“Did God choose any person to be lost?” a reader asks, and “did he choose the saved because he knew in advance that they would respond to his calling?
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The Bible does not require us to believe that God chose anyone to be lost, though it insists that as Creator he has the right to do just that (Rom. 9:19-22). Scripture speaks of two unrelated groups of human beings: (1) those who persistently reject God’s companionship and grace, however offered; and (2) those who trust God, having been chosen previously by him in Christ. These two realities occur separately; neither reality causes the other. The first reality springs from accountable human decision. The second reality springs from unconditional divine decision. The person who rejects God cannot blame God for that choice (Acts 13:46). However, those who trust God and receive his mercy cannot take any credit, for God chose them before they chose him (Acts 13:48).
We cannot know our election except as we see God’s work in our lives, beginning with our faith (1 Thes. 1:4-5). We make our election “sure” or assured to our own hearts, not to God’s — for he chose us and knows all things — as we see the Christian virtues abound and increase in our lives (2 Peter 1:5-11). Before the world began, God chose everyone who finally would be saved, based on “his own purpose and grace” and “not according to our works” (2 Tim. 1:9). That is just as true concerning anything God saw in advance as it is concerning anything he saw during or after the fact.
The biblical doctrine of election (sometimes called “sovereign grace”) is intended for believers, to whom it is an encouragement in the face of earthly troubles, enemy persecution or personal weakness. It is not a message for unbelievers, for whom the gospel is the appropriate word with its call to repentance and faith. Someone has remarked that thegate to salvation has a sign on the outside which says, “Whosoever willl may come.” When a person passes through the gate and looks back, there is a sign on the inside which says, “Chosen from the foundation of the world.” Both signs tell the truth — each in its appropriate place.