The Bible throughout teaches that God is the one who makes all the choices of what He will do. Nothing at all takes place unless God has, from eternity, ordained (predestinated) and caused it to occur. What God foreordains, He reveals in the course of history by His providential acts. All of history and man’s acts are in the hands of our sovereign God. God’s choice of man unto salvation is not based on some meritorious good that God can foresee in man, for this good does not exist.
Salvation, either in its accomplishment or in its application, is not by works which we have done or will do, but by the mercy and grace of God. Any merit on our part must be excluded, lest we begin to boast about our “choosing” or “accepting” Christ (see Eph. 2:9). Even our best works in this life are as “filthy rags” (Is. 64:6; see also Ps. 14:1-4) and defiled with sin. None could stand before a God whose purity and holiness is infinitely perfect.
One of the best definitions of the doctrine of unconditional election is found in the Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine, Article 7, where it states, “Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, He has out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom He from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect and the foundation of salvation.”
Under the First Head of Doctrine, Article 9, the Canons of Dort state the “unconditional” aspect of God’s election. “This election was not founded upon foreseen faith and obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the prerequisite, cause, or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc. Therefore election is the fountain of every saving good, from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself….”
God could have chosen to save all men by His grace. He certainly had the power and the authority to do so. And God would have been just if He had chosen to save none! But, God did neither of these. Rather, He chose to save some and exclude others. He is under no obligation to save anyone. That is what the Bible reveals.
According to God’s own Word, His election unto salvation is not based upon any foreseen act of good or some foreseen response of faith on the part of those He elected. If He had done this, salvation would no longer be by “grace alone.” Man would have merited God’s choice. The Scriptures make it clear that God acted by His own good pleasure and sovereign will when he chose to save His people.
Ephesians chapter 1 verses 4 and 5 are probably the clearest in teaching this. We read, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will…” See also Eph. 1:9 and 11 on God’s purpose and the matter of the good (sovereign) pleasure of God’s will.
Because God is sovereign He can do anything He pleases. He is not bound by what we might think is fair. Man’s sense of “fairness” is always defiled by his own sin and subsequent selfishness. God knows only perfect justice — and that demands that all men be condemned eternally to hell unless a perfect satisfaction for their sin is made to allow men to escape His wrath (see Heidelberg Catechism Q. 12). It should not surprise us that God does not save all men, but that He choose to save any!
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.