Sunday, December 6, 2009

The World, Elected In Christ

Peterson quotes Paul R. House in his book, “Election and Free Will: God’s Gracious Choice and Our Responsibility”:

“God chooses Abram as an individual, but ‘election in this case proves God’s merciful kindness TO THE WORLD, not just to Abram’” [Robert Peterson, quoting Paul R. House, “Old Testament Theology.” (Downers Grove: IVP, 1998, page 78)Peterson quotes this on page 47 of his book. Emphasis mine.]

Paul House’s quote of God showing kindness to the world echoes what Paul writes in Galatians:

“And the Scripture, FORESEEING THAT GOD WOULD JUSTIFY THE GENTILES BY FAITH, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you ALL THE NATIONS shall be blessed’” (Galatians 3:8 NKJV, citing Genesis 12:3).

When Abram was chosen, he wasn’t just chosen for himself or for the nation of Israel---- but for all nations, all people. But what was this blessing given to all people? Paul writes further in Galatians 3:

“that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles IN CHRIST JESUS, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14).

Notice then, that all the nations of the world would be blessed “in Christ Jesus,” that Christ would come for everyone, for all. When the apostle John writes, “For God SO LOVED THE WORLD, that He gave His only begotten Son,” (John 3:16a), he does so to tell us that the world was elected in Christ! Christ really came for every person!
I find it fascinating, then, when Calvinists attempt to go to Romans 9 and argue for “unconditional” election. Peterson writes:

“It is important to note that God’s choice of his people is based on his will and his love” (46-47).

I would agree. Christ’s election is “unconditional” in that He was not bound to save anyone. Because all sinned in Adam (Romans 5), all deserved the penalty of eternal damnation. Peterson and I agree on that one thing.

However, there is a point at which Peterson and I no longer agree. Think about what I’ve said above:

Premise 1: If Christ was the blessing that “all the nations” would receive, then all people were blessed by the coming of Christ into the world.

Premise 2: God giving His Son was “unconditional” in that God chose to do so freely out of His love for mankind.

On top of my two premises, add a third: that Christ’s coming signified the bestowal of grace upon all of humanity:

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11, NKJV).

There are many Calvinists who take Romans 9 and argue for “individual election”; yet and still, when they get to Titus 2:11, they want to argue “corporate election.” To be consistent, however, they must argue that Titus 2:11, like Romans 9, argues for individual election.

If every individual is elected (Titus 2:11) by God in Christ, and God is the one who “picks and chooses” (as in the Calvinist system), then everyone will be saved, right?

Well, this is where Calvinists and I give different answers. Calvinists will say that everyone is not saved BECAUSE GOD DID NOT CHOOSE TO SAVE EVERYONE; but this contradicts what Scripture (shown above) has demonstrated: that EVERY person is elected in Christ, that Christ came for “all the nations,” every single person born on the earth. John 3:17 even tells us that God sent His Son into the world “so that the world might be saved.” How then, could God send His Son for EVERYONE, but then turn around and only choose to save SOME? That is the inconsistency in the Calvinist system that every Calvinist has to answer for. If God sends His Son for ALL, and then chooses to save only SOME, then God has contradicted Himself...and He has a lot of explaining to do.

Contra Calvinists, I believe that God is true to everything He says: “Let God be TRUE, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4, NKJV)! Therefore, to resolve the “seeming” contradiction of God electing all and yet electing “some,” we must return to Scripture and find out why salvation is only given to some.

Paul states that there is an “exclusion” principle at play in Romans 9:

“For they are not all Israel who are OF ISRAEL. Nor all they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called’. That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed” (Romans 9:6-8, NKJV).

Who are the children of the promise? Paul tells us in Galatians 3:

“Therefore know that ONLY THOSE WHO ARE OF FAITH are sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7, NKJV).

So if the “children of the flesh” are not children of promise, and the children of promise are those who are of faith, then “the children of the flesh” are those who “are not of faith.” The children of the promise then, in Romans 9, consist of those who are “of faith”----for “only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7).

Romans 9 then, comes to tell us of a conditional election. While all the world is elected in Christ, and God chose to give His Son for the world freely (unconditional election),not everyone will receive that election----because they choose not to believe. Election then, while unconditional in God’s giving of His Son, is “conditional” in its appropriation to each person (by faith in Christ).

What about the case of Jacob and Esau? I will deal with that soon...

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