Scripture: In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:5-6 ESV
Observation: Regarding salvation, words like “election” and “free will” sadly divide denominations rather than unite. Election may leave some of us feeling that God discriminates. Nevertheless, in chapter 9 of Romans, Paul clearly states that salvation does not depend on our will or exertion but the act of our merciful God (verse 16). Moreover, Scripture supports that the Holy Spirit woos us to repentance and reconciliation through hearing or reading the Gospel. Thus, election’s strength rests in the assurance that we can do nothing to earn our salvation—not even having to muster enough faith. We believe because God loves us and desires to connect with us. It’s all grace from start to finish.
In contrast, free will inherently concludes that we take part in the salvation process and choose to be adopted. This stance is more appealing to most of us because it seems more inclusive. But the first position does not negate our free will. Instead, it embraces another aspect of the paradox of God’s sovereignty in conjunction with our free will. If we understand that God created time and space and is unrestricted by these dimensions, then God must know everything about us, including our decisions, outside of the universe’s timeline. Thus, he elects those whom he already knows will desire to be in a relationship with him.
Takeaway: You may find the above explanation unsatisfactory. Fortunately for all of us, aligning with the right side of the debate is not essential for salvation. The common thread for either position is that our Lord yearns to be in a loving relationship with us. And because sin separates us from our Holy God, he took extraordinary measures to disempower sin’s grip on our hearts and minds and set us free from guilt and shame, that we would learn to love him with the godly love that he first extended to us in the gift of his Son. And because the Father and Son will let no one or nothing steal us away from them, they sent the Holy Spirit to reside with our spirits as a “guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (verse 14). And what is our inheritance? Eternal joy with our Beloved. Therefore, let us walk out our faith in confidence that we can do nothing to earn our salvation or God’s approval and that nothing can separate us from his love for us.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for choosing to adopt us your children and for sending us your Holy Spirit to assure us of your love for us and deepen our love for you. Would you please help us set aside all fears and doubts of our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters and confidently live out our faith, loving others as you love us? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling