Q – Hi Pastor Jim. How are you? By the way, great sermon yesterday. It seems as though everyone runs into a brick wall when they start discussing election, doesn’t it?
On that subject, I was wondering if you could point me to verses in the Bible (at least 3) which reference the names of the elect having been written in the Book of Life before the world was formed. I know it’s in Revelation 17:8, is it mentioned anywhere else? (A friend) and I were talking yesterday and we started discussing church. You’ll be glad to know that he no longer thinks I’m involved in a cult; now he’s upset that I’m attending a church that teaches that “ridiculous theory of predestination” (his words, not mine). He said that everyone on the earth has been given free will to choose whether or not to accept Christ as our Savior. He said that it started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve had the choice of obeying God and not eating of the forbidden fruit and gaining eternal life but chose, instead, to eat of it.
Of the few instances that I can find that free will is mentioned in the Bible, I infer that they are referring to offerings given to God and not referring to salvation. Of course, I could be wrong in my understanding of the use of free will and offerings in the Bible. So please correct me if I’m wrong.
For me personally, the strongest argument I can make for election is that our names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world. That lets me know that all those many years ago before there were birds in the air and animals on the ground and fish in the sea, God thought of me and graciously gave me the gift of eternal salvation. WOW!!! What great comfort I find in that; it makes me feel safe.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Jim – As I have said repeatedly, truth does not bend according to its popularity. And the vast majority of the “christian” world has been raised on the synergistic concept of man’s cooperation with God, resulting in salvation. But, as you rightly pointed out, the word “freewill” only appears in the Old Testament with respect to offerings that could be given after all of the required tithes and offerings had been met. But – and this is vitally important – the word “freewill” or any variation thereof never appears in the New Testament and never ever in the context of salvation.
In stark contrast, words like “predestined – predestinated – foreknowledge – elect – election – foreordained” appear with regularity and are always the basis for Pauline teaching on salvation. So, when someone says something like, “that ridiculous theory of predestination,” it shows that they have never really stood toe-to-toe with the Bible and read it for what it actually says. The staunchest brick wall opposition I regularly encounter to God’s word is always built on traditions of men; never on the clear word of Scripture. Our fleshly, human ego just loves the idea that our “will” is totally at liberty. Yet, the Bible tells us that we are “dead in trespasses and sins.” Human tradition refuses to believe that. And Biblical salvation is always based on God’s free and sovereign grace, His will and His good pleasure; never on our will or works. Again, human tradition refuses to believe that.
Anyway, you asked for some verses to support the notion that God wrote down the names of His elect people before the foundation of the world. Here’s a fair sampling.
Perhaps the most persuasive argument Paul wrote in favor of God’s electing grace and predestinating will is found in the first two chapters of the book of Ephesians. It’s a passage Arminians simply cannot deal with. Read it and look carefully at what is being said. Here’s a pericope for purposes of your question:
“Blessed (be) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly (places) in Christ: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Eph 1:3-6) ASV
Look at those words. God blessed us with all spiritual blessings, which blessings are in Christ, even as God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Those words are inescapable and they must mean something. You cannot twist those words (though many have tried) to make them say that man chooses God in the course of time and history. It is clear that it is God who does the choosing. And when did He choose? “Before the foundation of the world.” The KJV renders that passage thusly:
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Eph 1:4-6)
The King James Version uses the specific word “predestinated” to describe the working of God in choosing particular people for salvation. And what motivated that work? “The good pleasure of His will.” Nothing – absolutely nothing – is said in the first two chapters of Ephesians about the will of the creature being considered in the process of choosing and electing.
And what is the result of God acting so unilaterally in this matter? “The praise of the glory of His grace.” That’s why God does things the way He does them, in order that all the praise and glory goes to Him. The creatures would love some of that praise and glory, so they attempt to impose the notion of their “free will” onto God’s plan of redemption. But, you never find that notion advanced in the pages of your Bible.
And, I love that last phrase, “Wherein (referring to His grace) He hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Christ is “the beloved.” We are accepted because of the finished, complete work accomplished by Christ on our behalf. And God Himself has made us accepted. We did not accomplish some feat (like whipping up adequate faith, doing enough good works, saying the Sinner’s Prayer, or “making” Jesus our Lord and Savior), that obligated God to accept us. He made us acceptable.
Like I said, read those two chapters. Then take a deep breath. The truth is overwhelming.
Okay, other verses along the same vein:
“We speak wisdom, however, among them that are fullgrown: yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, who are coming to nought: but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, (even) the (wisdom) that hath been hidden, which God foreordained before the worlds unto our glory.” (1 Cor. 2:6-7) ASV
The wisdom Paul spoke of is the wisdom of God revealed in the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith, without the works of the flesh. That gospel, in its entirety, including the wonderful proclamations of the book of Ephesians, was not only hidden to previous generations, but it was foreordained by God “before the worlds unto our glory.” We will be glorified in accordance to the plan of God, which plan He ordained before making the worlds.
And even our good works get us no credit, because He ordained our works:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) KJV
The whole point of God electing, foreordaining and predestining certain individuals is that the glory, praise, worship and honor MUST redound to Him alone. That’s what Paul wrote here:
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Col. 1:12-18) KJV
It is absolutely impossible to have a synergistic system that gives Christ “the preeminence.” Paul argued that He was “before all things and by him all things consist.” Yet, our Arminian opponents would argue that everything falls under His jurisdiction and sovereign control, except the single most important element of human life – our eternal destiny. That’s the one thing they simply refuse to hand over to the One who made them. But, the truth is that all things were made by Him and for Him. They all redound to His glory. And the salvation of His creatures tops that list.
And look at the list of things we should give thanks to God for: HE made us appropriate to be counted among the saints; HE delivered us from the power of darkness; HE translated us into the kingdom of His Son; IN HIS SON we have redemption; IN HIS SON we have forgiveness of sin. And His Son will have the preeminence over absolutely everyone and everything.
Now, where is the will of man in that equation? Nowhere.
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Tim. 1:9-10) KJV
Here Paul writes to Timothy and we see again how intrinsic this concept is to Paul’s overarching theology. Paul declares to the young preacher that it is God who saved us, called us, did not consider our works, but acted according to His own purpose and grace, which grace was “given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”
So, the natural question is: “Did God give this grace, leading to salvation, to everyone?” Nope – or else everyone would be saved. Before the world began, God called His people (Paul uses the word “us”) with a special “holy calling.” Why? Because those are the people God “saved.” The saved get called, according to God’s purpose and grace, given to “us” in Christ, before the world began. That’s plain and inescapable language. And it’s exactly in keeping with what Paul wrote to the Church at Rome:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn 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.” (Rom 8:28-30) KJV
There is only one group of people under consideration in that passage. In verse 28, Paul refers to them as “the called according to his (God’s) purpose.” Paul then goes on to describe God’s interaction with “the called.” They are the ones whom God did “foreknow.” They are the ones He “did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” They – those very same people – are the ones He called. Those very same called people are “justified.” And those very same foreknown, predestined, called, justified people are the ones “he also glorified.”
Not one single word is mentioned about what man does. There’s no mention of man’s will, choice, or action. God is the mover. Man is the recipient of an astounding grace. That grace is predicated on what God chose to do in accordance with His own will and purpose. This is such a primary concept in Paul’s theology that he opens letters with it. Think about that. Paul drops this pearl of unfathomable wisdom into the opening sentence of his letters to Timothy and Titus because it is inextricably woven into the warp and woof of his thinking.
“Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” (Titus 1:1-2) KJV
You simply cannot understand Paul if you do not recognize how deeply ingrained this was in his thinking. He calls himself an apostle “according to the faith of God’s elect.” Do you understand that phrase? There is a faith that is unique, shared by all of “God’s elect.” The world does not believe what the elect believe. The elect acknowledge “the truth which is after godliness.” The elect have the “hope of eternal life.” That hope is given by God. And God cannot lie. So, when did God promise eternal life to the elect? “Before the world began.”
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” (1 Peter 1:18-21) KJV
The death of Christ, resulting in the salvation of His elect, was “foreordained before the foundation of the world.” The totality of the plan of God, from the determination to crucify His Son, to the specific individuals who would reap the benefits of His grace, was determined “before the foundation of the world.” That’s because God does not change. He does not change His intention, His purpose or His mind. He does things on purpose. He determines both the ends and the means. And once He determined to save specific people, He went about the task of accomplishing His complete will and purpose.
This is so true, that Jude writes that certain men were also ordained to be condemned:
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4) KJV
Ungodly men were “before of old ordained” to be condemned. And what was the condemnation they were ordained to? That they denied “the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now that statement alone ought to be enough to convince us that God’s electing grace is not scattered abroad to every individual who chooses to take advantage of it. Whereas some people are ordained to eternal life, others are “before of old ordained to this condemnation.” That is only possible if you believe that God is completely, utterly and supremely sovereign. And concepts of man’s free will simply cannot stand up against these sorts of bold, decisive declarations.
Then, of course, you mentioned the book of Revelation. There are actually several verses in John’s epistle that address our topic. For instance:
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” (Rev 17:8)
Why do the people left on the earth after the Church is gone wonder after the beast? It’s because their “names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” If their names had been written there, they would have been taken off the earth with the Church. But they remain simply because they were not written.
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev 13:8)
Same deal. All those that are still dwelling on the earth when the beast and his false prophet are revealed will worship those demonic entities. Why? Because their “names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
And even at the final judgment, this book is used as evidence against the condemned populace:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev 20:12-15)
There are books opened. But, there’s another book, “which is the book of life.” The dead are judged out the things that are written in the other books – apparently a record of their deeds and works. They are not judged according to the book of life. Why? Because their names are not in it. What is the result? “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast in to the lake of fire.”
Now, when we put that all together, we have God writing names in a book before the foundation of the world. And we also have God eternally condemning those people whose names are not in the book. So, if it’s God who writes the names, then it also God who does not write names. And Christ is indeed the judge of the living and the dead, in its most extreme and sovereign form. Yet, that is exactly what the Bible declares.
“Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” (Acts 15:18)
So, when I make statements like that, I have ample Biblical precedent for what I’m saying. To the contrary, those who promote the notion of man’s libertarian freedom have nothing – just flat nothing – on which to base their assertions. Yet, they will denounce us, call us a cult, or accuse us of teaching some wild heresy. But, the truth is the truth, regardless of any man’s (or every man’s) opinion.
Yours in Him,