Total Depravity - Unconditional Election

Session 4


Five Senses in Which Human Depravity Is Total

What I’d like to do now, Lord willing, is to move with some dispatch through the passages on total depravity, because I spent longer than I thought I would on that introductory page. I think I’ve set the tone that I really wanted to set. Now, what remains to be done, as far as my concerns for you, is that the word total gets some biblical meaning and not just any old meaning. Because usually when you hear that somebody believes in total depravity, you ask them, “So you believe we are as bad as we can possibly be? Is that what total means?”

In other words, “You think I do the maximum evil I could do?” and they deep down are saying, “I could show you that I could do more evil than I do.” And so, we don’t mean that a person is doing all the evil that they could possibly do. So what do we mean when we say that our depravity as human beings is total? Maybe the word doesn’t even need to be used. It could be pervasive, profound, deep, horrible, or something else, but I’ll show you the sense in which I mean it, and there are five of these senses.

1. The Effect on Every Human

Depravity is total in that it affects every human being.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

There is no one who does not sin . . . (1 Kings 8:46).

Enter not into judgment with your servant,
     for no one living is righteous before you (Psalm 143:2).

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).

Now that’s spoken to believers, but the argument would be that if it’s true of believers, how much more would it be true of others as well? My first observation is that total can be taken to mean the extent of our sinfulness in the sense that it covers everybody. There’s nobody outside the fall.

2. No Gladness in God

Our rebellion or hardness against God is total, that is, apart from the grace of God, there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God. Apart from grace, there is no delight in the holiness of God. There is no glad submission. Until grace moves into a fallen heart, those things don’t happen in the heart. Romans 3:9–18 says:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” . . . “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Now where you find someone seeking, you may be sure, therefore, that you have God nudging, God drawing, God doing something. My point is we don’t seek him. We don’t delight in him. We don’t pursue him, apart from his enabling grace, because of how depraved we are.

John 3:19 says:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Men love darkness. Men don’t just choose darkness; men love darkness. We love darkness. He continues:

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light . . . (John 3:20).

So this is a love and a hate issue. Our condition is not neutral. It’s like a pendulum or a metronome — tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. We’re not poised neutral. We are hating light and we are loving dark. He continues:

And does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God (John 20:21).

That means, if you do make a wise choice, if you do come to the light, what will be shown is that this has been wrought in God, which I think means that God has wrought it. God has brought it to pass. And so, where you see somebody breaking free from their depravity, with spiritual interests and hungers and longings, you may be hopeful God’s beginning to do something here, and you pray that it may be brought to consummation in conversion.

3. Utter Rebellion

In his total rebellion, everything man does is sin. Now, we spent a lot of time on that, so I think I’ll just pass over it and remind you that everything we do that is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). If a person says, “I could do more evil than I do,” you could say, “Well, you only do evil, so there’s no more to do. You could do different kinds of evil. You could do more harmful evil, but as far as your relation to God, if you’re not trusting him to help you and seeking his glory in what you do, then what you’re doing is in rebellion against him, and therefore it is sin, no matter what quality at the horizontal level it has.”

4. Inability to Submit to God

Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total. The inability to submit and the inability to do good is a total inability.

Romans 8:5 says:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

That is just setting up two kinds of human beings. The one kind are those who who live according to the spirit, the other, those who live according to flesh.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6).

So either you’re just flesh — that is, human — or you have been born of God and you are in the Spirit and the Spirit is in you. Those are the two alternatives. Romans 8:6–8 continues:

For to set the mind on the flesh (literally, the mind of the flesh) is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit (literally, the mind of the Spirit) is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot (he moves from does not to cannot). Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You have two kinds of human beings: Those who are born of the flesh and are simply human with no spiritual life. They’ve not been born again and they are simply what we are by nature, apart from divine grace and regeneration. Then you have those who are born of God and whose eyes have been opened. They have been united to Christ and life has begun to flow in their spirits. Those are the two groups. He’s saying this group over here that are people who simply have the mind of the flesh. They’re the ones who build the hospitals, get us to the moon, invent many things, and run the world, but they are not able to submit to God’s law and they cannot please God. Romans 8:9 continues:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Moral Inability

Romans 5:7–8 is very powerful in stating the moral condition of those who are fallen. It might be good here to just point out something for you to ponder. The words cannot and not able in Romans 5:7–8 might make you think, “Well, if a person is not able to do something, he can’t be held accountable to do it.” That’s the usual response to total depravity.

They think, “If you say that a person is so depraved that he’s unable to submit to God, then for you to require that he submit to God is both foolish, and he’s also not responsible for responding since he’s not able to.” Here’s the problem with that. The Bible simply doesn’t assume that’s the case. It assumes the opposite to be the case. It assumes that the fact that you are so much in love with evil that you can’t choose good does not excuse you from choosing good, in fact, it intensifies your guilt.

But this assumes that the kind of ability or inability we’re talking about is what Jonathan Edward calls a moral inability, not a physical inability. If I am chained to a chair physically, and you command me to get up, and everything in me wants to get up, and I make every effort to get up, and then you punish me for not getting up, I’m being treated unjustly. But if I’m sitting in the chair and its vibrations and its warmth and everything about it, and there are no chains on me but it’s just that everything about this chair feels so good, and you say, “Now, I want you to stand,” and I say, “I don’t want to stand up.”

You love sitting in that chair so much, that the so much can rise to a level of moral inability. That’s the kind of inability being spoken of here. You just have to ask yourself, “Do you believe in such a category of thought, that there is a kind of bondage of the human heart to sin that makes it unable to choose good? And that people are really unable and really responsible?” That is one of the mysteries that you have to face. Do you believe that human inability, at the moral level, can go hand in hand with human responsibility at the moral level?

If you can’t, nothing I say in this seminar will work for you. That is a prerequisite for embracing anything sensible about this whole way of understanding life. We have to agree with the biblical assumption that I am so sinful, I cannot see or savor Jesus Christ as my supreme value, and I am guilty for my failure to see him and savor him because it’s owing to a moral inability, not a physical inability.

John 3:5–7 says:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”

That is speaking of our inability to submit, owing to the fact that apart from the Holy Spirit, we are simply flesh.

Romans 6:17–18 says:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Here, conversion is pictured as you having once been a slave of sin. The escape from that slavery is owing to God because Paul is saying, “Thanks be to God, that though you were once that, you became obedient.” We shifted out of our slavery into obedience because of God. I’m going to skip over these other passages and jump to number five.

5. Deserving of Eternal Punishment

Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.

Ephesians 2:3 says:

Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Our depravity, our nature, constitutes us as children of wrath, which I take to mean that we are suited by nature to be shown divine wrath. How can that be? Before I answer that question, let me give a couple more texts on it.

Second Thessalonians 1:8–9 says:

[Christ will inflict] vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might . . .

Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone in the New Testament. He said:

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matthew 25:46).

The totality of our depravity means that because of our rebellion against God and our corruption of the goodness that he gave at the beginning, we have offended him in such a way that we deserve eternal punishment. This is simply mind-boggling and breathtaking. Children are better at conceiving this than most of us adults are. If you remind a child early on that not believing in Jesus will lead him into never-ending suffering, a child might lose some sleep. We ought to lose some sleep thinking about hell as never-ending suffering, never-ending torment, never-ending — year after year, century after century, millennium after millennium, age after age, forever.

The Severity of Hell

When you think of it, you have to ask, “Why such a severe response?” The way the problem will be framed sometimes is, “Why would we get an eternity of punishment for a temporally limited time of sinning? Isn’t that disproportionate? And wouldn’t the considerations of justice mean that if we did 70 years of sinning, we should get maybe 70 years of suffering?” But you know that’s not the way justice works. That would be like saying, “Because it only took you 10 seconds to kill a little baby, therefore you should spend 10 seconds in jail.”

Justice doesn’t quite work like that. It’s not a matter of how long the duration of the crime is — it’s the heinousness of the crime, the severity of the crime. The severity of crime rises and falls not simply by how long the crime lasted, but by several other factors, one of which is the dignity of the person sinned against. An offense against the president of the United States will be treated with far greater seriousness than just a random insult on the street. He will be watched and guarded much more carefully because so many things are at stake.

God is an infinitely worthy being, and therefore a sin or an offense against him is worthy of infinite punishment. That’s the way Jonathan Edwards argues for why hell makes as much sense as it does and should sober us and take our breath away. My fifth observation with regard to total depravity is that we are totally deserving of the kind of wrath that we are promised.

Here’s the conclusion for total depravity. Total depravity means that apart from any enabling grace from God, our hardness and rebellion against God is total. Everything we do is in rebellion against him in sin. Our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment. It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of admitting our condition to be this bad.

If we think of ourselves as basically good, or even less than totally at odds with God, our grasp of the work of God in redemption will be defective. But if we humble ourselves under this terrible truth of our total depravity, we will be in a position to see and appreciate the glory and wonder of the work of God discussed in the other four points. A great deal hangs emotionally on how you feel about your own sin. If you come at the doctrines of grace and are not deeply moved about your own unworthiness, then these doctrines will not land on you as winsomely and preciously as if you come with a sense of, “There’s no hope for me.”

Unconditional Election

Let’s turn now to the doctrine of unconditional election. This is a hope-filled doctrine for those who feel totally depraved and utterly without hope and help. Maybe I could illustrate how this actually works in pastoral settings. What we’re going to argue here now in the doctrine of unconditional election is that before the foundation of the world, as God contemplated the world to come, he chose who would be rescued from the fall and who wouldn’t be without respect of having met any conditions as the basis of his choice.

All of us have proved guilty. All of us deserve punishment. Justice would be served if all of us perished, and therefore election is gracious and free. The fact that I am plucked out of the ocean is owing to nothing in me — nothing.

Now, here’s a person sitting in your office — this has happened more than once — and he feels absolutely hopeless because of the track record of sin in his life and how many times he has scorned God and sinned against him, and is deeply trapped in sin.

He knows that you believe in unconditional election, and he throws that back in your face, and says, “Even you, even you say that I may not be elected. And if I’m not elect, then I can’t be saved here in this room anyway.” Now, one of the functions of unconditional election at that moment in the counseling session is to enable you to say to him, “You know, don’t you, that the implication of the doctrine of unconditional election is that you have absolutely no right to tell God you have sinned yourself out of the possibility of being saved? Who do you think you are to describe a list of long conditions that you have failed to meet as to why he cannot save you?”

Do you see what they’ve done? They have listed off year after year after year of failure in their life. They’re throwing that at me now and saying, “There’s no way I could be saved. Look what I have done.” And you say, “Excuse me, the point of unconditional election is to free me as a pastor (and an evangelist) who loves you right now and to look you right in the face and say, “You better shut your mouth rather than tell God all the conditions you haven’t met, such that you could not be among the elect. There are no conditions for being elect. Do you feel the implication of this, young man? There are zero conditions for being among the elect. So all of your narrative of your life-long sins have zero, less than nothing, to do with whether you can be among the elect.”

Do you see the freeing effect that has right there? It should strip him of all of his arguments that his 10, 15, 20, or 30 years of lechery and rebellion make it impossible for him to be among the elect. Unconditional election means that I, as an evangelist, at that point, say to him, “You can talk till you’re blue in the face at all the conditions you haven’t met, and I will simply say to you, ‘That’s the point. That’s the point of the un in unconditional.’ None of those arguments can be used against God. None of those arguments can be used in the mouth of Satan to make you ultimately despairing unless you just want them to.”

In choosing whom he will choose, God does not look to things in us. He has his own wise counsel for why he does what he does, and I don’t know them ahead of time. And so, I just want to say to you, “Leave it behind, brother. Right now, leave it behind that you’re going to keep bringing up to God all the reasons why you can’t be among the elect. None of them holds. Whether you are among the elect depends on one thing. Will you submit to Jesus? Period. Then you may know whether all that failure condemned you or not, and it need not.”

The Freedom of Sound Doctrine

I don’t come at these doctrines as though they somehow trap me, or somehow limit me from doing the kind of evangelism I want to do, from pleading with people to be saved. There’s one other practical illustration. This will relate to a few of you, I’m sure. When my son, from age 19 to 23, walked away from everything, walked away from the Lord, walked away from the church, walked away from the faith, and threw it away, I shed more tears in those four years than in any other time in my life. That brought me more pain, more continual agony than anything I’ve ever walked through because I just loved him so much.

I have a treadmill in my office and I jog three times a week when I’m not sick, and I pray, and I listen to sermons. And oh my, he was always there. He was there with every song I listened to. He was there with every sermon I listened to. I never let God go. I just took hold of God’s rope and said, “I will not let you go.” Now, sometimes people would ask me how that all related to my Calvinism, saying, “Don’t you feel kind of fatalistic about him because of what you believe about election or irresistible grace?”

My whole response emotionally and theologically was, “No, just the opposite. Just the opposite.” I sat in so many LeeAnn Chins and Pizza Huts across the table from him during those four years, just probing, “How are you doing? Is there any movement of God in your life?” And his face would come back to me so spiritually dead and blank. I just felt absolutely, totally helpless. And I was. I was helpless.

Therefore, the only hope I had was that God elects unconditionally and exerts irresistible grace. If there’s going to be any salvation, it’s going to be God doing it. I can’t make it happen. And so, my theology was a great balm, and I think God was just merciful. He didn’t have to do what he did to bring him back, but he did. I only mention that in addition to that evangelistic thing in my office to say these doctrines to me have been lived out in some pretty serious ways and are precious to me for very profound reasons.

Reformed Understanding of Election

Here’s the definition of election in the reformed or Calvinistic understanding. This is from the Westminster Confession:

Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His free grace and love alone, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.

Part of that says, “He has chosen them in Christ unto everlasting glory.” So God chooses whom he will bring to faith.

Objections to Individual Election

Now here’s the alternative view. If you say, “Well, what would be the Arminian response to the text you’re about to bring up in terms of its conclusion or their conclusion and where they lead?” I’m going to give you actual quotes here from those today who would disagree with where we’re going and would say that election is corporate and not individual.

When I say that God elects, I mean, he chooses which individuals will come to faith. When the Arminian speaks of election, he means that God chooses a group, but he doesn’t determine decisively who gets in the group. He elects a body of people, the church, but who’s in and who’s out is decisively determined by you. He doesn’t elect individuals in this eternal sense; he elects a corporate entity. Let me read those.

This is Forster and Marston’s book in 1973:

The point is that the election of the church is a corporate rather than an individual thing. It is not that individuals are in the church because they are elect. It is rather that they are elect because they are in the church, which is the body of the elect one.

I think that is exactly wrong. People are chosen by God and thus enabled to be in the church, not the other way around. Here’s another one. This is Clark Pinnock:

Election is a corporate category and not oriented to the choice of individuals for salvation. Election speaks of a class of people rather than specific individuals (The Grace of God, and the Will of Man).

Searching the Scriptures

Now we have to test those against Scripture, okay? That’s what we’re going to do. We have to test those two claims against what we see in the Bible. Here are the texts, and this first one is the one that’s most common for supporting that view of corporate election is Ephesians 1:3–4:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world . . .

And so, it’s argued that what God really chose was Christ and his church — those who would be in him — but he didn’t choose to make us in him. We make ourselves in him by virtue of our decisive choice of him.

Now, I doubt that that’s there in this text, but that’s where they would go to see it. If you go down a few verses in Ephesians 1:11, it goes like this:

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will . . .

I’m asking here, “Does all things here include our faith?” It says, “Who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” If it includes faith, then the faith that brings us into Christ was also worked by God. Therefore, the election includes the election of who will be in the church or in Christ, which is what I think this in fact means. But we will look at many texts to show why we think that. The problem with taking those texts to support corporate election is what follows.

Made Alive

That was Ephesians 1, this is now Ephesians 2. It says that we were we dead and unable to believe so that life and faith had to be given to us. In other words, as you read chapter one, what would incline you to think that the election there of “chose us in him” is not a selection of individuals and whether they would be in Christ, but a selection of Christ and whoever gets themselves into him? What would incline you to think that way? The text doesn’t imply that. You could say the text could go either way at that point. But what would incline you, I think, is whether you read the rest of the book and you saw things that would point you in that direction.

I find myself, as soon as I get to chapter two, pointed very much in another direction, besides Ephesians 1:11. It says:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:4–9).

Now, when he says, “You were dead and you were made alive,” and then he sticks in this parenthesis, it doesn’t fit. This is exactly the way it works in Greek, as well as English. It seems out of place. It’s like an insertion. You have to put in parentheses — “By grace, you have been saved.”Why does he insert that? He’s going to say it again at the end of the passage — “By grace, you’ve been saved” — but he says it here in Ephesians 2:5 too. Why does he say it right there? I think he wants us to see that this grace is of such a nature, that it makes dead people alive. That’s what grace means.

If grace waited to see whether we would make ourselves alive and then respond, it wouldn’t be grace, not the way Paul conceives of grace anyway. When we were dead in our trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ (by grace, we have been saved). When I read that, nothing in me is inclined to go back to chapter one and say that “He chose us in Christ” means he chose an undefined, massive people and he waited to see whether they would get themselves alive so that they could be in Christ. It just doesn’t fit.

He makes us alive, and thus, he grafts us into Christ. And thus, the election is an election into Christ and not just of Christ. It is an individual election, not just a corporate election with an undefined membership.

Because of Him You Are in Christ Jesus

Now we start looking at passages of Scripture that show us the individual nature of election.

First Corinthians 1:26–30 says:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus . . .

Now there, there it is. How do you get into Christ Jesus? It says, “By his doing (or from him), you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” Here you have election being spoken of as of individual people, not the church as a whole. God has his sovereign reasons for choosing whom he chooses, and he chooses against all our expectations, usually. And just when we think he’s got his expectations figured out, he’ll break that pattern and do another pattern because he doesn’t want us to ever think that we’ve got his pattern figured out as to why he chooses what he chooses. It’s according to his own secret and sovereign choice. By his doing, you are in Christ Jesus. You don’t get yourself into Christ Jesus and thus become part of the elect. He doesn’t elect incognito; he elects particular people.

God’s Decisive Choice

James 2:5 says:

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

God chose who would be in the church, a particular people for himself.

Consider Romans 11:1–8. Is election the effect or the cause of obtaining salvation that is of foreknown faith?

Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace. What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened . . .

Obtaining it here is not the condition you meet in order to be elect. It’s the elect who obtain it. I regard that text right there to be a clear statement that election is not a non-individual election of an undefined group of people who get themselves into that people. Election is the very foundation of how you obtain what you are seeking as a Jewish person. Here’s the way it’s said another time. Somebody wrote me a little note here on platform and referred to this text as being so decisive in their life. And it has been important for me too. The text is Acts 13:48. And the question is, “Is election based on foreknown faith like the Arminians say, or does faith happen because of election?”

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

It says, “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” So which way does it work? Do you believe and thus enter into your appointment to eternal life, or had you been appointed to eternal life and now that’s what enabled you to believe?

Luke is saying that he looked at the response in the synagogue there, and his answer was, “Those who believed were the ones who had been appointed to eternal life.” And so, election, this appointment, was the foundation of the belief, not the other way around, which is why the argument that the Arminians use that “those whom he foreknew, he predestined (Romans 8:28)” doesn’t hold. It wouldn’t work here to say that our faith is what decisively brought us into the appointment, and God foresaw our faith and thus chose us. It’s just the other way around here. We were appointed, and because of that appointment, believed.

All Yours Are Mine

Next, consider John 17:6–9. Do we belong to God because we come to Jesus or do we come to Jesus because we belong to God?

I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word . . . I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

That order right there shows that the election is not on the basis of who came to Jesus, but rather that those who come to Jesus are governed by who was already God’s — that they are already elect.

Or John 6:37 says:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day (John 6:37–39).

Jesus says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” So who comes to him? Those that the Father gives to him. John’s Gospel is often portrayed as the simple Gospel, and it is. Grammatically, there’s nothing simpler in the New Testament. It’s written so basically. But regarding this issue, I would argue that the most predestinarian book of the Bible is John’s Gospel, because of things like what we just saw and this.

The Shepherd and His Flock

I’m going to wrap things up here in just a minute or so in order that we can go to John 10:24–27. Are we his sheep because we believe or do we believe because we are his sheep?

So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe . . .

Then he stops their mouths as though they could say, “Well, at least we’re frustrating your design by not believing.” And he says, the reason you did not believe is this:

Because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:26).

It simply won’t work, folks, to say that election is a choice of an undefined group of people who decide for themselves whether they will be in that group or not. This text says the reason the Pharisees are not believing Christ is not ultimately because of their free will; it was because they were not in his sheep. They were not in the number. He says:

And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd (John 10:16).

I’ll close with this one. Acts 18:9–10 says:

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

That’s the way God spoke to Paul about doing evangelism, in view of divine election. He is saying, “I have a people in this city. You don’t know who they are. I know who they are. I have brought you here to find them. And the way you find them is simply by scattering the gospel, preaching the gospel. I will make sure that my sheep hear my voice and respond. And for those who don’t respond and resist you, it’s because they are not among my sheep. They’re not among my chosen ones. And they are guilty in their rebellion.”

Now, we have more work to do on the doctrine of unconditional election, but we need to stop here and pray. We’ll pick it up next Friday night with these remaining doctrines. And then we’ll spend a good bit of time talking about the so what issue of, “Why does this all matter anyway?”