By Bob Wilkin1
The Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election is meant to be a wonderful comfort to people. Back in 1978 I was on staff with Cru at NC State University. I remember hearing the Campus Director from the University of Carolina speak on the doctrine of election. I don’t recall having heard about it before then. He was speaking to the area staff, and he was very animated. His eyes were radiating joy. He thought we should be thrilled to know that God elects some to everlasting life and condemns the rest to eternal condemnation.
Even with no theological education, I saw flaws in his teaching. I did not see evidence in Scripture that God elects people to everlasting life. And I did see evidence in Scripture that God loves the entire world so much that He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for the sins of everyone (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2).
I could not see how what he was saying was encouraging. If he was right, then none of us could be sure that we were saved. We’d all have to wonder if we were one of the lucky chosen ones.
In the Bible, election is to service, not eternal destiny. God chose Abraham to be the father of His chosen people, Israel. All Jews are part of God’s chosen people. Even unbelieving Jews are chosen ones.
Judas was one of twelve men chosen to be Jesus’ disciples. Judas never came to faith. But he was chosen.
Jerusalem is God’s chosen city. It will one day be the capital city of both Israel and the world.
Paul was chosen to be an apostle. Matthias was chosen to take the place of Judas.
After a group of Jews rejected Paul’s evangelistic message about the Lord Jesus Christ, he said, “You judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life” (Acts 13:46). He did not say, “God judged you unworthy,” or “God did not choose you.” He said that they were culpable for rejecting the free gift of everlasting life.
When speaking to legalistic Jews, the Lord Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). He said they were not willing. He did not say that they were not chosen. His use of unwillingness as the criterion for not having life makes no sense if God elects some and not others to everlasting life.
The good news is that God draws all people to Himself and allows them to respond or not respond to His drawing. He is drawing all via the creation (Psalm 19; Romans 1). He sends His messengers all over the world with the message of everlasting life. All who seek Him find Him (Matt 7:7-11; Acts 17:27; Heb 11:6).
Are you one of God’s elect? You are if you are Jewish. But there is no such thing as being elected to everlasting life.
Has God chosen you for some occupation? I suppose we will find out things like that at the Bema. In this life we don’t know whether we should be a doctor, lawyer, plumber, painting contractor, pastor, missionary, housewife, teacher, or archaeologist. We get education and we learn what we like to do. We then choose a path in life and seek to please God through it. When we appear before Christ at the Bema, we may learn that God was working behind the scenes to move us in a certain direction. I call that God’s unseen hand. We may learn that His first choice for us was to be a doctor. Or pastor. Or plumber. Or architect. Or housewife. Or senator.2
The Lord Jesus said that whoever believes in Him will not perish but has everlasting life. Whoever means whoever. I love the song, “Whosoever Surely Meaneth Me.” Amen.
Bob Wilkin is Executive Director of Grace Evangelical Society. He lives in Highland Village, TX, with his wife of 46 years, Sharon. He is an avid race walker and marathon walker.
1 This article originally appeared as a blog on November 15, 2022.
2 I agree with the position of Gary Friessen in his book Decision Making and the Will of God. Among thousands of choices we make, we choose what our occupation will be. We may change career paths many times. Whether we make the best decisions or not is impossible to know in advance. We can know that we are choosing something that God does not forbid (like harlot, hit man, drug dealer, etc.). And we can know that we’ve chosen an acceptable occupation. But we can’t be sure that we can glorify God more as a doctor than as a lawyer. Even if we are convinced that we can glorify Him best as a doctor, what kind? There are many types of medical doctors. If we are in fellowship with God, then we seek to choose the best over the better or the good. But as long as we pick that which is pleasing to God, we can know that our choices are God-honoring.