ELECTION: 1. Its Origin (concluded)
In the previous article we noted that the origin of election is the sovereign will of God. This is important, since it will keep us from the error of seeking any root of election in man. Having only in this way the proper perspective of the truth, we will see that election is not to be conceived of as made on the basis of foreseen faith (Canons I, 9). What possible good is there to foresee, in the spiritually dead and totally depraved sinner? In their natural enmity against God, and in their unregeneracy, all men are children in whom is no faith, children of wrath and condemned already. They do not believe (John 5:38), they cannot believe (John 5:44), shall not believe (Acts. 13:41). “All men have not faith” (II Thess. 3:2), but the men who do have it, possess it not of themselves, nor by any good quality or disposition in them; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:9). It is not a virtue which originates in or even operates by the power of man, but by the operation of God (Col. 2:12). But then, to go a little aside, God does not first of all see the reprobate. Nor does He first of all foresee man as a sinner. His plan did not begin with sin. It began with glory. He first saw many sons brought to glory. Then He planned the means that would be operative in bringing them there, namely, sin, grace and redemption, including the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies in the liberty of the glory of the sons of God. But Arminian thinking, as all forms of humanism, views man primarily as a sinner, with faith within the power of the sinner. The Arminian at least thinks, if he does not say it, that as many as believe are ordained to eternal life. But the Lord says, “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48) The Arminian teaches that if you are not Christ’s sheep, it is because you believe not. But Jesus said of the reprobate wicked, because He knew them and their hearts, “Ye believe not because ye are not of My sheep.” (John 10:26) The Arminian says that some men are not of God because they do not hear God’s Word. But Christ affirms, “Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” (John 8:47) The Arminian wants to say that God blinds men’s eyes and hardens their hearts because they believe not. But the apostle taught that “they believed not,” if fact, “they could not believe, because that Esaias said, ‘He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see.'” (John 12:36-40) The Arminian thinks that all who come, the Father gives to Christ. But the Lord taught, “All that the Father giveth to Me shall come to Me.” (John 6:37) The Arminian says, Believe on His name and you shall be born of God. But the apostle wrote, “them that believe (presently) . . . were (already) born . . . of God.” (John 1:12, 13) The Arminian says that you must hear the Word and believe it in order to obtain eternal life. But it is written, “he that heareth My Word and believeth Him that sent Me, hath (not shall have) everlasting life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24) It is therefore the one with spiritual life who hears the Word and believes it. The trouble with the Arminian is that he will not have the plain, bare Word of God, despite his loud boasts that he will. He will have the exact opposite to that found in the infallible Word!
Nor are we chosen on account of foreseen good works. Men are chosen in eternity “being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand; not of works, but of Him that calleth.” (Rom. 9:11) The moving cause of our election is not our willing what is good, nor our running and holding out, but the mercy of God. Then “if by grace, it is no more of works” (Rom. 11:6), “not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship (we are not self-made men), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:9, 10). Again, He “saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal.” (II Tim. 1:9)
Nor were we chosen on account of foreseen holiness. God Chose us in Christ “that we should be (not because we were) holy and without blame before Him in love.” (Eph. 1:4) We were chosen to faith, toobedience, to holiness and to every saving good. For “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” (II Thess. 2:13) Faith, holiness and the other gifts of salvation, including eternal life, are the fruits and effects of election, not a moving or contributing cause of it.
It was not the foresight of any good qualities in men which moved God to choose them. They never have any good in them except that which God ordains for them, promises and bestows upon them. Therefore God never has, nor could possibly have, foresight of anything not in His decree. God cannot foresee without foreordaining. Where there is no foreordination, there is nothing to foresee. For His foresight is founded upon the exercise of His sovereign will. This foresight, or prescience, as some theologians have called it, bare knowledge of things beforehand, has been confused with, or wrongly identified with the biblical term “foreknowledge.” But the biblical foreknowledge is not mere foresight, nor an aspect of pure omniscience. Where the Scripture states, “whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate,” (Rom. 8:28f) the meaning is not that predestination is on the basis of foreknowledge in the sense of omniscience. That is Arminianistic thinking and centers the foreknowledge on something originating with man. But the termiforeknowledge as used in Scripture is a knowledge of approbation, a knowledge of love, and knowledge of one’s own. Whom He did foreknow, means whom He loved as His own—He predestinated them. So with “I never knew you,” the meaning can only be, I never loved you. Or, “the Lord knoweth them that are His” has the meaning, the Lord loves His own. When we read that Christ was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23), we notice that the decree of God is first, preceding His knowledge of love. His decree is embracive of His love. His decree is centered in and walled in with His love. Christ was delivered to death by the decree of God, but love so ordered it.
The end God has in mind in His decree of predestination, in election and in reprobation, is His glory. As to the elect, “know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself.” (Ps. 4:3). As to the repro bate, “the Lord hath made all things for His own end, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” (Prov. 16:4, marg.)
2. Its Well-Spring
The eternal purpose of God has a definite relation to Christ. He is the Fountain of Life. In the eternal counsel of God, that which is first there is the decree of His covenant. To realize the purpose of His covenant, God ordained His Son to be the Christ, the visible representation of the invisible God. Christ was ordained to be and became the Head, the Alpha and Omega of the covenant. Although not always consistent with it, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in his unadulterated, unabridged and unedited works, reveals a remarkable understanding of this truth. He said, “Search for the celestial foundation, from which the divine streams of grace flow to us, and you will find Jesus Christ the well-spring in covenant love. If your eyes shall ever see the covenant roll, if you shall ever be permitted in a future state to see the whole plan of redemption as it was mapped out in the chambers of eternity, you shall see the blood-red line of atoning sacrifice running across the margin of every page, and you shall see that from the beginning to the end one object was always in view—the glory of the Son of God. (John 11:4).
“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My Soul delighteth.” (Isa. 42:1) Here is the initial election, the well-spring of election. Christ is the first of the elect. He stands at the head of the register in the book of election. The Son thus became the Fountain of election, just as He is the Fountain of life (John 5:26). He was preordained to be the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, and fore-appointed to be the one Mediator between God and-men, the Man, Christ Jesus. He did not thrust himself into this office, but was called of God, as was Aaron (Heb. 5:4), and sealed to the office by the Father (John 6:27). He was set up, or ordained from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth was. It was then that He was beside the triune God, a co-equal, yes, a Father. (Prov. 8:23; 30, Heb.) He was ordained the Father of Eternity and the Mighty God (Isa. 9:6), one chosen out of the people (Ps. 89:19) laid in Zion, i.e., predestinated in Zion, elect, precious, chosen of God, a chief cornerstone and a stone of stumbling (I Peter 2:4, 6, 8). Since we have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, a valid implication is that Christ was chosen before we were, then we in Him. He was the principal object in the decree of God, there appointed especially to be the Firstborn among many brethren, the Firstborn of every creature, and such a Firstborn as that in the way of being the First-begotten from the dead. As the Firstborn, He came out of the womb of election, opening the way for His many brethren to come forth.
The triune Jehovah is the first and the last of all things. In His being He is self-existent, perfect in himself, the fountain of life, His own eternity, His own blessedness and glory, which He has inherently, and apart from any adulation of His intelligent creatures. For nothing is or can be added to or subtracted from His glory. The entire universe as compared to Him is less than nothing and vanity. Before the creation of all worlds, when He dwelled in nothing but eternity, where was His activity? The eternal three persons of the trinity lived in mutual covenant love and friendship, rejoicing in their common glory. It pleased the Lord to take up into this blessed inter-theistic covenant society the fellowship of creatures made in His own image. To realize this, He, in His eternal counsel, foreordained and fore-appointed the second person of the trinity, the eternal Son of God, to come down into creature being, as true God and true man. In the incarnation, the tabernacle of God was historically with men. In the incarnate Word, man was raised to the highest union and fellowship with God. For the eternal Word, himself God, became flesh and tabernacled among us, to realize God’s purpose to the end.
(To be continued)