While all 5 points of T.U.L.I.P have their objections and detractors, there is none so mysterious as Unconditional Election.
Indeed, it is not implying that God’s election has no conditions at all but rather that the conditions are not to be found in the mortal realm (Deuteronomy 29:29). God does not first perceive whether any individual will come to faith in the future (as in Arminianism) or in possible multiverse worlds (as in Molinism) to decide if he/she should be elected.
Romans 8:29-30 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.
Those who quote Romans 8:29 in support of conditional election emphasise the word ‘foreknow’ as the antecedent to salvation. But just because God knows in advance who will and won’t be His sheep doesn’t mean that election depends on this knowledge.
In fact, the “know” in ‘foreknow’ (v29) is a euphemism for physical relationship; e.g. And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain…(Genesis 4:1), Joseph knew not Mary until Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25).
This implies an intimate relationship, not just a passive observation of the subject. Therefore, each step outlined in Romans 8:29-30, including ‘foreknow’, is wholly initiated by God.
While some may react to this with a fatalistic despondency, far from being disempowering, it should instead greatly comfort us. The reason is that since the imparting of our salvation is not predicated on us, then the security of our salvation also does not depend on our fickle wills but on our steadfast and faithful Saviour (Romans 8:33-37).
Romans 9:19-20 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, ‘Why hast thou made me thus?’
Even when we can see the beauty of God’s sovereignty in Unconditional Election, ‘why?’ may still linger at the back of our minds. This stems from our prideful assumption that we must know ’why’ to live out our faith. This is the same sentiment that arises whenever we face negative circumstances. In both aspects, God’s response is the same.
Much like God’s indirect reply to Job’s contention about suffering (Job 40:2), the Bible makes it clear that some are predestined to be vessels of mercy and others of wrath are solely His sovereign authority (Rom 9:20). He is not obligated to share this authority or any other power for that matter with anyone, let alone His wayward children (Psalm 8:4).
And yet, He does (Philippians 4:13, 2 Timothy 1:7).
Although the word ‘strengtheneth’ in Philippians 4:13 is a verb and the word ‘power’ in 2 Timothy 1:7 is a noun, both words have the same root from which we derive the English word ‘dynamite’.
So rather than being fixated with what God has not shared with us, we should focus on what He has shared with us, which is inexhaustible. And that motivates us to ‘light it up like dynamite’ (Matthew 5:14-16).
Romans 10:14-15 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!’
As beings confined within space-time, it can feel like God patronises us with His omniscience.
Yes, God patronises us, but not in the condescending sense of the word. God patronises us because we are under His patronage. Everything that we do is only possible because of His sustenance (John 15:5). This is why even mundane and routine things like eating and drinking are worthy of thanks (when we say grace) and glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). So much more, then, we should rely on His Unconditional Election when we preach to and pray for the eternal salvation of the lost.
We should, therefore, not approach evangelism with a ‘laissez-faire’ attitude but a ‘laissez-faire à Dieu’ (leave it to God) attitude (1 Corinthians 3:6). Leave the adding of each soul to the Church to our omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God (Acts 2:47), knowing that every addition is in accordance with the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:5,11) and glory (Ephesians 1:6,12). Furthermore, every soul lost is equally for His purpose (Romans 9:22).
When we realize that God has already promised that His word will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11), we can fully trust Him, not just with the temporal outcomes and events of this life (Romans 8:28) but, all the more, with the eternal fate of every hearer. So, as our Lord Jesus said: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)