7. Its Justice
The enemies of unconditional election contend that for god to sovereignly choose a people to Himself and to deny the rest of mankind the same blessing as the elect is to become so partial as to treat the rest of mankind with the greatest inequality. They must realize, however, that the God of election is also the God of creation and providence, who in both spheres distributes His gifts very unevenly. Equality does not appear in God’s distribution of physical, mental, social and material bestowments. Equality will not appear, either, in the perfection of the New Heaven and New Earth. There will be found in perfection the communion of saints, but not the equality of saints. Nor is the sovereign God bound to make an even distribution of that which is alone in His hands. Then how could it be wrong for Him to give His spiritual blessings as it pleases Him, evenly or unevenly?
Imagine conversing with a man of the world on the subject of justice. He has some regard for honesty, and may therefore exclaim, although somewhat as Pilate, What is justice? For he honestly does not know what he is talking about when he discusses the subject, and is rather tolerantly and amusedly suspicious of anyone who thinks he does know. To illustrate his point, he may ask, What is profitable, to get well when sick, or to die? Or is it to keep healthy when well, or to become sick? For some have gained by being sick. But who is to say what is good, or best? What standard is there by which to judge? So the man is lost who does not begin with the Word of God. For justice is that which is in harmony with the revealed will of God. Justice is the weighing out of what is right. With all men the sons of fallen Adam, rebels against God, what is right for them is destruction under the wrath of God. God’s justice is inexorable, and is either meted out against the sinner, or against the Divine Substitute who bears the Stroke of justice they deserve;
In connection with the justice of God’s predestination, He, in the matter, simply does that which is right. It is all a question of what is right. It is not a question of what God ought to do. It is one of the basic presuppositions of our Calvinistic and Reformed world and-life view that God is God, and that He is the absolute sovereign who hides His eternal counsel from the “wise” and reveals it unto “babes,” so that then in this connection we do not speak of what God ought to do. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” The sovereign is not obligated to his subjects. It is not man who makes the “decision” here, but God. He decides whether there shall be a creation, whether the creature shall exist at all, whether He shall love or hate the sinner. It is His decision whether a man shall be a vessel of mercy, enjoying covenant fellowship with Him, or a vessel of wrath, and so a castaway forever.
If God’s justice be called into question with election and reprobation, the very foundation of the most fundamental principle of Calvinism, the absolute sovereignty of God, upon which predestination stands, is attacked. God’s dominion and right of disposal is indisputable. To call God or His predestination into question is not only the height of audacity, and absurdity, but it is futile!
Today, men are charged with injustice because they choose their own friends to the exclusion of others, because they have their favorites, because they would enjoy the seclusion of their own private property, because they would operate their own private enterprises in their own way, because they would in their businesses serve a clientele of their own selection. Such a charge is really an attack on the Almighty God, for He does similarly in the heavenly sphere. He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. He has His favorites, the sons of Jacob. He excludes all others, the people against whom He has indignation forever. He will enjoy with His own the seclusion and security of His heaven of heavens, free of intruders, and free of the threat of expulsion from His own domain. He will conduct the operations of His, the King’s, business as He pleases, bestowing five talents on some, or none on others. He will not be corrupted or coerced into merging His own elect institute with the institutions of the world. He will have a true church, keep it pure and true to Scripture and the Reformed confessions, and bring it into His eternal kingdom, quite separate from the society of Satan.
In this country, men are still, to a great degree, free. But if God is to be charged with injustice because He is the God of election and reprobation, then man will soon be charged with injustice merely because he is free. For God is eternally and sovereignly free. He alone, strictly, has free will. But man is still free, in this land, to select the woman he desires to marry. Not yet does the government require a man to marry according to the will of the state. If a man is and may be so free to choose, is there injustice in God’s choosing whom He will to dwell with Him in His heavenly home? If a man in choosing a wife does not wrong to the other women he of necessity must reject, then certainly God is not only free to select and separate His own from all others, but also in so doing He wrongs none of the rejected element of humanity. If a man has a perverted idea of justice, he will have no proper conception of freedom.
When we think of the justice of God, we want to remember that, the attribute of His justice is an expression of His being, of what He is, and then to remember that justice in man is a creaturely reflection of God’s attribute of being. Then divine justice and human justice are not on the same level. The sun and its reflection are not on the same level. As Christians, we really hold a two level view of reality (though not a double-track philosophy)—God’s level and man’s. Human justice is the giving to each his due. But in divine justice, nothing is due from God, not one thing He ever gives. Man is responsible to be just. God is not responsible. He gives not account of any of His matters. God is God. All answer to Him. He answers to none.
The churches of the land are, increasingly, having trouble with the doctrine of predestination. Some go so far as to re write the historical Reformed creeds, omitting this great truth. They have strong allies in those who have not yet gone this far, but who nevertheless omit the truth of double predestination from their preaching, and who mention it only to put it in the shade. So many pulpits have no more than a Ladies Home Journal type of “theology,” a kind of Ann Landers morality, or a Miss America philosophy. It used to be almost universally agreed that a man acts unjustly if he allows another to break the law when it is in his power to prevent him from doing so. Now today, almost no one thinks this way. Then no longer can “the average man” criticize God as unjust for being a predestinating and reprobating God. For in this day of “new morality,” which means no morality, man is so patently without a shred of justice.
But let not the critic conclude from this that when God sees a sinner committing a crime that He, when He does not prevent it, becomes a party to it. God certainly has the power to prevent it, and to do so without infringing upon human liberty in any way. But the inherent justice of God cannot be judged according to the creaturely reflection of His justice in man. The measure cannot be judged by the measured. What is the measure of justice? Nothing less than the free will of God; nothing else is just. The just is not just because it is just, but because God wills it to be just, and wills that which is in harmony with His own nature.
Predestination makes God guilty of injustice? So the Arminian has always contended. Yet except for God’s predestination and election, all moral creatures would have died eternally. Then there would be no angels, only demons; no redeemed, only the damned. This is no theological invention, but the plain expression of infallible inspiration: “Except the Lord of hosts had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom” (Rom. 9:29). Not an earthly nor a heavenly being would be saved were it not for God’s election. There would be no atonement if there were no election; creation, perhaps, but no salvation. For man was created in moral perfection, but was made a mutable creature. He could change, fall. He could not abide in perfection, he could not escape falling without election unto faith, holiness, salvation and every saving good.
They who will not have election and reprobation are guilty of folly. So the Lord regards them. “He put no trust in His servants, and His angels He charged with folly” (Job 4:18). The elect angels were made in perfect holiness, yet as to their creaturehood, no reliance could be placed in them, nor in their standing. The folly which God ascribes to them is their imperfection and weakness in comparison to Himself. Angels are the highest creaturely intelligences, but by nature, and of necessity, finite. Their original perfection was mutable and insufficient as to their innate endowments to maintain them in unchangeable holiness to eternity. For that, they needed supernatural power; they needed election-grace to confirm them. Then what greater folly it is to attempt the subversion of electing grace which alone establishes in immutable perfection. There is no hope even for a holy angel apart from electing, grace. Much less hope is there for a totally depraved son of Adam unless sovereign mercy distinguish him!
When God is charged with injustice because He has made a sovereign election, vain man laying the charge must suppose that he has some merit before God. In his day; Spurgeon well refuted the charge. “Is there one man in the world who could have the impertinence to say that he merits anything of his Maker? If so, be it known unto you that he shall have all he merits; and his reward will be the flames of hell forever, for that is the utmost that any man ever merited of God. God is in no debt to man, and at the last great day every man shall have as much love, as much pity, and as much goodness as he deserves. Even the lost in hell shall have all they deserve; ay, and woe worth the day for them when they shall have the wrath of God, which will be the summit of their deservings. If God gives to every man as much as he merits, is He therefore to be accused of injustice because He gives to some infinitely more than they merit?”
The unfriendly critic will also claim that God cannot possibly make a sovereign election of some and a sovereign reprobation of others, since He is “no respecter of persons.” Hear Calvin answer this charge. “The Scripture denies that God is a respecter of persons, in a different sense from that in which they understand it; for by the word person it signifies not a man, but those things in a man which, being conspicuous to the eyes, usually conciliate favor, honor and dignity, or attract hatred, contempt and disgrace. Such are riches, power, nobility, magistracy, country, elegance in form, on the one hand; and on the other, poverty, necessity, ignoble birth, slovenliness, contempt and the like. Thus Peter and Paul declare that God is not a respecter of persons because He makes no difference between Jew and Greek, to reject one and receive the other, merely on account of his nation (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11). So James uses the, same language when he asserts that God in His judgment pays no regard to riches (James 2:5) . . . There will, therefore, be no contradiction in our affirming, that according to the good pleasure of His will, God chooses whom He will as His children, irrespective of all merit, while He rejects and reprobates others. Yet, for the sake of further satisfaction, the matter may be explained in the following manner. They ask how it happens, that of two persons distinguished from each other by no merit, God, in His election, leaves one and takes another. I, on the other hand, ask them, whether they suppose him that is taken to possess any thing that can attract the favor of God? If they confess that he has not, as indeed they must, it will follow, that God looks not at man, but derives His motive to favor him from His own goodness. God’s election of one man, therefore, while He rejects another, proceeds not from any respect of man, but solely from His own mercy; which may freely display and exert itself wherever and whenever it pleases. . .” (Inst., III, XXIII, X).
Election and reprobation do not make God a “respecter of persons.” When the angels that sinned fell, God provided no Savior for them. He was no respecter of their persons. All those fallen angels were worthy of damnation, and all were damned. But when man fell, God provided a Savior for some of the human race. Does this, then, make Him a respecter of persons? If He were such, would He not rather have saved theangels and reprobated man? Then there is the Jewish nation. God chose it to be the repository for the oracles of God. Why, since they were a people stiff-necked, murmuring, complaining, rebellious, impenitent and stubborn? A respecter of persons never would have settled on the Jews for such an honor. Election makes God a respecter of persons? Then why did He choose “the poor of this world” (James 2:5)? Had He respect to the rich, how many of us would be saved? Not many magnates, not many millionaires, not many of royalty, not many of the gifted, the influential are chosen. But God has chosen the weak, the, base, the despised, the nothings, the no-bodies of the world. He rejects publicans and chooses harlots. Why? That “no flesh should glory in His presence.” If He were a respecter of persons He never would have chosen any such off-scourings of humanity.
But not by force of argument does one come to believe the doctrine of election. “The reason why any one believes in election is that he finds it in the Bible. No man could ever imagine such a doctrine—for it is in itself, contrary to the thinkings and wishes of the human heart. Every one, at first, opposes the doctrine, and it is only after many struggles, under the working of the Spirit of God, that we are made to receive it. A perfect acquiescence in this doctrine—an absolute lying still, in adoring wonder, at the footstool of God’s sovereignty, is the last attainment of the sanctified soul in this life—as it is the beginning of heaven.
“The reason why anyone believes in election is just this, and only this—that God has made it known. Had the Bible been a counterfeit it never could have contained. the doctrine of election, for men are too averse to such a thought to give it expression, much more, to give it prominence.
“The Bible not only teaches the doctrine, but makes it prominent—so prominent that you can only get rid of election by getting rid of the Bible.” (Dr. Geo. S. Bishop, The Doctrines of Grace, Chap. 11, “The Doctrine of Election True,” p. 167).
Election is solely an act of God. He made His decree of election back in the ages of eternity (Acts 15:18). God is the chooser. His people are the chosen. Sometimes you hear a bit of “city mission” theology when it is said that God votes for you, the devil votes against you, now you must cast the deciding vote. But Scripture knows nothing of this idea. Rather Scripture says, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you. . .” (John 15:16). The truth is that “God hath from the beginning chosen you” (II Thess. 2:13). Therefore it is called “election of God” (I Thess. 1:4), and the persons chosen are called “God’s own elect” (Luke 18:7). The elect man does become a chooser, but only because God has chosen him. We choose Him because He fast chose us. “Mary hath chosen that good part.”
(To be continued)