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His Chosen Ones – Part 5 (finale)

posted Dec 6, 2016, 10:05 AM by First Baptist


In this series, we’ve taken up the issue of whether God singles out certain members of the human race to be the special recipients of His grace.


There are two major schools of thought – yes, He does (Calvinism) and no, He doesn’t (Arminianism).


As mentioned in my last article, both schools are considered orthodox, meaning it is acceptable for a Christian to ascribe to either view. But, which is right (or MORE right)?


Humanity’s Sinfulness


A key question (perhaps the key question) has to do with the effect of the Fall and the magnitude of our sin (or sinfulness). What exactly did the Fall do to us? Or, to put it another way, how far did we fall when we fell?


Calvinists argue that the Fall rendered us incapable (on our own) of choosing Christ. Arminians, on the other hand, argue that, while the Fall certainly had a significant effect on humanity, we retain the ability (on our own) to repent of sin & accept Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior.


Spiritually Dead


In wrestling with this, it’s important to note how the Bible speaks of or describes fallen humanity.


For example, Ephesians 2:1 refers to the unsaved as “dead in their transgressions and sins.” What does “dead” mean? Death normally includes the inability to respond to stimuli. The stimuli in the spiritual realm is a presentation of the gospel. Thus, humans – being spiritually dead -- are incapable of responding to the gospel.


Another significant passage is Romans 3. In this chapter, Paul describes the human race as hopelessly separated from God because of our sin. The language is both breathtaking and universal: “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin [meaning under its bondage]. There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, …”


Spiritually Blind


Other passages speak of humanity as being afflicted with spiritual blindness (Romans 1:18-23; II Corinthians 4:3-4; Matthew 13:14-15). Humans, therefore, are not only spiritually dead, but spiritually blind. This is another indication of not just a refusal, but an inability to turn to Christ. 


On this point at least, I think the Calvinist view is correct: On our own, we are incapable of accepting Christ. This is one of effects of the Fall. For salvation to take place, God must act.


God’s Initiative


A second key question is whether there is biblical evidence to support the idea of God taking the initiative to save certain members of the human race.


Here are three statements from Jesus:


“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,...” (John 6:44)


“This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” (John 6:65)


“You did not choose me, but I chose you…” (John 15:16)


In the two John 6 passages, notice the word “can” – “no one CAN come to me” – which seems to leave little doubt as to our inability to accept Christ on our own. And then notice the word “unless.” This is called a necessary condition.


What is the necessary condition? That the person is drawn or enabled by the Father. In other words, due to our incapacity or helplessness (because of our sin nature), God acts on our behalf & draws us to himself (and indeed enables us to go to him).


Besides Jesus’ teaching, there’s also an incredible statement in Acts:


When the Gentiles heard this [referring to the gospel message], they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)


Who believed? Those who were “appointed” to believe; hearers NOT appointed (evidently), did not believe.




The conclusion I draw from this is that while our choosing Christ is real & meaningful (and necessary), it is also true that God chooses us, and His choosing – in some mysterious sense -- is primary (or first).


W.H. Griffith Thomas has a good word for God’s people. He says:


“These two truths, God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility, are to be believed firmly, held tenaciously, proclaimed fully, and our life is to be lived in the light thereof.”


Recommended Resource


hand in Hand: The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice by Randy Alcorn. Alcorn addresses the issue in a very balanced way. Most authors do not; they simply argue for their own point of view. The subject matter is deep, but written for non-scholars.



Pastor Dan