Recently I was listening to a sermon on the doctrine of election from a prominent evangelical Bible teacher. I actually thought he did a good job of presenting arguments in favour of the Calvinist understanding of the doctrine of election but I did feel that he misrepresented the Arminian viewpoint in many areas. Contrary to popular belief, Arminians do believe in election and predestination. We simply do not believe in unconditional divine election. But this leads to a tough question from many Calvinists, and that is this: Who chose whom?
From the Calvinist viewpoint, God chose His elect before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-14). God elected to save people by His grace alone and by His sovereign choice in His Son (John 1:12-13). Therefore, we did not choose to become disciples of Christ but He chose us (John 15:16). As Acts 13:48 reads, “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (NIV). So who chose whom? God chose us by His own sovereign choice (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 1:1-3).
The Arminian viewpoint obviously differs with Calvinism but Arminians differ not particularly with the doctrine of election since the Scriptures clearly reveal that God does elect (Romans 9:11) but with the divine determinist understanding of God. Calvinists strongly oppose free will in man because of their teaching that God directly controls all things including the very decisions of men. As the Westminister Confession reads, “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.” This would include the decisions of men. Arminianism, however, believes that God does not directly determine man’s decisions but He does directly control man’s decisions. In other words, God is in control but He does not violate man’s free will. God controls all things both directly and indirectly.
So the Arminian understanding of the question of who chose whom would be that God did in fact choose us by His grace alone but He did not force us to choose Him. He does draw us unto Himself through His Son (John 3:16-17) but He allows the human being the freedom to choose to love Him and obey Him (John 3:36; 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6). When we die and enter into the presence of God, we will not be able to boast that we chose Jesus but we will bow in humble adoration that He chose us (Romans 8:15). My own works or even my own faith is not the reason that I am saved but it is only by the grace of God that I am a Christian (1 Corinthians 15:10) and God’s grace alone will keep me until that final day (Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:5).
So who chose whom? Calvinists answer that God chose us by His own determined will to do so. Arminians answer that God chose us in His Son (1 Timothy 4:10) and that He foreknew but did not fore-ordain that we would believe (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:1-2).
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