The Canons of Dordt: Unconditional Election.

When the Council of Dordrecht or Dordt began on November 13, 1618 it sought to refute the teachings of Jacob Arminius and his followers. The council did so by specifically addressing five points Arminius’ protesters, or Remonstrants, proposed. These five points were that (1) Election unto salvation is conditioned upon foreseen faith and obedience; (2) Universal or an unlimited atonement is taught in the Scriptures; (3) Regeneration enables sinners to contribute good works toward salvation; (4) God’s grace is resistible; and (5) Believers may fall away or lose their salvation.

Previously, we briefly examined the doctrine of Total Depravity. Today we study the biblical doctrine of Unconditional or Sovereign Election.

Unconditional Election means that God does not foresee an action or condition on the sinner’s part that induces or persuades Him to save sinners. Rather election, or God’s choosing to save sinners from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin, rests on God’s sovereign decision to save whomever He is pleased to save. It is God’s sovereign choice to save and His sovereign choice alone.

Ephesians 1:3-5 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”

Ephesians 1:3-5 explains that God chose sinners before He created the world. The purpose of God’s choosing to save was so that the redeemed should be holy and blameless before Him. God predestined to adopt some as His own through the person and work of Jesus Christ. God did this according to the purpose of His will. In other words, God wanted to do this.

There are those within the church who believe that God’ sovereign choice was ultimately based on His foreseeing who would believe the Gospel. Based on that decision to believe, God then made His sovereign choice to save. In other words, the sinner chooses Christ and on the basis of that choice, God chose the sinner. To put it another way, we choose to be chosen.

Rather than choosing to save based on those who God “foreknew” who believe the Gospel, God’s sovereign choice was not based upon any foreseen conditions the sinner could ever meet. God chose to save because that is what God independently chose to do.

Dr. C. Sproul explains that, “Many people who have a doctrine of election or predestination look at it this way. They believe that in eternity past God looked down through the corridors of time and He knew in advance who would say yes to the offer of the gospel and who would say no. On the basis of this prior knowledge of those who will meet the condition for salvation—that is, expressing faith or belief in Christ—He elects to save them. This is conditional election, which means that God distributes His electing grace on the basis of some foreseen condition that human beings meet themselves.

Romans 9:10-13 says, “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” 

Dr. Sproul explains that, “Here the Apostle Paul is giving his exposition of the doctrine of election. He deals with it significantly in Romans 8, but here he illustrates his teaching of the doctrine of election by going back into the past of the Jewish people and looking at the circumstances surrounding the birth of twins—Jacob and Esau. In the ancient world, it was customary for the firstborn son to receive the inheritance or the patriarchal blessing. However, in the case of these twins, God reversed the process and gave the blessing not to the elder but to the younger. The point that the Apostle labors here is that God not only makes this decision prior to the twins’ births, He does it without a view to anything they would do, either good or evil, so that the purposes of God might stand. Therefore, our salvation does not rest on us; it rests solely on the gracious, sovereign decision of God.

Unconditional election is another way of saying sovereign election. But is it fair of God to save people this way? The Apostle Paul, in Romans 9, anticipated this objection when he wrote: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

It is God’s divine and sovereign prerogative to save those who He chooses to save. Some sinners received justice while others received mercy or non-justice. No sinner, the redeemed or the reprobate, receives injustice from God.

When we realize that there was nothing done on our part for God to choose to save us from our sins, then we become broken people. We fall, as it were, upon our faces with the utmost gratitude to God for choosing to save sinners such as us when He was under no obligation to do so. God chose to save on the basis of His sovereign grace and grace alone.

I recall during my first year at Detroit Bible College that this truth came upon me following a theology class. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to God for choosing to save me and also overwhelmed that He was under no obligation to do so. Ultimately, sovereign or unconditional election results in God receiving all the glory and praise for our justification.

Take this moment to thank God for choosing to save you.

Soli deo Gloria!

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