Why I Teach Sovereign Election

Why I Teach Sovereign Election

There’s no doubt that the doctrine of election is controversial. Some Christians don’t like it. More than that, some Christians actually hate the doctrine with a vengeance.

Why then would I teach it, knowing this?

Well, firstly, because it is the responsibility of all Bible teachers to teach what the Bible teaches, I teach Sovereign election because the Bible teaches the doctrine. I have no right to say to the Lord, “I know your Word teaches it, but I don’t think the people of God need it.” Such would be sheer arrogance and even treason on the part of the Lord’s herald. No, the solemn charge I have been given (and every preacher has been given) is to preach the word in season and out of season – when it is welcomed with joy by many and when no one wants to hear it whatsoever. Of course, election is not all I teach, but in that it is a Bible doctrine, I do indeed teach it.

Secondly, while it is a controversial doctrine, there is very little in Scripture that is not in some way controversial. The very first verse of our Bibles is controversial, and almost everything else that follows is likewise so. The pastor’s/preacher’s job is to preach and teach what the Word declares, even as he knows ahead of time, not all will embrace the truth he proclaims. He preaches and teaches to please an audience of One. To quote Dr. Steve Lawson, “If He is pleased, it doesn’t matter who is displeased. If He is displeased, it doesn’t matter who is pleased.”

Thirdly, I preach the doctrine because of the great sustaining comfort it brings to God’s people. While some are outraged by it, God means it to be a comfort to the saints, and has revealed this truth for that very purpose. He didn’t reveal it to cause division in the body of Christ. He revealed it because He determined in His infinite wisdom, it would be a blessing to His people to know this truth.

How exactly can this doctrine bring comfort?

Here’s an email I received today from someone I shall simple call “A” (her full name is withheld). Though lengthy, I believe your heart will be encouraged to see the Lord’s great comfort found in this doctrine by this precious saint, in the midst of great torment of soul.

Hi Pastor Samson,

My name is A* (full name withheld), and I wanted to reach out because you have given me such an unexpected gift, and I wanted to thank you. I saw you on Justin Peters’ YouTube channel, and I just listened to your podcast about “Lost loved ones.” I have to say, I started crying so hard. I have been very conflicted over a certain situation, and you are the only person who has enlightened me on it.

My brother P* (full name withheld) died by suicide 1.5 years ago, and he was not saved. At the time, neither was I. (I’m a new believer, saved out of the New Age movement. My brother & I both went to church when we were young, but strayed in our teenage years.) He was my only sibling, and we were extremely close, so his death completely destroyed my life. 

I became suicidal myself, not wanting to live without my brother, and I came extremely close to ending my life. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit saved me in a moment of grace, without me asking for it or looking for it (this is partially why I believe in the doctrine of election, because my salvation was not my choice or my doing.) I had a sudden revelation that the Bible was real (just like that, a full-body flash of awareness that the Bible is real), and I was instantly convicted that Christ is real and Hell is real and Heaven is real, and I had a strong urge to read the entire Bible ASAP.

So that was the good news, but after becoming a Christian, I was grieved beyond words that my sweet, kind brother was burning in hell. He died alone in my mom’s garage (she found him), without the possibility of anyone saving him (either physically or spiritually). And because I now believed that Hell was real, I felt dread beyond belief to imagine my sensitive brother suffering there for eternity. You have no idea how this has tormented me for the past 19 months. I asked many Christians and the people at my church if there was any hope for him whatsoever, and I did lots of research on my own to see if God could possibly have mercy on his soul, after dying as an unbeliever. Was there ANY possibility that my brother was somehow saved? Most people didn’t give me any response whatsoever (I imagined they thought, “he’s burning in hell, but I’m too scared to tell her that”), and my own research also came up empty.

But Pastor Samson, you finally gave me an answer. You are the only person I’ve come across who has actually given a forthright response. I’ve spent HUNDREDS of hours listening to sermons and lectures on this topic, and nobody gave a straight answer. You finally turned on the lightbulb in my head, with your podcast on lost loved ones.

Although I already believed in predestination (I’m an avid listener of John MacArthur & I have his study Bible), I hadn’t thought to apply that to my brother’s situation. (HELLO!!!!) You made me realize that if it was God’s will for my brother to be saved, then the Lord Jesus would have saved him in his final moments. He would have found a way. In your podcast you said, “Absolutely no one is beyond God’s reach, even to the last moment of a person’s life.” Considering that my brother died by suicide, without any hope of resuscitation, you have no idea the hope this has given me. In my own suicidal moments, the Lord intervened and saved my life. In my brother’s case, although he died, there is still the possibility that he was saved before death, just like the thief on the cross.

And even if my brother wasn’t part of the elect, then that would still be God’s plan. Although I can’t understand it with my grieving heart, I can still accept it as God’s sovereign will, because He is supreme, and SOMEHOW it is for His ultimate glory. I will never understand it on this side of Heaven, but at the very least I can accept the reasoning. (When people get mad at the idea of predestination, I think they forget that God can do whatever He wants. He created us, and He can destroy us. None of us deserves to be saved, so we’re lucky if He saves even one person!)

In your podcast, you also quoted the scripture that says, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “All that the father gives me will come to me.” Those words went straight to my heart, and they changed my life. I’ve heard & read them before, but never considered the context or applied them to my brother’s death. It means, if my brother was meant to be saved, then the Lord saved him. And if he wasn’t, then He didn’t.

But most importantly, it made me realize that my brother had a 50/50 chance of salvation. Either he was one of the elect (in which case he’s safe & secure, and I will see him again), or he wasn’t. But those odds are the biggest blessing to me. There is now a 50% chance that my brother is saved. Before, that chance in my mind was 0. I did not see ANY way that my brother could be saved, because I hadn’t considered predestination, and nobody had explained it to me that way.

Pastor Samson, you gave me a 50% chance of my brother being saved. Do you have any idea what gift you’ve given me? There is hope. I’ve cried so hard over the idea that I will never see my brother again, that there was absolutely no chance of him being saved, and I have been hurting so badly over the idea of his sweet kind soul burning in hell. But now, there is a 50% chance that he is saved, and that I will see him again. 

You truly have no idea how much you’ve changed my life. I have cried so hard over this. I’m even crying as I’m writing this, but now it’s tears of hope and relief. I can live the rest of my life on these 50/50 odds. Before, I had a 0% chance of seeing my brother again. I had ZERO hope. I was so miserable, and couldn’t imagine living out the rest of my days with this burden weighing so heavily on me. I was even suicidal over it! But now, there’s a 1 in 2 chance of being reunited with my beloved brother. I will never forget you for this amazing gift you’ve given me. I will also be sharing this with my mom, who is equally grieved that her son is in hell.

And yes, I understand that there’s still that 50% chance that he was not of the elect, but I already lived and grieved in reality for the past 19 months. And having that framed as being God’s ultimate will, I can accept it. It doesn’t make it less painful, but at least I can accept it, as I humbly accept God’s sovereign will regardless of my preferences. 

The Bible tells us that there will be no more pain or tears in Heaven, so *even if* I never see my brother again, I know that my eternal soul will somehow be comforted. I can’t possibly understand that now in my brokenhearted state, but I have faith that Christ will wipe away these tears, and the remaining years of my mournful life will be nothing compared to eternity.

Anyway, I know this was long, but I felt compelled to email you because you truly truly have changed my life and my grief. I needed this so much. You have given me hope. A 50% chance is…. a gift from God, honestly. You took me from 0 to 50, from hopeless to hoping. I can’t express my gratitude enough. Thank you for putting this content out there. (I suppose I should thank Justin Peters as well, since I found you through his YouTube channel.) 

I have prayed to the Lord Jesus to please bless your ministry in this upcoming year, because you have blessed my life. The next time I’m in Arizona, I will be sure to stop by your church and thank you in person. You have given me the biggest gift. Thank you again, truly.

~A* (full name withheld)

P.S. P* (full name withheld) was my older brother, but next month I will officially be older than him. You know how weird that’s going to be? I have been dreading this milestone since he died. But now… it’s not as daunting as it has been. It’s just a little less painful. I’m curious to see how else this new “50% chance” will relieve & alleviate my grief in the future. Thanks again ❤💔

What Have You Been Reading?

A long time Christian once came to me to confide that his spiritual life was as good as dead; it was so lack luster that he had abandoned all attempts to get alone with God, to read the Bible or to pray.

He said, “I feel like I am walking alone in a desert, with no sight of water. I am fairly desperate.”

This was a young man who to all outward appearances had it all together. He was active in ministry and showed great enthusiasm in the things of God. Yet I could see in his eyes that he was earnest about his true spiritual condition.

As he was talking to me I was silently asking God for wisdom as to what to say to him. After listening to him for a few minutes, a question popped up in my mind.

I asked him, “May I ask, what is the last Christian book you ever read?”

I could tell the young man was more than a little surprised by my question. He answered that he once enjoyed reading, but now did not read much Christian material at all.

I pressed him further and he told me the title of the last Christian book he had read. I won’t mention the title here, for that is not really the issue. It could have been one of any number of books. I was familiar with the book he mentioned, and then asked him, “If I ask you to read something, would you do it?”

In desperation he said, “If you think it would help me Pastor, then yes, of course.”

I then said, “I have a book” and reached behind me to the shelf in my bookcase and pulled one down. “For the next month or so, please just take 10-15 minutes each day, and read this.”

He took the book and his face took on a very puzzled expression. It was not really a book about Christian devotion, per se. It was not a book about how to climb out of a spiritual rut.

The more he gazed at the book now in his hands, the more confused he became.

He asked, “What has this book got to do with my present struggle?”

I said, “Well, it does not address the issue you have directly, but I want you to trust me. Just commit to read it for 10-15 minutes each day until you get through it.”

He paused for a moment before saying, “OK Pastor, I trust you, and I promise, I will do it.”

We talked a little more, but within a few minutes he left my office. I remember praying that God would restore this young man’s spiritual fire and zeal… and that seemed to be that.

Less than three weeks later, I encountered this young man after a Church service. He looked very happy and asked, “Do you have a minute?”

“Of course,” I said.

He then proceeded to tell me that his spiritual life was back on track and that his best time of the day – the time he most looked forward to – was his alone time with God and His Bible.

I asked, “What happened?”

He said, “I’ve been reading the book you gave me. It has opened up to me treasures I have never seen before. I read something and then for the rest of the day, my mind is captivated by what I have read, and I find I am thanking God for the insight, and… well, I just feel so close to God just now. I am a different man from the one you saw in your office a few weeks ago. But Pastor…?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Can you explain to me what has happened?”

I said, “Well, God has been very gracious to you to draw You closer to Himself.”

“Yes, I know that, but can you tell me what happened to me?”

I said, “Well, I think so.”

I then went on to explain that when he told me what he had been reading previously, I would have to categorize the book like a spiritual meal without any vitamins. It was a book that had very little content – a lot of fluff – and although popular, was merely like a pep talk rather than something of substance.

I said, “Can you imagine a 21 year old coming home from a full day at work and being excited to sit down and watch Sesame Street?”

“No,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “the book you were reading (and many like them before) were, spiritually speaking, like watching Sesame Street. Like the TV show, it’s great for kids, but there’s something wrong if an adult finds all he needs in that show. There comes a time when someone needs to move on – a time to enjoy more than “C is for Cookie.” Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the Cookie Monster. I think every child should get to know the Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie and the Count. But there comes a time when you put away childish things and reach for the things of adulthood.”

I went on, “The book I gave you was an introduction to an adult form of Christianity. In reading it, I knew it would challenge both your heart and your mind. It would show you things you had never seen before. It was easy to read, and not the arduous thing you might have imagined.”

“Wow, I can see that now. Thank you so much Pastor. Would you write down maybe 4 or 5 book titles that I can read over the next few months?”

“I would be glad to… Come to my office and I will write a few titles down for you.”

As Christians, we are called upon to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Of these, very little attention is given to the mind. Yet we love the Lord with our mind by thinking right thoughts about Him, learning and discovering treasures in His word, allowing our thoughts to go from the A, B, C’s of childhood, to the more weighty and meaty things of God.

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” 1 Cor. 13:11

The Parable Of The Sailboat

Transcript: Dr. Michael Horton, from a Q & A session, December 7, 2007, Evangelism Conference, Phoenix, Arizona:

Imagine you have a sailboat which has all the “bells and whistles” on it (a radio, fish finders, satellite, the most advanced mapping system imaginable, so that it can literally steer you to your destination).

You head out of the harbor under full sail.

After some time you find yourself in the middle of the ocean and there is a dead calm (there is no wind). Your radio tells you that there is a large storm coming.

It could be a very dangerous situation and you are now in trouble because right where you are, there is no wind at all and you are “dead in the water”. You do not have an engine, you depend on the wind – so you start paddling.

You are thrilled to have all the necessary technology to navigate your course, but all this technology can only tell you the depths of the trouble you are now in. What you need is the wind and the sail to get you back to the harbor.

A lot of Christians speed out of the harbor under full sail and get lost out there in the middle of the sea. They love the technology and want to hear of a new place to go, something to do because they are genuinely filled with gratitude for what God has done for them, but then eventually, the directions become another yoke of bondage if they do not get the wind (of the Gospel) in their sails.

What we assume is that we need the wind of the Gospel to get us out of the harbor; now people need the right equipment. But what we need to say is “no… they need the wind and the equipment, ALL the time.

We need them for different things. The law cannot do anything more in sanctification than it did in justification, but my relationship to the law is different than it was before… so that now, I am happy with the instruments and technology, because I WANT to follow where these instruments are directing me but ONLY the gospel can fill my sails and get me there.

So we do not live a law driven life, we live a GOSPEL driven life and a law directed life. The law directs but it cannot save. It tells you where to go but it cannot get you there. That is why we need to have the Gospel preached regularly.

Sermons that end with “how are you doing with all this?” do not put wind in your sails. That’s because on a good day, whatever the specifics of the question are, my answer is “honestly, what you are saying does not describe me, but it does describe Christ and His perfect righteousness, and He is not only given for me but indwells me by His Spirit.”

Sanctification is living out the effects of our union with Christ….

Whenever we say “we need more practical preaching” we are saying “we need more law” – now maybe we do need more law… more guidance as to what indeed is the will of God for our lives, but just know what you are saying when you say you need more practical preaching. “Practical” means direction.. and maybe you do need this, but just realize what you are getting. If you think that “practical” is going to drive the Christian life, you’ve got another think coming…

If the GOSPEL is not plastered right, front and center, even for Christians who FAIL at those directions (Romans 3:20), then it is only going to lead to deeper and deeper despair.

Concerning Chapter And Verse Divisions

Where did the chapter and verse divisions in our Bibles come from?

When Scripture was originally written, there were no chapter and verse divisions. These man-made additions to our Bibles came much later. It was Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury in England, who added chapter divisions into the Latin Vulgate around A.D. 1227. A Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan divided the Hebrew Bible (what we as Christians call the Old Testament) into verses in 1448. Then, Robert Estienne (also known as Stephanus) divided the chapters into verses in his Greek New Testament in 1551. The first English translation to make use of his verse divisions was the Geneva Bible of 1560.

That is something of the history behind the chapter and verse divisions. The question becomes “Was this development a good thing?”

My answer would be yes and no. It is fair to say there are pros and cons in this matter.

The designations are helpful in that they allow us to find a verse or passage in a short time. We can find a verse easily without the need to read an entire book of the Bible. The numbering system allows us to go straight to a verse or passage we wish to locate. This is a wonderful, practical benefit. Imagine if there were no chapter/verse divisions and a preacher asked the congregation to find the section of Isaiah dealing with the Suffering Servant of the Lord. How many people would find the passage? Not many, and certainly, not very many in a swift manner. However, if the preacher says, “Let’s turn to Isaiah chapter 53,” anyone in the audience with a Bible in hand can find the passage in just a few seconds. In this way, then, chapter and verse divisions are helpful and convenient when it comes to finding references and quotations.

But there is a downside—a major downside. These divisions make it especially easy for us to look at a verse in isolation, with no reference to its context. Many pages could be filled with examples. Just one is Philippians 4:13, where we read, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This verse, in isolation, could be interpreted (falsely) to mean that Christ strengthens us to achieve any human endeavor, the “all things” referring to any conceivable task. An athlete might apply this by thinking the verse means Christ will strengthen him to win every race he enters—that this in fact is God’s promise to him. An author might use the verse as a promise that whatever he writes will be a best seller, and the Christian salesman might believe that he will be number 1 in company sales because of his relationship with Christ. Christ strengthens us to accomplish anything we set out to do.

But here’s the problem. The verse teaches nothing of the kind. The “all things” Christ does strengthen us to do refers to the things Paul wrote about in the previous sentences (vv. 10–12):

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Verse 13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” has a context which, if ignored, leads to a false interpretation. The correct one is this: Whatever the situation, whatever the circumstance, whether in hardship or in much provision and abundance, whether there is plenty or whether we experience hunger and great need, God’s grace is more than abundant for us in Christ. He will strengthen us to endure whatever it is we have to face. That was true for Paul, and it is also true for all who trust in Christ. We can go through any event in life, whether it is a very good or a very hard thing, because the Lord Jesus Christ will strengthen us to do so. That is the meaning of Philippians 4:13.

The word arbitrary refers to something based on a random choice or personal whim, rather than reason or a sound logical system. Some of the chapter divisions in our Bibles are especially arbitrary. And this is another downside.

Just above, I mentioned Isaiah 53 and its reference to God’s Suffering Servant. Yet if we look at the words in their context, the passage starts speaking of this Servant in Isaiah 52:13, not Isaiah 53:1. Rather than Isaiah 53 starting where it does, a much better place for the insertion of a new chapter would have been at Isaiah 52, between verses 12 and 13. This would then allow us to see the entire passage in one section in our Bibles, rather than this unnecessary breaking up of the passage in a way that defies all logic and reason. And it is more than all right to say this, because in doing so, I am not being critical of God’s Word in any way. God’s Word is flawless, inerrant, and inspired. I am critical here only of what man has added to God’s inspired text in our Bibles. The chapter division here in Isaiah 53 is not helpful at all. Quite the opposite!

In summary, I think it is a good thing for us to have chapter and verse divisions in our Bibles, for the sake of convenience. However, it is important that we never forget that context is a key factor in forming a correct understanding of Scripture. When we forget context, misinterpretation is inevitable, and this is something we should always be vigilant to avoid.