Question: Among the many doctrines in the Bible are the two dealing with salvation the doctrine of election and the doctrine of free-will. There are many passages in the Bible on both of these doctrines and many books written, etc.
Now my question is simply this: How can we fit these two opposing doctrines together so as to form a reasonable part of the whole? The entire Bible must somehow fit together as God’s whole Word. So there should be some logical answer here to this confusing matter. Frankly, I don’t see how both of these doctrines can be in the Bible. But they are, and how do we explain them?
Answer: In the first place, let us recognize and be persuaded that there cannot possibly be two mutually contradictory doctrines in the Bible. For such a case to exist would certainly raise questions in our minds about God Himself and doubts as to the credibility of the Bible as God’s Word. Mutually contradictory doctrines may arise, and often do, out of men’s interpretations of the Bible, but they never exist in the Bible itself when properly interpreted and understood.
I see the two doctrines as being mutually compatible, blending into each other and each incorporating the other and the doctrine of free-will enveloping the doctrine of election. The doctrine of free-will is so definitely and so broadly established in the New Testament that it could not possibly be questioned as pertaining to the plan of salvation and the economy of God’s grace. We are told in John 3:16 that “…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 3:14-15 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Revelation 22:17 says, “…And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This would certainly destroy the idea of God’s electing (choosing) certain ones to be saved and excluding others from being saved by an act of His own will and sovereignty. This thought is further emphasized in I Timothy 2:1 where we are exhorted to pray for all men, and verse four says that God would have all men to be saved. I Timothy 2:6 says that Christ gave himself a ransom for all. I Timothy 4:10 says that God is the Saviour of all men. Hebrews 2:9 says that Jesus by the grace of God tasted death for every man.
I have referred to several Scriptures and could go on and on with many more to show that salvation in its provisions is universal and available to all men, but in its application it is individual and on a whosoever will basis. Anyone who is saved must be willing to be saved within the scope of the economy of God’s grace, to come under the covenant provisions in the terms of the gospel and meet the demands of God’s Word. Anyone who will do this will be saved.
Now I have stated that the doctrine of “Free-will” envelops the doctrine of “Election.” But how? The term Elect is used a number of times in the Old Testament in reference to ancient Israel, who in that time were the chosen people of God. God had elected (chosen) them as a peculiar people, separated unto Himself from all the other peoples upon this earth that in them He might reveal His glory, power and holiness; to whom He could deliver the oracles of God (the law), extend and perpetuate the covenant and promises made to Abraham, the originator of their race, and through them bring Jesus Christ into the world.
Therefore they are referred to as the Elect in different places throughout the Old Testament. But in the New Testament the term Elect or Election is extended beyond the limits of the Jewish nation to include all, both Jews and Gentiles, who are redeemed from sin through faith in the merits of the all-atoning blood of Jesus Christ.
In the first four verses of the 11th chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul argues that God has not cast off His people, Israel, and confirms it with the fact that he himself was an Israelite and had obtained mercy and been saved by faith in Christ. Also, he refers to the time of Elijah when a remnant was reserved unto God in a time of Israel’s deep apostasy and idolatry. Then in verse five he says, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” Note on what grounds the election of this remnant was reckoned. It was not by virtue of being the children of Abraham according to the flesh, nor by the keeping of the law, neither by circumcision, nor by any of the conditions on which the election of ancient Israel was predicated. It is on an entirely different ground “According to the election of grace.” But there are only eleven references to “Grace” in the Old Testament. Two of them are prophetic Zechariah 4:7 and 12:10: one referring to God’s mercy in a time of deep trouble (Ezra 9:8); and the Psalmist spoke of grace being given to his lips in prayer (Psalm 45:2). All the others refer to the grace of one person to another, or of the king to individuals, etc. The Old Testament was not an age of grace, but it is said in John 1:14 that “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
Therefore the election spoken of in Romans 11:5 was not an Old Testament kind of election, but it was the “Election of grace” through Christ which only a remnant of the Israelites obtained. John 1:11-13 says, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born,…of God.” Those among the Jews who received Jesus Christ when He came and believed on His name constitute this “Remnant according to the election of grace.” Adam Clarke in his comments on Romans 11:5 says, “The election of grace simply signifies God’s gracious design in sending the Christian system into the world, saving under it all those who believe in Christ Jesus, and none else. Thus the believers in Christ are chosen to inherit the blessings of the gospel, while those who seek justification through the works of the law are rejected.” Again he says in his comments on verse six, “And this is done according to the election of grace, or the rule of choosing any persons to be the people of God upon the footing of grace, which takes in all that believe in His Son Jesus Christ.”
To this the Scriptures bear conclusive evidence, for it is written “…whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely,” (Revelation 22:17); and “…whosoever believeth in him should…have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
Romans 11:7 says, “…Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for;…” They desired to continue as the chosen people of God with all the power and glory of their kingdom which had been in times past. But they did not recognize the Author of eternal salvation when He came, so did not accept Him, but rejected Him, therefore failing to obtain what they desired. This verse says further, “…but the election hath obtained it,…” We have seen that the election where those who believed in Jesus Christ and received Him, thus were born of God, became His children in reality. Therefore they inherited all the blessings of the gospel, entered into the spiritual kingdom of God (righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Ghost Romans 14:17), and obtained the fullness of what they sought after.
This group of Israelites, who were elect according to grace received Christ and believed in Him, were born of God, and became children of God in reality. This great, majestic company of faith champions survived the complete spiritual collapse and downfall of the Jewish people and came through with faith and belief in the promises, looking for the Consolation of Israel. This group came through, merged into, and blended with the spiritual body of Christ and entered the spiritual kingdom of God. It was absorbed into a much greater and broader “Election” which included all of those from every nation under heaven (both Jews and Gentiles) who believed in Christ and received redemption by faith in His blood.
The term “Elect” means chosen, selected. Several translations drop the term elect and insert the term chosen in its stead in all texts where “Elect” is mentioned. The Amplified Bible retains the term Elect but in each case inserts in parenthesis the terms chosen, select. Then we read in Ephesians 1:4, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” The choosing or electing here does not refer to particular individuals, but that God had chosen or selected a plan for people (all people) to be saved, and this was through Jesus Christ and Him only, by believing in Him and yielding themselves to Him for salvation. Thus it is said that we (all the people of whatever nation, kindred, tongue or people) are chosen (elected) in Him, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
Now let us look at a very important text regarding “Election.” In II Peter 1:10 we read, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” This Scripture teaches us that we have a part in our election. Someone said a long time ago in regard to the “Election,” that “God has a vote, the devil has a vote, and I have a vote, and whichever way I vote is the way the election is going.” In Romans 6:16 we are told, “…to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey; his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.” Again Romans 6:13 says, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God,…and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Thus we can see that the yielding of ourselves to one master or the other is in our own hands, subject to our own will; and our yielding determines our election one way or another.
II Peter 1:10 also teaches us that our election can be lost after it has been gained. “…If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” The inference here is that if we fail to do these things and give diligence to this, we will fall.
This is exactly what happened to Israel. They were the elect of God, but they lost their election status and were cut off because of unbelief. (Romans 11:20.) Verse 17 speaks of the Gentiles being grafted in and verse 20 says they stand by faith. Then verse 22 says, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” This all makes it very clear that our election is determined by us and how we yield ourselves, that our election can be lost after we have obtained it, if we do not diligently work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.