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How Does Election Occur?

by Peter Ditzel

This is part 2 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Unconditional Election.

A wide-angle view of the Milky Way with a silhouette of a man looking skyward.
The Bible says, “God chose you from the beginning for salvation….” Did He do this by looking ahead to see that we would believe or do good works?

We ended part 1, “Chosen in Him,” with several questions: Is saving belief a work that is a condition to becoming elect? Does election have conditions? Are there good works we must do to remain one of the elect? Is Jesus’ testimony in Matthew 7:21 that “he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” will “enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” a reference to such works?

Chosen in Him

by Peter Ditzel

This is part 1 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Unconditional Election.

A blue sky with white clouds and a big hand coming out of a cloud with the index finger pointing at the viewer.
Contrary to popular opinion about free will and choice, the Bible tells us that God chose us before the foundation of the world.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before him in love; having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire, to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he freely gave us favour in the Beloved, in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

In the above passage, found in Ephesians 1:3–7, the apostle Paul declares that God the Father has “predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself.” As we will see, the implications of this passage answer the question that so many people have, “What must I do to be saved?” Since Paul and the Christian Ephesians were faithful saints—that is, true Christians (see Ephesians 1:1)—the “us” in the passage refers to true Christians. So, what Paul appears to be saying is that God has predestinated Christians (pre-chosen their destiny) to be His children through Jesus Christ. In other words, Christians (who are the children of God by Jesus Christ) are Christians because God predestinated them to be so, not by any choice of their own.

Some Important Points Concerning Regeneration*

Peter Ditzel

A lamb turned to the camera as if speaking.
“Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can’t see God’s Kingdom.”
John 3:3

1. It is expressed as being born or begotten again (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:3, 23).

2. It is called being born from above (the phrase “born again” in John 3:3 and 7 may be rendered “born from above”; see the marginal rendering in many Bibles).

3. Those who are regenerated or born again the Bible calls newborn babes (1 Peter 2:2).

4. Regeneration is expressed as being quickened (made alive) (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13).

5. Regeneration is signified by Christ being formed in the heart (Galatians 2:20; 4:6, 19; Colossians 3:10).

6. Regeneration is said to be a partaking of the divine nature (not of the essential nature of God, but a resemblance to the divine nature in spirituality, holiness, goodness, kindness, etc.) (2 Peter 1:4).

7. Depraved, unregenerate man cannot regenerate himself (Romans 8:5–9; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13).

8. Man cannot regenerate himself because regeneration is a creation and, therefore, not in the power of men to do it (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:16).

9. Regeneration is expressly denied to be of men (John 1:12–13).

10. The efficient cause of regeneration is God only (John 1:12–13; 1 John 3:1–2, 9; 5:1)

God the Father (John 6:44, 65; James 1:17–18; 1 Peter 1:3)

God the Son (Galatians 4:6–7; 1 John 2:28–29)

God the Holy Spirit (John 3:5–6; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Titus 3:5).

11. The impulsive, or moving cause, of regeneration is the free grace, love, and mercy of God (Ephesians 2:4–5; James 1:17–18; 1 Peter 1:3).

12. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the virtual or procuring cause of regeneration (1 Peter 1:3).

13. The instrumental cause of regeneration is the Word of God (Romans 10:13–21; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23–25).

14. Regenerate ones have the grace of life given them; they live a new life, and walk in newness of life; where before their understanding was darkened, they now are enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of divine things (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:24; 5:8; Colossians 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:4–5; 1 Peter 2:9; 3:7).

15. Knowledge and actual enjoyment of the several blessings of grace follow upon regeneration (Ephesians 3:16–19).

16. Regenerate ones are made fit and capable for the performance of good works (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Timothy 2:21; Philippians 2:13; 4:13).

17. Regenerate ones are made fit for the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5).

18. Humans are passive in regeneration (John 1:13; Romans 9:16).

19. Regeneration is of the will of God and cannot be resisted (John 6:37; Romans 8:29–30; 2 Timothy 1:9).

20. Regeneration is an act that is instantaneously done—there is never a middle state between life and death; regeneration is perfect—one can be partly regenerate no more than one can be partly dead and partly alive; yet regeneration always results in spiritual warfare between the old and new man with the new man winning in the end (Romans 6–8; 1 John 5:4).

21. The grace of regeneration can never be lost; one who is born in a spiritual sense can never be unborn (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:3).

*Adapted from John Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (1809; reprint, Paris, Ark.: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1995), 528–538.

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Some Important Points Concerning Total Depravity*

Peter Ditzel

A picture of a sheep facing the camera.
“All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way….”
Isaiah 53:6a

1. The “total” in total depravity does not mean that everyone is as corrupt as possible or that everyone is destitute of all moral virtues. It means that sin affects all of our thought, faculties, and activities to some extent so that no one is pure or righteous in anything (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 15:19).

2. Total depravity began when Adam and Eve sinned; it can be seen in their changed nature—e.g., blaming others for their sin, deteriorating from friend of God to hiding from Him, and deviating from innocence regarding their nakedness to shame (Genesis 3:6–13); and it has been conveyed to all of their descendants (Job 15:14; Psalm 51:5; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Isaiah 53:6).

3. Total depravity is seen in the prevalence of every kind of sin in the world (Galatians 5:17–21).

4. Total depravity is seen in the early manifestation of sin in children (Genesis 8:21; Psalm 58:3; Proverbs 22:15).

5. Total depravity is evidenced by unregenerate humanity’s total and universal disregard for God’s claims on everyone’s supreme reverence, love, and obedience (Romans 1:18–32; 8:5–8).

6. Total depravity is seen in humanity’s general rejection of Jesus Christ (John 1:11; Isaiah 53:3).

7. Total depravity is incurable by man, and it leaves him completely dependent on God’s grace for salvation (Isaiah 64:6–7; Jeremiah 17:9; John 3:3; Romans 1:17; 3:23–24; Galatians 2:21; Ephesians 2:4–9).

8. God’s people in every age have given witness to their own depravity (Job 40:4; 42:6; Psalm 51:5; Isaiah 6:5; Romans 7:23–24; Ephesians 2:3; 1 Timothy 1:15).

*Adapted from various sources, especially Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 2:233–238.

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The New Birth

by Peter Ditzel

This is the second and last part of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.

A close-up picture of John 3:5 from a print Bible.
The Bible tells us that no human is naturally good. But there is hope. Jesus teaches that we must be born again, born of the Spirit.

Election and Calling

In the article, “No One Is Good” (which is part 1 of this series on Total Depravity), I asked, “If no one can choose Jesus Christ as Savior, how does He become one’s Savior?” Briefly, the answer is, we don’t choose Him, He chooses us.

We have no part in this choosing or election. It does not depend on our goodness, our cooperation, or our faith. In Romans 9, Paul is writing of God’s calling or choosing or election of Jacob and rejecting of Esau before they were even born: “For being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him who calls” (verse 11).

No One Is Good

by Peter Ditzel

This is part 1 of a two-part series on the doctrine of grace called Total Depravity.

An artist's rough sketch of a person sitting and holding his head in his hands dejectedly.
Jesus said no one is good but God (Matthew 19:17). Other Scriptures back this up. Why is this so, and what can be done about it?

The LORD looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there were any who understood, who sought after God. They have all gone aside. They have together become corrupt. There is no one who does good, no, not one.

These two sentences, penned by David in Psalm 14:2–3, contain some powerful ideas. They say that none of the “children of men”—no one in all of humanity—does good, not even one. Now, if you read or watch the news you might be willing to admit that there are some bad characters in the world. But can it possibly be that no one does good? that everyone has “together become corrupt”? If this is true, if additional Scriptures support it, it might revolutionize your understanding of sin and salvation and even your entire worldview!

The Truth Is Not Relative

by Peter Ditzel

Two men see a figure on the ground. One says it is a nine, the other says it is a six. Text reads, "Just because you are right, does not mean, I am wrong. You just haven't seen life from my side."
It is one thing to have differing views about nonessential, subjective opinions (e.g. the best pizza toppings). But is biblical truth relative?

The picture above seems clever. Because the two men are looking at the figure on the ground from different perspectives, each of them has a different understanding of the “truth” of the figure. It appears to make truth relative and, therefore, not something anyone can assert dogmatically. This opinion of truth might, as the caption suggests, make for peace. But is it the definition of truth that God wants Christians to have?

The Cup of the New Covenant, in His Blood
Part 2 of 2

by Peter Ditzel

A picture of a wine glass containing red wine with these words from Luke 22:20 written across the picture: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Why is the symbol of the cup of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood so important?

Part 1 of this article discussed how, in drinking the wine during the Lord’s Supper, we show His death and its application to us, but we also picture taking His life into us, which is what we really do when we take His words into us. Now, let’s focus on the importance of the symbol of the cup of the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.

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The Cup of the New Covenant, in His Blood
Part 1 of 2

by Peter Ditzel

A detailed close-up of the cup of wine from an Eastern Orthodox icon of the Last Supper.
Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20; see also 1 Corinthians 11:25). Jesus didn’t say these words without intending them to have significant meaning. Why did He not simply refer to the wine? Why did he refer to the cup?

In Luke 22, we read of Jesus’ appointment of the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of His death. When He came to the cup of wine, He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20; see also 1 Corinthians 11:25). Have you ever wondered why Jesus used this wording? Why did He say that the cup of wine is the New Covenant in His blood? There is something very important for us to learn here.

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Is the Old Testament Wrong?

by Peter Ditzel

A picture of a woman tearing at her Bible with the overlaid words, Should we rip the Old Testament out of our Bibles?
If the Old Testament tells us “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” and Jesus says, “But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil,” does that mean the Old Testament is wrong? If Christians are under the New Covenant and not the Old, does that mean that we should rip the Old Testament out of our Bibles?

I want to warn you against neo-Marcionism. Some preachers and writers either now promote or are just on the verge of blindly rushing into this dangerous belief. Around the middle of the second century AD, Marcion of Sinope began spreading his belief system that came to be known as Marcionism. One of his central teachings was the claim that the God of the Old Testament couldn’t be the God of the New Testament. The God of the New Testament sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior. The Old Testament God was a legalistic God of retribution. Marcion’s solution to this seeming contradiction was to reject the Old Testament from the Christian canon.

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