The second of the Five Points of Calvinism that we will examine is the doctrine of unconditional election. In the Canons of Dort this doctrine appears first, since it appeared first in the “Remonstrance” they were refuting.
There are some people who call themselves “Four Point Calvinists” because they will not accept this teaching (similarly, others have a problem with limited atonement). As we progress with this study it will be easy to see that one of these doctrines cannot be left out without destroying them all. They are dependent on each other and are welded together as the links of one chain because they have their unifying basis in the Bible. Those who claim to hold to only some of these doctrines will eventually have to admit that they hold to none of them as we have explained them here.
Those who have a difficult time believing this doctrine often say they just don’t understand it. It may be for that reason, but more likely it is just a matter of not being able to accept it once it is understood. As with all teachings of Scripture, we must understand them with our minds, and accept them by faith in our hearts. True faith is not knowledge alone, but it must be grounded in sure knowledge, holding it to be true, and a hearty trust in what is taught in the Word of God.
It is important that we study this particular doctrine thoroughly, for many other doctrines are built on it. The doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of God cannot be honored without a firm grasp of the doctrine of unconditional election.
Based on Total Depravity
First, we must realize that the doctrine of unconditional election is wholly dependent upon a proper understanding of total depravity. We have seen from that study that man is in such a state of sin that he cannot and will not make any spiritual choice for good. He is simply unable by his own power to choose salvation in Christ. If God would have to rely on man to come to Jesus Christ none would or could be saved because man by nature is dead in sin. While some of fallen man’s choices may appear good in our eyes, they can never be directed to the glory of God and can never bring him to salvation in Christ. The reason for this is that good works must proceed out of true faith, be based on the Law of God, and be motivated by a desire to bring glory to God. Good works cannot produce true faith, nor is true faith to be considered a good work of man. Left to ourselves we would still be trying to hide from God and hide our sins by our own inventions as Adam and Eve did.
It would have been perfectly just or right for God to leave all men in the state of sin and condemnation which they have earned by their inborn and actual sins. God would be just to condemn us all to hell, for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). God is never a debtor to man. He owes man nothing — man, whose whole being is corrupted and bent on rebelling against God all the time. How much more should we thank God for our salvation when we realize this!
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism, available for purchase. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author.
If you’d like to read the blog series from the beginning, start here.