not only plainly the sovereign grace of God, the elective purpose of God, exhibited in the Holy Scriptures, but there is also plainly a special, saving, efficacious call by the Holy Spirit to the elect. I see it here every day of my life. Every time I stand in the pulpit to preach I see that. And what I read in the Bible is confirmed in my own experience. There are people that sit out there in front of me and listen to me preach, some of them for thirty years, and they are still lost. And once in a while, I’ll see one die lost. And yet there’ll be others all around them, front, back, and on either side, who will accept the invitation. What’s the matter? I can’t explain that. It’s a mustērion that God has kept secret in His own heart. There are some that are going to be saved. There are some that are not going to be saved no matter what. They are not going to be saved. And the only knowing that we can be acquainted with is what the Bible says. There’s something up there of God in heaven, as well as there’s something down here in the earth.
Now I am speaking of the fact that in the Bible there is a special, saving, efficacious call by the Holy Spirit to the elect; and that is all through the Word of the Lord. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:23, in 1 Corinthians 1:23, verse 23, “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, unto the Greeks foolishness,” the Greek word is “moronic idiocy”; “But unto them who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” [1 Corinthians 1:23-24].
Here is a Jew who listens to it and to him it’s a stumbling block. Here is a Greek, and he listens to it, and to him it is idiocy. “But to us who are called … and whom He called He justified; and whom He justified, He sanctified; and whom He sanctified, He glorified” [Romans 8:30]: to us who are saved He is “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” [1 Corinthians 1:24]. Now isn’t that a strange thing? And then he goes right on, verse 26, “You see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, and not many mighty, and not many noble, are called” [1 Corinthians 1:26].
Yesterday, one of the men who attend our School of the Prophets over there in the East, was walking around and he said, he was at a convention of some kind, and he said, “I would just like to meet one of these professors over here in the Southeast who made those terrible remarks about the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas on his book, Why I Preach That the Bible is Literally True. I’d just like to meet one of those professors.”
And he happened to run into Dr. Alley, who is the professor over there in Richmond University, whom the faculty called in and said to keep his mouth shut, and if he didn’t shut it they were going to fire him. And he’s never had a word to say since then. But anyway, before that time, before that time he was mouthing all over creation. Oh, brother! What that guy wasn’t saying; language wouldn’t contain it!
So this young fellow just happened to run into him, and said to him, “I would just like to meet one of those professors over here in the Southeast that had those castigating, bitter, scathing remarks about the pastor of the church in Dallas and his book on why he preaches that the Bible is true.” So the fellow replied, “You’re looking at one right now. I’m one of them.” And the young fellow, astonished, blurted out and said, “Well, why don’t you believe that the Bible is true?” And Dr. Rueben Allen replied, “Because it is silly.”
Now wouldn’t that exalt your soul? Wouldn’t that convert the world? Wouldn’t that build a church? Wouldn’t that raise up great denominational leaders? “Why don’t you believe the Bible is true?”
“Because it is silly.” And of course, I read all kinds of things of his illustration of how the silliness of the Bible is apparent to him. Well, what’s the matter with him? It is one simple thing. He is not called; he is not called! To him it is silly; it is idiocy, it is foolishness [1 Corinthians 1:23].
That’s exactly what Paul has written: “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews,” the Greek word is skandalon; to the Jews it is scandal to preach that this Man who was electrocuted, their way of electrocution then was nailing them to a cross, this Man who’s executed, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” [Deuteronomy 21:23], that’s what Moses wrote. And to the Jew the preaching of Christ is a skandalon, translated here “a stumbling block” [1 Corinthians 1:23]. And to the Greeks it is moronic idiocy just like it is to Dr. Alley. It is idiocy, “But to us who are called, whether a Jew or a Greek,” a Jew or a Gentile, “He is Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” [1 Corinthians 1:23-24]. Now that is something that God has done for us. Praise His name! We’re going to talk about that in a minute.
Now in 2 Timothy 1:9, in 2 Timothy 1:9, in 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul—we’re talking about a saving, efficacious, special call of God through the Holy Spirit to the elect. Now here it is again:
Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God:
Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
[2 Timothy 1:8-9]
We who are saved, we have been called of God, not by our works because we did anything worthy of it, but because God loved us. And in His own purpose and grace He chose us before the world began [2 Timothy 1:8-9].
Now in Titus 3:5, of course, is that famous, famous word. Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy God saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” This is the way God works. Salvation is ultimately and finally a gift of God. It comes all together from Him [Ephesians 2:8].
I’m not going to have time to read these passages. My time is getting away. I have just a few minutes left, so I’ll just cite them. Salvation, our salvation, is ultimately and finally a gift of God. In John 1: 11 the apostle writes that, “He came unto His own,” our Lord, “came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that trust on His name” [John 1:11-12]. Now there’s your free moral agency. Now the sovereignty of God, “Who were born, not according to the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, nor of blood, but by the grace and mercy and goodness of God” [John 1:13]. There both of them are side by side. But when we are born into the kingdom it is not by the will of man, or the will of the flesh, and not by blood, but it is by the Holy Spirit of God.
In Acts 11:18, talking about those Gentiles in the household of Caesarea, “Then they said, Then hath God granted unto the Gentiles repentance unto life.” Our repentance is a gift of God. Our faith is a gift of God, John 6:64-65, the Lord says, “No man can come unto Me, except it be given him of My Father.”
When we repented, that was a gift of God. When we believed, it was a gift of God. And when we were born, we were born not because of the will of man or the will of the flesh; we were born because of the Spirit of God working in us [John 1:13].
Now God’s election is not whimsical, or capricious, or purposeless, but it is always to and for a holy life and a holy purpose. In John 15:16 the Lord says, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you”; that is the election of God. “You did not choose Me, I chose you.” Now always, election is for a holy and heavenly purpose; “I have chosen you and ordained you that you should bear much fruit, and that your fruit should remain” [John 15:16].
In Acts 9:15, when Ananias didn’t want to go to Saul because he was afraid of him, he had come there to destroy the Christians, the Lord said to Ananias, “Now you go, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles.” Always, always, election is for a holy and devout and heavenly purpose, and there’s no exception to that.
When God has called us, when God has sanctified us, when God has regenerated, always it is for that purpose. For example, and I’ll take time to read one, the first chapter of Ephesians, beginning at verse 4: “According as God hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” [Ephesians 1:4]. Why? “That we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us.” There’s the word again, “unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ . . . according to the good purpose of His will, To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” [Ephesians 1:4-6]. When God chooses us, when God calls us, He calls us, the purpose of election is that we might be holy and sanctified and fruitful and useful in God’s hands. You find that in Colossians 3:12, in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, and 1 Peter 2:9, among other passages.
Now we’re coming to the purpose of God’s election, as it is revealed in the Bible. Always God’s election is for good, never for evil. It is in the mercy of God that any one of us is saved [Titus 2:5]. Were it not for the elective purpose of God [Romans 9:11], the predestinated goodness of God [Romans 8:28-30], there would be no one of us that is saved. We’d all be lost.
A dead man cannot originate his quickening. He cannot. All you need to do is just to look in a casket. The man cannot raise himself. A creature cannot originate his own creation. An infant cannot originate his own beginning. The first quickening of the dead must originate in God [Ephesians 2:1]. If God does not do it, we all are lost. And without that elective purpose, that predestinated purpose, we are dead and dead forever. Ephesians 2, verse 1 and 3-b, verse 4 and 5, describes to us that we are dead in trespasses and in sins, by nature we are the children of wrath, but God in His mercy saved us. It originates in God [Ephesians 2:1, 3, 4-5]. Repentance is a gift of God, faith is a gift of God. Our regeneration is a work of God [Ephesians 2:8]. Election is the determination of God that the sufferings of Christ shall not be in vain.
Some will accept, believe in, the Lord Jesus. Otherwise, none would believe, none would accept; Christ would not have any disciples, He would not have any followers. He would not have any believers were it not that God has determined that the death of Christ shall not be in vain. In John 6:37, in John 17:2, 6, 9, the Lord speaks of those that God has given Him. They are the ones that come to Him, the rest do not. But those have been given Him because God has determined that the death of Christ shall not be empty, and sterile, and void, and without fruit.
Somebody said to Spurgeon, “If I believe what you believe,” talking to Spurgeon because Spurgeon as you know was a Calvinist, like we are Calvinists. He believed in election and predestination and the sovereignty of God. Somebody said to Spurgeon, “If I believe what you believe I just wouldn’t preach at all, because these people that are not elect are not going to be saved. Why preach?”
And Spurgeon said, “Not so, my brother.” He says, “I’m always encouraged when I preach because they may not all believe, but God will give me some. God will always give me a harvest,” and God honored that faith of the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon. When he preached, God honored it with souls. Dr. John Watson (Ian McClaron) said, and I quote from him, “The greatest reinforcement religion could have in our time would be a return to the ancient belief in the sovereignty of God.” The doctrine does not discourage effort.
Why work? Why do anything when God is going to save whom He is going to save, and He is not going to save whom He is not going to save? Why work at all? Well, here in the Bible we are plainly told that even though God has promised something, we still are to work. We are not to fail.
Now I want to give you an illustration of that in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Acts. They are in the storm at sea, and Paul is with those men and soldiers, and they are on the way to Rome. And in that storm the ship, Paul says, is going to be broken up. Now here’s what he says in verse 22, Acts 27:
And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship—
the ship will be lost, but no man will be lost—
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Now look at here, in verse 31 the sailors were about to escape out of the ship because it was going down. Then Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved” [Acts 27:31].
Now he had just said there’s not going to be a one loss, not one loss [Acts 27:22], and then when those sailors started to leave the sinking ship, Paul said, “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved” [Acts 27:31]. Now there those things are side by side. God says in election and revealed it to Paul, “Not a one is going to be lost, not one.” And then when they tried to get out of the ship and escape, and the soldiers were going to leave the sinking ship, why, Paul said, “If they do not stay, if they do not stay they are not going to be saved.”
Now, when God elects, that doesn’t mean that we don’t work. There is as much need for obedience as if there had been no election and no decree. Knowing that God will save every member of the human race He can and remain God, we are to preach to all.
I want to take time to say a word about that. In second chapter of Ezekiel, the Lord says to Ezekiel, “Thou shalt speak My words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, they are most rebellious” [Ezekiel 2:3-5]. It doesn’t in any wise affect our work. “If they will listen, fine; if they will not listen, you cannot help it. But I send you to preach, and you are to preach!”
Henry Ward Beecher said the elect are the whosoever wills, and the non-elect are the whosoever won’ts, just that plain and simple. And here I am preaching the gospel. And if a man will, he will be saved. If a man won’t, he won’t be saved. And only God knows.
I am to preach the gospel to every creature according to the Word of the Lord. I remember an English preacher who was asked why he preached, when only the elect were going to be saved, and the man replied, “If you will take a chalk mark and put it on the elect, I will just preach to them.”
Sweet people, in just a few minutes, and listen to me now as I conclude, what does the doctrine of election do to your heart? What does it do to your soul? Well, I have an answer universal for that. The doctrine of election elicits the most wonderful responses to the goodnesses of God. All thanks are due to the God who has chosen us and redeemed us and renewed us in Him. The affections are stimulated of glory and of thanksgiving; never of pride and self-complacency, but always of gratitude and thanksgiving to God that the Lord should have saved me, out of all that are lost. And just look around those that are lost, yet the mercy of God reached down to me.
Last week, as I mentioned to some of you, I was in Seattle preaching to the Lenten services of the Presbyterian churches of Tacoma and Seattle, Washington. And while I was there I met a Latvian, a tall, blonde Latvian. And I do believe that that man just exuded glory to God, praise to the Lord. It was a marvelous thing just to be in his presence. Here’s what had happened to him.
When the communists came, when the communists came, when Russia took over Latvia and absorbed it and destroyed the nation, they took some of those Latvian leaders, and every other one they shot. Lined them up, a long line of them, and every other one they shot. And they went down the line. They chose this one and shot him. Skipped this, chose this one and shot him, skipped this one, chose this one. And the Latvian said to me, “They came to the man standing at my right, chose him, and shot him; skipped me, and chose the man to my left, and shot him, and left me standing there, alive; my life given me as I prayed.”
Do you believe in the election of God? Why should this one have been shot and this one have been shot and this one left alive? Well, anyway, that man, that Latvian took it as the gift from the hands of God. And he has devoted himself day and night—he’s a business man—day and night exalting and praising Jesus. That’s the effect that election will have upon a born-again sinner. He praises God! He loves the Lord! He thanks God, and the more of the lost that he sees, the more is he humbled that the grace of God should have chosen me [Ephesians 2:8].
Now I close with an example in our hymnology of the effect that election has upon those who are saved. This is a hymn written by Isaac Watts, in 1748:
“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”
‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly forced me in;
Else I had still refused to taste,
And perish in my sin.
Pity our nation, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious word abroad,
And bring the wanderers home.
[from “How Sweet and Awesome Is This Place,” Isaac Watts]
Thankful to God that the Lord constrained him. All right, this last one from Josiah Conder, written in 1855:
‘Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For, Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse Thee,
But Thou hast chosen me;
Hast from the sin that stained me,
Washed and set me free,
And to this end ordained me,
That I should live to Thee.
‘Twas sov’reign mercy called me,
And taught my op’ning mind;
The world had else enthralled me,
To heav’nly glories blind;
My heart owns none above Thee;
For Thy rich grace I thirst;
This knowing, if I love Thee,
Thou must have loved me first.
[from “‘Tis Not That I Did Choose Thee,” Josiah Conder]
The whole hymnology is full of praise like that.
O glory to God that I am saved. O bless His name that He called me. O dear Jesus, how unworthy do I feel when I think of the abounding grace that reached even to me.
The doctrine of election and predestination is our assurance that we will not fail. [The] devil is not going to prevail; the world is not going to prevail. There is a great Sovereign up there that guides the history of mankind and the whole earth and all of its future is in His omnipotent hands. It is our assurance, and it is our comfort that when we preach God will give us some. He promised that to Jesus, lest His suffering and His death be in vain [John 6:37]. God hath given to the Lord some; and those some come to us when we give appeal and invitation. “Cheer up, my little children,” He said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” [Luke 12:32]. That is election.