Arminian Election: God has chosen our Lord Jesus Christ, such that Jesus is the Elect One, and us too, but only by extension of Himself, as His body, so that believers constitute “the elect” inasmuch as we are identified with Him. Stated another way, Arminian Election is “in Christ,” and we become elect when we join the elect Body. We are not elect in ourselves. We are jointly elect in Christ and with Christ.
Isaiah 42:1: “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”
Luke 9:35: “Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’”
1st Peter 2:6: “For this is contained in Scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and He who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’”
Now contrast that with Calvinistic Election:
Calvinistic Election: We are the Elect. God picked certain of mankind to be glorified with God, and without explanation as to why some were chosen in place of others. This election is not based upon our identification with Christ, but rather, an election for a union with Christ. First and foremost, Calvinistic Election is an in the Father Election, being hand-selected as the Father’s eternally prized possession, by which, these elect are in line to receive His Son.
Calvinist, James White: “He chose us in union with Jesus Christ.” (Debating Calvinism, p.92, emphasis mine)
By “us,” James White infers the “the elect,” as if God chose ‘the elect’ to become in union with Christ. In other words, God chose “the elect” [in the Father], and these elect He has chosen “to become” in union with Christ:
James White: “I just also believe the undisputed and unrefuted fact that I come to Christ daily because the Father, on the sole basis of His mercy and grace, gave me to the Son in eternity past.” (Debating Calvinism, p.306, emphasis mine)
James White: “In this case, in eternity past God chose to enter into personal relationship with His elect people, even before bringing them into existence.” (Debating Calvinism, p.146, emphasis mine)
James White: “No, these words are specifically and clearly about the elect, those chosen by God before the foundation of the world.” (Debating Calvinism, p.94 emphasis mine)
The criticism against Calvinstic Election is that it represents a severe demotion of Christ:
Arminius explains: “This doctrine is highly dishonorable to Jesus Christ our Savior. ... It denies that Christ is the meritorious cause who again obtained for us the salvation we had lost, by placing him only as a subordinate cause of that salvation which had been already foreordained, and thus only a minister and instrument to apply that salvation unto us.” (Arminius Speaks, p.47, emphasis mine)
To demonstrate some of the key principles of Election, consider the following quotes, where being chosen in Christ, means being chosen as a believer.
Arminius: “For God choses no one unto eternal life except in Christ, who prepared it by his own blood for them who should believe on his name.” (Arminius Speaks, p.113, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee: “God chose believers in Christ before the foundation of the world, way back in eternity past.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.27, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee: “I cannot repeat often enough that election is God’s choosing us in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.33, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee: “God sees the believer in Christ and He accepts the believer just as He receives His own Son. That is wonderful. That is the only basis on which I will be in heaven. I cannot stand there on the merit of Vernon McGee. I am accepted only in the Beloved. God loves me just as He loves Christ, because I am in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.38, emphasis mine)
J. Vernon McGee: “It is the overall purpose and plan of God that believers should have a part in Christ’s inheritance. They are going to inherit with Christ because they are in Christ.” (Thru the Bible commentary series: Ephesians, p.50, emphasis mine)
In terms of Election, you have three parties:
1) God the Father
2) God the Son
Jesus is your Mediator. You have an election with God the Father on account of your identification with and position in Christ, through the blood covenant of Calvary.
There is an Old Testament example of Election which can help with this understanding. It involves King David, Jonathan, a cripple named Mephibosheth and a covenant.
Consider the illustration of how a blood covenant established the basis of a lame man’s election. (2nd Samuel 4:4; 9:1-13) David made a blood covenant with Jonathan, and sought to honor that covenant. David called his servants to inquire if there was anyone in the family of Jonathan that he could bless, on account of that covenant, and that’s when Mephibosheth was mentioned. David didn’t care that he was a cripple. All that he cared about was that he was in the family of Jonathan. So in a sense, Mephibosheth was “in Jonathan,” so to speak, and stood to benefit, on that account alone. Without Jonathan, Mephibosheth would just be any other Israelite. But it was his place in the family of Jonathan that made him special, so that a cripple could actually be considered royalty. That illustration hopes to capture the essence of what Christ does for those who are in Him. Mephibosheth was chosen into the house of David, not simply on his own account, but chosen on account of his identification with and position in Jonathan’s family, through the blood covenant between David and Jonathan. (1st Samuel 18:3) For just as David had elected Mephibosheth into his household, so too, God the Father elects you into His household, not simply on your own account, but chosen on account of your identification with and position in Christ, through the blood covenant between He and Christ: “God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32, KJV)
Mephibosheth without Jonathan before David is to us without Jesus before God.
Whereas Mephibosheth was physically born into election in Jonathan, we are spiritually born into election in Christ. The favor inherited by Mephibosheth before David, is analogous to the favor that we inherit in Christ before God.
Question: Did Mephibosheth choose to be in Jonathan’s family, whereas people must actually chose to become in Christ?
Answer: The intention of the analogy was meant to illustrate the benefit of being in Christ, just like the benefit that Mephibosheth experienced as a member of Jonathan’s family. For instance, David didn’t say, “Let’s go bless Mephibosheth, so that I can display my mercy and grace through blessing that poor criple.” Instead, due to a blood covenant between David and Jonathan, it was a matter of David seeking to bless Jonathan, and ‘whosoever’ was identified with Jonathan’s family stood to gain from that blessing. Now you can see where the Arminian perks up. Stated another way, as an Arminian, I do not have the perspective that God eternally declared: “Let’s go bless Richard Coords. My purpose is to display my mercy and grace through blessing him.” Instead, due to the blood covenant of Calvary, between God and Christ, it was a matter of God blessing His Son, and ‘whosoever’ is identified with His Son, stands to gain in that blessing.
James McCarthy: “Wouldn’t it be more reasonable…to think of the elect as God’s choice ones, rather than his selected ones, putting the emphasis on their excellent position before him, rather than a selection process of some sort?” (John Calvin Goes to Berkeley, p.194, emphasis mine)
Robert Picirilli: “We are objects of God’s grace only in Christ. Election and foreordination graciously flow to us in union with Christ--the only way God could elect us and maintain His holiness, given that apart from union with Christ we are sinful and cannot be objects of election. God’s eternal decree to save, then, was not a sterile one that logically preceded the plan of redemption in Christ. Instead, it is grounded in the plan of redemption by Christ and grows out of it.” (Grace, Faith, Free Will, Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism, pp.68-69, emphasis mine)
This is the Christocentric nature of Arminian Election. To understand the full meaning of it, compare the sentiments of a Calvinist: “Do Calvinists secretly believe that God chose them for some reason other than their need for salvation? Would I, as a Christian, believe that God chose me for some other reason than my need for salvation? Yes, I do. God chose me for His glory, for His pleasure, for His purposes. Sure I had a need for salvation. But that is not why He saved me primarily. ... In the Bible, God does not say He chose us because of our desperate need. He chose us before our need ever arose.”
The criticism, here, is that it removes Calvary from being an authentic saving act, and reduces it to mere pageantry:
Arminian, Robert Shank: “The atonement wrought by Christ was by no means symbolic. It was an authentic saving act made necessary by the holy character of God Himself, a saving act whereby God can adopt into sonship and into His kingdom men who have transgressed His righteous laws, outraged His holiness, and of themselves are sinners. The death of Jesus Christ was not pageantry. It was a decisive saving act in which Jesus Christ was truly instrumental in the election of men to salvation and the everlasting kingdom of God.” (Elect in the Son, p.36, emphasis mine)
From an Arminian perspective, Calvinistic Election is completely lost:
Calvinist, John MacArthur: “We are chosen unto salvation. We are chosen to belong to Him. When you look at your salvation, then thank God. Thank God! Because you are a Christian because He chose you. I don’t understand the mystery of that. That’s just what the word of God teaches. That is the most humbling doctrine in all of Scripture. I take no credit, not even credit for my faith. It all came from Him. He chose me. He selected people to be made holy in order to be with Him forever. Why he selected me, I will never know. I’m no better than anyone else. I’m worse than many. But He chose me.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
Why did God select us? Because we are in Christ. Calvinistic Election represents a significant demotion of Christ, with a corresponding elevation of man. Consider it: Calvinism teaches that certain people were eternally purposed for glory, in being selected to be eternally given to Christ. “But why?”, asks the Arminian. “What would be the basis for such a standing with God?” We are only told that it is the sovereign prerogative of Almighty God. Arminians are very troubled by this because it is very non-Christocentric. In contrast, Arminians insist that our standing before God is rooted solely in our identification with the Messiah, Jesus. Our connection with Him, is the basis for why God looks upon us with favor, and which is why Arminians pay such close attention to the precise wording of Ephesians 1:4, in terms that God chose us in Christ. He didn’t just chose us. He chose us with an essential qualifier attached to it. Our standing before God is derived from our identification with Christ, in Christ, without which, we lack standing before God.
1st John 2:24: “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.”
Calvinist, William MacDonald: “Here we have the wonderful truth of the unity between the Father and the Son. You cannot have the Father unless you have the Son. This is a message which should be heeded by all Unitarians, Christian Scientists, Muslims, Modernists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Jews.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, p.2315, emphasis mine)
And Calvinists! The Bible often speaks of being in Christ, but few Calvinists seem to realize that the Bible also speaks of being in the Father, and that the only way to be in the Father is through Christ. Jesus states: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” (John 14:6) The way to the Father is through the Son. He is your access to the Father. Apart from your identification with Christ and position in Christ, you have no election with the Father.
Calvinism: Election is the means to Christ.
Arminianism: Christ is the means to Election.
John Calvin: “Christ says that the elect always belonged to God. God therefore distinguishes them from the reprobate, not by faith, nor by any merit, but by pure grace; for while they are far away from him, he regards them in secret as his own.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.393, emphasis mine)
Negative, there is no such thing as being eternally hidden in the Father, being in secret, His own.
John Calvin: “This way of speaking, however, may seem to be different from many passages of Scripture which attribute to Christ the first foundation of God’s love for us and show that outside Christ we are detested by God. But we ought to remember, as I have already said, that the Heavenly Father’s secret love which embraced us is the first love given to us.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, pp.76, emphasis mine)
It “seems” different because it’s wrong.
Calvinist, James White: “I just also believe the undisputed and unrefuted fact that I come to Christ daily because the Father, on the sole basis of His mercy and grace, gave me to the Son in eternity past.” (Debating Calvinism, p.306, emphasis mine)
Calvinism proposes that you must have the Father, or at least, the Father must have you, and on that basis, you are given to the Son, but obviously that violates the principle of access to the Father being solely through Christ.
MacArthur: “Why he selected me, I will never know. I’m no better than anyone else. I’m worse than many. But He chose me.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
MacArthur adds: “To whom do you owe your salvation? You owe it to the God who chose you. You owe it to the God who predestined you. You owe it to the God who redeemed you, the God who forgave you, the God who wanted you to be His own because He wanted you to be His own. It doesn’t give any other reason, even though we are so unworthy, so unworthy.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
The “reason” why God “selected” us is because of the blood covenant between He and His Son, and our access to the Father is solely because of our identification with Christ and position in Christ. We have adoption with the Father for the same reason that Mephibosheth had an adoption into the household of David.
There is only one person who was eternally “in the Father”:
John 10:38: “But if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”
John 14:10: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”
John 14:11: “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.”
Calvinistic Election teaches that when God sought a place for His grace, He found His elect. However, the reality is that when God sought a place for His grace, He found His Son, and God invites all to join His Body in order to share in His grace. Therefore, Calvinists claim for themselves an election that alone belonged to Jesus, being the only One who was eternally residing in the Father.
Arminian Election counters that Election is in Christ, according to Ephesians 1:4, such that your privilege of adoption in the Father is based upon your position in Christ. However, Calvinism counters that your position in Christ was based upon your eternal, secret position in the Father. Calvinists claim Ephesians 1:4 for support:
Ephesians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”
The reality is that this verse clearly teaches an election in Christ, and therefore works to overthrow the cause of Calvinistic Election.
Walls and Dongell: “It is in him that we have chosen and predestined (Eph 1:4-5), just as it is in him that we have been seated in heavenly places (Eph 2:6-7). This means that Jesus Christ himself is the chosen one, the predestined one. Whenever one is incorporated into him by grace through faith, one comes to share in Jesus’ special status as chosen of God.” (Why I am Not a Calvinist, p.76, emphasis mine)
Adrian Rogers: “How do you get into the family of God? You are spiritually born into the family of God. You are legally adopted into the family of God. Now when you are born in to God’s family, that’s the new birth. That deals with your position in Christ. When you are adopted, that deals with your privilege in Christ, and in Christ, we have both birth and adoption and we are predestined to this adoption. Therefore, we are fully accepted.” (What We Have in the Lord Jesus, Ephesians 1:1-12, Love Worth Finding Ministries, 1/18/95W)
Becoming in Christ occurs upon conversion as the new creature, with the old creature having passed away. (2nd Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, the Father’s legal adoption of us in Christ before we were in Christ, namely before the foundation of the world, according to Ephesians 1:4, had to be on the basis of us being foreknown in Christ just as Romans 8:28-29 teaches, which therefore served as the basis upon which God the Father beforehand planned to equip and gift Christians for various callings for service within the Body of Christ.
Ephesians 1:5-6: “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
Adrian Rogers: “What is Predestination? Predestination is not God saying from eternity that one man’s going to heaven and another man is going to hell. Predestination deals primarily with what God intends to do for those who trust Him and what God will do for saved people. Predestination teaches me on the authority of God that when I’ve trusted Christ as my personal Savior and Lord, I will be like Jesus Christ.” (What We Have in the Lord Jesus, Ephesians 1:1-12, Love Worth Finding Ministries, 1/18/95W, emphasis mine)
Arminians therefore conclude that we have an adoption in the Father solely on the basis of being in Christ through faith, and are therefore made acceptable in Christ and adopted in Christ by the blessings that alone stem from being in Christ, so that being a Christian is the ground floor of biblical election. Hence, Arminians qualify New Testament Election as being “elect in Christ.” Arminians point out that in Ephesians chapter 1, Paul went to great lengths to explain all that we have in Christ, and never once spoke of having been eternally adopted in the Father independent of being in Christ. Arminian election therefore teaches that no one comes to the Father except by His Son, and that the only way to be in the Father is by first being in Christ.
John Calvin: “Paul testifies indeed that we were chosen before the foundation of the world; but, he adds, in Christ (Eph 1:4). Let no one then seek confidence in his election elsewhere, unless he wish to obliterate his name from the book of life in which it is written.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.126, emphasis mine)
Arminians call upon all Calvinists to heed Calvin’s warning about seeking confidence in an Election elsewhere, namely in the Father, which Calvin himself often failed to heed. There is an immense amount of Calvinistic quotes on Election in which, not only is in Christ lopped off, but even replaced with in the Father instead, completely altering the meaning of Election.
John Calvin: “Paul further confirms this, declaring that God was moved by no external cause; He Himself and in Himself was author and cause of our being elected while yet we were not created, and of His afterwards conferring faith upon us.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.69, emphasis mine)
Calvinism does not deny an election in Christ, but rather makes it secondary to an election in the Father, whereby the elect in the Father are chosen “to be” in Christ. You will see that done quite often.
What follows are examples in which in Christ is lopped off:
For instance, Calvin writes: “There God stretches out His hand to all alike, but He only grasps those (in such a way as to lead to Himself) whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Hebrews and I and II Peter, p.364, emphasis mine)
Missing anything? Endless Calvinist misquotes on Ephesians 1:4 can be found exactly like this. For a detailed list, see Ephesians 1:4.
John Calvin: “As long as God imputes our sins to us, He cannot but regard us with abhorrence, for He cannot look with friendship or favour upon sinners. But this may appear to contradict what is said elsewhere, that ‘we were loved by Him before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1.4), and to contradict still more John 3:16 where He says that His love for us was the reason why He expiated our sins by Christ, for the cause must always precede the effect.” (Calvin’s Commentaries: II Corinthians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, p.78, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “If God from all eternity purposed to save one portion of the human race and not another, the purpose of the cross would be to redeem these chosen ones to himself. We can know whether we belong to that number.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.187, emphasis mine)
The portion that God the Father purposed to save, from before the foundation of the world, are those in Christ.
Calvinist, John MacArthur on Election: “You and I are saved and we know the Lord Jesus Christ because God chose us before the world ever began. What an incredible reality!” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
John MacArthur: “He selected people to be made holy in order to be with Him forever. Why he selected me, I will never know. I’m no better than anyone else. I’m worse than many. But He chose me. ... I’m a Christian today because before the foundation of the world from all eternity past, God chose to set His love on John MacArthur and to give him the faith to believe at the moment that God wanted him to believe. He chose us.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
Election indeed becomes a mind-boggling mystery when in Christ is removed as if it was extraneous or redundant. I’m convinced that for sometime to remember the verse without the key condition, “in Christ” must be because the person doesn’t understand its full significance. Now if there remains a veil over the hearts of the Jews for failing to see Christ in the Scriptures, why should we think that the same veil would not also blind those who teach an Election apart from Jesus?