‘Which is true, whosoever will or sovereign election?’ Like many questions this one demands a false answer. The Bible does not teach one or the other, it teaches both. Considered together the concepts may seem profound and difficult, but they are neither irreconcilable nor opposed to each other. Both are found in Holy Scripture and we cannot choose one and reject the other and remain true to the word of God. To believe all of the Bible, we must believe both whosoever will and sovereign election because they stand alongside each other in Scripture. Both teachings are divine jewels, true and precious. We must never allow anyone to force us to choose between them.
The Holy Spirit and Christ’s churches everywhere urge every person who hears the gospel to come to Jesus and be saved (Rev. 22:17) — this is God’s invitation and command that all men everywhere come to Christ believing his gospel (2 Cor. 5:20; Acts 17:30-31).
Alongside this (and not at all contrary to the gospel call), Jesus tells us that the Father gave him some and that they will surely come to him: ‘All that the Father gives me will come to me’ (John 6:37a ESV). Only hours before going to the cross Jesus prayed, ‘I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word’ (John 17:6 ESV). The people for whom Jesus prayed belonged to the Father in some wonderful sense that is not true of the rest of the world (John 17:9). Before time the Father chose them to be his special possession (1 Pet. 2:9). He gave them to his Son (see Heb. 2:13) to redeem them (John 17:1-6). For them Jesus prayed.
I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one (John 17:9-11 ESV, emphasis added).
Whosoever will and sovereign election are both biblical teachings. We cannot rightly choose one and reject other. To embrace all that God has revealed, we must believe both.
More Mature Thinking
When we were children we thought as children do. Children think simply and often that means thinking in extremes: either this, or that. Things are good or bad, pretty or ugly, red or blue or yellow. Grass, a lime, and an unripe banana are all green. Shades, degrees, and nuances are not usually distinguished until some maturity occurs. At different points for different children, most begin to notice that warm pink really is distinct from candy-apple red.
‘When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways’ (1 Cor. 13:11 ESV). One evidence of a maturing mind is the ability to hold different, counter-balancing thoughts at the same time. Some truths are complex, with numerous components existing in a relationship of tension; yet the tension cannot be removed without dismantling truth itself. Mature, Christian thinking requires some ability to navigate the complexities of biblical revelation with understanding and humility. We must acknowledge that some divinely-revealed truths actually are ‘hard to understand’ (2 Pet. 3:16).
Most believers are rather immature in their thinking as they begin the Christian journey. We break with the world when we come to Jesus and we want to be equally decisive in believing the Bible. Because it teaches much that is plain, many foundational truths are immediately grasped. But some teachings are more difficult and require time, study, and deeper thought to grasp.