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John MacArthur on the Doctrines of Grace

Divine Immutability and the Doctrines of Grace
By John MacArthur

The following are a few excerpts from MacArthur’s excellent foreword to Steven Lawson, Foundations of Grace ([Reformation Trust], 2006, pp. 7-20):

The idea that God does what He wants, and that what He does is true and right because He does it, is foundational to our understanding of everything in Scripture, including the doctrine of election (p. 9).

In the broad sense, election refers to the fact that God chooses (or elects) to do everything that He does in whatever way He sees fit…. According to His own nature, predetermined plan, and good pleasure, He decides to do whatever He desires, without pressure or constraint from any outside influence (p. 9).

Frankly, the only reason to believe in election is because it is found explicitly in God’s Word. No man and no committee of men originated this doctrine. It is like the doctrine of eternal punishment in that it conflicts with the dictates of the carnal mind…. Like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the miraculous birth of our Savior, the truth of election, because it has been revealed by God, must be embraced with simple and unquestioning faith. If you have a Bible and you believe it, you have no option but to accept what it teaches (p. 11).

The Word of God presents God as the controller and disposer of all creatures (Dan. 4:35; Isa. 45:7; Lam. 3:38), the Most High (Pss. 47:2; 83:18), the ruler of heaven and earth (Gen. 14:19; Isa. 37:16), and the One against whom none can stand (2 Chron. 20:6; Job 41:10; Isa. 43:13). He is the Almighty who works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11; cf. Isa. 14:27; Rev. 19:6) and the heavenly Potter who shapes men according to His own good pleasure (Rom. 9:18-22). In short, He is the decider and determiner of every man’s destiny, and the controller of every detail in each individual’s life (Prov. 16:9; 19:21; 21:1; cf. Ex. 3:21-22; 14:8; Ezra 1:1; Dan. 1:9; James 4:15)—which is really just another way of saying, “He is God” (p. 11).

[Commenting on Romans 8:29-30], two points are of primary importance in regard to the doctrine of election. First, when God predestined us by His elective purpose, He did not merely predestine us to the beginning of our salvation, He predestined us to the end of it. We were not chosen just to be justified. We were chosen to be glorified. Paul’s wording could not be more straightforward. What God started in election continues through calling and justification, and inevitably will result in glorification. The process, which is God’s process, is fail-proof because He is the One behind it (pp. 16-17).

The doctrine of election, then, is at the very heart of redemptive history. It is not some insignificant, esoteric doctrine that can be trivialized or relegated to seminary classroom debates. Rather, it is at the center of how we understand salvation and the church. It informs our evangelism, our preaching, and our identity as the body of Christ (p. 18).

The reality, then, is that believers are simply a small part of a much larger divine plan. The Father, because of His love for the Son, determined before time began to choose a redeemed community that would praise the Son for all eternity. And the Son, because of His love for the Father, accepted this love-gift from the Father, considering it precious to the point that He gave His life for it. The Son protects those whom the Father chose to give Him, and promises to bring them to glory according to the predetermined plan of God (p. 19).