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Who ultimately has the power to decide what happens in life? God is the one in control. Of everything.
The Bible teaches that a person’s election into salvation is unconditional. Unconditional means that there is no merit or mechanism within a person that tips God’s favor his or her way. People can’t earn their way to heaven. People can’t enter heaven unless God enables and allows them to enter. God’s vote in the election process is what counts.
For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up.
John 6:44 NLT
God Initiates and Completes the Election Process
God initiates salvation before anyone is born. God knows the people He creates. He calls and predestines them, knowing all the days of their lives (Psalm 139:16). In Romans 8:28-30 Paul lays out an unbreakable chain of events:
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.Romans 8:28-30 NLT
The golden chain of salvation is the five unbreakable links between foreknow, predestine, call, justify, and glorify. Foreknowing always leads to predestination. Predestination always leads to calling. Calling always leads to justification. Justification always leads to glorification. Once God starts the process, He will complete it by glorifying the person in heaven.
God Foreknows the People He Chooses for Election
Foreknowledge is different than foreknowing. Foreknowledge is about factual information. Foreknowing is the intimate knowing of a person. This means that God is capable of much more than simply knowing who will choose Him in the future. Foreknowledge alone reduces election to merely a confirmation of a person’s choice. The more personal foreknowing means the following are true:
- God intimately knows the people He elects.
- God creates people for different purposes (some for noble and some for ignoble as in Romans 9:14-16).
- God is in control of the entire creative process. He knows what He is doing when He creates each person.
- God has the first and final decision as to who will be elected to eternal life.
All of this means that the state of a person at creation is not random. It’s not like God created 10 billion people with random characteristics, then looked into the future to see which ones would choose Him, and then predestined those particular ones. No. Instead, He intentionally loves the person and predestines him or her at the time of creation, knowing they will be in heaven.
This makes sense given that God is in control of everything. Shouldn’t the God of the universe have the final say in who will be with Him for eternity? God favors people and then creates them. Everyone God wants to be in heaven will be there. No one that God doesn’t want to be there will be there.
This might sound unfair, but how it sounds doesn’t make any difference because God is creator and is in control (He is sovereign). Election, therefore, is not a conditional process that puts the power of choosing within the person. Election is unconditional because the power to choose is God’s. No one deserves to be elected to heaven. It is only God’s mercy and love that elects some but not others.
If life is predetermined, how is it worth living? God knows everything but we don’t. We don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t know the particular people God will call. God invites us to participate in sharing His Good News. God’s ways, His capacity to reason, are higher than ours. He can manage knowing everything while relating to us who know very little. Yes, He has the advantage.
It’s because of our sinful nature that we want to rebel against an ultimate authority that can decide the fate of all living creatures (see Genesis 3 and Ecclesiastes 6:10 NLT version). Left to ourselves, we’d like to be in control of our destiny (not a good thing). But as Christians, we know that God being in control is not only reality, it is far superior. We can let God be God. We can be thankful He loves and cares for us.
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.