Divine Election, Human Free Will, or Mystery? Why Only Some Are Saved

Last updated on:

Why doesn’t everyone believe? This is a question that nearly every believer in the world asks themselves or others from time to time. For some, it is a constant question that they feel they don’t have an answer to. Some believe they’ll never know the answer. As a seminary student some years ago, I heard the same answer of “it’s a mystery” all the time. And for a while, it seemed believable: after all, I saw the reality of Heaven and Hell and decided I didn’t want to go to Hell. When someone is presented with Heaven and Hell, they’ll automatically choose Heaven, right? Who in their right mind would ever choose Hell? These questions ran through my mind and I concluded that, if someone still chose Hell, with all that God did for mankind in Christ, then he or she had some other reason behind their motivation. But, whatever the reason was, that person just couldn’t choose Hell knowing how terrible and frightful of a place it is. And so, the mystery answer appealed to me because it showed the hardness of the human heart while still understanding that that “hardness” took on different, particular reasons. It’s mysterious nature was its appeal.

And yet, as appealing of an answer as “mystery” is, it’s simply unbiblical. Nowhere in the Bible do we find that someone never gets saved because of “mysterious,” unknown reasons. Mystery is the card many appeal to in order to seem “humble” and pious, but it is unbiblical. We know why some are saved. The Scriptures give specific reasons behind why some are saved and others are not saved. Now, with regard to those specific reasons, Calvinists will tell you that, according to the theology of John Calvin (called “Calvinism” after its founder), only some are saved because of divine election. Divine election says that God “elects” or “selects” (or chooses) some individuals to be saved out of billions of humans. Those who are chosen or elected by God will endure unto eternal life. The others, who are not chosen by God, may either 1) never believe at all or 2) believe for a while and then fall away. John Calvin says the following in his Institutes regarding the rocky or stony ground believer in Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8:

“Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts. Sometimes, however, he communicates it also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Kindle Edition, Location 18132).

John Calvin says in the above quote that God gives some grace to the reprobate (the non-elect person), though it isn’t saving grace. Whatever grace it is, to John Calvin it wasn’t salvific grace. The grace of God in the reprobate’s life is a teasing grace of sorts, a grace designed to torture them before they enter into eternal torment at death. But, again, it isn’t salvific grace. God’s grace to the reprobate will never enable them to be saved because, to use a statement that some Calvinists regret but I use because it is the logical extension of their theological position, “God didn’t want to save the reprobate. He only wants to damn them.”

The elect saved persons are those who will be saved. In Calvinism, it doesn’t matter about a person’s circumstances. If a particular individual is chosen by God “before the foundation of the world,” a phrase Calvinists borrow from Paul’s words in Ephesians 1, then the individual is only saved by God’s divine election — nothing else required. Those who disagree with the Calvinist view of divine election say that election is involved but that divine election alone in salvation isn’t enough. There must be another factor that explains why some believe and others don’t. The missing factor has to be human free will. What else can explain the hardness of men’s hearts to resist and reject the gospel?

We will examine all three factors — divine election, human free will, and mystery — in the following article, looking in the pages of Scripture to come to a conclusion about why only some are saved. The answer could be one of the three, two of the three, or all three. However, mystery will be debunked, as Scripture clearly defines why some are saved and others are not. There’s little room for mystery in the Scriptures that God designed as special revelation of Himself. Paul used mystery and revealed the nature thereof; perhaps this article will unveil the mystery behind salvation for some who have used the mystery answer for so long.

“Chosen In Christ,” “In Him”: Ephesians 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:1-14)

Ephesians 1 is the passage upon which Calvinists live and die. For them, it is the heart of Calvinism and its teachings regarding the salvation of man and God’s plan of salvation for humanity. And yet, within Ephesians 1, we also find information that directly contradicts Calvinism — and some Calvinists to this day still don’t see it.

First, Ephesians 1:4 says “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” This phrase has been interpreted by Calvinists to mean that “God chose us to be saved before time.” The fact that Paul is referring to the congregation at Ephesus just highlights Calvinism in the mind of its proponents. Paul is only here talking to the saints, the saved, those who believe in Jesus, so “election is only for the saved,” Calvinists say.

And yet, this poses a problem for the claim of the Scriptures. If God chose Christians “to be in Christ,” as Calvinists claim, then why is it that God also purposed to give Jesus to die for the world, which includes both believers and unbelievers?

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33)

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51)

46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. (John 12:46-47)

These few verses from the Gospels (these six passages above) show that Jesus came to save “the world,” everyone in the world, not just a few. If Calvinists read Ephesians 1 to mean “God chose only the saved in Christ,” then they’re implicitly saying that “God only sent Jesus into the world to save some.” And yet, the Gospels prove problematic for Calvinism because they tell us that Jesus died for “the world,” not the elect in the world, or the few (the number of saved persons as compared to the billions of humans in the world population). If God elected people in Jesus, then He elected the world in Christ. If election is “unconditional,” as Calvinists say, then the universalists win the day — for this would mean that the salvation of humanity has everything to do with Jesus and nothing to do with whether humans accept or reject Jesus in the gospel or not. In other words, every human would be saved whether they accepted the gospel or not.

God so loved the world, and thereby, so “chose” or elected the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus. When God the Father sent Jesus into the world, He thereby elected everyone — not only those who would be saved in the future but even those who’d never be saved. God’s salvation of humanity is His election of humanity. We know this to be true not only because of the logic of John 3:16-18 and other verses but also because Jesus is called the elect one on whom mankind must believe:

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion

A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,

And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:4-6)

1 Peter 2:6 refers to “Him,” Jesus, as “a chief cornerstone, elect, precious.” In other words, Jesus is the “elect” one, the one God the Father has chosen, and “he who believes on Him” will be saved. Peter quotes from Isaiah 28:16 when referring to Christ as “elect.” John also notes that Jesus is the One who has the Father’s seal of approval, divine election:

26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:26-27)

God the Father has “set His seal” on Jesus, His seal of approval. Remember, when Jesus is baptized and comes up out of the river, God the Father speaks from Heaven: “This my Beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). Jesus is the One with whom the Father is pleased, and humanity cannot be pleasing to God the Father unless humanity is in union with Christ, the Well-Pleasing One. As Paul himself says in Ephesians 1, the passage that started this discussion,

4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)

How are we made accepted in the Beloved? By God’s grace. God’s grace, then, is a condition for our election. Our election, then, is conditional, and requires something else in addition to the divine election. Jesus is the Beloved, Jesus is the Well-Pleasing One, and we can only become “beloved” and “well-pleasing” through union with Him, by the grace of God through faith in God the Son (Jesus).

As we’ve seen here in Ephesians 1, we are “made accepted in the Beloved,” so being “chosen in Christ” from the foundation of the world refers to God the Father choosing all humanity in Jesus. The saints to whom Paul is writing are not the only ones that have been chosen in Christ. The churches to which Paul wrote half of the New Testament epistles are not the only ones that were chosen in Christ. The unbelieving portion of humanity was also chosen in Christ. Jesus is the propitiation not “for our sins only, but the sins of the whole world,” John writes in 1 John 2:2. The whole world is elect in Christ.

Unless there’s a condition, the universalists win the theological battle, and someone like Bishop Carlton Pearson who argues universalism in his book, The Gospel of Inclusion: Reaching Beyond Religious Fundamentalism to the True Love of God and Self, is right about his view that everyone is “already saved” and doesn’t need the gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. However, contrary to universalism, there is a condition; we’ll get into that in the next section.

Christ is the One that makes our election possible because He is the elect one, the one who makes the believer be at peace with God because we are justified by faith in Jesus (Romans 5:1). Jesus makes our union with Christ possible. Paul records this in Ephesians 1 with the phrases “[God] who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (v.3), “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (v.4), “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself” (v.5), “His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (v.6), “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (v.7), and “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance” (v.11).

Yes, believers in Christ have been elected; but their election to salvation is only possible because of Jesus. Jesus is the Well-Pleasing One, the atoning sacrifice, the One who pleases the Father, the “Beloved,” as Paul says. And without Him, we can’t be “made accepted” or “receive the adoption as sons.” Ephesians 1 is not merely discussing the idea of us “being in Christ,” that is, being saved; its emphasis, contra Calvinism, is on the one who makes salvation and all its benefits possible: that is, Jesus Christ. Our salvation is so tied to Christ that He must be the foundational condition of our salvation. To be “unconditionally” saved is to be saved “apart from” or “without” Christ — which is an impossibility considering humanity’s sinful state.

One more example in Ephesians 1 will suffice. To prove that divine election alone is insufficient to explain the salvation of some and not all, we have Paul’s own words at the end of Ephesians 1:1-14:

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

In the middle of a passage where Paul has been Christocentric and made Jesus the emphasis of divine election, Paul now goes into human responsibility. Though the Ephesian believers are “elect” in Christ, their election would be incomplete without human responsibility. “You also trusted in Him,” Paul says, “after you heard the word of truth…in whom also, having believed, you were sealed.” These words shouldn’t be taken lightly. What they mean, in essence, are that God works with human choice in salvation. The Ephesians “heard the word of truth,” then “trusted” or “believed” in Jesus. Only with their faith in Jesus were they then “sealed.” The phrase “having believed” shows that faith must be exercised and in existence before the divine sealing occurs. God cooperates with human choice in salvation, even with the existence of divine election. As we will see in the next passage, divine election and human responsibility work well together.

Divine Foreknowledge: A Condition of Election (1 Peter 1:1-2)

Peter writes to the believers in the Dispersion, the scattered Jewish believers, reminding them of the promises of God and the commandments of God. In his opening, he mentions two words that shake the very foundation of Calvinism: “elect” and “foreknowledge”:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:1-2)

Peter says here that the saints are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” This phrase not only provides some serious theological doctrine for us to consider but also unravels Calvinism. The Greek πρόγνωσιν (prognosin) refers to “knowledge beforehand” or “to know beforehand.” So, when it says that believers are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” it means that believers are elect according to what God foreknows about them: that is, God the Father foreknows those who will accept His offer of salvation in Jesus or not. Here we see divine foreknowledge and election meet in beautiful fashion. Calvinists always say that “God chooses according to His own will,” leaving room for nothing more than the mere arbitrary whim of God. After all, Calvinists are the first to say, “We aren’t saved by anything we do, by works,” but in their definition of works they include “faith.” Therefore, when a Calvinist says that “we are saved by God’s grace,” they really mean “We are saved without regard to faith,” leaving salvation up to merely the divine whim. In other words, God saves whom He pleases and abandons and damns whom He pleases, in such a view.

But divine foreknowledge in election poses a problem for Calvinism because foreknowledge only exists in a situation where two parties are involved. God foreknowing something about Himself is a “duh” concept: of course God foreknows what He will do! We foreknow things we will do as well, so this is basically a self-evident statement. And yet, it’s foreknowledge of others that we’re discussing. God foreknowing whom He will choose, a statement made by Calvinists, sounds self-evident and doesn’t pertain to the foreknowledge mentioned here in 1 Peter 1:2. The foreknowledge of God here pertains to others, humanity, those God foreknows will believe in Jesus. “The sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (v.2) refers to salvation, when the blood is applied to the lives of believers. Peter says here that believers are elect according to divine foreknowledge, those whom God foreknows will receive salvation.

Divine foreknowledge in election means that election isn’t just based on divine action but on the action of others (humans) as well. It means that divine action alone isn’t enough to bring salvation into the life of individuals; rather, individuals must respond to the divine initiative in order to be saved. Paul says the same in Ephesians 1, and Peter here affirms the same through the use of one word: “foreknowledge.”

Two Conditions to Election (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

God “chose” the Thessalonian believers to be saved “through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). What this means is that there are at least two conditions for salvation. The Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer, and sanctification is a necessary process in divine election to salvation. One other requirement is “belief in the truth,” or what we know as human responsibility. That is, there’s something we must do in order to be saved; we’re not just saved or lost on divine arbitrary whim. Rather, being elected to salvation involves a response to the gospel “to which He called you,” Paul says. God calls us in the gospel, and we respond in faith to receive salvation.

Four Different Responses to the Gospel (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8)

In the last section, we studied some of the Doctrine of Election in Scripture and arrived at the conclusion that election is biblical, but that election is available for everyone because God, in His love, sent Jesus. Jesus came for everyone, and, in that sense, “chooses” or “elects” everyone. And yet, the election is incomplete without one’s acceptance or rejection of the gospel.

What we’ve seen early on is that “mystery” doesn’t factor into God’s plan of salvation in the sense that we’re not kept in the dark by God about how it works. What Calvinism doesn’t teach is that God “reveals” the plan of salvation and what is required of man in Scripture. Why is Scripture called “revelation” if its agenda is to keep salvation and the plan of God “hidden” from humanity? Why would God come to save humanity and then keep that same humanity ignorant and in the dark about how His plan works?

The trouble with Calvinism is that it doesn’t consider what Scripture says about why some are saved and some are lost. Jesus, God incarnate, actually taught the masses and His disciples about why some are saved and lost. The reality of it all is that the Word of God, the gospel, is always sown into the hearts of its hearers — but not all hearers receive it. The Parable of the Sower (as it is formally called) highlights the human will and heart as the reason behind why some are saved and some are lost.

The Parable of the Sower and the Soils

The Parable of the Sower and the Soils (or just “The Parable of the Sower”) is found in the work of three Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Matthew and Luke tend to provide lots of detail into Jesus’ teachings, so we’re not surprised to see this Parable in either Gospel. Mark, however, does shock us, as it seems he had a preoccupation with demonic spirits, the spiritual realm, and spiritual mysteries that defy the human mind.

To consider the Parable of the Sower, let’s take a look at each passage in turn.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)

Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower, describing four situations affecting the seed. First, the seed is sown; the seed is the Word of God or “the word of the kingdom,” Jesus says in Matthew 13:18. If the “word of the kingdom” isn’t the Word of God, the gospel, then what is it?

Next, the seed is scattered. In the scattering process, there is no exact place where all the seeds go; rather, some seeds fall along the wayside, some among thorns, some on stony or rocky ground, and some on good ground. Not all of the seeds fall on good ground or the wayside, for example. Jesus is very much the “farmer” in this analogy, sowing the seed of the Word in the hearts and minds of all who want to hear it. Jesus is liberal in giving the message: He doesn’t give it to just those who will receive it and persevere in the faith. He doesn’t just give it to those who will endure until death and bear thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold fruit. Jesus gives the gospel to all who want to hear it, to all who are available to hear it — whether they understand it or not, receive it or not, or listen attentively or are distracted. In His grace, He gives the Word, the gospel, to all. All get the opportunity to hear it; at least this is what we’re led to believe if the gospel is the seed sown and it ends up scattered in all kinds of places.

This universality of the scattered seed in the gospel is what convinces me that some are saved and some are lost because of human free will and not divine election. Why would God give the grace of hearing the gospel to those that He never intends to receive it? It’s one thing if they refuse to hear it, or refuse to accept and live out its commands. But to say that God doesn’t want them saved and He gives them the chance to hear a gospel He never wants them to accept is entirely different. The latter statement suggests that God doesn’t want to save them, that He doesn’t love them enough to save them. Calvinists may say, “Oh, God loves them because He gives them common grace,” but if it’s true, then God loves some more than others because some get salvific grace while others do not. Common grace isn’t salvific grace, nor can it save humanity. How then, does God truly love them if He deprives them of saving grace, the only grace that can give them an alternative lifestyle and eternal hope?

Jesus gets to the heart of the matter here in the Gospels when He speaks on the four different situations of the seed. The seed doesn’t all fall into the good ground or good soil. I sure wish it did, but it does not. And the different situations describe different hearers of the gospel. Some don’t understand the gospel, some are distracted from the gospel, some receive the gospel but refuse to give up their temptation(s), and others receive it, endure until the end, and bear fruit to confirm their faith.

First, there’s the Wayside Hearer:

18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. (Matthew 13:18-19, NKJV)

With the Wayside Hearer, he or she “does not understand” the gospel, the Word of God. When this occurs, when the Wayside Hearer receives the gospel message but doesn’t receive it personally, “the wicked one,” that being Satan, “comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart” (v.19). Satan actually takes the Word out of the Wayside Hearer’s heart. Are you reading this? This is hard for Calvinists to swallow, this is hard for Calvinism to embrace. Essentially, it says that God can sow the Word in the hearer’s heart, and Satan can come and snatch it away. And why? All because the Wayside Hearer doesn’t understand the message. Satan dwells where there is confusion, so it’s not surprising to see him present in the preaching of the gospel and in the salvation process. We often believe that only the Spirit of God is present in the preaching of the gospel, convicting men and women and exalting Jesus, but we see from Matthew 13 that Satan is also present. Spiritual warfare exists even in gospel preaching and in the salvation process, as Satan fights against God’s desire for your salvation to see to it that you not be saved — no matter the cost. If Satan can win you over through confusion and misunderstanding, then that’s what he’ll use to capture your soul. If Satan is present during the preaching of the gospel, snatching away the Word of God from the heart of hearers, then he is doing everything he can to prevent God from winning souls to Himself. Scripture tells us that the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7, 10), but it’s also true that Satan rejoices over one sinner who hardens his or her heart and doesn’t repent. Satan even rejoices over one sinner who doesn’t understand the gospel.

When Jesus mentions the ability of Satan to “snatch away what was sown in his heart,” He doesn’t seem threatened by the idea that “Satan seems more powerful than God here,” as Calvinists say. In Calvinism, if Satan is allowed to snatch away the Word of God, then “God isn’t sovereign,” they say. But if that’s the case, why does Jesus teach this idea here and not stutter or attempt to detail what He means as though it isn’t obvious? Jesus doesn’t backtrack on this statement. For those who do not understand the gospel, Satan gets a foothold in leading them away from faith. When the seed is sown, one can’t help that some seed falls by the wayside. Every farmer can testify that not every “itty bitty seed” goes where it should. Such is the case with the gospel, the word of the kingdom, the Word of God, the preaching of the good news.

Before moving on, let’s discover something else about the Wayside Hearer: this hearer of the gospel doesn’t understand the Word. Though the gospel “is sown in his heart,” he doesn’t get it. The phrase “is sown” is passive, showing that the Wayside Hearer doesn’t sow the Word in his or heart, but rather, is a passive recipient of the Word. This shows us the sovereignty of God in the preaching of the gospel. The gospel is sown into the hearts of every man and woman, though not all will respond in faith. And even when it is sown, not all understand it. Of course, the Lord desires that all understand the gospel and all receive it, but not all will. The fact that only some are saved is not a reality to rejoice in necessarily, but to accept. Yes, there is something worth rejoicing over in that any one gets saved (that God in His sovereignty grants salvation to anyone is praiseworthy), but it’s not something to celebrate when you know that, of the 7.6 billion people in the world, there are only a few million that are saved as of this moment.

Next, there’s the Stony Ground or Rocky Soil Hearer:

20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. (Matthew 13:20-21)

The Stony Ground Hearer is like the seed on stony ground: he or she “hears the word and immediately receives it with joy.” The Stony Ground Hearer receives the Word, embraces the Word, and accepts it with joy. The joy produced in his or her acceptance of the Word of God demonstrates that this individual’s heart and life have been changed by God. By all appearances, the Stony Ground Hearer, now Stony Ground Believer, is a saved person, a Christian who loves the Lord. And yet, “he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while” (Matthew 13:21). The Stony Ground Hearer becomes a Christian but only lasts for a time. We don’t know the length of that time: they could endure for 5 months, 5 years, even 15 or 20 years. And yet, the phrase “a while” indicates that the believer doesn’t stay in the Christian race very long.

The Stony Ground Hearer-turned-believer falls away due to persecution and tribulation: “when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Matthew 13:21). The Stony Ground Hearer is not only a temporary believer because he or she “receives the Word with joy,” but because he or she experiences persecution and tribulation “because of the word.” This means that, as the Word says that believers will endure persecution and tribulation, so does the Stony Ground Hearer-turned-believer. The fact that their persecution and tribulation is due to the Word is demonstration that the Stony Ground Hearer is a believer, a Christian. “Because of the word” means “as the Word says” or “due to the Word of God.” How do unbelievers experience persecution and tribulation on account of the Word of God when they aren’t even believers? Where does the Word of God say that unbelievers experience temptation due to the Word? It doesn’t. Christians experience persecution and tribulation because the Word of God says that all who are in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).

The Stony Ground Hearer becomes a Stony Ground Believer. As a believer, the individual endures what Christians endure: persecution and tribulation, both of which are part of the Christian life. Why would the Stony Ground Believer endure something Christian if he or she isn’t a Christian? To argue that the Stony Ground Believer isn’t saved makes little sense exegetically and contextually in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8.

The Stony Ground Believer is one who gets saved immediately, but also immediately “stumbles” or falls in his or her faith. So, when it comes to the only two believers in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, only one of the two survives and endures until the end. The Stony Ground Believer falls before he or she can really get started, is cut down in his or her spiritual “prime.”

This should serve notice on Calvinism. Why are only some saved? Some are saved because some hear the Word and receive it while others do not. But, even after someone is saved, he or she can still be lost and fall away from the faith due to persecution and tribulation. Some end up like the Stony Ground Believer here in Jesus’ Parable: they are “once saved” but not “always saved.” Not only are some saved because some hear the Word, understand it, and obey, but some are also saved because they choose to endure persecution and tribulation in faith while some believers do not. As one can see in the Parable of the Sower, the question of “why are only some saved?” is not one with easy answers. There’s more than one reason as to why some are saved and others are not, and Scripture affirms a complex reality for which Calvinism fails to leave any room.

In verse 22, we read of the seed among the thorns:

22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)

The seed sown among thorns is the Thorny Hearer, the one who hears the gospel but is distracted by 1) worldly matters and 2) the deceitfulness of riches. In other words, he or she is so preoccupied by what’s happening in the world, how to get rich quick, making more money, growing their business, living it up in absolute hedonism, that the Thorny Hearer doesn’t seem to care about the gospel. The Thorny Hearer has his or her own money, position, fame, fortune, or material possessions that the gospel doesn’t fill a need in their lives. They don’t need or want for anything, including the Word of God, and so they find the gospel to be “of a different flavor,” an acquired taste for which they have no desire. They don’t need the Word, don’t seem to care for it because they have too many other things going on that monopolize their attention. The Word is not essential to the Thorny Hearer, it’s optional or “meh.”

Last but not least is the Good Ground Believer:

23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23)

The Good Ground Believer hears the Word, understands it, and goes forth and bears fruit in the Christian life — though in various amounts (30, 60, or 100-fold). The Good Ground Believer is the one who 1) receives the Word with joy and gets saved and 2) continues in the Word and bears fruit. Everyone loves the Good Ground Believer, and for good reason: we wish everyone was saved, that everyone was a Good Ground Believer, that everyone received the gospel and lived out the gospel. However, as can be seen, Good Ground Believers constitute twenty-five percent of all hearers in the world. They’re only half of the believers in the world, since Stony Ground Believers endure temporarily but then fall away and ultimately end up judged as unbelievers. Getting saved is one thing; staying saved and remaining in the faith is another. All believers fulfill the first condition (“getting saved”), but not all fulfill the second (“staying saved”).

Let’s examine details of the other two Gospel accounts, Mark 4 and Luke 8.

Mark 4:1-9, 13-20

And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. 2 Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:

3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 7 And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

9 And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness;17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (Mark 4:1-9, 13-20)

Here in Mark 4, the Stony Ground Believer returns. They stumble “when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake” (Mark 4:17). What “word’s sake” is mentioned here? Exactly why are they suffering tribulation and persecution? An unbeliever, someone never saved, wouldn’t suffer persecution and tribulation for the “fun” of it (it’s not fun at all, by the way). And notice that the Stony Ground or Rocky Soil plant (representing the temporary believer) “immediately sprang up” (Mark 4:6) and then “withered away” (Mark 4:7). How does the rocky soil plant “wither away” if there wasn’t a plant there to begin with? And how does the seed germinate into a plant if the ground doesn’t receive it? In order for a plant to spring up, the seed must have been received into the soil. There must have been a germination process of some sort, the ground’s reception of the seed sown. For a plant to rise from the ground means that the seed-growing process must have taken place. So what this means is that not only was the seed, the Word sown in the heart of the Stony Ground or Rocky Soil Believer, but that the person(s) received the Word and it “was received into the heart” of that believer. In other words, the Stony Ground/Rocky Soil individual gets saved, though he or she doesn’t stay saved very long. Their salvation is a temporary kind; despite its temporary state, Jesus doesn’t question their salvation. It is assumed to be genuine until they fall away. And yet, their persecution or tribulation “for the word’s sake” points to their salvation, their genuine conversion. What this tells us is that you can be genuinely converted and yet, still fall away from the faith and give up your faith and Christ. This fact is scary to Calvinism because it shows that believers cannot evaluate their faith in Christ and their relationship with Jesus based on what they do. As there are some who will say in the final judgment, “We did many wonderful works in your name,” Jesus will still tell them, “Depart from Me, for I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). See our work here at Bible Knowledge titled “Never Saved: How Christians Misuse Matthew 7:21-23” for more information.

Luke 8:4-8, 11-15

4 And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8 But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.13 But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares,riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:4-8, 11-15)

Luke 8 shows some detail that we don’t find in the other Gospel accounts of the Parable of the Sower. First, the Wayside Hearer never gets saved because we read the words, “lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). We know that the Devil takes the Word of God out of the hearts of the Wayside Hearers so that the Word can’t take root. In verse 13, the rocky soil believer “falls away in time of temptation” after believing “for a while.” This isn’t a surprise to us, but it shows that “believing for a while” is still a reference to an indefinite amount of time. I’m inclined to believe the rocky soil believer is a babe in Christ (maybe between a few months to a few years old in the faith), but the text is indefinite, generic, and vague — leaving the reader to speculate as to what length of time the Stony Ground/Rocky Soil Believer stayed in the faith before apostatizing.

Now that we’ve studied the Parable of the Sower, let’s take a look at some other examples that explain why only some are saved.

Jesus rebukes unrepentant cities (Matthew 11:20-24)

20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum,who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11:20-24)

Jesus rebukes the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum “because they did not repent” (Matthew 11:20). These cities chose not to repent and would not do away with their evil ways. Nowhere do we read that God “damned” these cities because He simply didn’t elect them to salvation. What we read is that these cities failed to repent of their wickedness. Once again, we read nothing of mystery. Jesus doesn’t wonder why these cities are unrepentant; rather, He knows why and condemns them for their unrepentant hearts.

The Parable of the Servant and the Crossroads Decision (Matthew 24:45-51)

Some are not saved because of their unrepentant hearts, but some are not saved in the end because they choose to abandon their previous faithfulness to God and “go their own way.” This is the case for the famous (yet unnamed) servant discussion in Matthew 24. The Lord commends the faithful and wise servant who rises up to serve the Master’s household until the Master returns. And yet, there is the one evil servant who sees that his Master has delayed His coming and decides to abandon his post and commitment:

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:45-51)

Jesus says here in the Gospel of Matthew that the servant who abandons his watch and begins to eat, drink, get drunk, and beat the servants (he or she becomes abusive, drunk, lazy, and slothful) will have “his portion with the hypocrites” when Jesus returns. “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The servant who turns unfaithful will have his or her portion with the hypocrites. He or she will be labeled a hypocrite, someone who is “under” (Greek hupo) judgment (Greek, krites). The “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is a clear giveaway to Hell and eternal torment in Hell’s flame.

The Pharisaical unwillingness to be saved (John 5:31-40)

31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. 35 He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. 36 ButI have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. 37 And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. 38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (John 5:31-40)

Here in John 5, we see Jesus addressing the Pharisees at the chapter’s end. In verse 34, Jesus says to the Pharisees, “I say these things that you may be saved.” Jesus wants even the hard-hearted Pharisees to be saved, to come to faith, to accept that He is the Messiah, sent by God the Father. Many Christians have often written off the Pharisees: “They’re never going to believe anyway, so what was the point? Jesus wasted little time on the Pharisees because He knew they’d never believe.” And yes, to some extent, that’s true. However, Jesus says here in John 5:34 that He wants the Pharisees to be saved. He expresses the divine intention for even the worst believers (those of the Pharisaical kind) to come to faith. This shows us the universal love of God that He wants all to be saved, even the self-righteous Pharisees who keep the letter of the law but don’t understand the Spirit of it.

In verse 40 of the same chapter, Jesus further emphasizes the Pharisees’ hard-heartedness: “You are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” The phrase “you are not willing to come to Me” is all we need to read to understand Jesus’ point here. Calvinists since Calvin’s day have said that John 6, where some of Jesus’ followers abandon Him, is really all about God electing some and rejecting others. And yet, those Calvinists have not read John 5:40, where Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are their own worst stumblingblock. “You could be saved, but you choose not to come to Me. You choose to remain hard-hearted and not believe in Me, even though the very Scriptures you study are about Me,” Jesus says in few words. This tells us that human responsibility to repent and believe is what’s holding back the Pharisees. God has already said “yes” to every person when He sent Jesus to die for the sins of the world and everyone in it. And yet, the Pharisees won’t do what they need to do in order to be saved.

Jesus gives the disciples a choice (John 6:60-71)

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” 71 He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve. (John 6:60-71)

Here in John 6, Jesus is teaching those who are following Him, but He is aware that some are following Him not for His teaching, not for eternal life, but for food. These followers had eaten the two fish and five loaves of bread Jesus had provided when the crowds came to hear Him preach (and the disciples had no food for them). Having eaten and had their bellies filled, they wanted more food where that food came from. And yet, Jesus was teaching them about the food that would lead to eternal life, the Word of God, salvation, accepting and trusting in Jesus as their Savior, as the Savior of the world. Jesus wanted them to focus on the spiritual — but some only wanted physical gratification and satisfaction.

Finally, some of His followers turn and walk away. Jesus then turns to the disciples and asks them if they also want to depart: “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67) The question we should ask ourselves is, “Why would Jesus ask the disciples if they wanted to depart if they couldn’t depart?” This tells us that, contrary to the claims of Calvinism and the theology of John Calvin that state that a believer can never depart from Christ, Jesus asks the disciples about their desire to depart. By the Lord asking the question, He is implicitly acknowledging that believers can depart from the Lord, can depart from Christ.

This believer is akin to the Rocky Soil or Stony Ground believer, someone who starts with the Lord but then departs quickly. And yet, the message is clear: disciples of Jesus can depart from Jesus. Some in the end will not be saved because of their own choice to apostatize and depart, not because Jesus “didn’t pick them” or elect them to salvation. Contra John Calvin, some will depart because of their own choice, not because God gives them “teasing grace,” them abandons them and “smites them with greater blindness,” as Calvin says in his Commentaries.

The Parable of The Great Supper (Luke 14:16-24)

16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ” (Luke 14:16-24)

In the Parable of The Great Supper, Jesus tells of a Master who invites many people to come to his supper. He believes that those He has invited are valuable guests and has made preparations for them. But instead of them graciously accepting His offer and attending the Supper, they turn hesitant and start making excuses: one man purchased some new land and wanted to go see it; another purchased oxen and wanted to use them in farming. Yet another man said that he was a newlywed and wanted to be with his bride as a newly married man. And for all these reasons, these three individuals could not attend the Supper to which the Master had graciously invited them.

The servant brings these responses to the Master, and the Master turns angry (Luke 14:21). Some question why there is even a Hell in the first place, but Luke 14 tells us why: not only is Hell a place of punishment for the Devil and his angels (the fallen angels; see our “Fallen From Grace: What the Bible Says About Fallen Angels” for more information), but it is also a place where unbelievers will reside in the end. Hell exists because of the anger of God, a righteous anger. God has a right to be angry because, as is obvious in the Parable of the Great Supper in Luke 14, He invited those who rejected His invitation to the Supper. He gave them an opportunity to attend. He could’ve refused to invite them at all, but He extended special invitations to them and yet, they were too busy for His Supper. They had “better things to do,” as the saying goes.

Now, in context, Jesus is likely referring to the Pharisees and the Jews, who are those He came to in His ministry on earth; and yet, the Pharisees have intentionally rejected Jesus at every turn. Though they know the Scriptures, they reject the One of whom the Scriptures prophesy. And therefore, Jesus rejects them from His Supper. He says that “none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper” (Luke 14:24). In the end, Jesus rejects those who, once invited, rejected Him. Those who were invited never “taste” the Lord’s Supper not because God didn’t select them; in fact, they were actually invited by the Lord to salvation, to eternity with Him. They are rejected in the end because they willingly rejected God’s gracious invitation. The rejected have no one to blame but themselves. Again, divine election is not what disqualifies them, but rather, their own free will (or voluntary) choice.

The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers (Luke 20:9-19)

9 Then He began to tell the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. 10 Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out.

13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’ 14 But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.”

And when they heard it they said, “Certainly not!”

17 Then He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

‘The stone which the builders rejected

Has become the chief cornerstone’?

18 Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

19 And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people—for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. (Luke 20:9-19)

The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers is also about a Master who leases His vineyard to vinedressers, laborers, who are responsible for its upkeep. The Master goes away into a far country and sent a servant to collect some of the vineyard produce. The vinedressers beat the servant and sent him away, however. Two other servants were sent to the vinedressers, but they beat them and sent them away empty-handed, without any produce. Finally, the Master of the vineyard decides to send His Son, thinking that the vinedressers will accept His Son. Unfortunately, the opposite happened: the vinedressers killed the Son. In other words, the vinedressers were wicked and at every turn, rejected the divine command and their responsibility. And for their rejection of His servants and His Son, Jesus says that the vineyard would be taken from the Jews and given to others who’d accept it. Once again, the Jews can’t say that they didn’t have a chance because the Master sent them servants and even His Son for them to receive. They did not.


We’re at the end of the discussion here on “why only some are saved.” Some believe that divine election determines who will come to Christ and who will not; and yet, we’ve seen that divine election isn’t enough because human action is required in the gospel process. One must not only hear the Word but must also accept Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior. Divine election is there for those who act upon their human responsibility and accept Jesus.

We’ve also seen that mystery has nothing to do with why some are saved and others are not. If mystery were the answer, then no one would ever be saved because we’d never know what the Lord requires of us to extend His gracious salvation to us.

In the end, some are saved and others aren’t because of the divine gift of human choice. As we’ve seen in the Parable of the Great Supper, the Lord extends His gracious invitation to us to come partake of His supper. In the same way that those invited in the Parable had excuses, many do today. Despite invitations to those who rejected His offer, the Lord has a benevolent heart, a giving heart. He wants to share His supper with everyone. This explains why He told His servants to go into the hedges and highways and compel all who were willing to come to His marriage supper. Does this benevolence sound like the god of Calvinism? No, it doesn’t. If God were a Calvinist God, He would’ve invited some and forced His irresistible grace on them so that they’d have no choice but to come. Instead, the Lord doesn’t force anyone to come because there are those who refuse His gracious invitation. The choice to refuse Christ’s invitation tells us that Calvinism cannot be true. Divine election alone doesn’t explain why some are saved and some are not.

If there’s anything to take away from this discussion, let it be this: that is, free will choice is at the heart of salvation for some and damnation for others. And it is this way because God was pleased to design it in this way. Free will is necessary for love to take place. God so loved the world that He gave Jesus to die for us (John 3:16) — a free will choice. The God who so loved the world and chose to give Jesus is the same God who wants the world to choose Him and to love Him and His Son in return.


19 Responses to “Divine Election, Human Free Will, or Mystery? Why Only Some Are Saved”

Read below or add a comment...

Newer comments are at the top.

  1. I am in the identical situation you described. Was a Pastor for 10 yrs and for some strange reason, returned to worldly Iiving.
    Have experienced the separation from God way to long now. Quite familiar with Heb 6 and 2 Pet ch 2, and find them quite disturbing as well. I like you, have been in constant study and prayer and I did just recently, received a word from another believer that helped. I was told because of my rejuvenated thirst for the word and the longing for the estranged relationship with God to be renewed again, that God was willing and able to welcome another prodical son home!! After all, God did’nt create the separation I did!! Trust in the word and accept His “Amazing Grace” because true believers “shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

  2. The author misunderstands and misrepresents Calvinism IMO. There is not such thing as “free will.” Sure, we all make choices, but those choices all have a basis or predicate. God chose whom He loved and whom He hated in eternity past – before the foundations of the world. He also created evil – for nothing that exists was NOT created by Him. He is sovereign over the affairs of men and the entire universe. Anything less reduces His power and holiness. What seems like free will from our perspective is “anything but” from God’s.

  3. I don’t think the question — or the “mystery” — has been answered here. This has always been that “one big question” that I’m sure I’ll immediately know the answer to when I “see Him as He is”, but after decades of Bible study I doubt I’ll understand until then. This article, imho, just kicks the can down the road. Why does person A use their free will to accept the truth and person B does not? They have the same capacity for free will. Assuming both have had enough truth exposed to them by God to make an informed decision about the stakes involved, one cannot explain why they make opposing decisions.

  4. So you mean to say that the Bible says that God elected the whole world, every single human being to be saved, and then it is the task of the human to respond to that? In other words, the success of the plan of redemption resides on the human side, not with God?

    • Yes, He gives each of us a choice, even his “chosen” disciples!

  5. God chose Israel in the beginning and Israel rejected God, so God invited the Gentiles and they accepted the invitations, but God invited the gentiles to make Israel jealous so that they can also repent and be brought back to the kingdom of God. so God wants all of us to repent and accept Jesus before we can see the Kingdom of God. our duty is to accept Jesus (Gods invitation) and the “process of God doing it” or mind of the Lord will always remain a mystery to us.

  6. I’ve read and i’ve saw. Saved at 15. Left Jesus and committed all sin under the Sun. I felt a calling to go to Church some 36 years later (4 mos ago.) So I decided I hated who i’ve become and wanted to come back home. I am reading my Bible, going to Church. Praying throughout the day. I stopped all the drugs except 2. ones that I “have” to be on by the Dr. Everyday, I run into condemnation. I see Hebrews 10, and feel like i’ve done the unpardonable sin. I beat my face on the floor several times a day. sometimes bawling for hours. Still..I have no relationship. I was told to forgive myself, but as I said, there are passages that have just flopped open. One about “Once being enlightened, you can never come back” Why was I pulled to go to Church, and Why am I so sad? Why is it I seek him all day long. And hear or am I lead to knowing what I should do next? I’m feeling damned. I don’t go outside. Don’t have a car. Live on Social Security, and in the guest room at my Sisters million Dollar house. She’s a Christian. Her Husband is very well off and she works her hands to the bone so, that’s why i’m not homeless. I wish I was. I am in all seriousness. He doesn’t talk to me anymore. Every day I wake up in a nightmare state of separation and hell. 2 computer screens, and a Bible are going on 19 hrs a day, trying to see what happens now. Last night an old friend popped up at Church. She told me HE talks through people sometimes, to be mindful and attentive to everything. That sometimes I perhaps “mis it..?” So I search with a study bible, and thousands of you tube and blogs and vlogs. Hoping..Praying..Seeking the small gate and narrow path. I honestly seek ye 1st the Kingdom of God and all his righteousness, but I will not be one of those “works to get to Heaven.” My best are as dirty rags. Some say i’m backslidden. I feel like my name is Esau. But I don’t want any of this.. this “stuff” ANYMORE!. I hate it when I sin, and immediately recognize it and ask for forgiveness. Grew up Baptist, went to the darkside, Listened to the Charismatics (Todd White, and Dan Moehler?) They are so HAPPY in the Lord. Although I was raised that tongues and everyone in Pentecostal movements, do not receive all these gifts. and the interpreter is seldom there, and why arent they at the cancer unit at the hospitals for kids etc.?? I JUST WANT TO COME BACK HOME. I miss my Lord terribly, and cannot rest without him.

    • God speaks through his word. Trust only the word of God. Pray that God would speak to you through his word. And that you would have understanding and ability to discern his word. God may use people to guide you in the word just beware of false teachers, and don’t rely solely on the word of man, as all men have sinful hearts. Trust only Gods word.
      Also, the things you are experiencing do not come from the Lord. Think of the fruits of the spirit. The devil may be making you feel like you are unforgivable, but God clearly shows us that everyone is cleansed through the blood of Jesus Christ. So if your feeling all this pain and fear and agony, that is not of the Lord, that is from the enemy, trying to lie to you, to keep you from God’s truth. Just stay in the word and stay in prayer and be joyful in the Lord because we Know HE IS THE VICTORY!

    • Believe God loves you; believe it. He will (not you) pick you up, dust you off, and push you into your present; forgiven. You are NOT dirty rags period; stop seeing yourself as such. See yourself as God sees you; your identify is in Him, embrace it, wear it.

      Stay in the word, pray, and be kind to yourself and others. Live the Word.

    • James, my heart breaks for you. I was raised and got saved in a christian home under parents who dearly loves the Lord. When I went to University, I slowly but surely drifted away and to my shame really enjoyed many wordly pleasures. I knew I were crucifying Jesus every time I sinned, all over again. It took many years to get back to the place were I repented and gave my life back to Him. Now I follow and serve Him again. I’m not a theologian, and believe me I have my moments of doubt, and also very much feared that passages you mentioned, but this I know because I know I know! I know I am saved by the blood of Jesus through His grace alone and I love the Lord Jesus deeply -why? Because of what He has done for me on the cross, because of His mercy and loving-kindness, His forgiveness and precious blood that saved me, because of His love and presence I know is part of my life now. I love His Word, the Bible, because He is the Word and His Word is the truth, so He is the truth. Do you really believes that Jesus would have died such a horrible death for only a few selected ones? He loves everyone…..He said himself He came to save sinners….not the good ones. If you go to Ephesians, ch 1-3 explains our rest position in Him…..just trust Him…..no matter how hard…..He will never forsake you. Read Hebrews 4:14-16….His throne of Grace is our resting place. You can do nothing to earn this position, excepts to give over to Him and rest in that special place of grace. And remember, Ps 91:1 says…..he that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. To be in the shadow of anyone, you need to be near that person…..the same here, rest near Him and abide in Him, under His shadow, and you will find rest. Seek that secret place of the Most High…….and listen, you won’t get it in doing hours of Bible study and church work and and and……. REST IN HIM! Do not listen to your emotions, and please, do not listen much to other peoples believes and doctrines……It will only confuse you. The fact that this is worrying you so much is evidence enough that you are still in His grace. People that have reach that state of unforgiveness, have put out the flame of the Holy Spirit in their lives because they have hardened their hearts towards Him over years and years. The enemy will try to confuse you and make you feel guilty and tires you out, hoping that you will give up. The Holy Spirit of Jesus will convince you, never makes you feel guilty. Chapter 4-6:9 of Ephesians tells us how to walk the walk in Jesus……what our responsibilities are. Because yes, there is responsibilities and it is important to fulfil them. And then Ch 6:10-20 how we must deal with the enemy in the spiritual battle we face as christians. Hold fast, stop trying to feel the good feeling of spiritual success, and just rest in Him. I promise you out of my own experience, it’ll come. Now I can be at work, or working in the garden, or dish washing, or showering…….anything, and go into total worship and awe and glorifying the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Why? Because of what He has done for me, and because I rest in Him first (I charge my battery, so to say), then walk the walk and be a soldier for Him. I can do Bible study and praying now for hours, but not when I was where you are now. If there is something/s in your life that you need to repent and give up, you have to do it……simple as that. Remember, it’s not about religion, but about a relationship…..thus honour Him. He wants obedience more than our sacrifices. I pray over you Philippians 4:6-7 and Ps 27……especially verse 5……that secret place in His tent. Read it in the Amplified Classic Edition. I will pray for you.

    • Dear James,
      That need to return to the Lord, has been put there by the Holy Spirit. Of course, those from the demonic realm don’t want you saved, so they are leading you to Bible verses, while corrupting your understanding of them, to make you think that Jesus won’t accept you back. That’s not what Jesus was saying!

      In the verse you quoted, “Once being enlightened, you can never come back”, Jesus wasn’t saying that you “MAY not come back!”
      He was talking about how difficult it is to come back, once you’ve been “enlightened.” He also didn’t say “Once you have been saved…”. The word “enlightened” suggests a genuine, thorough understanding of the gift of salvation, and what was at stake, if you turned away from the Lord. Would you say that was something you had?

      God loves YOU, and He wants you to turn back to Him, so you can be saved! That is why you have such a strong longing for the Lord; it has been put there by the Holy Spirit!

      Don’t let Satan win, whatever you do. Turn to Jesus in repentance, ask Him to cleanse you of all sin, to come into your heart and be your Lord and Saviour, and you WILL be saved! Then, as soon as possible, be baptised in water, as Jesus commanded. That symbolises dying with Christ and rising with him, as well as the cleansing of sin from your heart and your life. That will confirm the decision you’ve made (and show the Devil that you mean what you’ve said) and you will find it so much easier to be faithful to the Lord Jesus, from then on.

  7. This apologists argumentation seems to be the principle product of an internet church. I would argue that it represents a lot of effort to produce what amounts to a subject of endless argumentation with enough room for reasonable persons to disagree.

    I suspect that only Satan is served by the effort expended. Too many scholars and too few ministers doing the personal work of repairing broken lives at an individual basis. Leave Calvinism for the Pharisees to argue. This sort of intellectualism was the principle product of the pharisees.

    I’m not convinced an internet site can ever call itself a church or has the right to call itself a church. I think such an organisation is suited to argumentation which is the building materials for stumbling blocks. There is an eternity to argue such topics, which is great for Satan.

  8. I think God knows who the righteous are who the wicked are from the beginning of time. Cain slew the righteous Abel and why did Cain kill his brother because his deeds were wicked . Of all the disciples Judas revealed his nature as time went by but the other disciples did not know who would betray the Lord who alone can read the hearts of men, so my conclusion is Gods omniscience knows all mankind and He alone who calls all men to repent knows the sincerity of that persons righteous act to believe. As with Abraham he believed God as with Mathew Mark John Andrew James and the rest of the disciples Jesus spoke Come follow me and they did it is that simple and Jesus is still calling people to follow Him today . I am the living water I am the bread of life come follow me and notice the words at the beginning [I AM] God told Moses I AM proving Jesus was God in the flesh.

  9. Your explanation on Divine Electition, is scriptural,clear and balanced.I am free of ambiguity on this vital issue.Thank you,God bless.

  10. Dear Brother,
    This is a god piece. Very well written and researched. It was obvious ealy on that you are of the Armenian persuasion. Because of that, you may have overlooked some things.
    I propose to you, that God’s grace is manifested in a mixture of election and free will. Those two seem very hard to reconcile, but they aren’t, really. I beg you to put aside your prejudice and read the following. I hope you will reply.
    Consider the following:
    1. God specifically called Israel and chose not to reveal Himself to most of the world at the time.
    2. God alone chose what country Israel would call the Promised Land.
    3. God alone chose what cities Israel would invade and kill.
    4. John the Baptist, The Twelve, Paul, Moses, Noah, Jonah, Judas had no choice in what they did. Neither did David, Solomon, most of the Prophets and the kings. The Old Testament is rife with examples.
    5. Acts 13:48 makes it clear the God chose some, at least, who would not believe.
    Romans 11:7-8 is very clear.
    6. Mt 20:16, 22:14, Jn 12:40 indicate that many are called and some are chosen. I prefer to read these passages with an “a” before few, though I’m not sure if the Latin or Greek texts would support that.

    Get out your Stong’s and look at the words “called” and “chosen”.

    Again, I appreciate your work. However, it is typical of someone whose study has been guided by a denominations stance. It is far too easy to adopt someone else’s doctrines, along with their “proof texts” and overlook or dismiss those passages which seem to contradict what a person has chosen to believe.
    May God richly bless you as you follow our Lord.

    • Sister, not Brother, just for the record had carefully examined both thoughts. It is Jesus Christ alone through whom the whole world can be saved. Sure God is all-knowing, and he does know who will accept this gift. But, one dies not offer a gift to the WHOLE world as a dangling carrot that he will only give to s few. I pray that you, Brother, will go before our Lord in prayer on this issue. In the love of Christ, Deb

  11. Can I just say….WOW! I am floored! Never has this been explained in a more thorough, understandable way. I am two months in the faith but I 100% believe that I am the seed that is firmly planted in good soil, and will continue to grow and be faithful and reap fruit 1,000-fold! Everyone in the world should read this article. It explains PROPERLY how our relationship with the Father takes two! He first extends His hand, and we also play a huge part in accepting His invitation into His kingdom. God bless Deidre and the beautiful words that are on this page. I truly feel like I gained an immeasurable amount of wisdom from reading this. It is lengthy, and worth it INDEED!

  12. I think is the divine election and the person respond by his/her free will then these two make a mystery.

    • The divine election, as he explained is the fact that God elected the world, and then through Jesus gave everyone the chance to eternity with him. It’s a free will choice to choose to have faith and believe. (But God knows everything so he knows who will follow faithful and who will fall away.) Be careful that you think you are proudly selected and others are not, because that gives you a false sense of security that leaves you lacking in faith, or the fear of The Lord, which will keep you content in your life not seeking the Lord with All your heart mind and soul.

Leave A Comment...