The Love of God
Arminian doctrine wants to maintain the rights and freedom of man and limit the right and freedom of God by using the concept of a universal love of God. This doctrine fails to answer the problem it raises. If election is based on God’s foresight, why would God create those men whom He foreknew would not believe and thus be eternally lost? If it is true that God wishes all men to come to salvation, then why does He bring men into the world whom He is able to foresee will reject the gospel? In the end, the attempts to preserve man’s autonomy and God’s integrity does grave injustice to the security of man’s salvation, and the sovereignty and grace of God. In the end such doctrine accomplishes nothing. The Arminian is left with the same problem he tried to avoid, and, at the same time, done an injustice to God.
A Doctrine of Comfort
Election, properly understood, is not problematic, but one of the greatest comforts a Christian can enjoy. To know that God has determined something means that neither man nor any other creature can undo it. The elect of God will not and cannot fall away (which will be more fully discussed in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints).
It may appear that some have true faith and then later they lose it and even die as unbelievers, but the fact is, that they were not God’s people from the beginning. Jesus notes this about Judas Iscariot. He had a lot of the outward markings of a true disciple, but Jesus knew that he had a devil, and he was lost (see Jn. 17:12). In the parable of the Sower Jesus points out that what appears to be faith may spring up in some, but it is not real faith, for it does not last. None of the sheep that our Lord sacrifices Himself for will be lost (see Jn. 6:37-39; 10:28,29; 17:24; 18:9). I John 2:19 addresses the question of those who have left the faith when it says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”
On the other hand, those who for a large part of their life might appear to be faithless may still be of the elect of God and come to repentance and faith by the work of the Holy Spirit in the eleventh hour (such as the thief on the cross). Who would have held out hope for the Apostle Paul before Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus? We may not make any final judgments on others, but we may judge by the fruits we see as to whether a person exhibits the fruits of true faith at a given time.
“The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different measures, attain the assurance of their eternal and unchangeable election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God – such as, a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.” (Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine, Article 12)
The Arminian has no such comfort that God will keep that which He has sovereignly chosen since the choice to be one of God’s children rests primarily with man. Once the doctrine of total depravity is seen from Scripture, the question of “Then how can any man be saved?” is answered in the doctrine of election.
The doctrine of unconditional election offers the greatest confidence and assurance for the Christian, and rightly so, for it is God’s work from the beginning and it cannot fail. We should be concerned to understand and confess this doctrine of unconditional election simply because it is taught in the Bible. It also gives us the explanation of why some and not all men believe and are saved. It is not because of God’s failure, but it is His triumph. Read Matthew 24:22-24 in the light of what the Bible says about the elect and the comfort God gives through it.
Finally, let us consider a problem that is raised in the minds of some regarding this doctrine. It is this: “If God only will save the elect, how can I know that I am one of the elect?” This should not cause doubt or confusion at all. On the contrary, if we truly are repentant and believe that Jesus has died for our sins, that is the evidence that we are elected by God. God works this faith only in the hearts of His chosen ones (remember Acts 13:48). Rather than cause doubt or questions, this wonderful doctrine of God assures us that our salvation, from beginning to end, is secure in the hands of the Almighty.
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.