Unconditional Election

The following is an exerpt from a blog post by Ed Goodman at SBC Voices.

I Agree: “Election is unconditional in that it doesn’t stem from any merit found within a human being; God simply chooses to provide salvation because of His inherent goodness, grace, and mercy (cf. Titus 3:5). A major advantage of examining soteriology from the perspective of unconditional election results in the understanding that salvation can’t be “earned” or even “obtained” from one’s inherent ability. Salvation is truly the gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9) and comes from God alone. Election is conditional, however, in that it requires a faith and belief that results in genuine obedience to God. One cannot be saved without placing faith in Christ (Romans 3:28, 5:1; Gal. 2:16), or “believing unto salvation” (John 3:16, 18; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9).”

Problem: “However, since one has no inherent ability to save oneself, the faith in Christ that leads to salvation comes from God alone (cf. Eph. 2:8-9 once again; although a bit ambiguous, I interpret these verses to mean that grace AND faith are both the gifts from God, and not merely one or the other). Remember, God gives every man faith (Rom. 12:3), and this faith must be placed in Christ alone for salvation.”

Your statement, “I interpret these verses to mean that GRACE AND FAITH ARE BOTH GIFTS OF GOD” is where I believe people make a serious mistake in reading Ephesians 2:8-9. Here is what the verse says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

“Through faith” qualifies being saved; it is not grammatically tied to “gift”. Salvation is the gift that comes from God and not faith. To prove my point, you can eliminate the phrase “through faith” and the context of the verse is not changed. “For by Grace are you saved; it is the gift of God.” Through faith is the qualifier that validates the gift.

Election is in the mind of God. There is no doubt as to the validity of this statement. However, the application of election as seen in irresistible grace and the efficacious calling of God is another matter altogether.

Faith is a response to God’s revelation of who He is and what it is that He wants to do with us and through us. My definition of faith is “believing that God is everything that He says He is and that He will do everything that He says He will do.” (Hebrews 11:6b) Revelation and reconciliation BOTH demand a response. Revelation and reconciliation are God’s initiative and the response is mine to make.

I also believe a major problem in this whole discussion centers on the premise that it is God’s grace that is central to salvation. I believe the central issue to salvation and life in general, is not God’s grace, but rather His love. God’s love is unconditional but His grace and mercy are conditioned by our response to His love. A relationship must be initiated and then reciprocated and responded to. God is the initiator and we are the respondents and that is the primary problem that the world faces, not this issue of God’s determining who will and will not be among the elect.

His invitation is for ‘all to come” as Jesus indicated in the wedding feast in Matthew 22. It is not the invitation that is central; the key is putting on the wedding garment and sitting down at the table. This is clearly our responsibility and God is not the One who does this. He provides everything necessary and goes to great lengths to compel all to come in; the choice is ours.

Unconditional election begins with God and ends with us.

Grateful to be in His Grip,



2 responses to this post.

  1. I heard Sovereign Grace preached, when I was a child by the pastor of a country church, the Nimmons Baptist Church, Nimmons, Ark. I was converted later in St. Louis by a vision or hallucination (how does one tell) of Jesus standing before me, with his arm upraised, like he was knocking at a door. He was facing me, looking at me.” Like it says in Rev.3:20. I rejected it (it is really hard on one’s atheism to have the God he says does not exist show up) and fled the scene (a Youth For Christ meeting). But on the way home, two blocks from my house, something changed my mind (Acts 16:14) with the results that that night I called on the Lord to forgive me of my sins. That was 12-7-57. In the Spring of ’58, I was called to preach. In the Fall of ’58 at East Texas Baptist College, I was introduced to the doctrines of grace and rejected them out of hand, using as a guide, John R. Rice’s Predestined for Hell? No! In ’62 I was called to my first church, and my ordaining pastor, Dr. Ernest R. Campbell, former Associate to Dr. R.G. Lee of Bellevue, preached Sovereign Grace to me. He ordained me to the ministry regardless of my rejection of the doctrines of grace. During that first year I ran smack into the reality that man’s situation was so bad that it required a Sovereign work of God. Facing the reality that Jesus said, No man can (Jn.6:44,65), which means that he does not have the ability, I had to admit there was a problem. I also read a Puritan, David Clarkson, who pointed out that man is disabled, dead, deaf, darkened, diabolic, depraved, etc., which surely calls for a supernatural power of grace to overcome his situation. So I preached a sermon in the association on Amazing Grace, Eph.1:3-14, that grace is immeasurable, irresistible, and irreversible, or some outline to that effect (this was in ’63). Later I told a fellow, a friend from ETBC days who was pastoring near my second church about the change. he went out won a lady to Christ, who said she responded because it was so wonderful that she could not resist it. Fast forward to almost forty years later, he came to the conclusion that she was right…and his name was Spurgeon and, according to a family researcher, he is kin to C.H.

    In any case, I began doing research in Baptist Church history which continued for 6 years of intensive research and still continues to this day as I have time. That was when I found out that the founders of the churches, the associations, and the SBC were Sovereign Grace believers and preachers…They also wrote works on the subject. In fact, every president of the SBC was a believer in Sovereign Grace from the start until well into the 20th century. But what is to be noted is that the theology of the First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions was Sovereign Grace theology. I have been praying for a Third Great Awakening every since, 1973, when I was pastoring in the Sandy Creek Assn (started by people converted in the First Great Awakening and the scene of the Second Great Awakening as well as the launching of the Great Century of Missions) and spoke to the Pastors’ Prayer Meeting on the subject of A Great Awakening. Later, on the fifth anniversary and the 10th anniversary, I spoke to the Meeting on the subject of A Third Great Awakening. The reason I take it for the increase in the number of believes in Sovereign Grace is because God is preparing us for that Awakening. A great awakening requires Sovereign Grace theology. I did not pray for the increase in adherents, but for the awakening. Now like it was in 1740 and again in 1801 their numbers have increased and it might be, God grant that it shall be, that we are on the verge of a Third Great Awakening which our nation and our world so desperately needs. And my desire is for the whole earth to awaken, beginning in this generation and continuing for a 1000 generations and reaching a thousand thousand worlds. Thanks to one often considered the architect or something to that effect of limited atonement, Dr. John Owen and his Death of Death in The Death of Christ, that put me on the idea of such a possibility. With best wishes for your efforts to win souls to Christ.


  2. Dr. Willingham,

    Thanks for your input. I am personally convinced that the Calvinist system is just that… a system of theology that I simply cannot accept. I do not believe that man is totally depraved as described by Calvinists. He is no doubt depraved, but not dead and unable to respond to God’s initiative. Now, man cannot in and of himself come to God so Pelagians and semi-P’s still fall short as well. I do not fit in either of those categories. I do believe in Limited Atonement… anyone who does not is a universalist. I believe that Christ paid the penalty for the sin of all men; the limit was not in the atonement but in the application of the atonement. I believe God created man with not only the capacity but the responsibility of choosing our eternal destiny. Almost everyone sees sanctification as synergistic… so if I am understanding things correctly, that means the only monergistic move on God’s part is related to our conversion experience… 1 decision and that is it. Just does not seem reasonable to me.

    As far as Baptist history is concerned, it really does not matter to me who was and who was not Calvinist. As far as the convention is concerned today, it is decidedly non-Calvinistic and while I agree without any discussion that Calvinism as always been a part of our Baptist history, it is enjoying more popularity today than it has ever held. Part of that has to do with the explosion in communication etc… but the rank and file, persons in the pew are overwhelmingly non-Calvinist and would revolt if they understood what was going on in our seminaries and some of our institutions.

    Thanks again for your input. I will be posting a very interesting post in the near future. Would love your take on it. Thanks again for your thoughtful comment… and word of testimony!!!

    Grateful to be in His Grip!



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