I have personally gone back and forth on the whole Calvinism-Arminianism debate. I was initially put off from this conversation by people that I went to Bible college with who were so focused on being right about their stands on either side that they didn’t care about people.
I believe that God is sovereign and has a plan for creation, humanity and all of history. I believe that God the Father sent Jesus to die for the sins of the world and that all who confess their need for forgiveness of sins and out their trust in Jesus are brought into the family of God.
Calvinists and Arminians can agree so far. Where things get sticky is when we start to ask questions about the nature of who is this grace for, the whole world or the elect?
The question that I have been wrestling with in my own journey is the idea of election. Because if you hold to an unconditional election, this leads to a limited atonement (that Jesus only died for the elect people). This also leads to perseverance of the saints (the elect will never fall away).
And these two issues I keep coming back to over and over again because I can’t reconcile John 3:16, “God so loved the world . . .” with the idea of limited atonement. I also can’t reconcile the idea of perseverance of the saints with the warnings and examples in the Old and New Testaments of people who fell out of covenant relationship with God or fell away from the community of faith.
So I’ve been working through these issues on my own. And I began to realize that when Paul talks about election, he always uses the plural you (you all). And when he talks about salvation the community is elected in Christ.
This led me to start thinking about the idea of corporate election. And I asked around and did some research, and it turns out I’m not crazy.
If we hold the idea of Corporate election we can see that:
1. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. (1 Pet 1:19)
2. God has a sovereign plan to rescue humans from sin. (1 Pet 1:18-19)
3. God has had this plan for all of eternity (to send Jesus). (1 Pet 1:20-21; Rev 13:8)
4. God has elected a means to tell the world about Jesus (the church). (1 Pet 2:9)
5. Individuals are grafted into God’s plan by putting their faith in Jesus. (Romans 11, this passage is interesting because it talks about some from Israel [the elect people of ] rejecting God and specifically Jesus and now Gentiles are warned to continue in faith or they will be cut out [Rom 11:22-24]. Why would Paul warn people to persevere in faith is the elect will alway persevere in faith?)
6. The church will persevere through all persecution and through history because it is God’s elected plan.
7. Warnings of falling away from faith are real warnings. Our faith in Jesus needs to be living and active. (Heb 6:4-12)
8. Individuals in the church all have a part to play (1 Cor 12-14).
9. We recognize that individuals are saved but not just for themselves, they are saved as part of the community for good works (Eph 2:10)
10. Works then show the world that your faith in Jesus is alive (James 2:14-26)
I know this is a really long post but this shift in thinking about election has helped me make sense of God’s sovereign plan of salvation in Christ alone, the church being God’s chosen means to tell the world about what Jesus has done, and individual response and responsibility to place their faith in Jesus.
If you would like to read more this wiki article is really helpful.