A study on the "choices" of man in salvation
An introduction of myself first will be in order to sketch a picture of my walk with God in regard with our study here.
I am a South African living in the beautiful city of Pretoria. I grew up in a little town called Brakpan, about 64km (+- 40mi) from Pretoria.
The Lord captured my heart back in 1976 as an 8th grader. I was then in a Baptist church, however, I cannot tell you today if they were free-will Baptists or particular Baptists. However, for the next four years I did not grow much in the Lord due to preaching and teaching that weren't that good. Then in 1980, at the same church, a visiting Baptist preacher, a young guy, preached a sermon that really jolted me into understanding what I had missed up to that point.
Later in 1980 I visited a Full Gospel Church of God in a neighbouring town and I was introduced to the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I was filled with the Holy Spirit and I went from strength to strength.
In 1985 I started studying theology in Pretoria at a local school affiliated with ICI University (an Assemblies of God long distance-learning school). This local school is also affiliated with my local church. Having said this, I have only attended "free-will" churches and the school I attended is also "free-will." Theologically speaking, that put these churches, the school and I squarely in the Arminian camp.
After completing college I went into computer programming, and I am still involved in that.
In 1996 I joined an email discussion list on theology and met a whole bunch of weird guys who did not believe like I did at all. They called themselves "Calvinists." Well, like about 99.99% of Arminians I did not know much about Calvinists apart from the caricatures I was taught by my lecturers and my church pastors from the pulpit. Lots of email debate surrounding the issue of free-will ensued on this list. The more I debated these Calvinists the more I realized I didn't understand their theology, and what I was taught about them was mostly untrue (e.g., robots, fatalism, etc.). I then started listening to them with an open heart to hear what they had to say and to try and comprehend their theology. Someone on the list recommended Loraine Boettner's The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (free to download). I ordered it from Canada and started reading.
It was 1998 by now and after reading Boettner, I was fully convinced of the Reformed Doctrines of grace. From that time onward I no longer consider myself an Arminian or free-will exponent. I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God and hold to the 5 pillars of Calvinism, explained by the acronym TULIP.
T - Total inability (the effects of sin)
U - Unconditional election
L - Limited atonement
I - Irresistible grace
P - Perseverance of the saints
God's sovereign control
God's sovereign control stretches far and wide and influences this planet in all its facets. To deny that God is in absolute control of every part of this planet is to deny the teaching of Scripture. When looking at what Scripture tells us concerning the extent of God's control over His creation, it becomes quite ridiculous to deny that same extent of control over the affairs and lives of men. God has control over the universe - Ps. 103:19; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11; the physical world - Job 37:5,10; Ps. 104:14; 135:6; Mt. 5:45; brute creation - Ps. 104:21, 28; Mt. 6:26; 10:29; nations - Job 12:23; Ps. 22:28; 66:7; Ac. 17:26; man's birth and lot - 1 Sam. 16:1; Ps. 139:16; Is. 45:5; Gal. 1:15-16; "random" acts - Prov. 16:33; Mt. 10:30; the righteous - Ps. 4:8; 5:12; 63:8; 121:3; Rom. 8:28; the needs of His people - Gen. 22:8, 14; Dt. 8:3; Phil. 4:19; prayer - 1 Sam. 1:19; 2 Chr. 33:13; Ps. 65:2; Mt. 7:7; Lk. 18:7-8; the wicked - Ps. 7:12-13; 11:6.
The word in the New Testament most often translated "foreknowledge" is προγνωσις (prognōsis), a noun. In the transliteration used here the 'W' represents the long 'O' as in 'bonus.' Its verbal counterpart is προγινωσκω (proginōskō).
Of προγνωσις BAGD1 gives the translation of "who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father," (1 Pet. 1:1b-2a NASB2) in verse 2 as "according to the predestination of God the Father."3
προγνωσις appears in Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2 and προγινωσκω appears in Acts 26:5; Romans 8:29,11:2; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:17.
Two of the verses above may be eliminated. They are Ac. 26:5 and 2 Pet. 3:17. The reason for this is that in both these verses προγινωσκω is used of human knowledge, and that knowledge can hardly be compared with God's foreknowledge. This human foreknowledge is merely because Paul was met before by the Jews in Jerusalem, and so knew him from before (Ac. 26:5); and 2 Peter's recipients knew about the fact that some distort the Scriptures (2 Pet. 3:17). This human "foreknowledge" can hardly be compared to the perfect foreknowledge of God. In order for humans to have any "foreknowledge" they first have to learn about the subject. It could best be termed as "previous knowledge" instead of "foreknowledge." God's foreknowledge is not based on previous knowledge.
So, our list of verses on foreknowledge is Acts 2:23; Romans 8:29,11:2; and 1 Peter 1:2, 20.
Looking at Ac. 2:23 and how foreknowledge is used there we have to admit that foreknowledge cannot merely mean "knowing beforehand!" God the Father did not merely foreknow the death of Jesus for the elect, it was His plan all along! God's foreknowledge in this regard is accentuated by His "predetermined plan." "Predetermined" in this case is οριζω (horidzō), "determine, appoint, fix, set."4 The death of Jesus was not merely foreseen, but it was determined by God and fixed before the foundation of the earth (1 Pet. 1:20). The death of Christ (v19) was foreknown (v20) before the foundation of the world.
Having learnt now that God's foreknowledge cannot simply mean "knowing beforehand," we have to look at the other verses mentioned here in that context.
One of the great "proof texts" for Arminians is Rom. 8:29,
"For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. (NASB)"
Based on what we learnt above, this text no longer means that God simply looked into the future to see who would believe, and based on what He saw, He chose those who would believe. Who are those God foreknew? "[T]hose who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)" (v28). Those who are foreknown, are the ones God has called according to His own purpose. There is a determination in God's foreknowledge. It is a determination that is not based on the "free acts" of humans, but based on His purpose.
"This calling is further explained in terms of foreknowledge ("foreknew"; GK 4589) and predestination (v.29). The former term does not indicate advance awareness of someone; it refers to God's choice, his electing decision (see especially 1Pe 1:20). God's calling is not a haphazard thing, nor is it something cold and formal. It is filled with the warmth of love, as in the Hebrew word "to know" (GK 3359; see Ge 18:19; Am 3:2). Though foreknowledge is not mentioned in Dt 7:6-8, that passage illumines the concept. God's sovereign choice precludes any possibility of human merit entering into the decision (cf. Eph 1:4). Observe also that we are called according to God's purpose, not according to his foreknowledge; hence foreknowledge must be included in the electing purpose."5
"...this verse can hardly be used to demonstrate that God based his predestination on foreknowledge of the fact that a person would believe. The passage speaks rather of the fact that God knew persons ("those whom he foreknew"), not that he knew some facts about them, such as the fact that they would believe. It is a personal, relational knowledge that is spoken of here: God, looking into the future, thought of certain people in saving relationship to him, and in that sense he "knew them" long ago, This is the sense in which Paul can talk about God's "knowing" someone, for example, in 1 Corinthians 8:3: "But if one loves God, one is known by him." Similarly, he says, "but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God ..." (Gal 4:9). When people know God in Scripture, or when God knows them, it is personal knowledge that involves a saving relationship. Therefore in Romans 8:29, "those whom he foreknew" is best understood to mean, "those whom he long ago thought of in a saving relationship to himself." The text actually says nothing about God foreknowing or foreseeing that certain people would believe, nor is that idea mentioned in any other text of Scripture."6
If God simply foresaw that Israel would believe and therefore chose them for His people, then He really made a huge mistake. When we read Romans 11, then we realize that Israel was a pretty unbelieving bunch of covenant breakers. Verse 2 says, "God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew." What did the Israelites do? They killed God's prophets and tore down God's altars (v3). This does not seem like a believing group, does it? God's foreknowledge is a gracious choice by God and God alone. Only those who are chosen obtain salvation, and the rest are hardened (v7).
"Foreordination in general cannot rest on foreknowledge; for only that which is certain can be foreknown, and only that which is predetermined can be certain. The Almighty and all-sovereign Ruler of the universe does not govern Himself on the basis of a foreknowledge of things which might haply come to pass. Through the Scriptures the divine foreknowledge is ever thought of as dependent on the divine purpose, and God foreknows only because He has pre-determined. His foreknowledge is but a transcript of His will as to what shall come to pass in the future, and the course which the world takes under His providential control is but the execution of His all-embracing plan. His foreknowledge of what is yet to be, whether it be in regard to the world as a whole or in regard to the, detailed life of every individual, rests upon His pre-arranged plan (Jer. 1:5; Ps. 139:14-16; Job 23:13, 14; 28:26, 27; Amos 3:7)."7
When God looks into the future to see who would believe, what do you think God sees?
10 As it is said in the holy Writings, There is not one who does righteousness; 11 Not one who has the knowledge of what is right, not one who is a searcher after God; 12 They have all gone out of the way, there is no profit in any of them; there is not one who does good, not so much as one: 13 Their throat is like an open place of death; with their tongues they have said what is not true: the poison of snakes is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of curses and bitter words: 15 Their feet are quick in running after blood; 16 Destruction and trouble are in their ways; 17 And of the way of peace they have no knowledge: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Rom 3:10-18 BBE8)
Man's Enslaved Will
According to some, that which is dead, still lives. Even though man is dead in sin, dead to God and eternally separated from Him, he still has that little spark that will bring him to life in order to choose God. According to this line of thought man is free to choose and God is not free to choose, promoting the servitude of God to that almighty free will of man.
When we look at the Scriptural witness of man's heart and his ability to choose God over evil, we have to conclude that man is evil and has no ability to choose God over evil. We see this witness in the Old and New Testaments.
Gen 6:5 "Then the LORD saw that the
wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the
thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
Scripture lays the foundation of man's ability to choose good over evil as early as this. In Gen 8:21 God says
"for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth;"
Man has a propensity for evil because that is who he is. How
much can man change himself from one who follows continually after evil
to one who continually follows after God?
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the
leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are accustomed to
doing evil." (Jer 13:23).
We can change our natures of enslavement to evil just as much as a leopard can change its spots, or you and I can change the colour of our skin.
Mankind has come up with the humanistic notion that there is a spark of "good" in each of us, and it has become so pervasive that it has crept into many Christian theologies. However, Scripture stands at odds with this humanism:
Jer 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (NASB)
Ps 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth. (NASB)
Ps 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (NASB)
In the New Testament Paul continues with this total depravity of man. Does he start his gospel message in Romans with "Jesus loves you more than you love yourself?" No! This is what he wrote in Rom 1:21-25:
21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (NASB)
Paul continues to show the total inability of man to seek after God in Rom 3:10-18. James White has this to say about this passage:
"This litany of quotations is specifically designed to have one effect: to shatter, destroy, and obliterate any last shred of self-righteousness that might remain after the preceding arguments have been understood. These testimonies are fatal to any kind of "optimistic humanism." Outside of God's grace, man is a corrupted creation, violent, hateful, without understanding, without fear of God. Rather than finding in man "seekers" who simply need a "nudge" in the right direction, Scripture tells us that man does not understand and does not seek after God. Man is deceitful, even with himself, and is quick to curse God. Total depravity painted in the most vivid colors."9
Man is spiritually dead and desperately needs new life. Death came into this world through sin, and death so spread to all men. (Rom 5:12) We cannot escape the fact we are slaves of sin, and slaves do not have any rights against their master. What kind of choice is left to a slave? A slave has NO choice! The person without Christ is dead in his sin, dead to God, and we know that dead people cannot move themselves to life. Just as Lazarus had no ability to bring himself back to life, and also had no choice in the matter if someone else brought him back to life, so we have no ability to choose God and spiritual life, and no choice as to whether to accept or deny the life God graciously chooses to give us.
Although man is spiritually dead, it does not mean that he is spiritually inactive. They are active, but active against God in their rebellion and suppression of the truth. They are still active in their sin, which they are slaves to.
5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:5-8 NASB)
Those that are according to the flesh ("carnal"), the unsaved who are still in their sin, are hostile to God. The unsaved are "not even able" to subject themselves to the law of God, in fact, they cannot please God. They do not have this ability. They do not have the "will" to take that step to God, for they are unable to please God. Why? They are dead in their sin, and dead to God. The unsaved have a nature bound in sin. Sure, the will of the sinner is not done away with altogether, but the will of sinner can only operate within its own nature, and that nature is hostile towards God and cannot please God. Man has an inability to comprehend God's salvation (1 Cor 2:14), in fact, the preaching is foolishness to the unregenerate (1 Cor 1:18) and it went as far as being a stumbling block to the Jews (1 Cor 1:23).
"This doctrine of Total Inability, which declares that men are dead in sin, does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that any one is entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is evil in itself, nor that man's spirit is inactive, and much less does it mean that the body is dead. What it does mean is that since the fall man rests under the curse of sin, that he is actuated by wrong principles, and that he is wholly unable to love God or to do anything meriting salvation. His corruption is extensive but not necessarily intensive."10
Man is not unable to exercise volitions..., he is unable to exercise holy volitions. Man's will is perverse. John testified when Jesus came into the world that "men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil." (Jn 3:19 NASB) Later Jesus told the Jews "you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." (Jn 5:40 NASB)
How did Jesus deal with man's inability?
43 Jesus answered and said to them, Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (Jn 6:43-44 NASB)
Man does not have the final say in the work of salvation, and man has no control over God in this regard. Unless the Father draws us, we cannot come to Him. Outside of the first move of the Father, man does not have the ability to move first to God, and is not even able to do so. We do not unveil God through our own wills, but Jesus reveals God to whomever He wills.
All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Mt 11:27 NASB)
Man does not "will" himself to salvation, but rather "the Son also gives life to whom He wishes." (Jn 5:21 NASB)
God's Free Will
"The Reformed Faith has held to the existence of an eternal, divine decree which, antecedently to any difference or desert in men themselves separates the human race into two portions and ordains one to everlasting life and the other to everlasting death... As a result of the fall they are guilty and corrupted; their motives are wrong and they cannot work out their own salvation. They have forfeited all claim upon God's mercy, and might justly have been left to suffer the penalty of their disobedience as all of the fallen angels were left. But instead the elect members of this race are rescued from this state of guilt and sin and are brought into a state of blessedness and holiness. The nonelect are simply left in their previous state of ruin, and are condemned for their sins. They suffer no unmerited punishment, for God is dealing with them not merely as men but as sinners."11
Scripture is abundantly clear as to God's unconditional election of the elect. God's choice of the elect is not based on their foreseen free-will choices to include God in their lives, but on the kind intention of His will. (Eph 1:4-6)
11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER. 13 Just as it is written, JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED. 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION. 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (Rom 9:11-16 NASB)
Before Jacob did anything good or bad, God chose him. Would you say that a foreseen will in Jacob to follow God would have been a foreseen good deed in Jacob? Certainly! Yet, how did God choose Jacob above Esau? God chose Jacob before either of them could do either good or bad, "so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand." God decides whom He will show mercy and compassion to, and it does not depend on man's will, "but on God who has mercy." So is election, based on God's free will to choose whomever He wishes to salvation, so "then it does not depend on the man who wills." Who obtains salvation? "[T]hose who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened " (Rom 11:7 NASB) Even the disciples did not choose Jesus, "but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit" (Jn 15:16 NASB). Jesus died for us, not because we were good, but in spite of the fact that we were ungodly. (Rom 5:6-8)
God's choice of us has nothing to do with any works on our part, and that includes the making of a "holy" choice by our "free" wills, "but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2 Tim 1:9 NASB). Our election was made in eternity past and is not based on any of our actions made in the spans of time.
The salvation of the elect is not a "fatalism" or "mechanistic system," but is brought about by a God that is personally involved with personal creatures. "In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will" (Eph 1:4-5 NASB). Election is permeated with God's love for the elect.
"The Arminian view takes election out of the hands of God and puts it into the hands of man. This makes the purposes of Almighty God to be conditioned by the precarious wills of apostate men and makes temporal events to be the cause of His eternal acts. It means further that He has created a set of sovereign beings upon whom to a certain extent His will and actions are dependent. It represents God as a good old father who endeavors to get his children to do right, but who is usually defeated because of their perverse wills; nay, it represents Him as having evolved a plan which through the ages has been so generally defeated that it has sent innumerably more persons to hell than to heaven. A doctrine which leads to such absurdities is not only un-Scriptural but unreasonable and dishonoring to God. In contrast to all this, Calvinism offers us a great God who is infinite in His perfections, who dispenses mercy and justice as He sees best, and who actually rules in the affairs of men."12
When looking at the following verse, what did David do in this situation?
He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd's bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine. (1 Sam 17:40 NASB)
How did David go about choosing the five stones? Perhaps David saw their willingness to be chosen? The choice of stones was entirely in David. This is what it means when God chose us. Of course we are not lifeless stones, but before God chooses us, we are spiritually just as lifeless, and our hearts are still made of stone (Ezek 36:26). God will be the one who will remove the heart of stone and give us a new heart of flesh!
When we look at the "whosoever" gospel, the book of John, we will see that God is the one who chooses, not us.
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must lead these also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock and one shepherd.(John 10:14-16 ISV13)
Jesus here was speaking about the fact that there were people who were still lost ("And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold"), but who belonged to him. Jesus teaches us that: (1) There are some sheep who belong to him even though they are still lost. (2) He must bring those into his fold. (3) Everyone of those "lost" sheep will hear his voice and come to him. Remember, we have already concluded that the Greek word for foreknowledge could not simply mean "knowing beforehand" but that it is accentuated by His "predetermined plan."
Let's look at some verses in Jesus' high priestly prayer:
2 For you have given him authority over all humanity so that he might give eternal life to all those you gave him... 6 I have made your name known to the men you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word... 9 I am asking on their behalf. I am not asking on behalf of , but on behalf of those you gave me, for they are yours... 11 I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by your name, the name that you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one... 24 Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (Jn 17:2, 6, 9, 11, 24 ISV)
In verse 9 Jesus says point blank that he prays "not concerning the world," but for those whom the Father has given him, those whom have been chosen out of the world and given to him as his sheep. Jesus refers 6 times in his high priestly prayer to a group the Father has given him.
Another passage from John that is important is:
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. (Jn 6:37 NASB)
Many evangelists use the second part of this verse as part of their gospel call. Yet, the two parts of this verse need to be bound together.
"You will immediately notice the verse contains two distinct and separate statements. Both statements contain a specific Bible truth. The statements are related to each other as cause and effect. As I mentioned, evangelists quote the second half... Unfortunately they give the impression that "Coming to Christ" and coming to the front is one and the same thing. It is true that Jesus said "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out," but he said those words as a conclusion to the first statement. Why can we be certain that everyone who comes to Christ will be accepted? Because everyone who has been given to him by the Father will surely come. The "Coming Ones" and the "Given ones" are one and the same people. An Arminian will not freely preach the first part, about election, and a Hyper-Calvinist will not preach the second part, the free offer of the gospel. We must preach them both and, I might add, both with the same enthusiasm and in the same order."14
It is the truth of sovereign election, that "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me." Every chosen one will be in heaven. No mansion will stand empty because someone did not appropriate what Christ bought for them.
Paul, naturally is one of the greatest preachers ever of God's sovereign election of some to salvation.
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (2 Thes 2:13 NASB)
Paul specifically states that election is "for salvation." We are to give thanks to God for choosing us for salvation. In Eph 1:3-5 we also see this type of context where Paul blesses God (v3) for choosing us "in Him before the foundation of the world" (v4). Apart from electing some to salvation, God has also elected the means for us to hear about that salvation. We are not absolved from preaching the gospel because God has already chosen the elect! God has chosen for the elect to come to Him through the preaching of the gospel. Our salvation is "through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth." We see this clearly from Paul in Rom 10:14-17:
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (NIV15)
Our salvation by faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9), and this gift of faith can only come when we preach the gospel. Coming back to the 2 Thessalonians passage we continue in verses 14-15:
14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (NASB)
This verifies the passage in Romans 10. The end is salvation, and God ordained the means to that end, the gospel. We were saved through the regenerating work of the Spirit (v13) who gave us a new heart enabling us to want to believe the truth.
Hear what Jesus has to say:
24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly. 25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me. 26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; (Jn 10:24-27 NASB)
Why did these Jews not believe the gospel? Was it because they decided not to? No! They did not believe "because you are not of My sheep." If they had been his sheep, they would have believed. The fact that they did not believe was proof to Jesus that they were not his sheep. Also, because they are not his sheep, they will not believe. Why did the second group hear his voice? Jesus answers this question "My sheep hear My voice." Both groups heard the gospel, did they not? Why did the second group then hear his voice? The answer is easy: they are his sheep. Does hearing and believing make me a sheep, or do I hear and believe because I am a sheep? Verse 27 presents it clearly that "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." It is the sheep that hear and are known by Christ, and they follow him. They do not become sheep because they hear and follow! It is not a goat that becomes a sheep by its "free will". It is a lost sheep that had been found!
Why could these Jews not believe? We already know that they could not believe because they were not sheep.
39 For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, 40 HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM. (Jn 12:39-40 NASB)
The reason they could not believe and were not his sheep, was because HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES; HE HARDENED THEIR HEART. He did this so that THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES; PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART and so be converted and healed. Election is wholly a work of God. God draws and God hardens.
Another passage that speaks very clearly on this issue is Jn 8:34-48. Look at the following:
43 Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father... 47 He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.
Free will religion tells us that we only need to act upon what we hear and so will become people that belong to God. Jesus says the opposite! Until we belong to God we will not hear the words of Jesus. The devil's children will never "hear" the gospel, only God's children will.
When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Ac 13:48 NASB)
How many does it say believed? "[A]s many as had been appointed to eternal life." Did those who simply believe get eternal life, or did those who were appointed to eternal life believe? "[A]s many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." The appointment is not made by man's free will, but by the free will of God.
Let's revisit Romans 9.
18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19 One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, `Why did you make me like this?'" 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Rom 9:18-21 NIV)
Does election make me a robot, "[f]or who resists his will?" Paul already answered this objection. What does he say? "[W]ho are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?"
"Suppose a wealthy lady in your town chooses to adopt two or three orphans. She gives them her name, her love, and her fortune. Everybody in town would automatically accuse her of being mean and unfair because she only adopted three orphans instead of ten! You know that would not happen. Everyone would applaud her for adopting two or three simply because she did not have to adopt any! However, let God choose some sinners, when he could justly by-pass all sinners since he owes no sinner anything but death, and God somehow becomes unfair or mean. In the case of the wealthy lady and the orphans, 0we magnify her gracious act. In the case of God and sinners, some will ignore His grace and vilify His character."16
What have we learnt from our study?
First of all, God is sovereignly in control of everything that happens on this earth.
Secondly, foreknowledge cannot be construed to mean "knowing beforehand." God's foreknowledge is intricately woven into His electing process. God could hardly simply have known that Jesus would die on the cross (Ac 2:23). God's foreknowledge is interchangeable with God's foreordination. God's plan from before the foundation of the earth was for Jesus to die for the elect (1 Pet 1:19-20).
Thirdly, we have learnt that man's will is enslaved, and though he has the power of volition, he is bound to make choices that are in line with his own sin nature, and this sin nature does not choose God (Rom 3:10-18). Man is so enslaved by the sin nature that he is totally unable to choose God (Rom 8:5-8).
Fourthly, God is the one who does the electing work of those that will be saved, totally unaided by man's so-called free will. God is free to choose whom he wishes and to do with the clay what he wants. As that which is formed and created, we have no right to question the creator concerning the purpose for which he created us. We are sheep, not because we hear and believe, but because he chose us to be sheep. Also, we hear and believe because we are sheep.
11for the children being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, 12it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. 14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. 16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy. 17For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth. 18So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will be hardeneth. 19Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will? 20Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus? 21Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? (Rom 9:11-21 ASV17)
1 A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT and Other Early Christian
A translation of the fourth revised and augmented edition of WALTER
BAUER's Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen
Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur by WILLIAM F. ARNDT
and F. WILBUR GINGRICH, SECOND EDITION, REVISED AND AUGMENTED BY F.
WILBUR GINGRICH AND FREDERICK W. DANKER FROM WALTER BAUER'S FIFTH
EDITION, 1958, THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, CHICAGO AND LONDON,
1979. BAGD comes from Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker.