Election (1)

Dr. H. A. Cameron

(Romans 9, 1 Peter 1, Jude 4)

In dealing with the doctrine of election, we approach a study that is both difficult and dangerous. Observe that I say study; the doctrine itself is of God and must necessarily be profitable, but it is one of the deep things of God and hence the difficulty in its study, and, handled as it has been by some without the due consideration of counterbalancing truths, the examination has proved to be one fraught with danger. We stand as it were at the portal of the counsel-chambers of God, and are privileged to hear a little of the Divine purposes, enough to awaken deep interest, but enough also to convince us that our finite minds cannot grasp the infinite upon which the doctrine launches us. We must ever remember that election has to do with God’s own rule as to His own procedure, His Divine will and work; and our attitude is absolutely receptive, neither altering, nor adding to nor taking from His words upon the matter.

The truth of election is "children’s bread" and as such it is nothing to be refused but rather to be received with thanksgiving. But it is in one sense, "bread to be eaten in secret" and how pleasant it is while thus partaken of. When, however, instead of nourishing the soul it is made a means by which to choke ourselves or others, there is something wrong with our handling of it, and the one who dispenses it in such fashion is not giving the household its food in due season.

That the doctrine of election is one of the difficult problems in the Scriptures, is quite in keeping with the fact that it is related to the eternal counsels of God and must necessarily be far above our comprehension because of our human limitations. Nevertheless we bow to the truth of it, and with all saints say "Amen" to everything pertaining thereto which God has graciously revealed.

That God, in a mode consistent with His attributes of justice, grace, holiness and mercy, eternally elected, foreknew, foreordained, predestinated, the things which to us become known and seen as events in time, is a truth which should commend itself to every man’s conscience. For, to be God, He must necessarily be both Omnipotent and Omniscient. Herein therefore lies no difficulty. It is only when, to our limited understanding, that doctrine seems to impinge upon a truth equally and as clearly revealed, namely man’s free agency, that the difficulty arises. That both are scriptural truths is undeniable. That they are mutually opposed seems to us just as undeniable. There is but one way open to us, and that is to make the second proposition a part of the first; only thus can we satisfactorily grasp for practical purposes the truth of both. The Confession of Faith declares that "God hath foreordained whatsoever cometh to pass." Therefore if man has a free will (and the Scriptures everywhere teach it) then it follows that God has foreordained the freedom of man’s will. Without attempting therefore to explain or reconcile what seems to us contradictory, we bow to both as truths revealed in the Word of God.

Now because some have forced the doctrine beyond the limits which God hath assigned it in the Scriptures, they have intruded into those things which they have not seen. It is disastrous to be wise above that which is written. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us." Questions such as these have engaged the attention of those who push the matter to extremes: "Did Christ die only for the elect?" If so "Are we warranted in offering salvation to all?" Consequently we have the expressions coined by man, "limited atonement" and "limited offer of grace." We are therefore forced to consider (1) God’s sovereignty in election to life; (2) The doctrine of reprobation as taught by hyper-Calvinists; (3) The extent of the atonement; (4) Those to whom the salvation of God may be presented for acceptance; (5) Man’s free agency.

Thankfully we turn to one Scripture which answers satisfactorily all the questions that are raised, namely John 3:16. This declaration from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ presents God as the Author of Salvation, expressing His heart of love and grace to the unlovely, unlovable, and unloving sons of Adam’s race. Herein is demonstrated His sovereignty. As a King proclaims an amnesty to the rebels in his realm, so this Monarch demonstrates His willingness to pardon in a manner worthy of His magnanimity. And upon a righteous basis doth He make this offer, for through the atonement accomplished by the Son of His love (an atonement coextensive with the proffered mercy), His holiness is vindicated and His grace is unhindered. One barrier only remains - the will of the creature - for salvation is conditioned upon man’s acceptance or rejection. Of this salvation it has been succinctly stated "God thought it, Christ wrought it, the Spirit taught it, the Gospel brought it, faith caught it, and I’ve got it." Here all is simple everyday truth, and not one principle of the Word of God is violated.

(To be continued)