What difference does believing in individual election really make? Or, is this one of those issues of no consequence like that of medieval scholastics who debated how many angels could sit upon the head of a pin? That the issue deeply divides folk who otherwise are in broad agreement in biblical things is without dispute. The question that we are asking is whether that division is one of the flesh on the part of those who adhere to individual election. Does it really make any significant difference whether a person believes in individual election, collective election, or no election at all? Will believing or rejecting this concept have any real impact upon how much conformity to the image of the Son of God is accomplished in the life of the one who deals thus with it?
Obviously, we believe that there is a significant relationship between the doctrine as taught in the Scriptures and the success in life of those who are seeking to be like the Son of God in character and moral purity. We certainly would not have spent all of the time required to get this material together and into print if we felt it to be inconsequential. But, can we give good reason for such a persuasion?
In our study of John 6, in Chapter II of this endeavor, we attempt to demonstrate that one cannot progress in discipleship without joyfully embracing the facts which relate to the matter of God's individual election of some men to life. Certainly, if this is true, it means that a proper apprehension of this doctrine and a proper use of it in daily matters is critical.
It is our intent in this chapter to point out some of the more obvious relationships between the doctrine of the individual election of some men to life and some of the other critical truths which affect the way we function. We want to demonstrate the relationship and cruciality of election to the fundamental security of the believer, the character of God, the impact upon believing men, and the helpful division of some of the goats from the sheep.
First, we want to, again, turn our attention to the context of Romans 8-12. Here we have an important context for dealing with the matter of election and its relationship to the security of the believer. It is within this context that we find the phrase which we have adopted for the title of our study -- "the election of grace" (Romans 11:5; KJV). It is also this context which deals with the matters which relate to the deepening of the commitment of the disciple to his Lord.
As we pointed out in Chapter 1, the issue of Romans 9-11 is tied to Paul's attempt in Romans 12:1-2 to persuade the Roman believers to completely yield themselves to God as "living sacrifices" so that they may demonstrate in their lifestyles that "good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (KJV). The doctrine of the absolute security of the elect of God, which is taught in Romans 8:26-39, is the logical foundation for such an appeal as we have in Romans 12. But, there was a major problem in the minds of those first century believers that had the potential for undermining such a commitment as Paul calls for in becoming a "living sacrifice". That problem had to do with the matter of God's election. The problem, basically stated, is: "what is the advantage of being the elect of God if Israel was God's elect and He set Israel aside, thus invalidating His integrity and Word?". The cause of the problem was twofold: first, it was commonly understood that Israel was God's elect; and, second, it was painfully clear that God had set aside this "elect nation". Thus, the conclusion was that there is no significant benefit to being His elect -- since it will not keep one from being set aside. And, if that be so, presenting myself to Him as a living sacrifice might turn out to be a terrific waste -- because His promises to me may turn out to be just as fruitless for me as they seem to have been for Israel. How Paul deals with this problem is shown in Romans 9-11. There he proves that God's integrity and individual election mean absolute security without the possibility of condemnation for His elect. Then, having proven that, he called upon the Roman believers to respond to these "mercies of God" by turning their lives over to Him without qualification -- since He only intends good for His specially elect.
Therefore, since Paul goes to great pains to make sure that the Roman believers know that they are unconditionally secure in the love of God, we may be sure that the matter of security is not unimportant. In fact, we may legitimately conclude that not only is it not unimportant, it is critical.
Since it is critical that we know of our security if we are to become genuine disciples, we want to explore the things which Paul taught about election that refuted the false concepts which were causing doubt in these Roman believers.
First, the concept of a national election of Israel needs to be clarified. It is no accident that those who teach "volitional theology" (which boils down to salvation by human effort) almost invariably opt for a concept of "national" or "collective" election. Israel under Law had developed a legal system for attaining to righteousness. And, under that system, they held to a concept of "national election" -- which guaranteed only that the nation would endure. It did not guarantee that any specific individuals would endure. Their enduring would be the result of their obedience, not of God's election. But, the inherent illogic of a guaranteed "whole" without a guarantee of the individual " parts" created a major difficulty -- which all legalists solve by means of establishing their own righteousness by selective obedience to certain "more critical" commands of God and a self-imposed blindness to their gross sinfulness. This illogic is thus compensated for by a rigid self-righteousness which insures (in the mind of the legalist) the continuance of some of the parts so that the whole will also endure. After all, as long as we are sure that we are doing all that we are supposed to be doing, we are relatively secure in our minds that we are a part of God's elective purposes. And, it is precisely this confidence in our performance that makes us self-righteous and blind to our gross and continuing failure to be doing all that we are supposed to be doing.
Paul, in his treatment of this faulty and legalistic concept of election, does NOT deny that the nation is going to endure, for he says...
"And so ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (Romans 11:26-27; KJV).
But, he DOES deny that the endurance of the individual parts of the nation is dependent upon their performance, for he says...
"...THE DELIVERER...SHALL TURN AWAY UNGODLINESS from Jacob..."(KJV).
And he says...
"For the children being not yet born NEITHER HAVING DONE ANY GOOD OR EVIL, THAT THE PURPOSE GOD ACCORDING TO ELECTION MIGHT STAND, NOT WORKS, BUT OF HIM THAT CALLETH" (Romans 9:11; KJV).
And he says...
"So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (Romans 9:16; KJV).
Therefore, Paul clearly shows that the "nation" will endure precisely because God has guaranteed that the individual parts will be saved -- not because of their obediences, but because of God's elective purposes and His calling.
Now, it is this doctrine of individual election that establishes the basis for the security of the believer and makes possible an unconditional surrender of love. The "collective electionists" call for such a surrender, but it cannot happen out of love. It happens out of fear -- for it must be done or there is Hell to pay. The individual electionists call for such a surrender, and it does happen because the elect are free from the fear of Hell and are full of love for a God who would choose them to partake of His blessing -- though they are totally without merit.
But, there is another aspect of this matter of the elect's security that deserves our attention: the matter of his knowledge of his election. It is an interesting fact that neither Paul, nor John, nor Peter, teach that a man is secure in salvation by professing to believe in Christ. Neither do they teach that a man is secure in salvation by virtue of his obedience to certain demands of the Lord. They all teach that the elect are secure, but none teach that those who profess to believe, or that those who do certain works, are secure. In other words, the only way a man can be secure is for him to be elect, and the only way for him to be able to function with his mind at rest in his relationship with God is for him to know of his election.
That basically means that the real issue for the one professing faith in Christ is not, ultimately, the security of the elect (though that doctrine does need to be established, and is, in Romans 9-11). Rather, it is whether, in fact , the profession of faith is genuine. In a word, the issue is "assurance" -- that what we are calling "saving faith" is, in fact, saving faith.
The problem of assurance exists because of Jesus' words in Matthew 7:22-23:
"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (KJV).
It is apparent from Jesus' statement that "many" (not just a few isolated individuals) will be suddenly and sadly confronted with the fact that they were never "known of Him". That they think, during their time on the earth, that they are serving the Lord and are fulfilling the requirements of "faith" is beyond doubt. They even carry their confidence of their salvation with them to the throne of judgment. Their claim will be that they WERE believers in Him -- calling Him "Lord" and doing all manner of wonder-producing works in His name. Yet, the reality of their profession will be exposed as lacking the necessary ingredient for salvation -- being known of Him.
That it is a FACT that this WILL happen is what generates the problem of assurance. If men are able to call Jesus "Lord" and do all kinds of great works that argue for the presence of "faith" and die and perish because they are self-deceived and deluded by those who taught them that they were saved by their works, then, who is to say that you or I are not among those so deceived? It is obvious that these deceived ones are very confident that they were "saved". It is obvious that these deceived ones believed that they had to have "evidence" of saving faith in their lives. It is also obvious that they believed they were saved because of works they did in obedience to His Word. And, since every man is right in his own eyes, who is to say that you and I are not among them?
The problem of assurance also arises from James' words in James 2:14:
"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man SAY he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?" (KJV).
The problem James raises here is the problem of what kind of faith is "saving" faith. Which, and how many, "works" must faith have produced in order for it to be saving faith? When we recognize that Jesus' words clearly show that "works" will not legitimate a dead faith, James' words raise the specter of one trusting in a dead faith and ending up condemned for eternity. And, Paul also teaches that assurance can be a real problem. He says all that he says in Romans 9-11 in order to settle that problem. And, he teaches just prior to all of that material that we cannot know of our election unless we have "the witness of the Spirit" for he says...
"The Spirit [Himself] beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16; KJV).
Thus, the fact that the elect are secure before God in salvation is no real comfort unless we can know of our election. But, Paul, Peter, and John all teach that one CAN know such a thing.
Paul, for instance, clearly says that the Spirit "beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God". Now, to say that this is an ineffective witness that cannot lay the matter to rest is to challenge the persuasive abilities of the Spirit. Paul claims that this ministry of the Spirit is sufficient for the believer to give him assurance. And, with this John fully concurs for he says...
"And HEREBY we know that he abideth in us, BY THE SPIRIT WHICH HE HATH GIVEN US" (I John 3:24; KJV).
However, John, recognizing that the internal witness of the Spirit is a subjective thing, goes further in his first epistle. He also says...
"And HEREBY we do know that we know Him, IF WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS" (I John 2:3; KJV).
And he also says...
"We know that we have passed from death unto life, BECAUSE WE LOVE THE BRETHREN" (I John 3:14; KJV).
Now, recognize these things: first, John is not denying the effectiveness of the witness of the Spirit by adding other witnesses (he is merely acknowledging the fact that if one has never had the witness of the Spirit, he might THINK he had such a witness by some internal FEELING and, thus, be misled); second, John is not saying that one BECOMES elect BY KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS, or BY LOVING THE BRETHREN (he is merely establishing that the elect alone have a faith that produces this kind of evidence -- so that, if these evidences are there, election must be a fact in the life); and, third, John did not write his letter to folk of the same mindset as those to whom James wrote (James was attacking the idea that profession of faith meant one was saved, while John was writing to earnest believers who were having their assurance attacked by intellectuals -- so called -- who claimed that such knowledge could only come through their particular branch of "superior knowledge".
And, there is another thing that must be recognized: that some actually object to the doctrine of individual election as a foundation for the security of believers. They say that the idea of "once saved, always saved" causes many to abuse the grace of God and trust in a faulty concept that leaves them empty handed before the throne of judgment. And, we would be somewhat remiss if we did not address this objection.
First, it must be clearly recognized just what the objection is. There are those who say that they have faith in Jesus as their Saviour, who live like the children of Hell. And, they claim that they will go to heaven when they die because "once saved, always saved" is a true doctrine. This kind of distortion of the truth IS objectionable to any who really hunger and thirst after righteousness. But, the proper course of objection is not to deny the security of the believer. John approaches the issue properly when he says...
"Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: WHOSOEVER DOETH NOT RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT OF GOD, NEITHER HE THAT LOVETH NOT HIS BROTHER" (I John 3:7-10; KJV,)
What John is saying is that one cannot claim to have been "once saved" with the result that he is "always saved" if his lifestyle is not one of growth in obedience and love. Therefore, when a person flagrantly violates biblical teaching and yet claims to be sure of going to heaven when he dies because he knows he was "once" saved and that that means that he will "always" be saved, he is lying both to himself and to those to whom he speaks. The point is this: John does not deny the security of the elect who come to genuine faith at a specific point in time in this epistle on "how to know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). Instead, he challenges the validity of the claim to have saving faith in the absence of its fruit. This is exactly the same tack that James took in his letter when he challenged the assumption of faith in the face of the absence of its fruit (James 2:14). And Paul also had no place for the abuse of truth by the mere profession of faith (Ephesians 5:6-7), not to mention Jude's polemic against distorters of the grace of God (Jude 4).
Therefore, the issue that the biblical writers confront is not whether "once saved, always saved" is debatable -- for they all teach the unconditional security of the individually elect. But, they DO challenge the legitimacy of claiming to have been "once saved" on the basis of some emotional decision that did not later bear fruit. THE point the biblical authors always challenge is the reality of the presence of faith -- if there is no fruit of the Spirit. The life of God cannot be IN a person without showing forth the evidence of its presence in the life.
Therefore, since the biblical authors both maintain the security of the individually elect and deny the security of those who profess to have been saved, but who show forth no evidence of that salvation, why do men today want to throw out election because of the possibility of abuse? We would like to suggest two answers: first, their objection to the doctrine is so strong as to make their thinking foggy; and, second, because of their blindness to their own abuse of grace. Everyone abuses the grace of God. This does not make it acceptable or tolerable, but it is, nonetheless, a fact. Wanting to deny salvation to those who abuse that grace, without denying it to oneself, is nothing more or less than legalistic Pharisaism. The adherents to individual election have no basis for such Pharisaism for their salvation does not spring out of their performance (either in BELIEVING, or in DOING). For them to deny salvation/security to the professing believer who lives like the devil is to do as the Scriptures do: to deny that election is ineffective in the lives of the elect.
Thus, Paul, and John, both taught that earnest believers COULD know of their election. Neither taught that insincere professors of faith could have such knowledge. And with this Peter fully concurs, for he says...
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall..." (II Peter 1:10; KJV).
The "things" of which he speaks are defined in verses 5-7 of the same chapter. They are all things which have to do with the building of character -- not the doing of works which produce wonder.
Therefore, in summary, let us point out these things: first, assurance of one's election is only possible for the serious believer who is not attempting to use the grace of God as an excuse for loose living; second, assurance does not come by reason of obedience to certain specific commands (be baptized, confess Christ publicly, join a church, etc.) but, rather, arises from the presence of obedience (not perfection; but obedience) and love for the brethren; and third, assurance ultimately is something that the Spirit gives the children of God so that they might know their election so that they might know of their security before God.
So, the doctrine of individual election is the basis for faithful "love-service" to God. It ALONE gives a solid foundation for assurance of salvation.
That brings us to the second part of our study of the importance of this doctrine: its relationship to the truth about the character of God. There are several attributes of God which are tied directly to the doctrine of individual election. The arguments that are marshaled against individual election end up being attacks upon the character of God.
First, there is the attribute of omniscience. One opponent of individual election glibly wrote a published article in which he declared that "God knows every thing", but, in a personal, private conversation with this author he denied that God knew who would be saved. His argument was that God COULD know every thing IF He wanted to, but in order to give men real freedom of choice, He refused to know who would be saved. What he was claiming was that God is "omniscible" (capable of knowing all), but not omniscient (knowing all). This makes the debate properly "theological" (concerning the true character of God). The refutation of individual election is directly tied to a refutation of omniscience, for if it can be sustained that God is genuinely omniscient (and always has been), it cannot be denied that that omniscience made the writing of the names of the elect in the Book of Life possible even before those persons ever existed.
There are two basic objections to tying individual election to omniscience. The first is that omniscience is like omnipotence. In this argument it is argued that God's refusal to exercise all power does not mean that He is not all-powerful, and therefore His refusal to know who will be saved does not mean that He is not capable of knowing. But, this argument falls flat when once it is recognized that knowledge and power are vastly different in essence. It is possible for God to be all-powerful and only exercise a portion of that power in His doings. It is not possible to be all-knowing without knowing all. The SELECTIVE USE of knowledge is wisdom, not the blotting out of information that does not need to be used at the present time. So, God is either omniscient or omniscible, BUT HE IS NOT BOTH. And, it is recognized generally that to deny God's omniscience is to be an heretic.
Then, secondly, there is the objection that omniscience should not be tied to individual election because omniscience does not necessitate the individual selection of men by God. It is argued that God could have used omniscience to see who would choose to believe in Him (leaving the choice up to men) and then writing their names into the Book. But, that is mere semantics and humanizing of God. Omniscience is not something that God uses to find out something. If he had to find out, He was not omniscient. Omniscience is not some massive library in heaven where all knowledge is stored -- to which God appeals when He needs to know a thing! Omniscience is God's present knowledge of every fact that has, had, or will have, existence, real or potential. Thus, though omniscience ITSELF does not mean that God chose whoever would be saved, it does mean that God has always known who would be. Therefore, the salvation of the elect has been fixed from eternity past -- by SOMEONE or SOMETHING. And, since God alone inhabits eternity, He is ultimately the one who "fixed" the issue.
The next attribute that is called into question when individual election is questioned is that of wisdom. This attribute is closely tied to omniscience, but differs from it in that omniscience is simply knowing all, whereas wisdom is the skillful use of all of that knowledge. To say that God would have created a universe without KNOWING the exact outcome of ALL of the details involved BEFORE He created not only denies His omniscience, but also attributes Him with foolishness. The person who does something that brings an undesired result is said to be foolish or unwise. To say that God did not know exactly the outcome of every detail of His actions before He acted is to accuse Him of foolishness. Thus, God's wisdom supports the individual election of men because He knew with wisdom that unless He specifically intervened in the lives of the elect with special grace, they would remain in bondage to the sin that was to control humanity.
Then there is the matter of the grace of God. According to Romans 11:5-6, where we got our title for this study, grace ceases to be grace if there is any human production involved in the consideration of who is elected. There we read:
"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: OTHERWISE GRACE IS NO MORE GRACE..." (KJV).
Here Paul unequivocally establishes that grace is not grace if it is tied to human doings of any kind.
This fact is the more established for us if we but remember that what Paul is calling "the election of grace" was previously plainly declared to be completely disconnected from human doings -- good or evil -- in Romans 9:11 where we read:
"(For the children BEING NOT YET BORN, neither HAVING DONE ANY GOOD OR EVIL, that the purpose of God ACCORDING TO ELECTION might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth)" (KJV).
Here it is indisputable that Jacob's and Esau's destinies ("the elder shall serve the younger", Rom. 9:12; KJV) were settled BEFORE they ever historically lived or did any works -- good or evil. And, it is indisputable that God settled those destinies before their births so that His purpose ACCORDING TO ELECTION might stand. It is this election that Paul calls "the election of grace" in Romans 11:5.
Therefore, to disbelieve in individual election and to alter it so that it be comes non-election or collective election, is to alter the grace of God and corrupt the glory of God into the inferior glory of the creature. At the heart of every distortion of Truth is a distortion of the glory of God.
And not only this, but also Ephesians 1:3-6 plainly declares that the particular glory of God called "grace" is most plainly manifested (so as to be recognizable and, thus, be praised) by predetermination. There we are told that God's predestination of some to the adoption of children was "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (KJV). Thus, predetermination is the essence of grace. It is so because only by predetermination can human performance be TOTALLY excluded from consideration (and, this is GOOD because if He MUST consider our actions, He MUST cast us away). Only because God chose Jacob over Esau BEFORE their births can we see just how completely grace is separated from human doings.
The objection that predestination in Ephesians 1 is in view of adoption and not in view of justification is mere semantics. If God can predetermine ANY one to ANY destiny at ANY time, the issue of grace is firmly established for He can also predetermine ALL to THEIR RESPECTIVE destinies for ALL time. If ONE act of predetermination does not violate God's character, then TOTAL predetermination would not violate that character either. Predetermination is just that: PREDETERMINATION. And predetermination is inescapably tied to grace. If we eliminate prior choice, we eliminate grace. And, if we alter, so as to effectively eliminate, grace, we certainly are not likely to be saved by it.
That brings us to the third major aspect of the impact of believing in the individual election of men to life: the fundamental impact of election upon elect men. Just as it is true that men cannot lovingly live for God while insecure in their relationship to Him, it is also true that men cannot humbly live for God while they think that THEY had the really significant part to play in their salvation. Just as it is true that men have to distort a particular group of the characteristics of God in order to disbelieve in individual election, it is also true that men have to distort the biblical concept of humility in order to retain a belief in their OWN part in their salvation.
How is this?
There is really only one ultimate cause of man's refusal to really live for God: pride. It was at the beginning that the Adversary suggested to that original pair that they could "be as God". There was an effective use of the appeal to the strong desires of the flesh (the fruit of the forbidden tree was seen to be good for food); there was a complementary appeal to the strong desires of the sight (the fruit was a delight to the eyes); but, in the final analysis, it was the appeal to pride that won the day (Eve saw that the fruit was desirable to make her "wise" -- "like God"). The same tactic was used millennia later when the Son of David had embarked upon His ministry. There was an appeal to the strong desire of the flesh (hunger was to be satisfied by the turning of stones to bread); there was an appeal to the strong attraction of what could be seen (all of the glory of all of the kingdoms of the world was compressed into a momentary visual presentation, and offered to Him); but the really difficult temptation was the appeal to "be somebody" ("force God to protect you because of who you are by casting yourself off of the temple") -- this was nothing more or less than an appeal to the "pride of life" (1 John 2:16: KJV). To our enormous benefit, Jesus refused this blatant appeal to make God His servant (rather than being God's servant) and, instead, went forth to "taste death for every man" (Hebrews 2:9; KJV) as the servant of the Lord.
Since, therefore, pride is the fundamental problem, it stands to reason that the solution to the problems that stand between men and God would deal with this root. And, the biblical gospel of grace and its implicit concept of individual election does just that.
First, note with us that Paul alluded to the potential problem of salvation by human effort in Romans 3:27. He here said...
"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith" (KJV).
Then, so that we would not mistake his meaning, he gave the example of how Abraham came to be justified before God just five verses further. There he said...
"What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, HE HATH WHEREOF TO GLORY; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Romans 4:1-3; KJV).
Here again he pointedly declares that THE significant problem with man is his propensity to boast (pride). And, he declares that the gospel of faith eliminates the foundation for such boasting by making salvation dependent upon God for all of the necessary "works".
There are those today who foolishly claim that there are works which men can do apart from special enabling grace of which they cannot later boast. But, that is nonsense. Anything that a man can do on his own is a valid foundation for future boasting. It is only as a man sees himself as incapable apart from the special enabling grace of God that he can do works by means of that grace and remain unconceited. As long as a man thinks that he has done something that other men could have done but refused to do, he will always have a smug sense of superiority to those who could and should have done what he should and did do.
Thus, Paul takes away all of the works which a man can do as being effective for his salvation. In effect, he says that none of the works have anything to do with bringing man to salvation. That is what Abraham found to be true -- and that is what all of the real sons of Abraham still find today.
But, there are some who, rejecting their works as effective in bringing about their salvation, yet remain proud of themselves. For, say they, salvation is by faith and I DID THE BELIEVING. And, since, in their thinking, all men have the responsibility and capability to believe, the fact that THEY have lived up to THEIR responsibility and believed makes them superior to all those who have not done the same. And, though professing great humility and concern for those who reject their Christ, they secretly acknowledge that the REAL difference between themselves and the rejecters is THEIR WISDOM in believing.
To these also Paul said something:
"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, LEST YE SHOULD BE WISE IN YOUR OWN CONCEITS; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:25; KJV).
His point is that the REAL difference between the believer and the unbeliever is not the believer's wise acceptance of salvation by faith. Rather, the REAL difference is God's plan to same some of the Gentiles BY HARDENING some of the Jews. Thus, though the saved Gentiles did believe, and the hardened Jews did not believe, the real difference was not in the WISDOM of the Gentiles -- but in the plan of God over which those Gentiles exercised no control.
And, the implication of his statement is that, in the final analysis, even the faith to believe must be granted of God. And this Paul plainly teaches in two specific places (at least).
First, Romans 12:3 says...
"For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, ACCORDING AS GOD HATH DEALT TO EVERY MAN THE MEASURE OF FAITH" (KJV).
Paul's point here is that among those who have believed (the "dealt to EVERY MAN" is defined by the earlier "EVERY MAN that is among you" -- believers), there is a specific danger of proudly assuming that it is one's own exercise of faith that causes him to differ from his brother and makes him more able than that brother. He completely destroys that basis for pride by pointedly declaring that men have faith as God allots it to them. And, in verse six of this same chapter, he clarifies his statement so that misunderstanding will not occur by saying that God gives varying "portions" of faith -- so that one may be more capable than another because he has more faith than the other. But, since the faith came from God and the proportion was determined by Him, the man of great faith cannot boast because he is not the author or determiner of that faith.
Because Paul dealt with the problem of pride as soon as he had covered the way of salvation by faith in Romans 3, and because he again addresses the matter of pride as soon as he begins to deal with committed Christian living in Romans 12, we know that he saw pride as a major stumbling block to men. He eliminates pride regarding salvation by eliminating works as a foundation for salvation. Then, to keep pride at bay he eliminated faith as a human production in his treatment of the believing lifestyle.
This he also does in Philippians 1:29:
"For unto you IT IS GIVEN in the behalf of Christ, not only TO BELIEVE on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (KJV).
Here Paul plainly says that "to believe" is "given". He also says that that gift was NOT on man's behalf, but Christ's.
As long as men can look at other men with a sense of self-produced difference, they will walk in pride. But, once a man begins to see that the differences exist because of God's gracious plan, he can walk in humility -- seeing God as the author of all of the commendable things about him; even his faith.
Now, what does this all have to do with the doctrine of the individual election of men? Everything. As long as men do not believe in election, the differences that exist between them will be seen by them as self-produced. And, the pride of self-accomplishment will reign in their lives. For example, one man confided to this author that because he had made certain decisions and learned certain biblical truths that some of his acquaintances had not made, nor learned, he was bothered by his tendency to look down upon them as somehow inferior. A bit of probing turned up his reason: he believed that he, himself, had made the decisions and was responsible for what he had learned. This is the inescapable result of the rejection of the concept of individual election where GOD makes men to differ by HIS actions.
The doctrine of individual election, alone, satisfies the need for a proper foundation for humility. If I am a believer because of my production of the required faith, then I may legitimately look down my nose on all those who have not also believed. And, if I have come to my understanding of Scripture on my own, by my own diligence in study which I have accomplished, then I may legitimately look down my nose at all those who have wasted their lives by refusing to learn of God. On the other hand, if my ability to believe, and my diligence in study (whatever amount there is) has been generated by God in me, then I have no real basis for pride at all. That is not to say that I will not be proud. It is merely to say that 1 will have no foundation for it.
Paul says it this way in I Corinthians 4:6-7:
"...that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (KJV).
His point here, as well as in Romans 12 and Philippians 1, is that the differences that exist are caused by the differences in the gifts which God has given to men. And those gifts include faith.
Thus, acceptance of the doctrine of individual election is critical to the establishment of a legitimate foundation for humility. That does not mean that all who accept it will be humble (unfortunately some of the proudest of men are they who also claim to believe in individual election). But, it does mean that those who reject it will automatically not be able to be really humble. This is why the doctrine is so critical to the development of real disciples (as we show in Chapter II).
This brings us to the final issue of this chapter and this theological endeavor: the helpfulness of the doctrine in leaving us a valid criterion for the evaluation of those who profess to be from God and led by His Spirit. Since it was the concepts of human depravity and individual election that was a major stumbling block to "many of his disciples" (John 6:64; KJV), it takes little thought to come to the conclusion that anyone who rejects the doctrine of individual election and its corollary, human depravity, is among those who have ceased to walk with Him in any real sense of the idea.
Now, therefore, IF a person REJECTS the doctrine of individual election, it matters not how religiously he speaks of his commitment to God and His Word. The fact is that he has rejected biblical truth that is critical to his development as a disciple and that rejection has stifled the potential that he had for such development. Therefore, he can and should be treated as a potential "goat" by those who depend upon the fellowship of the "sheep" for their own edification.
That does not mean, however, that everyone who claims to believe in individual election and human depravity is, by that CLAIM, automatically one of the "sheep" and therefore trustworthy. It simply means that everyone who rejects those truths is likely to not be "sheep" and therefore cannot be depended upon as an instrument of God for the edification of His people. For, he who rejects the doctrine of the Word, rejects the Word.
Nor does it mean that the treatment of one as a "goat" should be disdainful and derogatory. Rather, it should be carefully loving as Jude exhorts in verse 23 of his instruction concerning "earnestly contending for the faith". Loving care, however, NEVER means withdrawing from the truth. It DOES mean speaking that truth for the sake of the hearer and not for the sake of the reputation of the speaker.
So, in summary, the value of the doctrine of individual election is genuinely seen in several areas that are critical to life. It has a definite impact upon the whole concept of human security before God; upon the specific meaning of several of the attributes of God (which directly affect our living); upon the production of honest humility before God; and, upon the necessary evaluation of who is likely to be trustworthy in setting the truth of God before us.