Once the sovereignty of God in salvation is acknowledged as true, it is not uncommon for a soul to fearfully wonder, What if I am not elect? What if God did not choose me for salvation from the before the foundation of the world? Am I doomed? In response to these fears, having personally tasted of them myself, let me be perfectly frank: They are of the devil, who wishes to blind your mind to the glory of God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6). You cannot look at the face of Jesus Christ and come away with such fears. As seen in an earlier post, we only know God truly as He is explained to us in the person and work of His incarnate Son Jesus Christ (John 1:18). Therefore, we need to ask, How did Jesus respond to sinners in need? Two instances illustrate how to consider the doctrine of election in light of the revelation of God in Christ, who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
First, uncertainty did not keep the leper from coming to Jesus. The leper came, worshipped, and told Jesus, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Matthew 8:2). In other words, “Lord, I know You are able to save me, if You want to.” Fearful sinner, what an analogy of your condition! Having come to Jesus, you know that God is able to save you, but you doubt that He really wants to, especially in light of election. Listen to the Gospel. This is the revelation of God to you in the face of Christ: “I will; be thou clean” (Matthew 8:3). Jesus is willing. He wants to save you. He desired to make the leper clean; He loved the rich young ruler; He had compassion on the crowds, and wept over the coming destruction of Jerusalem and her children. All these snapshots give a true portrait of the character of God Himself, translated to us in human terms. As Joseph Hart wrote many years ago:
“Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity joined with pow’r;
He is able, He is able, He is willing; doubt no more.”
Interestingly, this insight into the willing heart of God to save us is at the core of true faith. According to the book of Hebrews, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). In coming to God, I must not only believe that He is able to save me, but that He will save me. If I ask for wisdom, which represents the summation of born-again character, I should believe and not doubt that God will give it, for He “giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5; cf. 3:17). That is God’s heart, and it is a sin to doubt it, notwithstanding the doctrine of sovereign election (cf. James 1:6-8).
Second, election did not keep the Canaanite woman from seeking deliverance for her daughter. At first, Jesus ignored her, telling His disciples, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Here she was, face to face with the reality of God’s sovereign election. Having chosen the Jews, she, as a Gentile, seemed to be ineligible for His blessing. This logic, however, did not stop her, for when Jesus answered her by saying, “It is not [fitting] to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs,” she astutely responded, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Instead of reprimanding her, Jesus commended her and granted her request, saying, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt” (Matthew 15:26-28).
Do you hear this woman’s faith? Faced with a limitation due to the sovereign plan of God, she neither denied that plan (“I am not a dog!”) nor did she give up (“Jesus did not come for the dogs; therefore, I had better not bother Him.”), but rather agreed with Christ and believed His heart to be bigger than that limitation (“I am a dog; but even dogs get crumbs!”). By analogy, God will not excuse anyone for unbelief based on the fear of not being elect. Unbelief is a sin. Period. We know the heart of God based on Jesus–if you come to Him, He is both able and desirous to save you (Matthew 8:1-3). Moreover, in imitation of the woman, I would advise you to use the sovereignty of God to your advantage: “Lord, I agree. You are sovereign in salvation, bestowing mercy on whom You will; therefore, since You are absolutely free in bestowing mercy on sinners, freely bestow Your mercy on me! Save me!” Based on the Gospel–the revelation of God in the face of Jesus Christ–He will. Period.
Fearful sinner, let me remind you of your limitations. Election is none of your business. You are a creature of Time; but election is clearly something of Eternity. You cannot understand election directly, apart from Christ. The saved were chosen solely “in Christ,” just as they are now mysteriously seated in the heavenly places now in Christ (Ephesians 1:4; 2:5-6). If you try to understand election directly, you will fall into heresy, denying the heart of the Gospel, just as those who try to explain the Incarnation end up in heresy. A mystery is a mystery. To borrow an analogy from the Reformers themselves, quit trying to look around the back of God to read His sovereign book, which cannot be understood directly, though you break your neck in trying. Look at the face of Christ. There is the revelation of God to you in terms that you can understand. Come to Christ, believe in Him, and may it be done to you according to your faith.
In light of this discussion, you may wonder, So why then did God reveal to us the doctrine of election? According to the New Testament, there are at least two reasons. First, God uses the doctrine of election to humble the proud, who think that their own will or effort will attain heaven, contrary to God’s sovereign mercy (Romans 9:16; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). God alone gets the glory for salvation (Ephesians 1:4-6). Second, God uses the doctrine of election to comfort the saved, who realize that their eternal security rests ultimately not on the power of their freewill to keep hold of God, but on the unchanging will of God to keep hold of them in Christ (Romans 8:30). To use an old analogy, the door of salvation has written above it, “Whosoever wills may come.” Once inside, we who are saved look back at the door and see written above it, “Elect from the foundation of the world.” God wants His beloved children to know that He has always loved them in Christ and will love them forever. To God be the glory through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.