In the previous article we saw that election has its origin, according to Scripture and one of the Reformed confessions, in the decree of God. The purpose or aim of God’s decree is His own glory. Since this is God’s own ultimate end and aim which He has in mind, it must also be man’s chief end. There is no higher purpose or goal than the glory of God, and He will have nothing less than the highest (than himself) for man’s aim. God must always be man’s aim. He must have his sights always, unwaveringly, on God. So that when we say that the chief end of man is to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever, we do not mean that there are other, but subordinate ends which God may have or allow, or for which man may strive. There is only this one sole end. Some theologians do speak of certain lesser ends, such as the earning of temporal support, the acquisition of knowledge, the gratification of lawful tastes and the furtherance of the welfare of society. But the aim of earning temporal support is a legitimate one only if taken as a steward under God, that there may be made to Him an honest account of all entrusted. Then, and only then, will that earning be to the glory of God. The mere acquisition of knowledge, as with mere earning of temporal support, is actually nothing good of itself. Neither of these do necessarily glorify God. Both may be and often are used to the glorification of man and the contempt of God. Acquisition of knowledge is only an increase in wickedness, unless that knowledge is in the service of faith. If it is not, it cannot be to God’s glory. Then, lawful tastes, what are they, but only those which the law of God and the glory of God allow! What really is beneficial to the welfare of society? that which society itself determines? or that which the aristocrats of society would dictate? or is it not rather the directives of God’s revealed will; nothing less! Therefore, we understand the expression “chief end” to mean “exclusive end”, as the metrical Psalter has it, our “chief and only good.” “The Lord hath made all things for himself” (Pro. 16:4), for His own end. For from Him and through Him and unto Him are all things (Rom. 11:36).
Election is the great fountain out of which flows every saving good. The source of the fountain is the sovereign will of the triune God. We say “triune God,” because all three persons of the trinity are involved. They are of the same one divine essence, and have but one will. “He (the triune God) is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and whatsoever His soul desireth (wills) even that He doeth!” (Job 23:13). What God wills to do, He does do. The will of God is not a mere part of His divine nature, nor a mere objective effect of His determination, but “the will of God is the living God himself willing.”
Then, what we may say of God’s will, we may say also of divine election. That is, God’s will is immutable. So is election. God never changes His will, although He does will change. His will is one, and none can divert Him from it. With Him, in His being, there is no variation, nor shadow cast by turning (Jas. 1:17). His will is eternal, for the Word speaks of “His eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ” (Eph. 3:11). That His will and purpose are practically synonymous is plain fromEph. 1:5, 9, 11, where to be predestinated according to the good pleasure of His will is again expressed in these words, “being predestinated according to the purposeof Him.” Also when we read of the revealing of His willaccording to His good pleasure which He haspurposed in Himself, this is not fundamentally different from preordaining according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.
God’s will is the only absolutely free will, sovereignly free. That must be quite evident from the passage just referred to in Ephesians 1. God’s will is absolutely free in the sphere of nature. He was not bound to create. He could do so, or not, as He chose. Choosing to create, He was perfectly free to do so whenever He pleased, earlier or later than He did. (Yet, strictly speaking, it is absurd to think of God, inhabiting eternity, doing anything either earlier or later.) Conceivably, He may have made the earth smaller or larger than it is. That He made it the size it is, was only because that happens to be the best of all possibilities. No other determination in this regard could have been better. But in making and realizing His determinations He was influenced by no considerations outside Himself. That God should have made the whole universal order “very good,” and then should have ordained sin to come into the world, was not only all settled by God’s decree, but was also for the best of things. He could have made a world without sin. It is difficult, if not impossible, for carnal eye to see that any other kind of world could possibly be for the best. But the reason why God created and then ordered sin into the world is only to be ascribed to His own indisputable will. Then divine .election is sovereign and free. None was His counselor (Rom. 11:34) to advise Him how to form His purpose according to election (Rom. 9:11). God’s determinate counsel and foreknowledge was decreed in absolute sovereignty. “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy! and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion!” (Rom. 9:15). It all emerges from God’s eternal good pleasure (Eph. 1:4, 5, 9, 11).
No one or nothing can get beyond or behind the will of God. God’s will is the origin, the continuance and end of all things. From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. From eternity the will of God determines creation, time, and what shall be in the world. That is God decreeing. Providence, whatsoever comes to pass, is God executing His decree. And this perfect decree and will of God is realized in love. His will moves in the sphere of His being (its only limitation), which is love. Then God’s decree of election comes forth from electing love. Our confessions say that “the good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this gracious election.” Then a gracious election and election love are certainly one and the same thing. The love of God is the motive for election, as the Canons of Dordt state when they refer to “the purpose of God according to election . . . as it is written, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated'” (Rom. 9:13). Election is there described as God’s “so great love towards” the elect (I, 13). The Word of God bears this out. God chose Israel to be a special people to himself above all people. The Lord did not set His love upon them, nor choose them because they were more in number than any people, for they were the fewest of all people. But rather because the Lord loved them He chose them. He did both, the one the moving cause, the other the effect. He loved them, therefore He chose them. Why did He choose them? Because He loved them! Why did He love them? Because He loved them, that is, because He willed to love them. (Does this sound like reasoning in a circle? Then let it be understood that every thinker begins and takes each step in his reasoning process from basic presuppositions. He, therefore, has his own circle. Nor can he escape it. But our basic presuppositions are not neutral, as to whether there is or is not a God. We presuppose God and His will as ultimate. We, then, begin with God, and so are sure to end on safe, rational ground, with God, and not somewhere without Him or against Him.) So, because His love is everlasting, His election is eternal. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). His love from all eternity is in sovereign choice of the persons loved in Christ.
At this point it may be seen that the infralapsarian view of predestination at least on this point, is not the most in harmony with Scripture. The infralapsarian says that an object must exist before it can be loved; that “God cannot love a non-entity.” But certainly all God’s people do exist, in His decree, and are not nonentities to Him. Many of them have not yet been objectivized in history with their physical and spiritual being, yet His sovereign choice and love of them from eternity makes them real to Him. But if the above infralapsarian principle were true, then not only could there be no justification from eternity but there could be no love of God to His people from eternity. They are all in the eternal decree of God. There and then God loves them. Otherwise He could not love them from before the foundation of the world. He decreed their existence even before He decreed the means and place of their existence.
The origin of election is the sovereign will of God. The sole cause of election is the good pleasure and love of God (Canons I, 7, 10). The character of election is that of grace. Being a gracious election it is spoken of as “the free grace of election” (I, 13, 15, 18). Scripture mentions “the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). Grace is not the origin of election. Grace better fits in with the end of election than with its beginning. Yet God’s grace is not an abstract from His will. Certainly His will is a gracious will. Yet the end of election is expressed in the words, “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6). The end of God’s decree of election was the magnifying of His grace. The phrase “the election of grace”. is therefore not to be understood as containing a genitive of cause or origin, but of quality or character, as “the Sun of Righteousness,” “the. shield of faith,” and “the children of light.” Divine election is directly traceable to the invincible and indisputable will of God. We are predestined according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph. 1:5). He made known to us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9), and did so “according to His good pleasure which He purposed in himself.” He works “all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11). “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth” (Dan 4:35). God wills himself the ever blessed IGod, perfect in all His attributes. His wisdom is infinite, yet by a sovereign act of His will He determines the exercise and the manifestation of it (I Cor. 1:19-21). God is merciful, but He has mercy on whom He will. God is uncompromisingly just, yet His will decides He shall mete justice directly upon the sinner or through a Representative.
(To be continued, D.V.)