This posting is the third and final installment of my series on the “Modes of Salvation.” In this installment I’ll be discussing salvation by election. Salvation by election is salvation that is entirely the work of God and not through any effort on man’s part. In this installment of the series, I plan to provide scripture references and other arguments used to support the concepts presented in the “Election” cross-functional flowchart from my “Modes of Salvation: Overview” posting. As in my previous posting, I’ve reproduced the flowchart events here in the style of a screenplay as follows:
2 Lamb’s Book of Life
After an indeterminate period of time, the Holy Spirit regenerates the chosen person.
4 Born Again
The person chosen for salvation responds to the Gospel message through saving faith.
A common argument used by those who object to salvation by election is that a loving God wouldn’t condemn anyone to Hell. The intent of this objection argument is to show that those whom God doesn’t choose, He condemns. What this argument fails to take into account is the fact that Adam, way back in the Garden of Eden, who acted as our representative or federal head, has already condemned us all by his eating of the forbidden fruit.1 One only needs to read Romans chapter 5 to understand this doctrine since it is clearly taught through repetition.2 Therefore, God hasn’t condemned us, Adam did through his disobedience. The choice, if there ever really was one, existed in the Garden of Eden. Adam chose to listen to his wife and disobey God’s clear command.
While Adam condemned the entire human race for judgment and punishment, God predestined a chosen few for salvation.
…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
…God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
2 Thess. 2:13
Even though the two verses just listed are clear and unambiguous, some readers may balk at anyone formulating such a controversial doctrine as salvation by election using only two verses. Well, there are many more verses that support this doctrine: seventy four occurrences of the text, “Lord has chosen” and eight occurrences of the text, “elect” in the NASB (QuickVerse 10 Bible Suite).
At what point in time did God chose or predestine who would be saved? The answer is from the very beginning! Ephesians 1:4 uses the phrase “before the foundation of the world” and 2 Thessalonians uses the phrase “from the beginning” to indicate at what point in time God made His choices. Clearly, He made His choices from the very beginning. What does this say about Adam’s choice to disobey God in the Garden? Did God really intend for man to fall? The phrase “chosen before the foundation of the world” implies that He chose some before they were even born and before sin even entered into the world! Did God know beforehand that Adam would disobey or was it in God’s plan all along?3 These are difficult and troubling concepts for us to comprehend because our thoughts are not God’s thoughts and our ways are not His ways.4
Lamb’s Book of Life
Some would argue that the book of life or Lamb’s book of life existed before the foundation of the world but not the names in the book. The Scripture clearly refutes this assertion. Revelation chapter 13, verse 8 emphasizes the fact that the names were in fact written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.
All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
So what about the verses that seem to imply that names could be blotted out of the book of life such as Psalm 69:28 and Revelation 3:5? In Psalm 69, David is in distress due to the torment he is suffering at the hand of his enemies. His distress is so great that he when he calls on God for deliverance he uses an exaggeration or hyperbole if you will to illustrate how far he wants God to go in dealing with his tormentors, “May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous.”5 In Revelation 3:5 Jesus uses a similar figure of speech; but instead of calling on God’s judgment as David did, He provides reassurance to those believers that they are secure in Him, “~’He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.’”6 The chosen or elect are secure in their salvation because the Father has given them to Jesus and Jesus hasn’t lost any of them.7 8
The “Birth” event is a placeholder in the salvation by election flowchart as it is in the choice flowchart.
Nicodemus was dumbfounded when Jesus told him that one must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God because in the natural it doesn’t make any sense.9 But Jesus wasn’t speaking of the natural (that is, the flesh), as he went on to explain, “’That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’”10 Jesus was speaking of a spiritual birth, a birth that can only happen through the work of the Spirit. This isn’t anything new; even those in the salvation by choice camp believe this. What differentiates the two camps is that the salvation by election camp believes that you must be born again before you can be saved. It all comes down to how you interpret what happened in the Garden of Eden.
- After Adam sinned by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he died spiritually as God had warned11
- Since Adam acted as our federal head, his sin and its consequences are imputed to all of us because we are his decedents12
- As a result of being descended from Adam, we are all born into this world spiritually dead13
- If we are spiritually dead then we are unable to understand spiritual things14 15
- If we are unable to understand spiritual things then we need to be reborn or born again spiritually16
- If we are spiritually reborn then we have been made capable of understanding spiritual things17
- If we are capable of understanding spiritual things then we are able to believe and be saved18
The Bible refers to all those who are dead spiritually as the natural man. And, as the Scripture teaches, the natural man cannot understand or believe the things of the Spirit since they are spiritually discerned and that includes believing on the Son of Man! Therefore, a person needs to first become born again in order to be saved.
Unlike the salvation by choice flowchart, there is no mention of an age of accountability. As we have already discussed in detail, everyone is born under the condemnation of sin due to Adam’s disobedience. However, now when a reborn person hears the Gospel message or reads the Bible, that person is able to respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction in faith.
Conviction and belief really belong together since belief is the reborn person’s only credible response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.
Death is another placeholder event in our salvation by election flowchart. The same rationale used for placing birth in the flowchart applies to death as well.
Whenever someone in the salvation by choice camp believes they are being outflanked by someone in the salvation by election camp, they immediately draw upon their heavy weapon of choice and that is John 3:16.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16 KJV
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NASB
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NIV
In each of the three major translations given above, the Greek word pas (Greek NASB Number: 3956) is translated into the English word “whoever” (NASB, NIV) or “whosoever” (KJV). However, according to the NASB Greek-Hebrew Dictionary the Greek word pas can be translated as “all” or “every.” Notice how the verse conveys a somewhat different meaning just by substituting the word “all” as illustrated in the following spot-on translation of John 3:16:
Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave His only child, So that all people with faith in Him can escape destruction, and live forever.19
The above translation wasn’t provided by a seminary professor or trained theologian but by Donald E. Knuth, the esteemed professor of Computer Science at Stanford University! Notice how the meaning of the verse is subtly changed when the words “whoever” or “whosoever” are replaced with the word “all” in the verse. Before, without this substitution the verse was indeterminate and in the future, but with this substitution it’s now determinate and in the present.
In spite of the popular belief that John 3:16 is an open invitation to anyone who would decide to believe in Jesus; it was really intended to provide assurance to those who already believe. Therefore, John 3:16 is the end point in our salvation by election flowchart.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Greek-Hebrew dictionary references are from The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 Gerard Sczepura
Isa. 55:8-9 ↩
Ps. 69:28 ↩
Rev. 3:5 ↩
John 6:39 ↩
John 10:29 ↩
John 3:3 ↩
John 3:6 ↩
Sczepura, “The Fall: Adam’s Folly” ↩
Sczepura, “The Fall: God’s Response” ↩
1 Cor. 2:14 ↩
John 3:14-15 ↩
John 3:3 ↩
John 3:6 ↩
Matt. 16:16-17 ↩
Donald E. Knuth, 3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated, (Madison: A-R Editions, Inc., 1991), 171. ↩