Friday, September 9, 2011

Selective Election

In this part of the Gospels, Jesus was full of condemnation. He likened the generation of people living in His time as a bunch of fickle, unsatisfiable children (Matthew 11:16-19, Luke 7:31-35). He condemned Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum for not repented from His miracle shows, and He reveled the fact that God was preventing the wise and learned people from understanding God's hidden things.

Selective Election
Some would say that God gives everyone a fair chance at Salvation. However, the truth of the matter is that the Scripture does not support such an open invitation. As we will see, God is selective about who will be allowed the opportunity of Salvation.

We need to start by setting the proper context. In the previous study, we observed how, in Matthew 11:25-26 and Luke 10:21, Jesus praised God for preventing the “wise and learned” from understanding the hidden “things” of God. It was God's “good pleasure” to keep them in the dark. The verse we are examining comes right after that notion of praise in both Matthew and Luke, but is not mentioned by either of the other two Gospels. Matthew 11:27 has Jesus say:
"All things have been committed to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him." NIV
Luke 10:22 is nearly identical. It just adds “who” and “is” for clarification, as in “...No one knows who the Son is except the Father...”

For this to be true, we have one of two things happening here. Either: 1) There is a double-filtration occurring, where God opts to keep some people from understanding and Jesus opts not to reveal God to other people. Or: 2) The “good pleasure” God found in keeping the wise and learned from understanding God's hidden things is the pleasure of letting Jesus make all of the decisions on who will have the opportunity to know God, and who will not.

One thing is certain though: Salvation is not available to everyone. It is only for whoever God/Jesus chooses. The Elect. If you do not have an invitation from Jesus, you do not have the option. Salvation is not a freewill decision, but rather it is a choice made for you; at least the invitation level, if not deeper. It may even be the case that if you are not chosen, there is no hope for you at all, because God will actively prevent you from attaining Salvation, as the preceding verses suggest.


  1. Any ideas on why God withholds knowledge and salvation from certain people? What would a deity stand to gain from doing so, in your view?

  2. That is a great question, Ahab. Of course, it takes some speculation as you suggest, and there is no fully Biblical answer. (I could find verses to contradict any position, including the position that God does withhold this knowledge.)

    My guess is two-fold; the human and the divine.

    From a human perspective, this verse would psychologically strengthen the believers; buttressing against the objections raised the Pharisees and the scribes, thereby making believers feel special because it was they, not the educated religious leaders, who had access to the truth.

    From the divine perspective (and more to the point of your question), this was justice. If you look into the Old Testament Law, you get the sense that God held priests and leaders at a higher standard. We can see from comments in the Gospels and from some random verses in the later part of the Old Testament that the Pharisees and scribes had deviated from God's Law and instructed the nation to do likewise, thereby leading the masses astray. That is a heavy sin, indeed, and would have been enough justification to deny them access to Salvation.

  3. And how about from the perspective of the supposed hoaxers behind the "fraud of Christianity?" What did they (or their cult) stand to gain by limiting the number of potential converts?

  4. Well Mr. Wallflower, I think you may not be looking at it from the right perspective. There probably was not much benefit to limiting the cult membership. I doubt that this verse was included just to describe the M.O. of the cult.

    As I described above in my response to Ahab, there are very real psychological benefits for cult followers in a verse like this. Beyond what I describe above, it also helps with overall group cohesion, creating an us-versus-them mentality, much like what is still trumpeted today in the "in the world but not of the world" sentiment.

    With this perspective, a verse like this is suddenly very easy to explain, versus how difficult it may be to explain how a God who loves us all enough sacrifice His son for us is selective about who He reveals Himself to... ;-)

  5. Hmmmm, Christians have different positions on soteriology -- some are universalists and some much more narrow. I wonder how those who are broader and believe everyone is saved (Universalists) or anyone can choose to be saved (Arminians) reconcile these verses. You are just putting forth the Calvinist view, no?

  6. Indeed, it would be an uphill battle for Universalists and Arminians alike to reconcile these verses. That is probably why they just ignore them. :-) But, hey, with so much conflicting information in the Bible, you have got to ignore some of in order to have a firm and "rational" faith! ;-)

    I do come up from the Methodist side, so my upbringing was a little more Calvinist. However, for the purposes of this blog, I am progressing through pieces of the Gospels chronologically (as much as that is even possible) and concentrating on the intended meaning based primarily on the immediately surrounding context, (hopefully) irrelevant to any one denomination of the faith.