by Bob Wheeler

Unconditional Election

Parmigianino, The Conversion of Paul

Parmigianino, The Conversion of Paul

    In our last blog post we began our examination of I Corinthians chapters 1-3, and saw that Paul described his own ministry in terms of what we would call “effectual calling.” In the preaching of the gospel God effectively “calls” those who are to be saved. Today we consider another aspect of salvation brought out in the same passage – that of unconditional election.

    What is especially striking about this passage is that it specifically states that God does not call everyone. In fact, it specifically mentions certain groups of people that He does not call: “not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” (I Cor. 1:26; NKJV). Then Paul goes on to say, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world . . . “(v. 27). The context implies that those who are “chosen” are the same group as those who are “called.” And it is God who does both the choosing and calling.

    It is at this point that some point that some profess to see a huge problem. If God loves the whole world (John 3:16), and desires the salvation of all mankind (I Tim. 2:3-6), as he most certainly does, then why does He choose and call some and not others? Doesn’t this seem unfair?

    The reason that God does not choose everyone is that other factors enter the picture. Paul goes on to explain: “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are might; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are . . .” (1:27,28). And why does God do that? “. . . that no flesh should glory in His presence” (v. 29).

    This, of course, is the whole point at which Paul is driving: no flesh should glory in God’s presence. No one should take credit for his own salvation. And, by implication, no preacher should take credit for the results of his ministry. This is why God deliberately chooses the least likely candidates for salvation – to make it obvious that it is not a matter of intelligence, education, wealth, power, or family connections. Rather, it is all of God’s grace and power.

    Paul then goes on to state the crux of the issue: “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord'” (1:30,31). Here we see the essence of salvation. Christ is the Savior – he becomes “wisdom and righteousness and sanctification,” – and it is all attributable to God as the ultimate Cause – “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus.” The only reason that any of us are Christians is because of something that God has done in our lives.

    We might also add one further consideration. If God simply saved everyone then we would take salvation for granted – we would look at it as a kind of natural right. How many of us, honestly, thank God for the air we breathe and the water we drink? We usually don’t, precisely because God has made these things freely available to all. And so it is with salvation. If God saved everyone we would take it for granted. It would become what we know of today as an “entitlement program” – something to which we have a right. Christ did not shed His precious blood for that!