It has been several years now since our church went through John Snyder’s “Behold Your God” series, but I still remember the study like it was yesterday. I remember studying the weightiness of God’s divine attributes and how perfect, beautiful, majestic, and inseparable they are. We considered and meditated on Scriptural truths concerning God’s holiness, eternality, immutability, wrath, righteousness, love, grace, patience, and so on. We discussed how God not only demonstrates each of these attributes perfectly and harmoniously, but that these attributes are essential to His character and nature. For example, God not only shows His love, He is love (as 1 John 4:8 puts it), meaning that God is the ultimate embodiment of love and it is a core aspect of who He is. The same can be said of all His other attributes. God does not just hold to a perfect standard of righteousness -- He is the standard of righteousness. As we continue to gaze upon this perfect diamond and look at it from different angles, let’s think about God’s eternality, immutability, love, and grace, because these are at the very heart of what the eternal decree of God is all about. This is a decree that God had made to demonstrate His love and grace by redeeming those whom He elected in eternity past.

What does Scripture have to say about God’s plan of redemption in eternity? Perhaps no text comes to mind as readily as the amazing words Paul penned in Ephesians 1. Here, we find a treatise of the Triune God’s plan and involvement with our election, redemption, and eternal security. The Father elects and predestines our salvation (v. 4-6, 8-12), the Son provides the atoning work as His act of redemption (v. 7-8), and the Spirit seals us and is our surety for our ultimate inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father (v. 13-14). We find that all that is involved in our salvation is “according to the kind intention of His will” (v. 5) and “according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will” (v. 11). In other words, everything that takes place in our salvation is the result of God’s eternal decree.

For all of eternity, the Persons of the Godhead have enjoyed perfect fellowship, joy, love, and harmony with one another. Each member of the Trinity has distinct roles, but the Persons are one in essence, meaning that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have the same will and intention. Therefore, we can deduce that whom the Father predestined for adoption, the Son provided the redemption for through His blood and for whom the Spirit provided the guarantee of the inheritance. God’s eternal decree is consistent within Himself, because it is in His very nature to be consistent, for He says, “I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Since God planned our salvation in eternity and His sovereign will cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2), our election is indeed unconditional, hence why this doctrine of grace is commonly referred to as unconditional election.

It is truly a marvelous thing to consider that God is perfectly content within Himself, and therefore did not need to create anything, let alone a humanity that would rebel against Him. Yet it is entirely out of His love and good pleasure that He did create us so that He would lavish His love and grace on those of us whom He elected. To what end? Jesus answers this question in His high priestly prayer in John 17 when He said, “…that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (v. 3). Before we were born, God knew us, and He purposed in His eternal decree to create us so that we would know Him! In the present age, we know our Lord through the means of grace that He has provided to us: prayer, the Scriptures, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, etc., but the time is coming when we will no longer be looking in a mirror dimly, but we will see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12)!

The Bible is clear that God decreed our election in eternity past, so why then do many believers, including many evangelicals, deny, or at the very least downplay, the importance of God’s unconditional election? If you study all of the non-reformed positions on election, including Arminianism, Molinism, Semi-Pelagianism, Pelagianism, Open Theism, and so on, you will find that all of them have one thing in common: they all presuppose that man has an autonomous will and therefore inherently has the ability to choose salvation. It is in our fallen human nature for us to be informed and guided by our emotions and experiences rather than on the truth of God’s Word. Our flesh is naturally repulsed by the idea that our salvation is completely of the Lord, because after all, “I prayed the sinner’s prayer!” or “I walked down the aisle and made a decision to follow Jesus!” I have no doubt that you had such experiences. The issue though is that apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, you are enslaved to your sin and dead in your sin, lost in your depravity, and therefore incapable of ever choosing to follow Jesus on your own initiative.

Another common objection to the doctrine of unconditional election is the issue of fairness. Many evangelicals, including myself back in my Arminian days, object to the notion by arguing that it is unfair that God intentionally elected only some people and not others. There are two main problems with this objection; first, it is casting the blame on God for being unjust in His sovereign choice, which is ridiculous since righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:14). Secondly, God elects us not on the basis of “fairness”, but solely out of His love and grace. The question we should be asking ourselves is not, “Why did God choose some but not others?”, but “Why did God choose anyone at all?” As the apostle Paul wrote:

“What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.’ So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?” (Romans 9:14-20).

Are you beginning to see the bigger picture of election according to God’s eternal decree? Once you see it in one text of Scripture, you begin to see it everywhere in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Next time, we will focus a bit more on God’s work of predestination as the Bible describes it.