Pastor John MacArthur sermon during my research for my sermon on Sunday. The questions raised in the third paragraph are worth considering for my free-will friends.
Where does salvation begin? What’s the primitive point at which it all launches? Verse 29: “For those whom He foreknew – For those whom He foreknew.” Now, for some people, this is a meltdown point for accepting the sovereignty of God in salvation. They say, “Oh, that’s the key. He foreknew.” He, because He knows everything that’s going to happen, looked ahead and He saw what people were going to do of their own free will, and since He knew what they were going to do, He chose them to be His own.
Is that what foreknowledge is saying? He saw what was going to happen – now let me tell you, He does know the future. He knows the end from the beginning. He knows everything that’s going to happen before it’s going to happen – that is true. He does have prescience, if you want to call it that. He does have knowledge of what hasn’t happened, full knowledge of it. But is that what this is talking about? Did God just look ahead at these fully independent people and say, “Well, they’re going to believe and they’re not going to believe, so since I know who is going to believe, those are the ones I’m going to elect.”
Well, there’s several responses I have. First of all, that would make the word “elect” nonsense because He didn’t choose anything. So forget the doctrine of election because He didn’t choose anything. It would be the doctrine of a reaction. I don’t know if you want to try to preach the doctrine of divine reaction. Or perhaps you’d like to preach the doctrine of human sovereignty. Then you have to ask the question: By what power did they overcome their fallenness? By what power did these people that He looked at in the future, who had free will, overcome their depravity, their fallenness, their deadness, their blindness, their darkness? And then you’d have to ask this: If God looked ahead and saw that people would not choose the gospel and would not choose to believe and would therefore go to hell, why did He go ahead and create them? Because, you see, the only reason people come up with this idea that God simply reacted to what He knew would happen is to get Him off the hook for what happens. They’re trying to save God from a bad reputation, like being responsible for people who go to hell. So they want to say we can’t do that to God, so He’s just reacting to what people do. But then if nobody’s been created, why did He go ahead and create the people He knew would do that? Or you could even ask a tougher question: Why did He create people who had the potential to do that unless He had a purpose for that happening? You don’t get God off the hook in the end any way you try. What’s happening is within His purpose.