Putting amazing back into grace – part 4
As the General Election moves ever closer, I’m sure that many of us, myself included, are thinking over the best way to use our vote. There have been many discussions and debates surrounding the election and who would be the best leader for our country. We look at the track record of the candidates and make the best decision we can. Chapter four is focussed on salvation, election and predestination. Horton makes links to a democratic society; whilst we have a say in who our leader is to be, we ‘do not elect our redeemers’. Redemption does not work like this. It is God who chooses us and, mercifully, he does not choose based on our track record. As John 15: 16 says; ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit- fruit that will last.’
Horton starts this chapter with a reminder: the fall did not come as a surprise to God. The fact that we are sinful, fallen beings has not shocked God. He knew this would be the way and He already had his solution to our problem. God’s plan has always been salvation for sinful humans. God’s plan was always to rescue us. What good news this is for us! And what a good reminder as we continue reading; God always planned to save us out of love for us.
Horton then delves deeper into some common discussion points that arise from election and predestination: free will, determinism, fairness and foreknowledge.
‘Doesn’t election deny free will? If God has already made my decision for me, I don’t really have any say in the matter, do I?’
We all make decisions every day. We decide what to eat and what to wear. We also make bigger decisions like who to marry and where to live. But, Horton suggests, we make these decisions based on preferences and we cannot escape these preferences; ‘As Jonathan Edwards points out, ultimately no one has free will, because the will is nothing more than an expression of preferences and preferences are coloured entirely by personality and character.’
Therefore, if we make decisions as an expression of our character, Horton argues, we will never choose God. Our sinful nature is opposed to God and therefore our preferences will never be towards him. Thankfully, in His mercy and grace, God chooses us.
‘In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us.’ 1 John 4:10
‘If election is deterministic, isn’t it a salvation of fate rather than love?’
In short, no! God’s plan was always salvation. Throughout the Bible, God speaks of a chosen people, called out to worship and glorify His name. Horton states; ‘Had God merely provided salvation for everybody and then stepped back to let the chips fall where they may, then you would have fatalism.’ However, this is not what God does. He is in the midst of every moment, loving and guiding His people. Our salvation is based on God, not on fatalism.
‘Election is unfair. How can God tell people, “Sorry folks, but you’re just not on the list”?’
If we are thinking of this, it is likely we do not understand the doctrine of grace. Horton explains that what we need to understand is that no one deserves salvation. ‘None of us have the faintest idea of what life would be like if God gave us what we deserve’. This is why the doctrine of election cannot be separated from the doctrine of grace. It is because of God’s grace that election is possible. ‘If we were all left to God’s justice alone, no one would be saved. However, in election God determines to have mercy on a vast multitude who deserve the opposite.’
Isn’t election conditional? Didn’t God elect me because he knew all along I would choose him?’
Horton argues that predestination and election cannot be denied as they are so embedded in God’s word. The issue is, then, are we saved solely by grace or because God knew what our actions would be? ‘If grace means “unmerited favour”, then the bible clearly teaches that nothing, absolutely nothing at all- including our response- can be the one thing that merited God’s favour.’
Therefore, our actions, good or bad, have nothing to do with our salvation. Because of our human nature, we like to think people get what they deserve. If we think of ourselves as good people, then why wouldn’t God want to save us? It is tempting to fall into the trap of thinking our salvation makes sense because we are, in some small way, deserving of it. But, this is not the case. It is purely God’s grace that buys our salvation- God’s grace and love, shown through Jesus Christ on the cross.
Let us rest in that truth.