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The Doctrines of Grace: TULIP Revisited
by Carol Berubee

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Unconditional Election, Part VI

Common Questions (Continued)
So, what about evangelism? If God has already chosen His elect, what is the point of evangelism? The answer is that God uses the Gospel to effect faith. God uses His Word to awaken the ones whom He has chosen. We do not know who the elect will be, so we preach the Gospel to whomever God directs. We leave it up to the Holy Spirit to regenerate people. Some Christians believe that no one can be saved without having heard the Gospel and responding in faith. While it is true that God most often uses the preaching of the Gospel (in the most strict sense of classic evangelism) as the catalyst for saving faith, it is also true that God has saved some who have not heard the Gospel in the strictest sense, only learning the Gospel subsequent to being born again. While this may be uncommon, we have to understand that God will save whom He will save when He decides.

The preaching of the Gospel does not always yield positive results, as we well know. We also have to remember that God stopped Paul from preaching the Gospel in certain areas at certain times (Acts 16:6-10), so we have to trust that God is in control of salvation.

A related issue is prayer. How are we to pray if only the elect will be saved? Do we pray for all people to be saved? This is a tricky question. Let's look at John 17 as Jesus is praying to the Father concerning His disciples.

John 17:6-10
"'I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.'"

Notice a couple of things here. First, Yeshua says that the Father gave Him these believers. We said earlier that the Father elects, the Son atones for their sins, and the Holy Spirit regenerates them. Second, Yeshua says that He prays for them; He does not pray for the world, but only for those whom the Father has given Him. Yeshua does not pray against the will of His Father. He does not pray for the world (the unbelievers whom the Father has not chosen), but only for the ones whom the Father has chosen.

John 17:20
"'I do not pray for these [believers] alone, but also for those who (will) believe in Me through their word..."

Now, Yeshua prays not only for the current believers when He was here on earth, He prays also for those who will believe in the future. Again, these are the elect; He does not pray for the whole world, but only for those who will believe. You and I do not know who will believe, so it is tempting to pray that everyone be saved and hope for the best. In one sense, that may be correct. We want to see people saved and we want to cooperate with God as His will is carried out in the world. Yet, just as we saw with evangelism, sometimes God prevents the Gospel from going forth in a particular place. We have to live our lives in the Spirit so that we have some sense of when it is appropriate to keep praying for someone's salvation and when not to. There are many examples of Yeshua and the Apostles walking away from people and giving them up to the world or the devil rather than continue to argue with them or strive with them in an attempt to "get them saved."

Now, what about those who do respond to the Gospel? Earlier, we said that no one but the elect would want to die to self and live for Christ. But then, the question is, does this mean that everyone who responds to the Gospel and says they're a Christian really is a Christian? If only the elect can have saving faith, does this mean that everyone who professes to have faith is a Christian? What we have to understand is that people can have faith in any number of things. To many, it may look like true faith in the one true God, Christ Jesus the Lord. Matthew 13:18-23 makes it clear, however, that many will fall away from the truth, indicating that they were never saved in the first place. Their faith was not saving faith given by God. Their faith may have been in what they thought God could give them (money, employment, friends, etc.), or their faith may have been in themselves (thinking that they could earn their way to God's approval, if they just said and did the right things).

People will make emotional decisions for any number of reasons and we cannot know for sure who is saved. What is clear is that no one is saved apart from being predestined by God and responding to God with the faith that He gives them. People are not necessarily saved just because they don't want to go to Hell, or because they were raised in a Christian home, or because they said a prayer at youth camp. People will come to a god of their own making, but we don't always know who their god is, and we can mistake their god for the one true God when they profess to know Christ. Remember, Judas Iscariot was "a devil" whom Yeshua had known from the beginning would betray Him (John 6:60-71). God had chosen Judas for a specific purpose. Judas lived with the disciples for three years, but they did not realize that he was not a true believer. When Judas betrayed Yeshua, the disciples then saw Judas for who he really was.

Matthew 13:24-30 presents us with the truth that there are tares among the wheat. They may look like the elect, they may profess to be Christians; yet, we know from this parable that many of the tares will be mistaken for wheat and will not be known as tares for many years. God has a purpose in allowing the tares to live among the elect, but the elect have to be careful to not proclaim that someone is a Christian simply because that person professes to be a Christian.

Now you may be saying that it is not fair that some are chosen and some are not. If this is what is running through your mind, you're not alone. Is it possible for God to be good, merciful, and loving while still being the one who hardens hearts? If we look to the Scriptures rather than rely on our emotions, we will see that God does indeed choose some and not others.

Mark 4:10-12
"But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, 'To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that, "Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them."'"

Here, Yeshua makes it clear that God does indeed withhold understanding from those who are not of the elect.

John 12:39-40
"Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.'"

Again, this prophecy from Isaiah is quoted by John. There is no doubt that God is in control of who will be saved and who will not. God does blind the eyes and harden the hearts of those who are not of the elect. So many in the world cannot believe. They do not want to believe because either they are not of the elect, or because it is not yet time for God to open their eyes. It is not a matter of you or me sharing the Gospel with someone and trying to get him or her to understand; it is a matter of sharing the Gospel in the power of the Spirit and then stepping aside and letting God do whatever it is He's going to do.

Romans 9:18-24
"Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?'
[In other words, the protestor doesn't think it's fair for some to be condemned because, after all, they are only doing what God willed them to do. They were born that way, so it's not their fault that they are sinful. They are only living out the lives that God willed, so how can they be blamed?] But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"

If Paul had been teaching free will as the correct doctrine, then there would have been no protest, would there? What would there be to protest if Paul were teaching that all men have free will to either accept or reject God? Men could not protest against God's decisions if those decisions were actually made by men of their own free will. They would say, "God allowed us to choose and then He set history into motion and now we live out our lives as free men, choosing what we will."

Yet, there is protest here and it is only because Paul was teaching unconditional election. Because Paul taught that there is no free will and that God had predetermined who would be saved and who wouldn't based on His sovereign will, there was much protest coming from the unbelievers. They wanted to know why God would make some to be saved and some not. Paul's answer is that they have no right to question their Maker. Paul says that it is for God's glory that He has made some for honor and some for dishonor. We are but lumps of clay in the hands of the Potter. Will we bow down to Him, or will we protest? Or will we abandon the doctrine of unconditional election altogether and pretend that we were made with free will?

Charles Spurgeon has summed it up well:

"There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation - the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands - the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a foot-ball, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth; and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. They love Him anywhere better than they do when He sits with His sceptre in His hand and His crown upon His head. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust."

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