How often, when it is pointed out that predestination is so deeply imbedded in Scripture, you meet with, not a denial of this fact, but an appeal to the “foreknowledge” -of-God argument. The argument, of course, is that God has foreknowledge or foresight of who will repent of their sins and believe in the Lord as Savior. He then chooses those He so foresees to salvation. This is actually a remnant of Roman Catholic doctrine, with its idea of human merit. Grace is not free, election is not sovereign, but bound by the decision of man. This is the humanistic teaching that in God’s prevision there is something good to be seen in man. But, actually, what God does foresee in man is nothing good. No man could be chosen for a good God sees in him simply because there is no good in him to be seen. He is by nature dead in sins, and in his flesh there is no good thing. Besides, God’s purpose is not based on His foreknowledge, but just the reverse, as a comparison of Romans 8:28, 29 will show, God’s foreknowledge is founded on His purpose. God foreknows only what He has foreordained. There is nothing else to foreknow. God cannot foreknow without foreordaining. His foreknowledge takes in only what He has decreed shall come to pass. Foreknowledge is therefore based upon the eternal counsel of God, that is, the order of Scripture has it, fast, His counsel, then foreknowledge. “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slam” (Acts 2:23). Nor can anyone show from Scripture that God chooses a man on foreknowledge of his repentance, faith, or any other good in him. Foreknowledge is always of persons, never of works or qualities. Scripture says, “whom He did foreknow,” not what He did foreknow. But even so, we have not yet come to the real meaning of the term foreknowledge as it is found and used in Scripture. The meaning is always that of love, in the sense of, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). That the word know, in this connection, means from all eternity a divine love is proved plainly by comparison of, “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, ‘The Lord knoweththem that are His'” (II Tim. 2:19) with “then. will I profess unto them, ‘I never knew you'” (Matt. 7:23). The Lord is omniscient; He “knoweth all things” (John 21:17) and everybody. But He doesn’t love everybody. (CompareProv. 8:17a with Psalm 5:5-6).
Equally as often you will hear the appeal to “whosoever will may come.” True; but how does the dead sinner, a “whosoever won’t” by nature, become a “whosoever will?” Where does he get the willingness to respond to such a gracious call? The natural man is an unwilling being. He will not come to the Lord (John 5:40), nor can he (John 6:44), until he is made willing to come (Ps. 110:3). Then, in that manner, all the elect surely shall come to Christ (John 6:37), by the power of irresistible grace (‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home!’), and this grace is sufficient (II Cor. 12:9) without any help from man. Grace makes a member of Christ what he is, not his co-operation or “decision” (I Cor. 15:10). Grace is everything; and only where grace is everything is there a gospel at all.
It was so with the children of Israel at the Red Sea. They were in a desperate plight. The sea was against them. So was the land; they were both at its end and at wit’s end. The world-dominating nation of the time was against them. There was no place to go, no place to hide. What, under such circumstances, would be “good news” to them? That God made provision for their salvation? Made possible their salvation? No, hardly that. They needed more than that to have goodnews. They needed the announcement and promise, which was anon given them (Ex. 14:13, 14), that God had made certain their deliverance! Grace not only provides and proclaims salvation; it also produces it. It does so in such a way that the Dagon of free will falls flat on its face, that the deliverance may be of God alone. Crammed up against the Red Sea as they were, Israel saw in those insurmountable waters the drowning of all human helps and hopes. They learned in that never-to-be-forgotten experience that grace is “to him that worketh not,” for it is God who worketh to will and to do of His good pleasure (Rom. 4:5; Phil. 2:13).
There can be no place for “the praise of the glory of His grace” if sovereign, unconditional election be not preached. For then too much is made of man. He is upheld as having before God some good or some ability in him. This is held despite the fact that Arminians maintain that they also believe the total depravity of man. They do, indeed, even rather widely, profess the doctrine. Yet they contradict it with their constant harping on man’s ability to do good. In their theological text books there may be found a rather lengthy chapter where total depravity is avowed and proved from Scripture. But then the very next chapter may be on the Free Moral Agency of Man, where total depravity is denied in the insistence that man is free to will both right and wrong. To speak, then, of “total depravity” is to use theological terminology, which, like the vocabulary of the parrot, is not understood; nor is it believed in its gravest implications. The natural man is no more free unto good than a worm is to fly.
One blessed effect of the preaching of the doctrine of election is that it teaches us to “have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3), but to abase the pride of man. Where one denies or neglects the doctrine of election, there is one who, to some degree, rests on the power of man. That one who thinks that one may be saved without election surely must believe there is something of man in the effecting of salvation. Such a person must believe that he does contribute something of his own to his salvation, in spite of the strongest denials to the contrary. He who supposes he has in the power of his will but the smallest contribution to make to his salvation is a Mr. Carnal Security. To that extent he trusts in himself and is not yet really humbled before God. Then the thing formed says to the Former, “I made myself to differ.”
Modern day mass evangelism boasts of its crusades for souls, and of its converts on an average of three thousand souls a campaign, somewhat better than Peter and Pentecost! The converts of such campaigns are supposed to have been converted to Christ and Christianity, and that by a “decision” made to accept Christ as Savior. Now if a “convert” will honestly examine himself, searching for the marks of God’s elect, he may find his conversion a counterfeit, since it his based on nothing more than his “deciding for Christ.” If he cannot find his conversion resting on that work of grace which we call regeneration, but rather supposes that his regeneration stems from his conversion, then no matter how strongly he denies it, he has some confidence in the flesh. If he feels he had the right to become a son of God because he “accepted Christ” and believed on His name (a misunderstanding of John 1:12, 13), and not first because he was predestinated to the adoption of sons (Eph. 1:5), and then was born, not of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God, he still attributes something of man to the matter of his salvation. If that is the way he was saved, his conversion came by enticing words of man’s wisdom, and his faith, stands in the wisdom of men, not in the power of God. Then he has merely a natural faith, sufficient to trust only in a human object, and lacks the supernatural gift of saving faith to trust in the supernatural Christ. Such a “convert,” slanted away from the truth of election as he was under the ministry of “decisionism” and “only-believism,” has not only been robbed of the heart of the gospel, but has from the outset been prejudiced against the truth of salvation by grace only. He doesn’t want a salvation, including his faith and his believing, which is a matter of Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus. He wants a “yes, but salvation—”Yes, but I put my trust in Him” As to the truth of, “what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (I Cor. 4:7), he has not yet “arrived”!
The true convert to Christ wants his faith to be “the faith of God’s elect” (Tit. 1:1). He wants evidence in himself that he is wheat distinguished from chaff. It was John Gill who wrote, “There are some persons who are styled the elect of God; these are not all men; some are vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, ungodly men, foreordained to condemnation, and given up to believe a lie, that they might be damned. . .but these are some of both Jews and Gentiles, some of every kindred, tongue, people and nation; these were chosen in Christ from eternity, and are the peculiar objects of the affection and care of God, whom He calls, justifies and glorifies: and there is a special faith that belongs to these, which is a spiritual looking to Christ, a going to Him, a laying hold and leaning on Him, and trusting in Him for salvation; and this faith is peculiar to the elect of God; all men have it not, and those that have it, have it through the free gift of God; nor is it given to any but the chosen ones.” In days to come, it will be evident that much modern mass evangelism regards as gold, silver and precious stones is nothing but wood, hay and stubble. Salvation is not something separate from the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:4). Truth is<=”” font=””>II Thess. 2:13) and to know our election (I Thess. 1:4). The truth of election covers the whole of Scripture as the cedars of Lebanon cover the wooded mountain with an enormous forest. To fail to see, or refuse to see, the truth of election is then to fail to see the forest for the trees.
(To be concluded)