The Baptist Faith & Message 2000
Article V: God’s Purpose of Grace
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Unifying Principles from Article V
The doctrine of election may be the most debated doctrine in the Baptist Faith & Message. The debate usually revolves around one’s precise understanding of the doctrine, specifically whether one should view election as unconditional or conditional. The purpose of The Ephesians 4 Project, however, is not to resolve this longstanding argument but to demonstrate that the Baptist Faith & Message’s statement on election is thorough enough for Southern Baptist’s holding to either unconditional or conditional election to agree to disagree, which in fact we have been doing for all of our existence as a denomination to one degree or another.
First, we need to define the terms unconditional and conditional election. While there may be some Baptists that have found their way to a seemingly tenable “middle of the road” view of election, these two terms represent where the majority of Baptists have landed. The following definitions themselves may not satisfy every sector of Southern Baptist life, but they are accurate enough for us to carry on an honest conversation in this article.
Unconditional election is an act of God before creation in which He chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but solely because of His sovereign good pleasure. Conditional election is an act of God before creation in which He chooses people whom He foresees responding positively to God’s offer of salvation. In a nutshell, proponents of conditional election assert that God’s election is conditioned by man’s faith, that is God makes His elective decision based on man’s decision. Proponents of unconditional election assert that God’s election is unconditioned, that is nothing outside of God affects His elective decision but is simply God’s sovereign choice.
We can see immediately why this can be such a controversial issue, but we must fight the temptation to be lured into a divisive debate. In order to avoid uncooperative attitudes among Southern Baptists, let’s focus on what unifies us from the BF & M’s wording:
- Election is based on God’s “gracious purpose.”
- Election produces regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification in believing sinners.
- Election in no way violates man’s free agency.
- Election in no way nullifies the means to the end of salvation such as evangelism, preaching, prayer.
- Election is all about “the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness.”
- Election is “infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable,” and as such believers have no room for boasting.
- Election affirms the perseverance of the saints because God has accepted believers in Christ who are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
As long as Southern Baptists agree that God is sovereign in salvation yet man has real opportunities to turn to God for salvation, let’s be unified and preach the gospel together. The fact remains that the doctrine of election should be a cause of rejoicing in God’s grace rather than in any effort put forth by man. Further, the fact remains that no matter one’s view of election, no one can or will be saved unless we proclaim the gospel to unbelievers (Rom. 10:14-17) and that anyone who genuinely wants to be saved can and will be saved by trusting Christ (Jn. 3: 14-16; Rom. 10:8-13). May God unify the SBC around Article V of the BF & M.
For His Glory,