"It wasn't a potential atonement actuated by the sinner, it was an actual atonement initiated by the savior."

John MacArthur


Is free will salvation a false gospel?

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I have written extensively on the doctrine of election.  Essentially, is our salvation a result of God’s choice of us, or is it a result of our choice of God?

This is the fundamental dichotomy – known as sovereign election vs. free will salvation.

You can find more than you’ll ever want to know about election and free will in my many posts – just search “election.” So I’m not going to rehash the doctrinal details or list the various bible verses.


What I am going to do is state something that should be self-evident – one of these positions is correct and the other position is incorrect. They can’t both be correct.

From everything I read in the Bible, over and over and over, election is the correct doctrinal position – period – no question – no doubt. I actually find it difficult to even entertain any other position in light of the overwhelming verses claiming election in the Bible.

Now, some will find fault with such a strong position. I don’t, however, believe the unity of the church (or so-called unity) supersedes the purity of the truth of the Bible.


Without question, this has been a hotly debated topic throughout church history, from Paul in Romans 9:15-16 “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy…So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy;” to Pelagius and Augustine in the 4th century; to Calvin and Arminius in the 16th century; to today. (You should know that in 418, the church met at the Council of Carthage and condemned Pelagius’ position as heresy.)


Does not believing in election, however, fall into the category of a false gospel along the lines of Galatians 1:8  which states “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!“?

No, and Yes! Let me explain.

Most believers have no concept of the depths of the doctrine of election when they first become believers. To the degree one truly believes and repents, they are saved, and their salvation is sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13-14). As such, not understanding election, and therefore not believing in the details of election, has no negative impact on one’s salvation. Salvation remember is a point in time. Your sanctification is where you grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18).

So, why worry about whether one believes in election or not then? Let me give you three reasons to consider.

  1. Christ’s prayer to his Father, in John 17:17 states – “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
    1. It is critical to seek the truth and never let anything override the truth of the Bible.
    2. Only one position is correct – election or free will. You need to seek the truth.
  2. The fundamental purpose of man is to give glory to God. 1 Corinthian 10:31 states Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
    1. Simply stated, if salvation, mine, or others, is based on our free will efforts – we get the glory. If it is based on God’s sovereign election, He gets the glory. I believe He wants the glory.
  3. Most importantly, a free-will approach to evangelism will distort the gospel – and this does result in a false gospel.
    1. It can quickly morph to an easy believism. This has become really popular since it brings in big numbers of false converts. But, it is a false gospel.
    2. In the current age of the social justice movement, many are diluting the gospel so as to comply with the latest social issues – racism, oppression, and even LGBT concerns to make the gospel more palatable. And why not? If the goal is to convince individuals into believing since it is through their free will, why not use all the appeals of the world?  The truth, however, is that those elected will believe through the power of the word – Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Anything else is a false gospel and dangerous.

Any one of the above reasons should be sufficient to accept the truth of election. All three form a trifecta that simply shouldn’t be ignored.