What follows formed the basis of a couple of recent small group studies. I should point out that the choice of topic was theirs, not mine!
Eph 1:3-14 is a good place to start: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.…
Romans 9 is one of the few places in Scripture where the tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility is acknowledged to something of a problem to our finite, fallen understanding. Douglas Moo (in the New Bible Commentary) has a helpful comment:-
Paul’s emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation raises certain objections, as he well knew from many years of preaching. Paul deals with two of these in this section. Is not God unfair to choose some and reject others (v14)?
Bruce Milne’s Know The Truth is a straightforward, uncomplicated handbook of Christian doctrine.
Milne defines ‘election’ as
that work of God’s grace whereby he chooses individuals and groups for a purpose or destiny in accordance with his will.
Examples form the Old Testament include Abraham, Gen 11:31-12:7, Israel, Ex 3:6-10, and the Messiah, Isa 42:1f. In the New Testament Jesus is in a special sense the object of election, Lk 9:35; 1 Pet 2:4f. Then, the church itself is referred to as ‘the elect’, Mt 22:14; Mk 13:20; Lk 18:8; 1 Pet 2:4f.…
You begin at the wrong end if you first dispute about your election. Prove your conversion, and then never doubt your election. If your cannot yet prove it, set upon a present and thorough turning. Whatever God’s purposes be, which are secret, I am sure His promises are plain. How desperately do rebels argue! `If I am elected I shall be saved, do what I will. If not, I shall be damned, do what I can.’ Perverse sinner, will you begin where you should end?…
It is interesting that the great Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon placed a chapter entitled, ‘An Defence of Calvinism’ near the beginning, and not near the end, of his autobiography. For the ‘doctrines of grace’ were not, for him, some distant climax of his faith, but, rather, its heart-beat and its foundation.
Listen to Spurgeon:-
That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory, but they are not.
Arminian theology teaches that God’s election of individuals to salvation is based on his foreknowledge of their faith. God knows beforehand that they will believe, and on that basis elects, or predestines them, to eternal life. This approach has the apparent advantage of relieving the tension between divine election and human freedom. A key text here is Rom 8:29
Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Election is ‘God’s decision to choose us to be saved before the foundation of the world.’ Or, more fully, ‘election is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure.’
The term ‘predestination’ is a broader term, including as it does God’s leaving of the non-elect to the consequences of their own sins. …
John Charles Ryle ministered in East Anglia in the middle years of the 19th century before becoming the first (Anglican) bishop of Liverpool. His writings are refreshingly clear, robust, and heartfelt. He explains, defends and applies the evangelical faith with deceptive simplicity. Ryle deals with the doctrine of election in his book Old Paths. Here’s a summary:-
We are familiar with the idea of a general election to Parliament. But there is a greater election.…
Election is such a hot potato that we can end up resenting the very existence of the doctrine, and almost reproach God for putting it in the Bible at all. Because we find many of our arguments about election to be unedifying, we are tempted to conclude that the doctrine itself is unedifying.
But look at the attitude of Paul: he is neither embarrassed nor ashamed of election. The thought of election leads Paul to praise, Eph 1:3ff, to encouragement, Rom 8:33ff, and to ethical appeal, Col 3:12.…