Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 12, 1960
NUMBER 39, PAGE 11-13b

God's Purpose Of Grace

Herschel E. Patton, Shelbyville, Tennessee

We welcome you to another review of the articles of faith professed by many people, and written down in the standard manual for those of this faith. Searching for truth is the responsibility of every responsible person. We should, therefore, welcome every opportunity to investigate and study that which others recommend and claim to be scriptural. If, after investigation, a thing is found to be scriptural, we should accept it; but if found to be unscriptural, we must reject it and lend no encouragement to those who would promulgate it. See 2 John 9-11. We study today article number nine, entitled "God's Purpose of Grace."

Article No. IX.

"We believe the scriptures teach that election is the eternal purpose of God, according to which he graciously regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners; that being perfectly consistent with the free agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end; that it is a most glorious display of God's sovereign goodness; that it utterly excludes boasting, and promotes humility; that it encourages the use of means; that it may be ascertained by its effects in all who truly accept of Christ; that it is the foundation of Christian assurance; and that to ascertain it with regards to ourselves demands and deserves the utmost diligence."

Meaning Of Subject

In the first part of this article we are told what is meant by God's purpose of grace; then follows seven statements about this belief. God's purpose of grace is defined as being the eternal purpose of God, according to which he graciously regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners. In other words, regeneration, sanctification, and the salvation of sinners was in the eternal purpose of God; and this we are told is God's purpose of grace. There is not so much wrong with what is here said; however, the great difference in the religious world with reference to election has to do with whether God selected a certain class of people, to which anyone can belong if they will, to be saved, or whether He chose or selected certain individuals to be saved to the exclusion of all others. The doctrine or belief of those subscribing to this article, according to numerous articles written by preachers of this faith, is that God has selected, elected, or predestinated certain individuals to be saved and that only these predestinated ones are regenerated or saved. Among writings of those of this faith I find such statements as "It is very clearly set forth in the scriptures that only a part of Adam's race was chosen to be the recipients of God's grace"; again, "If God had purposed to save all of Adam's race, then there would have been no need of a choice." Thus, friends, the first thing we need to do is to learn from the scriptures just what "election," called in article number nine, "God's purpose of Grace" is. We grant that it involves the eternal purpose of God, according to which He graciously regenerates, sanctifies, or saves the sinner; but does it involve the election of certain individuals to be saved, with all others being lost, or does it involve the election of a certain class of people to which anyone who will can belong? Let us look to the scriptures for the answer to this question.

Individuals Or A Class?

First, we learn from Webster this definition of election: "to chose"; "one chosen or set apart"; "taken by preference." Now, we are cited to several scriptures which are thought, by those holding the faith of these articles, to teach the selection of certain individuals to salvation. One passage to which we are cited in Acts 13:48 "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Does this verse prove God ordained certain individuals to eternal life? Who has been ordained to eternal life? This passage should be considered in connection with others hearing on the same subject and not set apart from others. Let us consider a few verses which serve to answer the question "who has been ordained to eternal life?"

Jesus said in John 6:40 "And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him may have everlasting life." In John 20:31 we read "But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." In Acts 11:18 it is said "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." Jesus again said "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." It is evident from these verses that eternal life is conditional. It is conditioned upon belief and obedience — upon a coming to the Lord. Those, therefore ordained to eternal life are all those who will come to the Lord in his appointed way. Those of the Gentiles who believed placed themselves in this class; hence were ordained to eternal life. Notice the statement in verse 46 which says "Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourself unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." Verse 48 tells us "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad ... and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." In Acts 28:28 Paul said "Be it known therefore unto you that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it." The word of God was to be preached to the Jews first, but they "put it from" them — rejected it, and in so doing, counted "themselves unworthy of everlasting life." Here eternal life is clearly conditioned on receiving the word of God. When the Jews refused to accept the word, by which they could receive eternal life, Paul said "Lo, we turn to the Gentiles and they will hear it." This clearly shows that eternal life is conditioned upon hearing and obeying the word of God. All who thus are ordained unto eternal life. If these Jews, as individuals, had been ordained unto eternal life, how is it that they could reject it?

Another verse to which we are cited, thought to teach that certain individuals are predestinated to salvation, is Romans 8:28. The verse reads as follows "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." These verses are directly connected with God's purpose, mentioned in verse 28. The whole purpose of God with reference to the redemption of man through the gospel of Christ is viewed as completed, so as to show how all things do work together for good to those who are called according to his purpose. The plans and purposes of God which are certain of fulfillment are sometimes spoken of as fulfilled when the fulfillment is yet future. For example, before Isaac was born God said to Abraham: "The father of a multitude of nations have I made thee" (Gen. 17:5). In the verses under consideration we have the expression "For whom he foreknew." To know a person is to approve him, according to the Greek "ginosko" as here used. God approved certain characters before they were actually called. Hence, there are certain conditions of heart that God approves even in those who have not yet become Christians. He approves the poor in spirit — that is, those who feel their sinfulness and need of salvation, and therefore, hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt. 5:3-6). Such characters were fore-ordained, or appointed, to become conformed to the image of His Son. Jesus guaranteed, or foreordained, that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled — that is, shall receive that for which they hunger and thirst. Such characters are the ones who are called, and no others. The called are those who have answered the gospel invitation, and not those to whom the call has merely been issued. Those who are actually called are justified — that is, forgiven and made righteous. And these are the ones who, in the final day of accounts, are glorified. These verses are not difficult if we understand Paul as viewing the whole process of redemption through Christ. It is evident, therefore, that God has ordained a certain class of people — not just a few picked-out individuals — to eternal life. Instead of God's singling out certain individuals and leaving all others without hope, he provided a scheme of redemption for all people; and those who enter into His purpose are the called — the elect. The scriptures clearly teach that all of Adam's race can be recipients of God's grace. All of them won't, but all can. Provision has been made for all. The Hebrew writer says "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb. :9). Those who believe in the election of certain individuals should read this passage like this — "Christ by the grace of God tasted death for only a selected few of Adam's race."

My friends, be not deceived into thinking there is nothing you can do — that if you are one of the elect, God will send you an experience to make it known. Don't wait in anguish for God to do something; He has done His part. The thing for you to do is arise and obey the truth; then you will belong to the class of people elected unto eternal salvation.

Most of our time has been consumed in determining whether "election" involves the choice of certain individuals, or the choice of a class of people to which anyone can belong, the thing which I consider to he the important issue of this article. The seven things affirmed of election or God's purpose of grace in the article need only brief comments.

Things Affirmed of Election

The statement "consistent with the free agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end" is true and the passage listed as proof of this lists as means sanctification of the Spirit, belief of the truth, and the gospel; but previous articles have indicated that salvation is a miraculous gift without means on man's part. Thus, here is another contradiction.

That election is a glorious display of God'a sovereign goodness is not denied. It is denied, however, and on scriptural grounds, as we have seen, that it is a display of God's goodness without effort on man's part.

That it excludes boasting and promotes humility is also true. Man was lost, condemned, and powerless to save himself, yet salvation was provided through Christ because of God's grace. This should promote the greatest humility. This does not, however, suggest that man has no conditions with which to comply.

The statement that election or God's purpose of grace encourages the use of means was considered in the first statement. Exponents of this faith, however, think only of means in connection with heaven's part and ignore man's responsibility in accepting God's grace. What God requires of man in accepting His grace is as much a means of man's salvation as that which Christ has done.

We are next informed that one's election may be ascertained by its effects in all who truly accept of Christ. By this is meant that you can be certain of your election by something that is better felt than told. Far too many people place what they "know" or "feel" above what the scriptures actually say. People can be deceived both in their knowledge and feelings; but when we have scriptural evidence of our election, there can be no doubt.

The next statement concerning election is "it is the foundation of Christian assurance," which is true so long as we have a clear conception of what election really is. It assures the elect of the possibility of an eternal inheritance, but does not assure it unconditionally.

The last statement about election is "to ascertain it with regard to ourselves demands and deserves the utmost diligence." This is true and is the very thing my brethren and I preach. It is a clear contradiction, however, of what is believed and taught in article number eleven which we are soon to study. There it is taught that if one is one of the elect — has been saved, then he is sure of the eternal inheritance which would mean that diligence and faithfulness in the future is not a thing demanded.