It is, to say the least, unusual to find a discussion of the doctrine of eternal predestination in church papers nowadays. It is more unusual yet to find almost an entire issue of a paper devoted to this truth. Nevertheless, this is what recently happened in an issue of Covenanter Witness, a paper put out by the Board of Education and Publication of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.
The article which particularly impressed us was an article by Gordon J. Keddie entitled “Finding God’s Elect” and carrying the subtitle, “How Calvinism Affects Missionary Activity.” This article impressed us, in the first place, because it took an approach to mission work which is almost never heard in our day. And it impressed us, secondly, because it was so thoroughly Scriptural.
We cannot quote the article in its entirety, but we do want to give a number of excerpts from it to give the reader the flavor of what the author writes.
In the first part of the article, Pastor Keddie describes current views of mission work and gives his criticism of these views. He writes:
A common misconception abroad in the world today is that which sees “soul-winning” as the primary task of the Church. “Evangelism” is redefined (why “redefined” we shall see later) and narrowed down to mean simply the persuading of the last to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord—this, for most Bible-believing Christians has become the mark of the true Church. All Church functions are to be tailored to “evangelism”—we must attract people in, we must not preach above a certain agreed level of “spiritual depth,” we must “grow” or seriously revamp our present programs. The “Great Commission” according to this theory is no more than “soul-winning” and-or training those already won to be “soul-winners” too. This is “evangelism,” this is “mission.”
His criticism of this idea is as follows:
The problem with this is that it is an essentially man-centered approach to the question, “What is the missionary task of the Church?” . . . It is man-centered in theory and therefore is man-centered in practice! Basically, it involves the following wrong view of God’s sovereignty, man’s sin and Christ’s work.
1. God is not absolutely sovereign in election: . . . It is not God who makes the man elect, that is left to his unaided free will as he hears the Gospel. Clearly God’s “sovereignty” in this scheme actually effects nothing with respect to man’s will that is sovereign in the actualization of election.
2. Man is a sinner, but is not so totally depraved as to be unable to choose freely, without prior action of the Holy Spirit with respect to the condition of his heart. The will of man is substantially unaffected by sin—it is still free to “decide for Christ” . . .
3. Christ died on the Cross to achieve the potential for salvation for all men. . . . He made it possible for them to be saved, if only they decide for Him. . . . Christ’s death does not effect salvation for anyone—it merely opens the door in front of humanity, which is left to exercise its own sovereign will as to whether to accept or reject the offer. . . .
The success of the Gospel rests on men and their decisions, not on God or His own dear Son. . . .
Turning to what the author calls “The Mission of The Church,” he discusses positively the relation between election and mission work. He writes:
. . .Our main point is that IT IS A FALLACY.TO TH;I;K THAT THE PRINCIPAL TASK OF THE CHURCH IS TO “WIN SOULS.”. . .
1. In contradistinction from the errors catalogued above, we must assert God’s absolute sovereignty in election; man’s total inability to move a millimeter towards salvation, by reason of his sinful nature, and the particular and effectual atonement of Christ, whereby he actually accomplishes salvation for the particular lost sinners who are the objects of God’s electing love from eternity.
2. God’s “sent messenger” . . . goes out in the knowledge that in the declaration of “all the counsel of God”
the election of God is being carried out in time.
His confidence is in the Lord, whose work it is by His Holy Spirit, to apply the Word in regeneration and conversion. . . .
3. There is therefore to be no man-centered rush to “grab” souls as urgently as possible. The divine requirement is that the church diligently, urgently, simply; honestly, lovingly, prayerfully point men to Christ, the Way. . . .
4. Let us clearly distinguish, then, the role of men, i.e., of the church, from that of the Spirit. The church witnesses to the Truth before the world. Its primary task is to keep close to the doctrines of Christ and to preach them with the love of Christ and in dependence upon the Spirit. No artifice or gimmick will be employed to woo men, but only a simple presentation of the case and a consequent resting in the sure knowledge that God will by His Spirit vindicate His truth either in the converting of those elect from eternity, but until now, in time, numbered with the lost, or in passing by the reprobate, who by further rejection of the Gospel call harden their hearts against the day of judgment. . .
5. It is essential that the Church know, believe and’ preach a full-orbed confession of Scripture truth. . . .
There is more to the article, but this is sufficient to point out to our readers that there are others who are clear on the truth that election is not only not a stumbling block to missions, but is exactly the doctrine which makes missions the important calling which it is.
In the November, 1974 issue of Present Truth the editor, Robert Brinsmead also wrote concerning the doctrine of election. He wrote of this in an article entitled “The Ordo Salutis” or “The Order of Salvation.” This was a very lengthy article, and we can only touch upon one aspect of it here. In many parts of the article the author very strongly supports the doctrine of sovereign grace and sovereign salvation. We quote the following excerpts.
In salvation God is cause—the sole cause. Man is the response. The devil’s constant aim is to pervert this ordo salutis. He makes man’s activity the cause and God’s activity the response.
The gospel is the good news, not of man’s act of choosing Christ, but of God’s act of choosing man.
If God chose the elect from the beginning, it cannot mean that He chose them in response to their faith or holy lives. That would be to alter the whole ordo salutis. He chose them in order that they might believe and live holy lives. God is the sole cause of the call. It is true that men are called upon to choose Christ and the way of salvation, but this must never be understood as cause. It can be nothing more than an appeal to respond to the gospel fact that they have been chosen from the beginning.
The author even stresses in several important paragraphs that Christ stands behind election.
This means that before predestination, before God chose us, there stands Jesus Christ, the eternal Word. There was nothing planned or chosen before Him. All that was chosen and planned was both chosen and planned by Him and for Him.
But this position is not consistently held. And it is not consistently held because the author, in this article as well as in other articles which had previously appeared in other issues of the magazine, takes the position that Christ is the representative Head of all men. As he applies that to the current discussion, he writes:
If we have a duty to tell each man the gospel, in the very nature of the case we must tell him that his sins have been borne by Jesus Christ, that he has been chosen and accepted in the Person of his Representative and that, consequently, God now calls upon him to repent and believe the gospel.
That God has seriously intended all to share in the benefits of Christ’s atonement is clear from the blessings of “common grace.”. . . If all the blessings and good things of life—food, air, friendship, human affection, civil righteousness—may be enjoyed by all, are they nor evidence that Christ died for all? For these bounties which theologians call “common grace” are still grace—undeserved kindness—and grace comes only through (because of) Jesus Christ. He was nailed to the cross that all these blessings might flow to this earth. Every man who lives on this planet lives solely because Christ died. Herein God gives proof of His love for all and of His provision for all through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In the gospel, therefore, two great facts are announced and must stand together:
1. God chose one Man. He found one Man righteous, holy and pleasing in His sight. He accepted Him as the new Head of the race to stand in Adam’s place, to represent all, even as Adam represented all. He punished this one Man, put Him to death and buried Him out of sight. Then He resurrected this one Man, a new Man, and received Him into glory.
2. This one Man stood before God as everyman, and that human nature of everyman was in Him. Therefore when One died, all died in Him
and when One was found righteous, all were constituted righteous in Him
That human nature which was lost in Adam has been restored in Jesus Christ, and every man who is sure he too has a human nature may be just as sure that he is included in that redemption.
The author makes it very clear that faith is a gift of God. He writes:
We have seen that God has elected one Man. He is the elect One just the same as He is the righteous One. Therefore only those who receive Christ in faith and are joined to Christ in faith-union can be called the elect ones or the righteous ones. This is the human side of election. Faith is not the source of election. That is sola gratia. Neither is faith the meritorious cause of election. That is solo Christo. But faith is the instrumental means of receiving it Gust as it is the instrumental means of receiving righteousness). That is sola fide.