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Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election
by Buell H. Kazee

     First, what do we mean by "election"? Perhaps no better statement of it is found than that which is presented in the Scofield Bible.

     "Election is, (1) The sovereign act of God whereby certain are chosen from among mankind for Himself (John 15:19). (2) The sovereign act of God whereby certain elect persons are chosen for distinctive service for Him (Luke 6:13; Acts 9:15: I Corinthians 1:27, 28).

     "In both Testaments the Hebrew and Greek words are rendered 'elect,' 'election,' 'choose,' 'chosen.' In all cases they mean, simply, 'chosen,' or, 'to choose'; and are used of both human and divine choices.

     "In the latter uses election is: (a) corporate, as of the nation of Israel, or the church (Isaiah 45:4; Ephesians 1:4); and (b) individual (I Peter 1:2). Election is according to the foreknowledge of God (I Peter 1:2), and wholly of grace, apart from human merit (Romans 9:11; 11:5, 6). Election proceeds from the divine volition (John 15.16).

     "The divine order is foreknowledge, election, predestination. That foreknowledge determines the election or choice is clear from I Peter 1:2, and predestination is bringing to pass the election. 'Election looks back to foreknowledge; predestination looks forward to destiny.' But Scripture nowhere declares what it is in the divine foreknowledge which determines divine election and predestination. The foreknown are elected, and the elect are predestinated, and this election is certain to every believer by the mere fact that he believes (I Thessalonians 1:4, 5)."

     Adding to this splendid explanation, we note the foreordination has the same effect as election, and is the same in meaning, but it concerns events as well as people. Predestination is explained in the notes above. Calling means the bringing to manifestation that (or those) which has (or have) been elected and predestinated.

     Election is not "Hard-shellism." The belief commonly referred to as "Hard-shellism" says that God elects and saves without the gospel. Therefore, consistently, those who hold to this belief do not propagate missions or evangelism.

     But election takes in the means (gospel) by which the elect are called (II Thessalonians 2:13-14). This passage includes the whole scope of God's purpose in election: (1) chosen. (2) Chosen from the beginning. (3) Chosen to salvation. (4) To be sanctified (separated or made fit for the Master's use) by means of the Spirit and belief in the Word of God (the gospel). (5) It is to be realized by faith - "belief in the truth," through the enabling power of the Spirit. (6) The elect are called "by our gospel." (See also Romans 10:8-24.)

Here are some questions to make us think through this problem:
     1. Is the sinner free, as far as God is concerned, to choose for himself? The answer is "yes."

     2. If the sinner is finally lost, is it his own fault or God's? The answer is, it is his own fault.

     3. Is the sinner a free moral agent? Yes, if by moral we mean decisions on issues among men. Man's relationship to man is moral, and he can, in a limited way at least, make decisions in that realm.

     4. Is the sinner a free spiritual agent? That is, can he make decisions which concern his relationship to God? Not in himself. His will is bound by a nature that is opposed to God, and he cannot will to do God's will.

The Sinner's Depravity
     The depravity of the sinner consists in thus being bound by a nature that hates God and His rule. The natural man is devoid of all spiritual goodness, though he does possess some moral goodness. Morality consists in obedience to a standard set up by men. Spirituality has to do with a standard set up by God, and in this realm the sinner is incompetent. Spiritual goodness is foreign to man's nature. The depravity of the sinner is set forth in such passages as Romans 8:7, Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 1:18-32.

     (1) He is by nature a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). (2) When he had light and knowledge from God, - such as in the beginning of his family life on earth, at the flood and afterward, and at many other incidents of miraculous manifestation of and communication with God, - he rejected that light, dishonored God by making Him after the likeness of men, birds, beasts, and reptiles (Romans 1:19-32). Thus, in every case, man proved his hatred of God and became "god-less," turning to other gods of his own and becoming idolatrous. (3) God gave him over to a reprobate mind, shut him up to his own way and cut him off from any manifestation of God or communication with Him. (4) Man in every case buried himself in trespasses and in sins. Not only is he a child of wrath by nature, but, having light from God in miraculous manifestation and communication at various times in history, thus becoming accountable for his sins and knowing better (as nearly all men will readily admit if you ask them), he practiced rebellion against the light and knowledge of God which he had (and which he now has). Man knows he should obey and honor God, but in every case he refuses to do it. His universal decision is against God's will. To every appeal from Heaven he replies: "We will not have this man to reign over us."

     Sometimes men argue for "free will" as if the doctrine of election were robbing man of his opportunity to accept Christ and be saved, while ignoring the fact that the thousands who do have the opportunity willfully reject it.

     Thus, there is no question about man's freedom to decide, as far as God is concerned, and there is no question about what his decision will be. According to his sinful nature he will exercise his will against God's invitation. He is free to decide like a man is free to fall from the top of a house: he will never decide to fall upward. It is not God that has taken away man's power to decide in God's favor; it is the sinful nature with which he is born. His will is bound to one decision. Thus, if there were nothing more than the freedom of man's will to bring him to salvation, NOT A SOUL IN THE WORLD WOULD BE SAVED! As Isaiah says, "We have turned every one to his own way," and that is man's decision. The only way by which he can be saved, then, is for God to get him to change his mind. This is repentence. Except men repent, they shall all perish (Luke 13:3, 5). We all by nature and by the exercise of our wills belong to the class of "whosoever won'ts." God's work through the Word and the Spirit is to draw (not drive) us to Christ. If He did not do this, nobody would be saved. "The wicked are estranged from the womb; he goeth astray as soon as he is born, speaking lies" (Psalm 58:8). "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life" (John 5:40. See also John 8:36-47). "No man can come unto me except the Father which sent me draw him" (John 6:24).

     So man is born of the spiritual nature of his spiritual father, the devil (John 8:34), and, because he is by nature of a Satanic mind, (though just as Satan knows better so does he), he will not turn to God. He is at enmity with God just as Satan is, therefore, God must come to him with a power stronger than that of Satan to break the bondage and deliver the sinner. Unless God does this, the sinner does not want to turn to God. Thus, if God does not give this "holy disposition" to the rebel mind, nobody would be saved. This He does out of free grace, without the sinner's merit, through the preaching of the Word and the power of the Spirit. So far as we can see now, only these will be saved.

The Calling of the Elect
     1. "Called by our gospel" (II Thessalonians 2:14; Romans 10:13, 14, 17; Mark 16:15, 16; I Corinthians 1:21; Romans 1:16; I Peter 1:23; Mark 4:14). the Spirit is the One by whom the sinner is called, and the gospel is the means by which He does it.

     Some say that the sinner is dead, and therefore cannot hear the gospel. He is dead, but he can hear the voice of God! Lazarus was physically dead, and Jesus "cried with a loud voice," and Lazarus came forth from the grave. Even a dead man can hear the voice of God. Jesus said, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (our emphasis John 5:25). Even John Gill, the great predestinarian, says, in connection with this passage, that the "voice of God" here indicated is the gospel. John 6:28 together with the text just quoted show that both physical and spiritual death are meant. Raising the physically dead was Jesus' way of proving that He could raise the spiritual dead.

To Whom Is the Call Given?
     (1) The general call is given to all who hear the Word of God and the invitation of the gospel. The seed of the Word is sown in many kinds of soil. There are many people who hear the Word preached, know generally the teachings of the Bible, and even mold their government and society after the moral impact which the Word of God makes upon them. They admit their own failures to honor and obey God and agree that they are doing wrong in refusing His call. True, their conviction is more of their conduct than of their condition. They condemn their acts toward men and God, but they do not sense the real essence of their sin - unbelief and rebellion against God's way. The Lord offers salvation to all these, but nobody will take it.

     (2) Since nobody will of his own accord turn to God (and God always knew this), the Spirit takes the Word and "cuts to the heart" those whom God has chosen, and through the pull of that Word - that is, by giving it light and meaning which the Spirit alone can give - He draws (not drives) the elect to repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Matthew 22:14; II Timothy 1:9; Acts 2:39; John 6:44). This is usually referred to as the effectual call. There seems to be no better way of expressing it.

The Purpose of the Effectual Call
     The purpose of this call does not seem to be to bring all people to Christ, but those whom God hath chosen, a people for His name. God will see to it that the death of Christ is honored with a great host of the redeemed. The Cross will not fail. This gives us courage to preach and seek the salvation of the lost. Without this effectual call, our efforts would find no place in the purpose of God in bringing men to salvation, for nobody would be saved. By it, we are assured that some will. (Acts 15:14-18; I Peter 2:9; 2:14).

Some General Questions
     1. If God has chosen those whom He will save, and no others will be saved, why endure hardship to preach the gospel? Let Paul answer that: "I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (II Timothy 2:10).

     2. What about John 3:16? Does it not teach that anybody can be saved? No, it teaches that those who believe will not perish, but have everlasting life, and that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to make this sure to every believer.

     3. If only by election and calling of God men will turn to the Lord, why does God call some and not others: Paul left this in the secret counsels of God (Romans 9:14ff). Here God seems to close the book to us and simply says: "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning" (Acts 15:18; I Corinthians 2:16).

     If this were the only thing about God's ways we cannot explain, we would really be worried. Frankly, according to our reasoning, it does not seem right. If God saves wholly by His grace, without any merit at all in them, He has a right to include or exclude whom He will. However, by the same reasoning, it would seem that if God gets glory from saving a part of His lost creation, He could have more glory by saving it all, as the universalists teach. But the Bible does not seem to teach this. We must face the truth that "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).

     The only answer now is in the righteousness of God. If we believe in God, we must believe that whatever He does is right. Here we come to blind faith. But that is not unusual. In every day life we believe things which we cannot explain. Whether or not we understand this seemingly unreasonable act of God, His Book teaches abundantly that this is the way He does it. We must not forget that, if it were left to man, nobody would be saved. But we cannot answer the question under discussion, because the Bible does not answer it.

     We must believe that God has good reasons for what He does. God has not revealed all His will to us, mainly because we are not able to receive it now. This is the way we do with our children. We ask them to do things the purpose of which they do not understand until they are older and more experienced. Sometimes our ways seem to them wholly contradictory. The writer has this to say: Whatever of God's purposes I did not understand, but later came to see, turned out to be all right; which leads me not believe that what I do not understand now, when I do understand it, will seem to be alright. One thing I am sure of now: nobody understands this problem, and any attempt to answer it with the usual explanations is futile. We walk here by faith, simply because the Bible teaches it. Reverent souls will leave the matter here and thank God that He knows more about it than we do.

     4. Are some elected to be lost? Some are elected to purposes which involve being lost (as Judas, Pharaoh, and others), but this may not mean that, as far as God is concerned, they had to be lost. Yet, this does not fully answer the question. When the Bible says concerning Pharaoh, "Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee," it must be speaking there of raising him up to his position as king and not of bringing him into the world. But the language in verse 15 of this same chapter is strong: "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," etc. It seems that everybody would be lost without election and calling. Men don't have to be elected to be lost; they are already lost. But if God does not choose some to salvation, it is the same thing as electing them to be lost. There seems to be no satisfactory answer to this question, and so, by implication, Paul leaves it thus in Romans 9:14-24.

     Considering man's attitude toward God, it would seem that the marvel is, not that some are lost without election, but that anybody is saved. Our Lord is an outraged God, not only by our outright rebellion against His will in His own universe and creation, but against Jesus Christ who died to save us from our vicious self life and sin. By all standards of justice He ought to sink us in Hell, but, by saving us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, He outshines us in glory by showing that an outraged God can be merciful even at such a cost. Surely, He does not save people merely because they are lost, or He would save everybody. He must do it to show His goodness and to reveal to us a kind of being unknown to our benighted minds (Ephesians 2:4-7; I Peter 2:9; 1:7; Romans 9:23; Galatians 1:4).

     We should preach in order to call the lost to salvation, but, in a larger sense, we should do it to carry out the expressed will of God. He may have other purposes in preaching the gospel than only that of calling the lost to salvation. It may be also to witness against rejectors and to increase responsibility. Of all these we cannot fully know, but He is the one who must determine the full purpose of the gospel. We are committed to preach it in all the world to every creature. He will accomplish His purposes.

     5. A common theory of election is that God knew who would accept salvation, and these He elected to salvation on that basis. This is not election; this is God's agreeing to man's own choice. Besides, as we have shown, nobody will turn to Christ unless the Spirit draw him (John 6:44). Knowing this, God elected some to be saved, and He draws them to the Saviour by the hearing of the Word and the work of the Spirit.

     6. Does this belief in election tend to dampen the spirit of evangelism? If viewed wholly from man's position, it certainly does. If I rely on my own reasoning, it discourages me? Repeating a thought or two, if, as we teach, salvation is wholly independent of any merit on our part, I cannot see why God does not save everybody. I do not see how God can let a man be born in sin with no choice about his condition, set against God by nature, helpless to free himself from this nature, refuse to call him to eternal life, make him responsible and let him go to Hell. Such a doctrine is repulsive to our thinking. But, likewise, I cannot see how a man can know so much about his sin and rebellion against God as some men admit they do, the certainty of death and Hell, the advantage of a better life here and Heaven to come, the love expressed in the sacrifice of Jesus, and still willfully reject the Saviour. I can solve one about as well as I can the other. So, I must submit the whole thing to the revelation God gives and go on.

     7. Does God convict some whom He does not finally save? On this matter the writer is not sure, though at this time he leans to the view that He does. There are so many shades of conviction - conviction of the flesh and conviction of the Spirit (See the author's tract, Saved or Deceived - Which?). There may be a conviction of the Word alone, and one of the Spirit through the Word. The parable of the sower could well be related here. Just as there is a general call, there may be also a general conviction of some sort. The writer has more thoughts on the matter, but it does not seem necessary to enlarge upon them here.

     8. Is it necessary to accept the doctrine of "particular atonement" in order to believe in God's sovereign election? No! On "particular atonement" we have not a fixed opinion at this time, but on election we do. That the reader may better interpret what we have written, we would say at this writing that we believe the atonement Godward is general. That is, it puts God in a position where He can justify a believer without violating His holiness. The ground of salvation is the satisfaction Jesus made to an outraged God through His sacrifice. In this realm, salvation is possible to all men. The condition of salvation is repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is brought about in the individual by the Spirit through the Word. In other words, the sacrifice or the ground of salvation is Godward and general for all men. The repentance and faith is manward, and specific to those whom the Spirit calls - the elect. The sovereignty of God is nowhere violated in this arrangement. Repentance and faith are the conditions by which salvation becomes personal to man, and these are the sovereign gifts of God through the means and methods which He Himself has ordained. Hence, there is no idea of faith becoming a work of merit, as some are wont to argue.

     9. What about the infant, the irrational, and those who have never heard the gospel? In the first place, in relation to all these, God will do right, whatever He does. In the case of the infant, the writer believes that they are safe under the general sacrifice, though not saved, and if they should die in infancy, they are saved by the grace of God because they are not responsible. We know that this needs elaboration, but we cannot do it here. The idiot or irrational will come under the same head. (However, if one has had opportunity and assumed responsibility in life, then comes to the misfortune of insanity or like condition, he is still responsible). Those who have not heard the gospel, but are rational and responsible for the light they have, must be judged in the light of their knowledge. As far as the Scripture is concerned, they will be lost, but their judgment will be in accord with their responsibility (Romans 1 and 2). We cannot find it now, but somewhere in Dr. W. T. Connor's works on theology we remember reading something like this: There is a large group of people between the infant and mentally deficient on the one hand, and those who have heard the gospel on the other hand, whose judgment and destiny we will have to leave in the hands of an all-wise, just, and merciful God. As a matter of fact, that is where we will leave it, whether we wish to or not.

     10. Does the writer believe in mission work, preaching the gospel to the lost and seeking their salvation? Yes, by all scriptural means! How can one read the Bible and not believe this? The New Testament is a missionary Book throughout. Such passages as Ephesians 1:13, Romans 10:8-17, Matthew 28:19-20, and many similar passages are all impelling in their obligation to "preach the word" that the lost may hear and be saved. Whether or not God can save lost men without this is not the question; this is the way He does save them, and that is all that matters.

     "Jesus Christ through his death repurchased or bought back the whole lost human race, including the earth, man's habitat. The whole of it and all its peoples passed thereby under his sovereignty. What debt they once owed to the law they now owe to him, the surety who paid the debt. From his mediatorial throne he offers to forgive this debt now due him to all who will accept him. But all alike reject him. The Father, through the Spirit, graciously inclines some to accept him. Thus, those really saved are saved according to the election and foreordination of God, not operative in the atonement which was general, but in the Spirit's application which was special. Those thus saved were originally promised by the Father to the Son. He dies for the whole world as the expression of the Father's universal love. He died for his elect . . . as his promised reward." - (Stated by B. H. Carroll from The Philosophy of Religion, by William C. Buck).


     The author is open to further light on all points, and in no sense has he attempted to be exhaustive on any matter. Of one thing he is sure: Those who reject the doctrine of election must explain why a man of "free will" chooses to go to Hell instead of to Heaven.

First Printing 3,000 Copies, January 1960
Second Printing 5,000 Copies, June 1968
Transcribed and proofread May 2003
Bro. Kazee died in 1976.

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