No truth suffers more the attack of man’s natural hatred, enmity and opposition than the truth of election. It has its foes both in the house of its friends and in the doubting castle of those who know the least about it. It is denied both by those formally acquainted with its mysteries, and by others never having made it the object of fair investigation. It is held down in unrighteousness both by the master of Israel and by the hewer of wood or drawer of water. Where evident in the young, it is castigated as youthful dotings in imagined theologies. The aged one holding it is put down as a case of religious paranoia. Yet there is always a remnant according to the election of grace, where hearts are opened to the truth, prejudices against it removed, and grace obtained to give diligence to make calling and election sure.
This great truth is very ancient. It validly boasts an antiquity greater than that of the historical church or the preached gospel. For it is eternal election, the revelation of God’s mind. Yet, for all its antiquity, it is not some strange, out-dated oddity buried under the ruins of decadent civilizations now only a piece of petrified traditionalism. It is transcendent above all time and history, and is alone interpretive of space, time and history. Therefore, all truth, no less this one, must be examined, reviewed, loved for its own sake, maintained, evaluated and seen to be as relevant to the times as tomorrow’s newspaper.
This is a fundamental truth. It is a fundamental of the Christian faith, as essential and indispensable element of the faith. Strange, then, it is that they who call themselves Fundamentalists, and pride themselves in being great defenders of the faith, do not have a place, among their fundamentals, for this basic fundamental, the doctrine of election. Yet not so strange is it when we consider that Fundamentalists are, almost to a man, doctrinally and practically Arminian. That is what makes a man an outspoken or tacit enemy of this truth. The best theologians and instructors in Reformation truth, which is the only genuine biblical truth, have always begun their systematic theologies first with a dissertation on the attributes of God, then to continue with a treatment of the eternal counsel of God. This is evident in the works of Calvin, Guido de Bres, Gill, Hodge, Berkhof and Hoeksema. Works produced by men of great predestinarian faith are incomparable in relation to the efforts of the moderns. Without a firm, grounding and basis on divine attributes and divine decrees, one is not set for any sound thinking, planning or action. It has often been said, and let us keep saying it, that God is God, and over against Him man is nothing and less than nothing. God is always first. His counsel is always first. None can be His counsellor. He is before all things. His counsel is before creation, before man, before the fall. An architect has his own plans in mind before he draws them up. They originate in his mind before they materialize on paper. He, naturally, draws his plans before he begins to build. Yet how inadequately this illustrates the high and mighty Architect of the universe whose counsel is no dead, mechanical blue-print, but the eternal, sovereign, living will of the living God. According to His own will He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass before the creation of the universe. From all eternity He has determined all things in the secret counsel of His eternal purpose. Yet this secret counsel He has not kept, causing it to remain a secret, but has revealed it in His own Word of grace. There revealed is His eternal purpose, the end of which He has purposed, together with all the means ordained to that end.
A building in the process of construction may often seem to resemble a shambles, its hideous array, almost as rubble, obscured with an equal, or only slightly less hideous scaffolding, in all, so far, revealing no order nor design. In fact, to begin with, there is much more design apparent in the scaffolding than in the building. Most spectators are content to gape at the, to them, meaningless disarray of stone and steel. Rarely have they the curiosity, much less the interest, to obtain a view of the master plan, which would furnish them with an immediate insight to the finished edifice. Then they, seeing the end from the beginning, would have that which so mystified them made plain. It follows, similarly, with a knowledge of God’s eternal counsel. Ignorance of the decree of God will render history to the understanding of a man an insoluble riddle. The basic question to the issue at hand is whether God works all things according to the counsel of His own Chill, or whether He is often governed by chance; whether the call of the Gospel makes an uncertain sound, or whether it is sure to all the seed which the Lord has blessed; whether God prevails or man prevails; whether the evil is always subservient to the good, or whether throughout time the antithesis of good to. evil must be left indeterminate; whether the Lord depends upon His own almighty will or the puny will of the creature; whether all things, whatever come to pass, have been infallibly and immutably fixed in God’s eternal decree, or whether God and His universe are bound by a merciless fate.
The doctrine of election takes us back to the beginning of all things, to the decree of the covenant, where God decreed His dwelling with many glorified sons, decreed the preaching of the Gospel, the coming of Christ, the fall of man, the creation, and the entrance of sin into the world. It takes us back to the starting point, where God begins, and where, too, man must begin, if he would have the right view of life, and have understanding of the truth. Being foundational truth, anything not established upon it is built on sinking sand. Any thinking not in harmony with this truth, will according to the degree of deviation be faulty. Departure from this fundamental truth will result in fundamental error and fundamental misunderstanding. The Gospel will not be understood. Indeed, without election, there is no Gospel, for the Gospel is good tidings of great joy to all the people, who have been chosen in the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Without election, the atonement will not be understood, in fact, if there were no election, there would be no atonement. For the Lamb without spot or blemish was foreordained from the foundation of the world. Without a rooting and grounding in this truth there can be no proper understanding of God’s purpose in sending His Son into the world, of the mysteries of God’s providence, of His plain promises, or of what is even more fundamental, His covenant.
Here, admittedly, we have difficult doctrine. This is especially so in the comprehension of it. Yet we trust that what we shall write in this series shall be not only edifying but plain, and interesting, especially to older youth and young adults. Some of our readers, outside our Protestant Reformed circles, have the disadvantage of sitting under a non-doctrinal preaching ministry where truth at best is presented topically, but at that, not comprehensively. So that even if the hearers have the ability to search, sift, collate, classify and index, the scattered statements from the pulpit furnish nothing of this truth. Regular, systematic preaching, according to Scripture and the confessions, where this truth is orderly set forth, is not available to them. Then there is another difficulty: the accepting of this truth is not an easy matter. Even when the mind does grasp what Scripture teaches on the subject, the heart rebels against such pride-abasing truth. The natural mind is enmity against God and His revelation, which enmity is especially manifested in prejudice against this particular trust. Only the grace and power of the Holy Spirit can remove opposition to His Word and open the understanding to understand the Scriptures. Further, the preaching of this truth is not a simple task. The novice is not one to handle it competently. Sharp tools do not belong in the hands of children or fools. It is not “for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have . . . before their eyes the sentence of God’s predestination,” for such only wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction (Art. 17, “Of Predestination and Election,” The Thirty-Nine Art. of Relig., Ch. of Eng.).
But difficulties should not discourage us, nor deter us from investigating what God has revealed on this truth. There is nothing unnecessary taught in Scripture, nor is anything there not beneficial to know. When the Lord ceases to teach, we should relinquish our desire to learn. But whatever is declared in Scripture, we must be careful not to refuse or withhold from God’s people. “We can know only as much about predestination as God has seen fit to reveal. It is important we know thatmuch!” “Buy the truth, and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23) is a price many are unwilling to pay. Too occupied with that crumbling idol—television, their worldly pursuits, or their own cozy circle, they will not be disturbed by prayerful, careful and heart-searching study of God’s Word. But such difficulties are insurmountable only to the lazy. Especially the minister, but nonetheless the believer, is called to expend effort to become a workman that needs not to be ashamed, because he knows how to cut a straight path through the Word of truth.
No truth is more important than this one. Upon the book of election there stands inscribed at the head of its register the name of the Son of God, If there were no eternal election, there would be no Jesus Christ, and if no Jesus Christ, then no Gospel; with no Gospel; no people chosen in Christ, and so no salvation of any part of the race. But the Gospel, the plan of redemption and the whole eternal purpose of God for the entire universe have their origin in divine election. For as our Canons of Dordt (I, 9) remind us: “election is the fountain of every saving good, from which flows forth faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself.” Out of this fountain God has from all eternity blessed His chosen church with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ, according as He has chosen us in Him before the creation of the universe. This being so, election is the most blessed truth. Election is before all blessings, the fountain of every blessing. Those blessings the elect have already out of eternity because they are in Him, and they are in Him because chosen in Him. Therefore, to shut out this truth is to rob God’s people of their most glorious hopes and prospects.
(To be continued, D.V.)