The doctrine of Unconditional Election bothers people because it eradicates the possibility of free will. Its detractors typically object that without free will, we are nothing more than robots who come to God involuntarily rather than out of love. That caricature, however, misses the point that human beings really can’t claim to be free agents.
But Scripture never teaches the idea that we have free will. As a matter of fact, Jesus informed the Pharisees of their slavery to sin, adding that the Son must set a person free (John 8:34-36). Indeed, the Holy Spirit liberates those who abide in Jesus from sin’s dominion over them (Romans 8:2). Any freedom we have, argues the apostle Paul, comes with slavery.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~~Romans 6:20-23 (ESV)
Jesus sets us free from sin. Apart from Him, we have no freedom other than the freedom to disobey Him in any way we choose. That enslavement to sin doesn’t make us Satan’s robots. But it certainly renders us powerless to choose to follow Christ unless He graciously chooses us.
We desperately want to share His glory by supposing that we freely decided to follow Jesus. I all too well understand that desire because
I’ve fought I fight the temptation to couch my salvation testimony in phrases of self-congratulation.
Sometimes we will embrace a modified view of election that bolsters our pride with the assurance that we somehow merit our election. We concede, usually, that we don’t deserve God’s grace, so we’d at least like to think that we were smart enough, noble enough, and wise enough to merit His attention. We don’t mind believing that God elected us because He knew we’d have sense enough to accept Him. But God’s Word makes no provision for even that idea.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” ~~1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (ESV)
Ah…that takes us to the real objection to the doctrine of Unconditional Election: it humbles us. It leaves us no room to accept any credit for our salvation, leaving us completely baffled as to why He would choose us. And that bafflement, as it brings us to the sweetness of humility, causes us to worship the gracious and merciful Savior!