The Confident Christian
11/20/13 at 08:07 AM 129 Comments

Proof That God Chooses Who Will Be Saved

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Dan Delzell’s reasoning’s and conclusions in his article, “Proof that God Wants Everyone in Heaven” was something I would have agreed with some years ago. The thought that God would not extend His grace and mercy to every human being was as distasteful to me as eating rhubarb.

But during my dissertation work, I was forced to look longer and harder than I had in the past at the Apostle Paul’s writings on salvation and evangelism, and through that study and other work, I became convinced that the reformed teaching of election was biblical – i.e. that God indeed chooses who will be saved and leaves the rest in their chosen rebellion.

Make no mistake, this position isn’t popular within much of Christendom or outside the Church for that matter. Dan’s stance is much more palatable and appealing, but even so, I have to respectfully disagree with my Christian brother regarding his position.

As opposed to where Dan ends up, I think proof for a biblical position that says God chooses who will be saved can be had by examining how the Bible answers two key questions.

Question One - Can a person come to God for salvation on their own?

Dan says a number of times in his article that all a person needs to do is approach God and ask to be saved. There’s just one problem with that – the Bible explicitly says that a person, unaided by God, cannot do that.

Now, I’ve deliberately chosen my words above to state my case. The Bible is explicit in this fact; there is nothing implicit about it or anything that needs to be inferred. Unless God draws a person to Christ, they cannot take the first step towards salvation.

Two times in John Jesus says this: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44); “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father (John 6:65).

Let’s break it down: “No one” – that is a universal negative and means you, me, and everyone ever born. “Can” – a statement of capability or capacity. “Unless” – the necessary condition that delivers the ability to the previously impotent person.

“Draw” is also an interesting Greek word (helkyō). Literally it means “compel”, with one Lexicon defining it as: “to move an object from one area to another in a pulling motion, draw, with implication that the object being moved is incapable of propelling itself or in the case of pers. is unwilling to do so voluntarily, in either case with implication of exertion on the part of the mover”[1]

Pretty descriptive wouldn’t you say? It certainly speaks to more than simply wooing or enticing someone to do something, as some Christian teachers would have you believe.

The fact is, Scripture is unanimous in its position of our inability to come to God as Dan describes. Instead, the Bible says unbelievers (which everyone has been at some point) are dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1), “hostile in mind” towards God (Col. 1:21), possess a “depraved” (1 Tim. 6:3-5), “futile” (Eph. 4:17) and “defiled” mind (Titus 1:15), do not seek God (Rom. 3:10-12), are unable to submit themselves to God’s ways (Rom. 8:6-7), see the plan of salvation as foolish (1 Cor. 1:18), and cannot understand God’s message (1 Cor. 2:14).

So as Jesus says, you cannot come to Him unless the Father draws you. Now on to the $64,000 question…

Question Two: Does God Draw Everyone?

“Yes!” says most of the Church.

However, I’m convinced that the answer Scripture gives is “no”.

Some say the doctrine of unconditional election is the most despised teaching of reformed theology, but I would disagree. I believe the most rejected doctrine is irresistible grace, better termed “effectual grace”, which is also oftentimes referred to as the internal call of God.

Does God call everyone to Himself in a salvific way? While God certainly externally speaks to people through the preaching of the gospel, Scripture describes the internal call of God as something quite different.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at two very explicit verses that I believe prove my point: “but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

There is no getting around what this verse says. There are Jews and Greeks who have heard the external call of God but see it as impossible or ridiculous and then there are Jews and Greeks (the same two groups) who see the gospel as powerful and wise. Why do the latter see something that the former don’t? Because they were smarter than the others and figured things out for themselves? No, it’s because of the Creator’s work in their hearts; they are the called of God (see also Rom. 1:6, Rom. 8:30, 1 Cor. 1:9, 2 Tim. 2:9, Eph. 4:4, 2 Pet. 1:3).

When God calls/draws His chosen ones to Christ, their former rebellion towards God melts away. Although perhaps an unfortunate term in some ways, irresistible grace does describe what happens quite well because, as J. I. Packer says, “Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist.”[2]

This is clearly described by Jesus when He says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37, my emphasis).

Further, look at how verse 44 concludes in John 6: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” Notice that the one who is drawn is also raised by Christ. Unless you are a Universalist, you cannot maintain a position that says God draws all people and keep this verse in its proper context.

But wait – doesn’t Jesus say, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32; there’s that word ‘draw’ again), and doesn’t it say in the very beginning of John, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (John 1:9)?

Without a doubt, those verses are in Scripture, but examined in context, you will find they do not refer to God drawing every human being to Himself in a cajoling fashion. The passage in John 12 refers to Gentiles being included in God’s plan of salvation and not just Jews, and John’s reference to every person being enlightened does not refer to some sort of universal salvation, but signifies that Jesus’ light either results in salvation for a person or only exposes a person’s sin (cf. John 3:18-21; 16:8-11).[3]

In the end, as much as some may dislike the answer, Scripture answers our second question in the negative.

Conclusion

Some years back, I wrote a 3-part presentation refuting the universalism teachings of Rob Bell in his book, Love Wins. Although I disagreed with the vast majority of Bell’s thoughts in his book, there was one section that asked a couple of questions that demand an answer, even if not in the context Bell intended: “So does God get what God wants . . . Does this magnificent, mighty, marvelous God fail in the end?”[4]

There is no getting around the answer if you adhere to Delzell’s conclusions – it’s no, God doesn’t really get what He wants and He does fail in the end. God wants to save all people, but using their supposed free will, most reject God leaving Him frustrated and empty handed.

Yet, Scripture says, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Yes, believe it or not, not even you can stand in the way of being saved if God wants you saved. He’s sovereign, you’re not, end of story. No talk about God supposedly valuing your ‘free’ will over everything else can undo that fact, and moreover, if anyone can find me one explicit verse in Scripture stating that God values your free will over your salvation, I’m all ears.

Lastly, I’d like you to consider this: we talk all the time about God’s ways not being our ways (Is. 55:8-9), but when it comes to salvation, well, we really don’t believe that. Admittedly, if it were up to me, I’d certainly have a system like the one Dan describes.

However, the picture that the Bible paints is one where everyone is born in sin and chooses to reject God until He graciously undoes the effects of the Fall in the hearts of those He chooses as a Bride for His Son. Maybe, like Jonathan Edwards, this fact initially leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But when you fully understand what grace really is, you, like Edwards later on, will embrace this incredible truth and acknowledge something very important.

His ways really aren’t your ways.



[1] BDAG.

[2] J. I. Packer, introduction to John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2007), pg. 8.

[3] For a fuller explanation of these verses, see Tom Schreiner’s essay “Does Scripture Teach Prevenient Grace in the Wesleyan Sense?” in Still Sovereign, ed. Schreiner and Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995).

[4] Rob Bell, Love Wins (HarperCollins, Kindle Edition), pg. 97.

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