of the world” and therefore before we were born. That being the case, it could not be based on anything we ourselves did for we were not here to do anything. Paul again addresses this point when he says
…for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:11-13
So again, you see it was before the birth of either Jacob or Esau that God chose Jacob. And notice that this was before either “…had done anything good or bad….” So God’s choice was not based on man first choosing God. Paul drives home that point when he said, “…that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand….” So, God’s choice of His elect was not based on man’s purpose, but only on His own purpose. Therefore, we must conclude that God’s choice is unconditionally based solely on his own sovereign purposes, which are not explained to us.
But someone may very well object, taking note that the Scripture says, For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:29-30
Using this verse, the point is often made that God’s predestination and election is based on His own foreknowledge of who would repent and believe. Being able to see down through the corridors of time, God knew before time who would respond to the gospel message and believe. These he elected for salvation. This reminds one of a politician who is willing to lead if only the people will tell him where they want to be led. God is willing to elect if only we will be so kind as to tell Him whom to elect. So, who is doing the electing here, God or man? In order to protect the sovereignty of man, we sacrifice the sovereignty of God!
Here we have an election that is conditional, as opposed to the Reformed view of an unconditional election based solely on God’s own sovereign purposes. The condition to this salvation is man’s evangelical obedience and this, it is said, is based on God’s knowledge of human actions and responses. In this view, you have man being the prime actor and God being the reactor. In other words, God elects those whom he sees will elect him. So, man directs the affairs and decisions of God, instead of God directing the affairs and decisions of man. In order to give man an unlimited will to decide the destiny of his own soul, we must limit the will of God.
But does this do justice to the Scriptures?
The Order of Salvation - The Scriptures give us the order of events in our salvation. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. Romans 8:29-30
From this passage, we can see that foreknowledge precedes predestination, which precedes calling, which is followed by justification and glorification. We have already established that God’s predestination is not based on any actions by man but solely on God’s own divine purposes, which are hidden to us. Having determined in eternity past to save some, he proceeds in time to call his elect. Although all receive an outward call by God to salvation, only the elect receive an inward call that assures salvation.
As we have seen, there is a view that says man is elected because God sees beforehand that he will have faith. Reformed theology teaches that man is elected to have faith. The fundamental question between conditional and unconditional election is: “Is there a condition?” The view that sees God looking forward in time, called the prescient view, makes faith a condition of election. Reformed theology sees faith as the result of election. This is the fundamental difference between conditional and unconditional election. This is the question under discussion. Where does faith play its role? Is it something man generates from within his own soul? Or is “faith … the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9)? The answer, of course, is that it is the gift of God.
So the chain of salvation, based on Romans 8:28-29 is first, foreknowledge, second, predestination, third, calling, fourth, justification and last, glorification.
It is most important to note that foreknowledge is not prior knowledge; it is prior love. This is the way the word knowledge is often used in the Bible. Consider these two verses: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” (Genesis 4:1). “You only have I known of all the families of the earth…” (Amos 3:2). In both cases, the word “know” clearly means, “loved.” That is the way it is used in Romans 8:28 as well. “For whom He fore-loved He also predestined.” God loved us before time began. Because he loved us, he predestined us to the adoption of children. Having predestined us in time, he effectually called us to himself. Having so called, he justified us. At his Second Coming, he will glorify us with Himself.
So, God’s choice for salvation is not based on any good thing found in the sinner. It is instead based on the “good pleasure of His will…” (Ephesians 1:5). All forms of semi-Pelagianism base the election of God on some good thing in man. Reformed theology bases it solely in God’s “good pleasure.” As R. C. Sproul has so well said, “Arminians and semi-Pelagians ultimately rest their view of election on the one who wills and not on the sovereign grace of God. The prescient view is not so much an explanation of the biblical doctrine of election as a flat denial of this biblical doctrine.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith addresses the subject of God’s sovereign choice in election in these words. “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto: and all to the praise of His glorious grace.” Chapter III, Paragraph 5
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Now if man is lost and incapable of saving himself, or of even willing that he be saved, then by an inescapable logic, if man is to be saved at all, he must be the object of God’s work in securing his salvation, and not his own work. Such a work requires that it be God that chooses man and not man that chooses God. This is necessarily so because, as we noted earlier, man simply will not choose God. He has no interest in God, he has no love for God, and in fact, there is a positive animosity by man toward God.
Conditional / Unconditional? - Now that we know who chooses, God not man, the next question we must ask ourselves is this, “Are there any conditions upon which His choice is based?” For instance, is God’s choice based on our first choosing Him in repentance and faith? In answer to that question, the apostle Paul says this “…He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4). The choice by God was made before “the foundation
Reformed Theology: God's Soverign Choice -
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