The doctrine of election is a sticking point among evangelical Christians in theological circles. The doctrine of election as it applies to salvation, for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, can be defined as the act of God whereby he chooses certain people to be saved. This doctrine has been debated over what exactly is included, but it cannot be denied that election means “to choose” and the Bible says that certain people are referred to as “the elect” (or “the chosen”). The debate about exactly what this means is not the purpose of this blog post. For a good explanation of what I believe about it, read Dr. Charles Ryrie’s “A Survey of Bible Doctrine,” pages 71-73.
Election is where God chooses certain people to be saved out of the entirety of humanity. Obviously this means He does not choose everybody. Some people take this to mean that He chooses certain people to be condemned to Hell, but I do not believe that. Every single one of us, without God, would choose Hell, and so it is a mercy that He chooses any of us. How do we know who is chosen? We know after we die, and we meet that person in Heaven. “Oh,” we’ll say, “Evidently you were chosen as well!” There’s no way to know here on earth. This is an error that some Calvinists fall into when they say “Well, if all the people that God chooses WILL be saved no matter what, then what difference does it make if we witness to others?” Why should we witness? For two reasons (in reverse order of importance:
1. We should witness because we don’t know who is elect and who isn’t. You miss out on a great blessing if you don’t tell someone how they can avoid eternal punishment in Hell.
2. We should witness because God told us to witness. This should be enough for anybody. If someone looks at the doctrine of election and says “It doesn’t matter if I witness or not”, they are in direct disobedience to God’s express commands.
This brings us to Noah. I wrote a post about Noah before, and it is still one of my most popular posts. A few weeks ago I realized that the story of Noah may very well be an example of the doctrine of election.
Did Noah warn the people about the flood? The Bible doesn’t say. But let’s assume that, because 2 Peter 2:5 says he was a “preacher of righteousness” that he DID warn the people. So it’s possible that he did warn people. It is also possible that, through his witness the people of earth could have repented just like Nineveh when Jonah said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” Jonah warned the people about their impending destruction, they repented, and God stayed His hand. But the people of Noah’s time did not repent, and God sent the flood to destroy all but those He chose. First Peter 3:20 actually says that God was patient with the people while Noah built the ark, but only eight people were saved from the flood.
We hear Sunday School lessons where people say, “Noah pleaded with the people to join him on the ark.” They may have been warned about the destruction, but the question that occurred to me was this: was anybody but Noah’s family invited onto the ark? I believe it can be shown biblically that the answer is “no.”
Genesis 6:13-21 records God’s initial instructions to Noah where He tells Noah exactly what is going to happen and what Noah needs to do. In verse 18 God says, “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” Those eight people were the only people that God elected to salvation from the flood. Verse 17 says everybody else would die. There is no place in Scripture that says that anybody except those eight people specifically were elected to be on the ark.
Did their election absolve Noah and his family of their responsibility to actually set foot on the ark? No. But did anybody else get saved from the flood? No.
Just as Noah and his family was elected to salvation from the flood and yet they still had a part in it (building the ark, actually getting on board), we too must respond to the Gospel and ask God to forgive our sins so that we can be saved. I hope and pray that all of my loved ones are elect, but I know that not all will be saved. I would echo Paul’s statement in Romans 9:3, “I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren…” Paul was willing to go to Hell if it meant that all of his fellow Israelites could be saved. God doesn’t work that way, but it’s the principle Paul was trying to get across: Love is sacrifice.
It breaks my heart to think that there are people that I love who will not join me in heaven someday. It pains me to think that my loved ones will suffer for eternity in Hell. And that is why I talk about Christ: not to offend, but to warn. I don’t want any of my family and friends banging on the door of the ark, so to speak, because they chose Hell over God. I don’t know which of them God has elected to salvation, and so I warn as many as I can.