Calvinism vs. Arminianism…Election vs. Free-will

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Perhaps you know what these terms refer to, perhaps you don’t.  They represent the ebb and flow of Christianity’s theology of salvation.  Hang with me.

The extremes of this debate ask the following: did God choose us, or did we choose Him—and how much of that choice did He know before we did it?

Today’s passage is the fulcrum of the long debate.

To remind you where we’ve been, John 15 occurs as an extension of the conversation Jesus was having with His closest followers at the Last Supper (the final meal He would share with them before the crucifixion).  Jesus changed the subject when He told them to remain in the Father’s love.  As He continues, Jesus teaches them in John 15:16-17:

 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

John 15:16-17
New International Version

The love of our Lord is permanent because it isn’t based on us. “You did not choose me,” Jesus declares. “I chose you.” It was based on God’s sovereign choice, not our fickle decisions.  What comfort and joy to hear the Master tell us, “Dear one, don’t worry.  I chose you.  With all your faults, mistakes, and shortcomings, I will make you something beautiful, and I will be here with you to the very end of it all.”

This is called “the doctrine of election,” and it’s not some far-fetched, frightening piece of theology.  It can be easily abused, but here’s what’s important to understand about our election as disciples of Jesus: it is NOT about privilege; it is about purpose.

We are not chosen just to receive salvation.  That’s stopping short of what Jesus is—and has been—saying.  We are appointed so that we “might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” We are saved to reach others for Him.  When we experience the freedom and joy of Christ in our lives, we want to tell others so they can experience the same thing in their lives.

Not only are we blessed with being His hands and feet, but it also guarantees us an audience with the king “so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”  We aren’t given these things because of our worthiness but because of our intimate, permanent, vertical bridge of love built between our Father and us in Heaven.

Jesus comes back to where we started this whole conversation in verse 17, This is my command: Love each other.”  Read that out loud to yourself.

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The horizontal bridge doesn’t develop properly without the vertical bridge.  That is, our relationship with Jesus is the foundation for our love for other Christians and the world. 

If you don’t spend time with Him in private worship, your love for the body of Christ will suffer.  And your love for the lost will be virtually nonexistent.

Can I give you encouragement in helping to build this bridge of love?

Debate less and serve more.  I tell people in membership classes and every chance I get: if you want to be like Jesus, get serving.  These are opportunities to minister to others and demonstrate your love for the Lord to them.

And isn’t that worth spending a little bit of time for?

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