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The Doctrines of Grace: TULIP Revisited
by Carol Berubee

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Unconditional Election, Part I

A Word About Election
We will not be able to fully understand why God chooses some and not others; yet, the Bible speaks volumes about this subject and we would do well to study it. We must believe what God says about our fallen nature, our condition in sin, our inability -- indeed, our lack of desire -- to choose God, and then we must believe Him when He says that He has chosen some for "vessels of dishonor," while others are predestined to be His children.

A Brief Look at Soteriological Systems
Let's look at a brief overview of the manmade systems concerning salvation.

Pelagius was a 4th century monk who taught that Adam's sin affected no one but Adam, so that all men born after Adam are "neutral" concerning sin and can choose to live free from sin. Although few professing Christians would admit to holding this belief today, it is still a belief that is held within "Christendom" and may be on the rise.

Semi-Pelagianism is a system in which it is taught that man cannot live free from sin without God, but the Semi-Pelagian believes that man initiates a step toward God, and then God, seeing this, helps man by giving him grace and, eventually, salvation, if man continues to seek it.

Arminius was a 16th century scholar who eventually turned against Calvin's teachings. Arminianism says, contrary to Semi-Pelagianism, that God does initiate salvation. Arminius taught that man is depraved due to original sin, and that God's grace is necessary for salvation, but he also said that man must apply his own faith to the equation in order to be saved. He taught that man has free will and can choose to either accept or reject God's grace. (The Roman Catholic system is Semi-Pelagian, although some Catholics today may lean more toward Arminianism.)

Similar to Arminianism, John Wesley's idea of "prevenient grace" says that all men are given "saving grace" by God such that all men are awakened to the knowledge, if ever so slight, that they are sinners in need of salvation, but that all men must then make a choice and are able to make that choice of their own free will.

The majority of professing Christians today are what would be termed "Arminian" (which, for this article, includes Wesleyanism, or Methodism). Some would say they are "Calminian" -- a hybrid of Calvinist and Arminian teachings concerning salvation -- but this is illogical, as you will see as we continue on in this series.

As we saw in the first part of this series, Total Depravity, the Bible teaches that the natural man is depraved, he is dead in his sins, and he cannot understand the things of God. Arminius and Wesley would agree. Something has to awaken the natural man to the things of God, and that can only be God Himself. Arminius and Wesley would agree. But then the question is this: If the will of the natural man is bound in sin and is not "free" to choose God, how can Arminius and Wesley say that man has the ability to either choose or reject God? Here's where things seem to get more complicated.

The general "Arminian" teaching is that man has the option to exercise faith toward God. He will tell you that man is depraved, but somehow the "Arminian" allows that man has some bit of goodness that manifests itself in faith toward God, or he will say that although man is depraved, he still has a free will that can choose to have faith. Granted, the "Arminian" will say that it is only by God's grace that this faith can be exercised toward God. But the question still remains: From where did this faith originate -- the good God or the depraved man?

The "Calvinist" position is that man cannot generate saving faith of himself. Yes, the Christian does make a decision and he does exercise faith, but this faith -- although it is acted upon by an individual and is personal to the individual -- is not of the individual. Faith is a gift from God that is given to an individual so that the person can believe and repent. First, grace is given to awaken the sinner, then faith is given so that the person can actively choose God. This transformation that takes place when grace awakens a sinner to the things of God and the person is given a new nature is called "regeneration." It is the regenerated (born-again) soul that can then exercise this new, God-given faith and choose God.

Again, we depart from this classic Calvinist teaching, in that we see regeneration, the exercising of faith, and repentance toward God as simultaneous, not pieces within a string of consecutive events. It is the Gospel that is the means by which God effects these events of salvation (Romans 1:16).

For someone to be saved, it takes all three members of the Trinity to make it happen. God the Father elects a people for salvation, God the Son redeems them by His atoning work on the cross, and God the Holy Spirit regenerates those whom the Father elected and those for whom the Son died. This is the sovereign work of God, even though man is responsible.

Since we know that not all people will be saved, the question that will be asked is whether God arbitrarily doles out grace and faith, or whether He gives it only to specific people. And if the latter, then how is it determined who these specific people are?

A Scriptural Basis
Romans 8:29-30
"For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son... Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."

Ephesians 1:5
"...having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will..."

Ephesians 1:11
"In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will..."

According to these three passages, and many more that we will not take the time to list, God predestines some to be saved. This is called "election." If you look up election in your concordance, you will find many verses showing that God does elect some to salvation. There are those who assert that these verses only speak of the Christian, the one who is already saved, being predestined to adoption and inheritance, not salvation; however, it must be asked: Could God predestine an unbeliever to adoption and inheritance? In other words, one must be a Christian to receive adoption and inheritance, right? If God predestines adoption and inheritance, He must predestine salvation; otherwise, there would be a lot predestined adoptions and inheritances that would go unclaimed, which would nullify the term "predestined."

Ephesians 2:5
"...even when we were dead in trespasses, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)..."

When was the Christian saved? When he was dead in sins. How was he saved? By God's grace, of course, for how could a dead man choose God? How can a man whose will is bound by sin, a man who is a slave to sin, a man who is dead in sin, choose God?

Colossians 2:13
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh [depravity], He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses..."

Again, when was the Christian saved? When he was dead in his sins and in his depraved state. A dead man cannot exercise saving faith. Where does that faith come from?

Ephesians 2:8-9
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

The dead man is saved by the grace of God, through faith. This grace and faith is not of man, it is a gift from God. A dead man cannot exercise faith. Moreover, a depraved man, whose will is bound by sin and whose heart is wicked, cannot choose to be saved, for this would violate his own nature. By God's grace, a man is born again and given faith.

The "Arminian" would argue that although man is totally depraved, he still has a free will, and it is through this freedom that he can exercise faith and choose God. Notice that the "Arminian" is then implicitly denying total depravity. He is saying that there is at least one part of man -- the will -- that has not been enslaved by sin. Remember, Yeshua said that anyone who sins is a slave of sin (John 8:34). The will of the unregenerate is sinful and is bound by sin; it is not free.

John 8:36
"'Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.'"

Yeshua here reminds us that even when we think we are free, we are not. Unless you are born again and set free by Christ, you are not really free. You are a slave to sin. Your will is bound to sin. There is no such thing as free will. The will cannot act against its nature, which is sinful. The will is not free to choose Christ, unless Christ sets it free.

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