- Ask Good Questions – the doctrine of election isn’t up for debate, but definitely up for discussion!
“A divine revelation, not a human speculation.” John Stott
- Is it conditional or unconditional?
- Conditional – based on God’s foreknowledge of future free choices
- Unconditional – not based on the choices or merits of those saved, but on God’s sovereign choice.
- Ill: The famous American Bible teacher Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895–1960) often used an illustration to help people make sense of election. He asked them to imagine a cross like the one on which Jesus died, only so large that it had a door in it. Over the door were these words from Revelation: “Whosoever will may come.” These words represent the free and universal offer of the gospel. By God’s grace, the message of salvation is for everyone. Every man, woman, and child who will come to the cross is invited to believe in Jesus Christ and enter eternal life.
On the other side of the door a happy surprise awaits the one who believes and enters. From the inside, anyone glancing back can see these words from Ephesians written above the door: “Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.” Election is best understood in hindsight, for it is only after coming to Christ that one can know whether one has been chosen in Christ. Those who make a decision for Christ find that God made a decision for them in eternity past. (From the Gospel Coalition)
- Why won’t everyone be saved or Why would God save anyone at all?
- What do I really believe Scripture has to say?
- Historical/grammatical method of interpretation – we interpret a passage based on what the language means, and what words mean in context. Also we look at the historical context as we look for meaning.
- Authorial intent – God speaks through human authors so that the words are their exact words and His as well. So we look at the context of the verse/passage and then always ask “what does the Bible as a whole teach about this?”
- Should I try to resolve all of the tensions I see in the Bible?
Linger in Love
- This is personal and breeds confidence
- This is pure and helps us to overcome – there are no mixed motives in the love of God.
Predestination was never meant to be a doctrinal club used to batter people into acknowledgments of God’s sovereignty. Rather, the message of God’s love preceding our accomplishments and outlasting our failures was meant to give us a profound sense of confidence and security in God’s love so that we will not despair in situations of great difficulty, pain, and shame.
Embrace the Implications
- This is based on the Roman legal system. Paul uses the word “Sons” not as a nod toward gender, but the rights of a son in his day and age. He’s saying that all followers of Jesus have the rights of a son in his culture. Men and women, boys and girls are privileged partakers of this promise.
- We have access
- We have status
- We have Security
- We’re in the family
Marvel at Grace
- Abba cry passages
- Romans 8, Galatians 4
- This plan leads us to marvel at grace
The creepiest sound I have ever heard was nothing at all. My wife, Maria, and I stood in the hallway of an orphanage somewhere in the former Soviet Union, on the first of two trips required for our petition to adopt. Orphanage staff led us down a hallway to greet the two 1-year-olds we hoped would become our sons. The horror wasn’t the squalor and the stench, although we at times stifled the urge to vomit and weep. The horror was the quiet of it all. The place was more silent than a funeral home by night.
I stopped and pulled on Maria’s elbow. “Why is it so quiet? The place is filled with babies.” Both of us compared the stillness with the buzz and punctuated squeals that came from our church nursery back home. Here, if we listened carefully enough, we could hear babies rocking themselves back and forth, the crib slats gently bumping against the walls. These children did not cry, because infants eventually learn to stop crying if no one ever responds to their calls for food, for comfort, for love. No one ever responded to these children. So they stopped.
The silence continued as we entered the boys’ room. Little Sergei (now Timothy) smiled at us, dancing up and down while holding the side of his crib. Little Maxim (now Benjamin) stood straight at attention, regal and czar-like. But neither boy made a sound. We read them books filled with words they couldn’t understand, about saying goodnight to the moon and cows jumping over the same. But there were no cries, no squeals, no groans. Every day we left at the appointed time in the same way we had entered: in silence.
On the last day of the trip, Maria and I arrived at the moment we had dreaded since the minute we received our adoption referral. We had to tell the boys goodbye, as by law we had to return to the United States and wait for the legal paperwork to be completed before returning to pick them up for good. After hugging and kissing them, we walked out into the quiet hallway as Maria shook with tears.
And that’s when we heard the scream.
Little Maxim fell back in his crib and let out a guttural yell. It seemed he knew, maybe for the first time, that he would be heard. On some primal level, he knew he had a father and mother now. I will never forget how the hairs on my arms stood up as I heard the yell. I was struck, maybe for the first time, by the force of the Abba cry passages in the New Testament, ones I had memorized in Vacation Bible School. And I was surprised by how little I had gotten it until now. . . .
Little Maxim’s scream changed everything—more, I think, than did the judge’s verdict and the notarized paperwork. It was the moment, in his recognizing that he would be heard, that he went from being an orphan to being a son. It was also the moment I became a father, in fact if not in law. We both recognized that something was wrong, because suddenly, life as it had been seemed terribly disordered.
Up to that time, I had read the Abba cry passages in Romans and Galatians the same way I had heard them preached: as a gurgle of familiarity, the spiritual equivalent of an infant cooing “Papa” or “Daddy.” Relational intimacy is surely present in the texts—hence Paul’s choice of such a personal word as Abba—but this definitely isn’t sentimental. After all, Scripture tells us that Jesus’ Spirit lets our hearts cry “Abba, Father!” (Gal. 4:6). Jesus cries “Abba, Father” as he screams “with loud cries and tears” for deliverance in the Garden of Gethsemane (Heb. 5:7; Mark 14:36). Similarly, the doctrine of adoption shows us that we “groan” with the creation itself “as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). It is the scream of the crucified.
– Russell Moore
- Why should we ask good questions when wrestling through issues like God’s election of us? How do you resonate with some of those discussed in the message?
- Why is it important to remember the doctrine of election is tied to purpose? What is the purpose of predestination here, and the motive that we see in God’s heart?
- How do you see, both in the Bible and your own experience, God’s pursuit of you?
- What are the implications of being “Adopted as sons”? Why is the title son applicable to all of God’s children and what does it signify? Which of those implications resonated with you in particular?