A helpful excerpt from the chapter ‘Election’ by Sir Robert Anderson

Sir Robert Anderson, The Gospel and Its Ministry. Excerpt from Chapter on Election.
I am far from appealing to German philosophy in defense of God’ truth,
but I do enthusiastically appeal to it as a protest against the arrogance of
limiting God by the standard of our own ignorance and frailty. What is, in
plain words, the practical difficulty of election in its bearing upon the
gospel? Why, that at some epoch in the past, God decided that this or that
individual was to be saved or lost; and, therefore, that his future depends,
not on the present action of the grace or the righteousness of the living
God Who can appeal through the gospel to his heart and conscience, but
on what is nothing more or less than an iron decree of fate. May not the
whole difficulty depend on the arrogant supposition that God Himself is
bound by the same laws that He has imposed upon His creatures.
But whatever we may think of the theories of Kant, this at least is certain,
that there is no deception in the gospel as proclaimed by God to men.
“Truth is one”‘ and though to our finite minds, election and grace may
seem as far as the poles asunder, and as antagonistic as the magnetic
currents which set toward them; to the Infinite they may appear but
inseparable parts of one great whole. Every truth has its own place; and
there is no more reason why grace should be denied by dragging election
into the gospel, than why election should be denied, because, when so
thrust out of its proper sphere, it seems to be opposed to grace. “Rightly
dividing the Word of truth,” is a precept which we need to remember here.
I repeat, there is no deception in the gospel. Some men who can preach
with freedom to a multitude, are very often puzzled when face to face with
an individual: the heart and the head are at issue directly, and they either
throw their theology overboard, and preach grace boldly, or else they state
the gospel so ingeniously that the difficulty created by their views about
election is kept out of sight. In the gospel of God there is no reservation
whatsoever. And let us remember that it is His gospel, “God’s good news
concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 1:1-3) Mark also
that it is not ” concerning the sinner.” To some the distinction may appear
self-evident, and to others it may seem so trifling as almost to savor of a
quibble: but in fact it is at the root of many of our difficulties and mistakes
in gospel preaching. The gospel then is God’s good news about Christ.
And this gospel is as true for a single individual as for a crowd; and,
moreover, it is absolutely and unequivocally true whether men believe it or
not.
Another most important practical distinction is that the gospel is, strictly
speaking, not a doctrinal statement, but a divine proclamation. “Believe on
the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” was Paul’s answer to the
question of the jailer at Philippi, to explain to him that salvation was on
the principle, not of doing, but of faith in Christ. The next verse adds, ”
they spake to him the word of the Lord” that is, they preached the gospel
to him (Acts 16:30-32). Now some preachers, instead of proclaiming the
gospel, appeal unceasingly to their hearers to believe in Christ; and the
consequence is too often that, instead of having their thoughts turned to
the person and work of the Savior, people are occupied with efforts to get
faith. And the difficulty is frequently increased by reading the second
chapter of Ephesians as though “the gift of God” there spoken of were
faith (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation is the gift of God: “faith cometh by
hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
But the distinctions I have noticed, important though they be, serve only
to clear the ground for the consideration of the real question here raised —
How can grace be compatible with election? The gospel proclaims
universal reconciliation, and grace is ” to all men.”
Election, on the other hand, assumes that the believer’s blessings are the
result of a divine decree. These, it is objected, are wholly inconsistent, and
one or other of them must be explained away. Doubtless they may appear
to be incompatible, but to maintain that therefore they are so in fact, is to
put reason above revelation, or in other words, to place man above God. Is
the Christian to reject truths so plainly taught, because, forsooth, they are
beset with difficulties of a kind which even German metaphysics would
suffice to solve!
Nor are the difficulties here involved at all peculiar to the present question.
The very same objection which many Christians urge against the gospel, is
used by the infidel to prove the absurdity of prayer. Will the great God,
“in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” change His
purpose at the cry of a sinful creature? A man once “prayed earnestly that
it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years
and six months; and he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain, and the
earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:17, 18) Nor can we tolerate the
figment that the prayer itself was but another result of the inexorable rule
of fate. We do not trust in fate, but in ” living God,” and we are taught
the solemnity and reality of prayer, not merely by the record of the
blessings it has won, but by the ominous words, ” He gave them their own
desire,” (Psalm 78:29) endorsed on many a rebellious cry sent up to
heaven by His people.
But there is another prayer, of which the solemn record should suffice to
set at rest every doubt that a perverted use of the doctrine of election has
cast upon the truth of grace. The Lord Himself, though come down to
earth that He might drink the cup which brimmed over upon Calvary,
could pray, upon the very eve of Calvary, that that cup might pass from
Him. He, ” the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ” — He, who,
ere a few days had passed, could chide His doubting disciples with the
word ” ought not Christ to have suffered these things?” recapitulating in
their wondering ears the oft-told record of prophecy which Calvary
fulfilled — He found, neither in that record, nor in the divine purpose it
unfolded, anything to hinder the prayer of Gethsemane, “O My Father, if
it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” (Matthew 26:39) With Him
the dire necessity to drink it arose from no stern and irrevocable edict of
the past, but from the sovereign will of a present living God, Who, even
then, would hearken to His cry if redemption could be won at any price
less terrible and costly; and yet there are some who would rebuke a
Christian mother for pouring out her heart in prayer, without reserve or
fear, that God would save the children He has given her!
Eternity is God’ domain, but no less is ” the living present” in His hand,
and if the doctrine of election become a limitation of His power to bless
and save, it degenerates into a denial of the very truth on which it rests —
the sovereignty of Jehovah.

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About sjbjburke

I am an evangelist that enjoys Bible study and I look forward to posting outlines and receiving helpful comments. My wife and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary in 2010 and we enjoy serving the Lord together.
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