A Rebuttal to George M. Ella’s “John Gill and Justification from Eternity”

John Gill’s blunder #1

Much of John Gill’s argument for eternal justification rests upon a logical blunder. He states this blunder here: “Now, as before observed, as God’s will to elect, is the election of his people, so his will to justify them, is the justification of them; as it is an immanent act in God, it is an act of his grace towards them, is wholly without them, entirely resides in the divine mind, and lies in his estimating, accounting, and constituting them righteous, through the righteousness of his Son; and, as such, did not first commence in time, but from eternity.”

Gill here says, “As God’s will to elect, is the election of his people, so his will to justify them, is the justification of them.” We can readily see the invalidity of this statement by talking about a man and a woman and love and marriage. So, we will say this: “As a man’s will to love a woman is the loving of her, so his will to marry her is the marrying of her.” Obviously, there is a problem here. It may be true that a man’s will to love a woman is the loving of her, but it is certainly not true that his will to marry her is the marrying of her. Why? Because marriage is an act that must take place in time.

It is true, of course, that, unlike man, God’s will to do something guarantees that it will be done. Nevertheless, His will is not always the actual doing of it.

Scriptures cited by Dr. Ella

Dr. Ella refers to Romans 8:29-33 as if it supports his position. This passage says: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.”

It is absolutely unwarranted to assume that Romans 8:29-33 applies to God’s elect before they are born. Simply because they are foreknown and predestinated before birth does not mean that they are called, justified, and glorified before birth. These verses simply speak of the infallible connection between God’s foreknowing and predestinating in eternity the elect to be conformed to the image of His Son, His calling and justifying them in time, and His future glorifying of them.

Another Scripture cited by Ella to supposedly support his position is Romans 4:5: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” How this verse can be seen as evidence for eternal justification is a wonder to me. It says that to the person who doesn’t work (who doesn’t try to earn righteousness by works) but instead believes (the Greek here is simply the verb form of the word often translated “faith”) on Him who justifies (or “makes righteous”) the ungodly, his faith (or belief) is counted for righteousness. Does this verse say that God justifies the ungodly by justifying them from eternity? Absolutely not! God justifies the ungodly by counting their faith for righteousness. The faith, of course, is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), and its object is Jesus Christ our Savior.

Both Ella and Meney make the error of saying that the above verse (Ella also includes Romans 5:6, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly”) means that “the elect are justified whilst ungodly, which means before belief.” Do these men really believe that “God justifieth the ungodly” means God justified us in eternity before we, or even Adam, sinned and became ungodly? To justify the ungodly, God must work in time, taking an elect sinner, giving him faith, and justifying him. One may most certainly still be ungodly before he exercises his God-given faith, but he cannot be called ungodly after being justified. Romans 5:6 is simply saying that, in due time—not in eternity—Christ died on the Cross for the ungodly. But many more Scriptures further explain that His death is not applied until we exercise God’s free gift of faith. God causes us to exercise His free gift of faith at some point in time in our lifetime. After that, we are no longer ungodly. Apparently, if I told Dr. Ella that I washed a dirty car, he would think the car remained dirty after I washed it because I called it a dirty car. But, of course, I wouldn’t say that I washed a clean car, would I? Christ came to save sinners, not the righteous.

Also, Ella fails to continue quoting Romans 5. Verses 7-9 clear the matter entirely: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” This is a rescue; we are saved from wrath. Why would we need to be saved from wrath if we are already justified? But wait, NOW are we justified by His blood and, therefore, we are saved from the wrath that would otherwise await us. When are we justified? From eternity? No, we are justified now, in time. The Greek is clear. “Being now” is translated from the Greek word nun, which means now, not eternity. So we see that these verses say quite the opposite of the meaning Ella imposes on them.

Ella cites Romans 8:33-34 as evidence on his behalf: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” His point, while not completely clear, seems to be that the elect can never be charged because they are justified from eternity. But these verses are full of events in time. If I believe that Christ died, rose again, is now at the right hand of God, and now makes intercession for me, then God has justified me. If He has justified me, no one can condemn me. These are the reasons God’s elect cannot be charged and condemned. If Ella is trying to suggest that justification from eternity is why the elect cannot be charged and condemned, then I must ask why any of the listed events in time had to occur?

Another Scripture Ella uses is 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.” Certainly, He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world. Ella says, “Full salvation was established in God then before time was, in eternity.” Yes, our salvation was assured from eternity because of God’s choosing us. But this is not the same as saying, as Ella seems to be implying, that our salvation was completed in eternity. This verse does not say that God justified us before the foundation of the world.

John Gill’s blunder #2

Ella then cites Gill as saying, “If there is an eternal election of persons in Christ, there must be an eternal acceptance and justification of them in Him. Since, as He always was the Beloved Son of His Father, in whom He is ever well pleased, so He has always graciously accepted of and is well pleased with all His elect in Him.” This statement presents a serious problem. Gill is here dogmatic about a conclusion he has drawn, but that is never stated in Scripture. He might be entitled to be dogmatic if the conclusion were inescapable or, at least, nearly so. But it is not. Essentially, Gill says that our being eternally elected in Christ must mean that we are eternally accepted and justified in Him. Gill states as his first premise what we know to be true: There is an eternal election of persons in Christ. He then asserts without proof or necessary consequence that there must be an eternal acceptance and justification of them in Him.

To test the validity of this argument, let’s put it into a syllogism, with the unproven statement in the first premise:

Premise x: If there is an eternal acceptance and justification of persons, it is because there is an eternal election of these persons in Christ.
Premise y: There is an eternal election of persons in Christ (stated in Scripture, so this is true).
Therefore there must be an eternal acceptance and justification of the elect.

This is a classic case of what is called asserting the consequent. It is a logical fallacy. It might be easier to see if we put it in more ordinary terms.

Premise x: If I have dogs in my house, it is because I have given them to my son.
Premise y: I have given dogs to my son.
Therefore, I must have dogs in my house.

Do you see how this is invalid? I may have given dogs to my son to be kept outside.

But, you say, God’s elect are not intended to be “kept outside.” They are intended to be justified and accepted. Yes, that is true. But intentions are not end results. I may choose (or elect) dogs for my son, but say that they cannot come into the house until he cleans them up, treats them for fleas and ticks, and trains them. The dogs are elect from the time I choose them, but they cannot come into the house until my son completes these events in time. Likewise, God’s elect are elect from eternity. But they are not justified until His Son completes His work and God gives them faith in the completed work of His Son. Gill’s assertion is fallacious.

Copyright © 2009 Peter Ditzel