“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”-2 Timothy 2:15
“We don’t need to get caught up in debates about doctrine. We just need to give people Jesus.” You have probably heard someone say this or something similar to it. The idea given in statements like these is that we should not be arguing amongst each other about which doctrinal interpretation is correct and which is not. We should just concentrate on giving people the gospel. Though on the surface this seems to be noble, it is also foolish. We are exhorted in the Scriptures to study in order that we would rightly handle the Word of God. For example, having a correct understanding of the nature of God, Christ and His finished work, the role and work of the Holy Spirit, and the Christian walk are an absolute must! With some of these doctrines, people will compromise and chalk them up as being secondary issues. In particular, the sovereignty of God and the role and work of the Holy Spirit.
There are, and have been, endless debates concerning the sovereignty of God. Just how sovereign is God? Does the Lord control everything that happens whether great natural disasters or personal struggles we endure? Even more, does God control who receives His salvation and who does not? This last question is the one in particular that sparks much controversy. When the subject of predestination/election comes up, many will immediately begin to scoff at the idea. Without a doubt, one will hear that God loves all, Christ died for all, etc. Others may attempt to end the discussion with, “What does it matter anyway?” It is needful that we understand the importance of studying this issue. What you believe about this doctrine has great impact on every other belief you hold to! It impacts your view of the work of Christ, evangelism, and the grace and mercy of God to name a few. You may wonder how this could affect your belief concerning the work of Christ, and I’m glad you asked.
There are some important questions to ask yourself: 1) Was Christ’s death a real death for sin? 2) Did Christ fully or potentially accomplish His work? 3) Did Christ die for all or the elect? 4) Was Christ’s substitutionary work limited in its audience or limited in power? These are important questions to consider, and what you believe about predestination/election will lead to being confronted with having to answer these questions. We must understand that this doctrine is important, first and foremost, because it is taught in the Scriptures (Eph 1:3-11; Rom 8:29-30; 9:1-33). The most popular view among many Christians is that God looked down the corridor of time, seen you praying and accepting Him, and on the basis of this knowledge, He elected you to faith. There are a number of problems with this view. One, it diminishes God’s attributes in that God has to look in the future to know something and then use His power to solidify it. Secondly, it throws grace out the window. If God elected you to salvation based on what He knew you would do, then salvation was not based upon God’s grace, but was conditional. Thirdly, the word “foreknowledge” does not mean “foresight,” but carries the meaning of, “Those whom God loved beforehand.” In the next couple of articles, we’ll explore this topic further, and examine the implications that this doctrine has upon many other doctrines of the Christian faith.
Joshua Banks is senior pastor and founder of Shepherd’s Rock Bible
Church in Kingsport, TN. He holds a Bachelors degree in Ministry from
Luther Rice University, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and a
Master of Divinity both from Liberty University. Joshua and his wife
Amanda, along with their 5 children, reside in Gate City, VA.