The Doctrine of Election and the Free Gift

by Mike Ratliff

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:14-16 ESV)

When those of us who came from an Arminian or Free Will background come to grips with the reality of God’s Sovereignty, it is amazing how we struggle with letting go of the responsibility to “earn” our salvation. Of course, part of that struggle is rooted in the misconception that “election” happens at salvation. Ephesians 1 makes it clear, however, that God chose His elect before the foundation of the world. An honest reading of that epistle by the Apostle Paul shows us that God’s people are His in completion even though many of them have not yet believed and repented. They are our Lord’s sheep.

One of the accusations against Reformed Theology from Arminians, Pelagians, and Semi-Pelagians is that Calvinism kills evangelism. This is not true of course. Often when the proof of the veracity of Reformed Theology is presented biblically to them, some Free Will proponents will say something like, “then why preach the Gospel if the elect will be saved regardless?” The answer to that is quite simple as is the case with most of God’s truths. We are commanded to preach the Gospel to all. We do not know who the elect are. Only God knows that. We are commanded to make disciples from all nations. Therefore, we preach the Gospel leaving the work of regeneration, justification, sanctification, adoption, and glorification in God’s capable hands. We pray for lost souls. We pray that God will draw them to Himself.

Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (John 10:14-16) paying close attention to v16, which I have highlighted. Notice that the sheep are not yet redeemed when our Lord spoke this. He had yet to go to the Cross. Also, they were His sheep, but they had not yet believed. Also, “other sheep” belong to Him as well. Of course, He was speaking of the Gentiles who would make up the bulk of the Church in the years ahead.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (Acts 18:5-11 ESV)

Carefully read the passage above (Acts 18:5-11), paying close attention to vv9-10, which I have highlighted. Just as our Lord still had to die to redeem His sheep that had not yet believed, Paul was to go on speaking, preaching, and teaching because God said, “for I have many in this city who are my people.” These people were God’s people already, but they had to hear the Gospel in order to believe and repent so God could justify them. The devotional below is from Charles Spurgeon pertaining to Acts 18:9-10.

This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ’s property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of the ale-house, and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them He will have them. God is not unfaithful to forget the price which His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word of God.

Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne. “Neither pray I for these alone,” saith the great Intercessor, “but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word.” Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on His breastplate, and ere long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace. “The time of figs is not yet.” The predestinated moment has not struck; but, when it comes, they shall obey, for God will have His own; they must, for the Spirit is not to be withstood when He cometh forth with fulness of power-they must become the willing servants of the living God. “My people shall be willing in the day of my power.” “He shall justify many.” “He shall see of the travail of His soul.” “I will divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong.” – C.H. Spurgeon

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (Acts 13:44-49 ESV)

Now, carefully read Acts 13:44-49 above. Who is sovereign? Is it man and his Free Will or is it God? God saves those whom He has given to the Son (John 6).  My brethren, the doctrine of election is humbling. No one has any deeds or merit that raises them up in God’s eyes as deserving of grace. No, God elected sinners who actually have nothing to offer God whatsoever. God elected and will save each one. They will bring Him glory as they learn to humbly submit to His will in all things. They will learn that they can only do good by the grace of God. They are nothing without their Lord and can do nothing without His joy.

On the other hand, the vast majority of the visible Church appears to believe just the opposite. They stubbornly hold on to the fallacious notion that they are Christians because of something they did. All genuine Christians believed and repented, but even that comes via God’s grace through faith as a gift from God. No one can do one thing to earn or deserve it.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

Carefully read the passage above (Ephesians 2:1-10). What was the condition of all Christians prior to their justification? They were ALL dead in their trespasses and sins. They were by nature children of wrath like everyone else. However, God mercifully MADE THEM ALIVE. This comes only by His grace through faith. This faith comes as the result of God making them alive. Then they believe by faith. God did it this way that no one may boast. If anyone claims to be a Christian, by his or her own efforts then they do not understand grace nor do they believe what is clearly taught here. Our salvation is a gift of God, not a result of works. Therefore, this faith is part of the gift, which is given to each believer according to God’s grace.

All of the Good Shepherd’s sheep will believe and repent and be saved by Grace through faith. Those of us who already in the sheep fold are responsible to preach the Gospel to everyone that those who belong to our Lord and are appointed to eternal life will receive the gift of salvation by His grace through the faith that comes only to the regenerate heart.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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