The Package Theory of Election

packageIn no uncertain terms, the Apostle Paul is inspired by the Spirit to write in Ephesians 1 that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and predestined to be adopted as God’s children. What does this mean? It means what it says.

The non-Calvinist doesn’t think so, however (I’d like to use terms like Arminian or Semi-Pelagian, but most non-Calvinists I know reject those. A simple glance at a comparison between Calvinism and Arminianism, however, will reveal that many non-Calvinists are at least 4-point Arminians. But I’ll  stick with the elusive term, “non-Calvinist” for now). He is adamantly opposed to the idea that God would predestine an individual for salvation. The problem, however, is that the New Testament is replete with that kind of language. Something is predestined by God, but it can’t be me. So what is it? The Package.

It’s sort of like buying insurance. There are several different packages one may choose. One has a higher deductible, but a lower premium. Another includes a rental car, free of charge, if needed. Those kinds of stipulations are worked into the package, and are available for the one who chooses said package. But, ultimately, the choice is yours.

But is that really what the Bible is telling us about so great salvation? I agree, there is a package-like aspect to salvation. Not only do we find forgiveness of sins, we get a new life, the Holy Spirit’s sealing, adoption as God’s children, sanctification unto the image of Christ, a priestly status, and much more. The problem seems to be that New Testament language only says we’re predestined for the benefits of salvation and not salvation itself, as if they can be separated.

So the non-Calvinist has no problem with being “predestined unto adoption” or “chosen in Him” or even “ordained unto eternal life” (Acts 13:48) because all of those things are the consequences of salvation: being “in Him”, adoption, eternal life. We’re predestined to have the benefits of the package, but we must first choose the package.

See how this plays out in an online conversation I had when a friend of mine started a debate over this issue (my responses in bold):

“The verses on predestination in the KJV use plural pronouns. No single individual in the KJV was predestined unto salvation, it is always plural.”

“No, if the Greek word is plural, then it is plural. The KJV does have a distinction with the Elizabethan English “you” and “ye”, but even the ESV has a footnote at times when “you” is plural. Even so it doesn’t change the fact that we were chosen in him before the foundation of the world according to Ephesians 1.”

“To be ‘holy’ not ‘saved’.

“It says chosen ‘in Him’. That’s the only way we could be holy anyway. Even if it were just ‘to be holy’, that’s still predestination to something that millions of others are clearly not predestined for.”

“God has a predestined will for us, but he has not predestined us unto salvation. We are predestined to be like him, not to be saved. There is a difference”

“If we’re predestined to be like him, and being like him can only happen to those who are saved, then logically we’re predestined to be saved. Or ‘ordained to eternal life’ (Acts 13:48)”

“God has predestined a body, but he has not predestined the individuals who make up that body. The scriptures do not say that we are predestined individually to be saved.”

“What else does ‘ordained to eternal life’ mean? The word there means ‘determined’. With that plus the verses in Ephesians which speak both of being chosen ‘in Him’ and ‘unto adoption’ it’s evident salvation is in view.”

“I know. God predestined the Church of Ephesus to be, but he did not ordain the individuals who made up that church. God says: Whosoever will…That is the difference.”

“Paul clearly said to the church at Ephesus that they were predestined to be adopted as sons according to the will of God. It can’t be more clear. And ‘whosoever will’ still applies. Whosoever comes is saved. Simple. It just so happens that those who come are those who are predestined.”

“Yes, but the individuals were not predestined.”

“So he predestined the building they met in? The church is a group of individuals. Paul told them that THEY were predestined unto adoption. Of course individuals are in view, as in Romans 8:29-30 – the many brethren are foreknown, predestined, called, justified, glorified.

“If salvation is a plane, then there are only so many seats, and each seat is predestined to be there. But God says: Whosoever will may come. The plane is predestined, the seats are predestined, but the individuals who sit in the seats are not predestined.”

“It’s all reading into the text. The passage is very clear that the people to whom Paul was speaking were predestined to be adopted. Adopted is a verb that modifies the PEOPLE not salvation. Salvation is not adopted. People are. And they were predestined to be. Also, Acts 13:40 says that the PEOPLE who were ordained unto eternal life believed.”

“Acts 13:48 says nothing about individual election unto salvation. That fits the plane illustration perfectly.”air package

“The plane is ordained to eternal life? The plane believes? C’mon man it’s simple and plain: the verbs ‘believed’ and ‘ordained’ modify the ‘many’. Many is people. What is the ‘many’ other than a group of individuals?”

“But not individuals. To believe is to get on the plane. And the plane is going somewhere. It was ordained that someone would take the seats in the plane.”

“Ok and they were clearly ‘ordained’ to get on the plane. Or better yet they were ordained to go where the plane was headed: eternal life.”

“You will never be able to prove that an individual in the Bible was ordained unto eternal life. It is always plural.”

“That’s such a poor argument though. Just because it doesn’t say ‘harry was ordained to eternal life’ doesn’t refute the doctrine of predestination. The passages I’m pointing you to are so clear. And just because it’s plural doesn’t change a thing. All plural is is a group of singulars.”

“To say that an individual is ordained unto eternal life is to say something that the Bible does not say. Calvinism goes farther than the scriptures teach. And that is too far for me.”

“So God can ordain a group of individuals to eternal life but not one individual?”

“God can do anything he wants, but he has not ordained individuals to eternal life. God says Romans 10:13. I can kill my moms cat if I want to, but I have not done so. Same with predestination.”

“But do you see how what you’re saying directly contradicts the plain teaching of the Bible? You’re saying God has not ordained individuals to eternal life. Acts 13:48 says he does. The only thing you’re holding on to is that it doesn’t say ‘individual’ or a singular person’s name.”

“I think that you are reading too far into the Bible. You need to just look at what “IT SAYS” not what “IT MEANS.” Many people get in trouble teaching what it means and not what it says.”

“It SAYS that these people were ordained to eternal life! You’re the one using a plane to try to explain what it MEANS.”

I think the conversation speaks for itself. The non-Calvinist takes away all significance behind the very reason why God would want to encourage His people that they were chosen to be in Him. Instead, we’re led to believe that the position was chosen, and you just happened to choose yourself into that position.

Because those verses don’t necessarily use the term “salvation”, it fits the non-Calvinistic view of election as a package that comes with benefits. Even though II Thessalonians 2:13 does say we were chosen for salvation, the salvation is from eschatological wrath, so it doesn’t count. Well, it counts, but only as a benefit of initial salvation. This gets confusing very quickly.

What significance is it for Paul to tell a group of people in Ephesus they were chosen? Apparently none. Because, after all, “you choose God and then God chooses you.” This excuse of a theology takes away God’s sovereignty in salvation, and consequently, His glory.

If you are chosen for the benefit, then you are chosen for the package. If my insurance company wrote me a letter saying I was chosen to have a certain premium, it would only be effectual if I had that insurance. Likewise, how can one be chosen to adoption if he’s not chosen to be saved? Can I skip the whole salvation part and just become a son of God? See how quickly this becomes nonsense? Don’t separate the parts of the package, it’s one whole thing that God has chosen to give to His people!

I have no problem with viewing salvation in package terminology: as long as God is the sender and the recipient is the one to whom He chooses to give it.


12 comments so far

  1. Travis on

    My favorite quote from the conversation – “You need to just look at what “IT SAYS” not what “IT MEANS.” Many people get in trouble teaching what it means and not what it says.”

  2. Chris on

    I love the “decal” you put next to the convo.

  3. phil on

    From a Calvinist view point how does one make their

    calling and election sure?

  4. Damien T Garofalo on

    Phil, sorry I took so long in replying. I haven’t checked or updated this blog in a while.

    I would just say that the Bible is very instructional in this matter. We are sure that we’re saved eternally by looking at the promises of the Bible about how Christ is the all-powerful, all-sufficient Savior who accomplishes salvation in His own and keeps them by His power. What He starts, He finishes.

    Then there’s asking, “how do I know that Christ indeed did a work in me?” Of this I think there are levels of security. It’s based on examining ourselves, looking at the fruit that God has done in our lives. Someone who isn’t growing might still be saved because of faith, but he won’t have much assurance. Measuring ourselves against I John is helpful.

  5. Danilo Agpoon on

    I like your Package and Plane Illustrations.
    I can’t understand why God can’t predestine an individual when He can do it to a Group of Individuals.
    You used Acts 13:48 to backed up your point and I quote it here: Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
    The word: “as many” could mean 1 person if there is only one person who believes. Just like in John 1:12 which says: John 1:12 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” doesn’t mean God has to wait for others to receive Him to form a group of believers before He can save or give them the authority to become His Sons.
    You mentioned the benefits you received from an Insurance Company but that is an Individual Insurance and not a Group Insurance. The reason Paul was using the Plural form it’s because He was talking to a Church and not to an Individual.
    You also made allusion to II Thessalonians 2:13 You said:
    “II Thessalonians 2:13 does say we were chosen for salvation, the salvation is from eschatological wrath”
    But if you will read the next verse it says:
    II Thessalonians 2:14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    It shows that this election to Salvation is not eschatological but Soteriological in nature. Remember,The Gospel is the Power of God unto salvation. Romans 1:16
    and the Church in Thessalonica have been called and saved through the Gospel.
    Thanks and God Bless you
    I enjoy reading your Blog
    I learn so much from it

  6. Damien T Garofalo on

    I appreciate the comments, thanks. Of major concern here is that with all these heremeneutic gymnastics, the non-Calvinist is robbing these verses of all significance. What significance does telling a group of believers they were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, if it’s explained away as evidenced in the above conversation? Thanks again for stopping by.

  7. Job on

    John 1:13 explicitly says that we are born again by the will of God and not the will of man.

    Also, read what Jesus Christ said concerning Judas Iscariot, and tell me how this son of perdition had a free will choice.

  8. greg on

    I heard a very good analogy the other night on television about how God knows things (predestination) There are two vehicles approaching each other, one of the vehicles starts to pass another on a curve, a helicopter is ovehead and the pilot sees all of this and knows that the two vehicles are going to collide. Did he make it happen? No, Did he know what was going to happen? Yes. Did he allow it to happen? Yes. All parties driving the vehicles chose their own paths, and yet the pilot high above the action, saw it all and knew what was going to happen and allowed it to happen. Our God has made a plan for the human race to provide everyone a Saviour, but only those who choose to accept His free gift of salvation will spend eternity with Him. Does He know who is going to accept Him, absolutley, did He know Judas was going to betray Him, absolutely. This is the biggest stumbling block for calvinist folks, they are consistently “worrying” about God’s part when I believe they would be much better off worrying about their part. To all my good calvinst friends out there, I know you think you don’t have to, but please call on the Lord Jesus Christ to save you, just as the entire new testament teaches, just to make sure.

    • Damien T Garofalo on

      Hey there, Greg. Thanks for commenting. I don’t update this blog regularly anymore, so I apologize if I’m not able to carry on a regular dialog with you on this subject. I don’t mind your analogy in trying to explain God’s foreknowledge. I really don’t. I don’t believe all Christians must be Calvinists, or see things my way.

      As for your other comment, I do take issue. Who are these calvinists who are “consistently ‘worrying’ about God’s part”? Can you quote one for me? What does that even mean? And do you really think we ignore man’s part? What historical or modern Calvinists do you know that do not call sinners to repentance and Christians to holiness?

      Finally, where in the world do you get the idea that Calvinists don’t believe you have to call on the Lord Jesus to save us? Which Calvinist said that? And, I have to ask, are you implying that we as Calvinists are not saved?

      • Danilo Agpoon on

        Thanks Bro. Garofalo for your latest email. I appreciate your kind effort of informing me of the latest blog on election subject.I believe in the doctrines of election and predestination because they are everywhere in the Bible.No sincere and serious student of the Word would just ignore them for they are God’s Truth. I like the analogy of Bro. Greg about vehicles and helicopter but I don’t agree with what he said on the last part of his comment and I quote: “To all my good calvinist friends out there, I know you think you don’t have to, but please call on the Lord Jesus Christ to save you, just as the entire new testament teaches, just to make sure.”
        And you are right my Brother that unless he supplies his allegations with evidences from history, all his arguments fall to the ground.
        I am thankful to God Brother that at least through this Blog I have learned a lot in understanding some difficult things about election and predestination. God’s gift of eternal life is being given by God through His grace and man has to accept it by faith.
        “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” [KJV] Ephesians 2:8 It shows that man has a part in God’s plan of redemption. That is not work but faith.

        “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” [KJV] Ephesians 1:13
        “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” [KJV] Romans 10:13-15

  9. James on

    You’ve missed the point about election. What god elected before the foundation of the world is that “all believers” should be saved and “conformed to the image of the Son.” it was the plan of GRACE God sovereignly chose by which men could be saved, as opposed to earning salvation through 100% obedience to the Mosaic law. Thus, the Jew had no place to “reply against God” for saving prostitutes, sinners, etc., for God is sovereign. If he chooses to hear the cry of a believing sinner, like Bartimaeus, that is His sovereign choice. Thus, it is the means of Grace God chose to save sinful men, and all who believe the Gospel. it was not specific persons God chose, but all who believe His Gospel that are predestined to be “baptized into one body” whether “jew or gentile”.

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