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"I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy"

By Scott Tibbs, May 31, 2011

I will be honest. I used to sneer at the doctrine of election, dismissing it as a cruel and heartless view of God that unfairly and arbitrarily condemns people. I am not alone. As Americans, we generally hate the doctrine of election. We worship self-determination, so the doctrine of election goes directly against the basic principles we hold as Americans.

But as Christians, we do not worship the United States of America. We worship Jesus Christ, who willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins and took the punishment we so richly deserve. As Christians, we look to the Bible for what we should believe about our faith, so our views on election must be based on Scripture.

So what does the Bible say?

  • Ephesians 1:3-5 says that we were chosen "before the foundation of the world" and that God the Father "predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ."
  • Acts 13:48 says of Gentiles that heard the Gospel that "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."

Those are just three examples, as the doctrine of election is woven throughout Scripture. From God choosing Jacob over Esau to God picking the nation of Israel, it is clear that God is the one who decides.

But that's not fair. Right? Wrong. We are all responsible for whether we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and God is not wrong for showing mercy on some but not others. As Romans 9:15 teaches, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Instead of looking at it as unfair, we should be grateful that God chose any of us to be saved instead of sending all of us to Hell like we deserve.

As much as I used to sneer at election and as much as my wicked heart still hates it today, it is a beautiful doctrine because it is not our righteousness that brings mercy from God. We cannot look to our salvation with pride and say we are Christians because it was something we did or something we chose. We are fully dependent on God for our salvation and our faith, something that should obliterate our idolatrous pride. As our Lord said in John 6:37, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."

Thank you, Lord, for showing compassion on me, a wretched and wicked sinner.