Election: Why Doesn’t God Save Everybody?
Discussion Guide for Romans 9:1-13
Romans 9 does not seek to explain the doctrine of election. It simply tells us that God has always worked this way. So, we need to take time to make sure we understand what is meant by the word.
What does the Westminster Confession say?
Chapter 3 of the Westminster Confession deals with the Doctrine of Election. It defines the Reformed view of election that was passed down from the New Testament to theologians such as Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.
Here are four important paragraphs from the Westminster Confession Chapter 3 to consider.
Paragraph 1: God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
Paragraph 3: By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.
Paragraph 6: As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
Paragraph 8: The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel.
Every Christian Believes in Election
Every branch of Christian theology has some doctrine of God electing people for salvation. Christians have only differed on the basis for God’s election.
Arminianism teaches that God elects people on the basis of whether they choose him. The Reformed doctrine of election is that the basis of his choice is his own good pleasure and glory.
Only the elect have chosen God.
Simply put, God is the author and Lord of salvation from beginning to end. He imagined it, he put it into practice, he commanded it, and he paid for it. We didn’t dream it up, we didn’t earn it, and its power doesn’t depend on us.
Because salvation comes from God, there is absolutely zero injustice in his saving.
God’s Will or Our Will?
Because we live in a culture that prizes individual autonomy, the reformed doctrine of election has become very controversial since the Second Great Awakening. 1
Americans desperately want to believe that their eternal destiny is in their own hands.
Retired pastor Tim Keller answers the main 3 Objections to the Doctrine of Election on his blog. It’s a short, but insightful read I’d recommend.
The person at peace with the Doctrine of election has to has first come to know God and be convinced of God’s goodness and justice. We should remember two truths:
- God saves ALL who trust him for salvation.
- God saves NO ONE who desires eternal life apart from God’s kingdom.
God’s Chosen People
Acts 18:1-11 provides a good background to understanding what Paul’s words in Romans 9:1-13.
Paul committed his life to preaching the Gospel “to the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles.” And yet his greatest opposition always came from his closest kin.
You can easily imagine the long hours of anguish and frustration Paul experienced. Why wouldn’t his own people rejoice in the salvation that God had provided? Roman’s 9 shows us the fruit of Paul’s own wrestling with God.
Preaching to the Gentiles was the second choice for Paul, but God had planned for him to do that all along.
God doesn’t have a second-best option. He had a plan to save the world and was using a man from the very sect who crucified Christ to do it!
Could any man possibly imagine a way of electing people for salvation that is better than God’s?
- Why is Paul anguished in Romans 9:2?
- Do you think it is right for Paul to care about his people this much?
- What advantages has God given the Jewish people (Romans 9:4-5)?
- Do you think that there were times when Paul had to remind himself that God is just in deciding who he would save?
- Do you ever experience this type of anguish over your own loved ones?
- Does God elect according to our bloodlines (Romans 9:6-8)?
- How had God surprised the family of Abraham (Romans 9:9-13)?
- Are you ever surprised by the people who turn to Christ?
Related Message: God’s Not Biased
Prayer for the Nations
Pray for one unreached people group that God would begin to call out “his people there (Acts 18:10).”
Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash
- For more on this read Lain H. Murray’s Revival and Revivalism: the Making and Marring or American Evangelicalism 1750-1858, Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA, 1994).