Lesson 18: The Divine Conditions for Union with Christ | Biblical Foundations for Living

Lesson 18: The Divine Conditions for Union with Christ

We learned in Lesson Seventeen that there are two human conditions for union with Christ, repentance and faith. This lesson will show that every aspect of man’s union with Christ is the outworking of God’s sovereign plan . Because unsaved man is totally depraved, he is unable and unwilling to pursue a relationship with God. His sinful nature will not allow him to do so. God must initiate salvation by giving man the ability to repent and trust Christ. This lesson will focus on the following divine conditions for union with Christ:

1. Election

2. Regeneration

I. Election

[Election is one of those doctrines that many don’t really understand. Some are almost afraid of it–they don’t even want to discuss it. Election is often associated with Calvinism because it is one of the outstanding aspects of Calvinism. Election is a clearly-taught doctrine of Scripture. One should not misunderstand or fear it.]

Election refers to the fact that God chooses those who will be saved.

A. The biblical description of election

1. Election is unconditional .

“Unconditional election” means that God did not choose us based upon anything we have done or will do.

a. Election is not based upon works .

. . . in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls . . . .   Romans 9:11 12

b. Election is not based upon future events .

Some people teach that God looks into the future and chooses those who will some day choose Him. However, this idea contradicts several biblical teachings:

1) The fact of God’s sovereignty (See Lessons Two and Three.)

[If God were in control of events/history, he would not have to look into the future to see what was going to happen. He would know the future because he planned it all out. Election is based on the fact that God has planned future events, not that He merely knows them.]

  1. The fact of man’s complete sinfulness (See Lesson Twelve.)

[Man is totally depraved and would not choose God if given the chance. God must choose man.]

  1. The fact that faith and repentance are gifts from God (See Lesson Seventeen.)

[Man does not “work up” the ability to repent and trust Christ. God must give him this ability. God initiates the process and carries it through.]

4) The meaning of the word “ elect

The Greek words translated “elect” or “choose” refer to one’s free choice of a course of action apart from any outside influence. If God chooses us because He knows that we will someday choose Him, then He has not chosen freely . In fact, He has not chosen at all. He has only agreed with our choice of Him . This is contrary to the meaning of the words “elect” and “choose.”

2. Election is God’s free choice of individuals .

The object of God’s election is not a plan or a group; rather, it is individuals.

From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.   2 Thessalonians 2:13

For he chose us in him. – Ephesians 1:4

3. Election is the result of God’s purpose and pleasure .

For [God] says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.   Romans 9:15 16

In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.   Ephesians 1:5

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.   Ephesians 1:11

4. Election defined

Based upon the Bible’s teaching on election, we can define it this way: Election is the work of God before time in which He freely chose those who will receive the gift of eternal life. This choice is based solely upon God’s purpose and pleasure and is completely independent of man’s will.

Note: Election is an aspect of predestination . Whereas predestination refers to God’s planning of all events, election refers to God’s choosing of those whom He will save.

B. Objections to election

Following are various objections which are sometimes raised against the idea of unconditional election:

[The following are reasons why people react so strongly against the idea of God freely choosing some to be saved. See if students can come up with these reasons before stating them. ]

1. Unconditional election is unfair .

If God chooses to save some and not others, is He not being unfair and partial? This question is based upon the mistaken idea that we somehow deserve to be saved. Partiality and unfairness come into play only when one does not receive what he deserves. God would be unfair if everyone deserved eternal life and He granted it to only a few. Since no one deserves or seeks it, and since God “owns” eternal life, He may freely give it to whomever He wishes. Some may ask, “Why hasn’t God chosen to save everyone ?” Instead, we should ask, “Why has the perfect, holy, and pure God chosen to love and forgive any of our wicked, evil, and rebellious race?”

[It’s a good thing God isn’t fair with us, otherwise, we’d all be going to hell. The fact that God chooses to save some is pure grace. He can do whatever he wants. E.g., if I decide to give some of you $10.00 and not others, that’s my prerogative. I don’t have to give anyone anything. The fact that I do is purely my decision. Same with salvation. ]

2. Unconditional election contradicts man’s free will .

People sometimes reject unconditional election because they believe that man’s will is absolutely free. However, the Bible teaches that man’s will is not completely free. It is controlled by sin . Man’s “free” will is not free to choose God or salvation but only those things which are contrary to God and His salvation.

[Because of depravity, man will choose evil every time. Also, to say that man does not have an absolutely free will is not to say that man is merely a robot following some divinely written program. We do make real, spontaneous choices, but our choices are also part of God’s plan. From our perspective, our choices seem to be free, but in reality it is certain that we will make the choices we do. God renders our free choices certain. ]

3. Unconditional election contradicts passages concerning God’s will .

[God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.   1 Timothy 2:4

[God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.   2 Peter 3:9

Some assume from these two verses that it is God’s will that everyone be saved. However, if God willed that every man be saved, then that is what would happen. We know from other Scripture, however, that this [that everyone is saved] is not the case. Therefore, we would have to conclude that God planned the salvation of all mankind, but His plan is consistently thwarted. However, this [that God’s plan is thwarted] clearly contradicts the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

How then should we interpret these verses? They are a description of God’s general desire rather than His specific will . God desires all men to be saved and gives them the opportunity to be so. However, because no man chooses to be saved on his own, God graciously gives some the ability to receive eternal life.

4. Unconditional election contradicts passages concerning God’s foreknowledge.

. . . chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.   1 Peter 1:2

On the surface, this verse seems to teach that God does elect some because He knows beforehand that they will trust Him. However, the true meaning of “foreknowledge” teaches otherwise.

Foreknowledge does not just mean to know something ahead of time. As mentioned in Lesson Two, God’s knowledge is active , not passive. He does not gain knowledge by watching events occur. Rather, He knows events because He is the author of them.

[Read Acts 2:23—foreknowledge here is obviously more than knowing ahead of time; it’s choosing ahead of time. We’ve seen previously that “to foreknow” is equal to “to choose.” God’s knowing-ahead-of-time is active. He knows because he planned the events–He determined that they would happen. Is it possible for God to look into the future to see that something would happen? No. That would mean that God learns things. He does not.

Also, foreknowledge is a relational term. God foreknows people, not events or things.]

5. Unconditional election makes God responsible for man’s condemnation .

There are some who believe that God elects some to be saved and the rest to be eternally condemned. This view is known as “ double predestination .” According to the Bible, however, man is responsible for his own damnation. The Bible nowhere blames man’s condemnation on God. God does not elect men to hell. He does, however, leave them to their own choice. Thus, men condemn themselves .

[God chooses some and leaves the rest. Also c.f. John 3:18 — unsaved man is “condemned already” because of unbelief, not because God has elected him to damnation.]

6. Unconditional election makes evangelism meaningless.

Some suggest that unconditional election makes such practices as witnessing and evangelistic preaching unnecessary because God saves men without our help. While it is true that God will accomplish His plan to save the elect, such a position misunderstands two important points: 1) God commands us to evangelize and holds us responsible to obey; 2) God has chosen to use men to communicate His message. Our labor is the tool which God uses to bring men to Christ and accomplish His purposes. God has chosen both the results and the means of His plan.

[One can be a 5 point Calvinist and still be zealously evangelistic. Spurgeon, for example, was a Calvinist. The belief in predestination and election in no way weakens one’s desire to win the lost. Read JI Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. ]

II. Regeneration

Regeneration refers to the fact that God gives spiritual life to those who will be saved.

A. The meaning of regeneration

Regeneration is the work of God in which He makes the spiritually dead sinner spiritually alive . It is the impartation of spiritual life to the spiritually dead. God grants spiritual life which enables men to repent and trust Christ.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.   Ephesians 2:4-5

[There is some disagreement as to whether regeneration logically precedes repentance and faith, or is the result of it. The above paragraph indicates that regeneration is necessary prior to conversion–it gives one the ability to repent and believe. In reality, salvation is one immediate/instantaneous act. There is a logical order, but not a chronological one.]

B. The Agent of regeneration

The Holy Spirit is the One who makes the dead sinner spiritually alive.

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. – Titus 3:5

C. The means of regeneration

The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God as the only means of producing spiritual life.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.   1 Peter 1:23

[So the order is election (before time), regeneration, conversion. ]

Recap & Review

In this lesson, we have learned:

1. Election is a divine condition for union with Christ. Election is the work of God before time in which He freely chooses those who will receive the gift of eternal life.

2. Regeneration is a divine condition for union with Christ. Regeneration is the work of God in which He makes the spiritually dead sinner spiritually alive.

Learning to Live It

The statements below represent two unbiblical positions regarding the doctrine of election.

1. “Because God controls everything and chooses those whom He will save, I do not need to witness. God will save His elect in His own time. He certainly does not need me to help Him.” What is wrong with this statement?

God commands us to witness. Furthermore, our witness is the means God has chosen to reach the lost. God saves the elect through the witnessing activities of other Christians. He has chosen to use people to lead other people to Christ.

How might this position affect a church’s ministry?

It might kill any evangelistic outreach or missionary work.

2. “Yes, I believe in election, but God chooses those whom He knows will choose Him. He looks down the tunnel of time and sees that I am going to believe in Him. Because He foreknows this, He elects me to be saved.” What is wrong with this statement?

It reflects an incorrect understanding of foreknowledge. Foreknowledge is active. God chooses unconditionally, i.e. not based on what we will or won’t do. Furthermore, the above idea results in us doing the choosing rather than God doing it. God is not sovereign in this scenario. Finally, it makes God dependent on us rather than vice versa. It makes man, not God, in charge.


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