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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. Does election depend on our works?
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. It answers the question, What must I do to be saved?

A blue sky with white clouds and a big hand coming out of a cloud with the index finger pointing at the viewer. What must you do to be saved?
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. Regeneration is being born again.
“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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You may want to read our article, “The New Birth.”

Some Important Points Concerning Total Depravity*

Peter Ditzel

A picture of a sheep facing the camera. What is total depravity?
“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. 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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You may want to also read the article “No One Is Good.”

Q. Do you consider Martin Luther a Calvinist, since he believed in loss of salvation?

A. Strictly speaking, Martin Luther (1483–1546) could not be called a Calvinist since he did not follow Calvin. Luther started the Reformation in 1517, while John Calvin (1509–1564) did not write the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion until 1536.

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