Article ID: DD802-1 | By: James R. White
MONERGISM- A BIBLICAL DEFENSE
The art and science of biblical interpretation firmly establish unconditional election and the correlative truth of monergism. The Reformed position’s strength is exegesis — the interpretation of the text in light of its grammar, syntax, and context. The doctrine is proved by (1) the direct statements of Scripture; (2)the teaching of the Bible concerning the incapacity of man to do anything that is pleasing to God without God’s first freeing the sinner from the bonds of death; and (3) the teaching of those passages that combine these two truths into an undeniable whole.
Unconditional election is a truth stated directly in Scripture. Paul said, God “chose4 us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to [or, “on the basis of”] the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:4–6, NASB, emphasis added).
First, the divine acts of choosing and predestining are placed in the time-frame of eternity itself. This election to salvation (not merely to an opportunity to believe, but to the fullness of salvation, as seen in the use of such terms as “holy,” “blameless,” “sonship,” etc.) occurs prior to any human action. Second, this is a personal action: the direct object of “chose” and “predestined” is a personal pronoun, “us.” Individual persons, not classes or groups, are chosen to holiness and adoption. Third, God’s will, not man’s, determines His act of saving a sinner. Never is any other basis of this divine choice presented in Scripture. The phrase “according to” or “on the basis of” ushers us directly into the only biblical answer to the question: “Why one and not another?” The answer given is that it is based on the “kind intention of His will.” The Greek term used by Paul refers to a choice that is to someone’s benefit. It is God’s gracious choice, based on His own will, that brings salvation to any person at any time. This fact further proves that this is to the praise of His glorious grace. If anything human were mixed in, this could not be said.
The same truths come out in Paul’s tremendous “Golden Chain of Redemption” in Romans 8:29–30, where we are presented with an unbreakable chain of divine actions: God foreknows5 a certain people (identified later as “God’s elect”). All those whom He foreknows He predestines; everyone He predestines He calls; everyone He calls He justifies; and everyone He justifies He glorifies. Every action is divine; every action is certain—so certain, in fact, that the past tense is used to emphasize this certainty. We again see the unconditional aspect of God’s work of salvation: nowhere can the chain be broken, and never is a link of human sufficiency inserted. Everyone who is predestined is glorified. All who are glorified were chosen by God in eternity past. Paul’s teaching is clear and compelling.
So universal is this belief in the sovereignty of God in election that Luke made mention of it in Acts 13:48. There we read: “Upon hearing this, the Gentiles rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed6 to eternal life believed.” The belief of the Gentiles was the result of, surely not the cause of, the appointment to eternal life by God Himself. Our faith is the result of God’s election, not the other way around. This is so much a part of NT thinking that, without a moment’s hesitation, Paul said, “It is by His doing you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30). It is not by our doing, or by a combination of our actions and God’s grace, but by His doing that we are in Christ Jesus, so that we can boast only in Him (1Cor. 1:31).
Some are surprised that one of the strongest affirmations of this divine truth is found in Jesus’ words in John 6:37–45. Here, in explaining the unbelief of the Jews, Jesus taught unconditional election in the most monergistic tones possible. We will look at His testimony to man’s inability (6:45, 65) in our next installment. For now, His teaching in these words is our focus: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out.” Again no room for human autonomy is allowed: the action of the giving of the Father to the Son7 precedes and therefore determines the identity and number of those who come to Him. The Father lovingly gives an elect people to the Son (John 17:9). As a result, infallibly, invariably, without possibility of failure (John 6:38–39, 44, 65) every single one of those so given will come to the Son.
How can such a statement be made if salvation is a matter of a synergistic cooperation of God’s grace that tries to save while man’s will allows it to succeed? Verses 38–39 tell us that it is the Father’s will for the Son that the Son lose none of those who have been (past tense, completed action) given to Him. We know Christ cannot fail to do the will of the Father; hence, the Son must be able to save, perfectly, every single one of those given to Him by the Father. This is consistent only with unconditional election and monergism, not with conditional election and synergism.
We see that the Scriptures are replete with testimony to the sovereignty of God and the freedom of His electing grace. His choice cannot be determined on the basis of human actions. Christians should safeguard and proclaim God’s freedom, not human autonomy. Only when we understand this vital truth do we understand how our entire salvation is to the “praise of His glorious grace.” When we truly understand this, we will proclaim the gospel to all without fear, knowing that God will not fail to bring salvation to His chosen — all to His own praise, honor, and glory.