2014 Conference Session 2 - Unconditional Election
“Does God Play Favorites?” (Romans 9:1-24)
This morning at Christ Church, Rev. Burk Parsons resumed teaching through the Five Points of Calvinism. He came to the “U” in “TULIP” – the doctrine of Unconditional Election. The questions comes to us: how are we to treat election and reprobation, these often separated and misunderstood doctrines? The answer is you can’t have one without the other.
What we believe about these doctrines is clearly explained in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Outside of scripture itself, this remains our most helpful and simple summary. Unfortunately, many people are looking for answers beyond what the confession teaches. This is a human tendency, to push to resolve matters that God has chosen not to explain fully in the Bible. No less a theologian than John Calvin understood this, when he said: “We dare not try to speak where Scripture has closed its mouth.” Calvin would most likely be horrified that his name is attached to what is Biblical Christianity, but he did not in his day (and we can presume in our day, would not) fail to teach and proclaim what the Scriptures teach. In fact, we must understand that it is an important part of being a disciple of Christ to study the Bible, even when it is difficult. In order to understand what we believe, we need not shy away from hard questions, questions like “who does God save?”
In the New Testament, the word used by Paul for “favoritism” means that God doesn’t consider the face or appearance of people. As humans, we naturally look at faces and appearance and begin to make judgments. Aren’t we thankful we are not God? Thankfully, God’s election is not based on our appearance or what He sees in our heart. Any talents or gifts we possess are for God’s glory, not a reason for him to choose us. He did it solely for his glory to be known.
Another hard aspect to the doctrine of election is the “other side of the coin” – reprobation. Reprobation is the truth that God elects some and does not elect others. If we believe in election and not reprobation, we don’t understand the doctrine of election. And if we don’t get election, we also don’t get total depravity. It is our complete inability to come to God on our own that leads to God’s sovereignly bringing us to Himself. As Reverend Parsons explained, “If you don’t know the God of scripture, you won’t be able fully to worship the God of scripture. Your level of praise and worship only goes to the level of your theology.”
Who then does God save? This is the answer we are given: According to God’s good pleasure and purposes, He accomplishes His will. Election affects not just each of us individuals but the church as a whole. It changes how we act. How do and will we treat Christ’s elect bride? When we know that we don't deserve salvation, when we realize that God chose us based on His love for us, we will love others. We can’t hate someone who God loves. A full understanding of election helps us to understand and love God, but also to love and understand each other.