Phil Johnson on Understanding and Embracing the Sovereignty of God in Election

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Phil Johnson on Understanding and Embracing the Sovereignty of God in Election

Why evangelize if God is sovereign in salvation? Is preaching to the lost then even necessary? Can you tell lost people Christ died for them? 

This season on the Straight Truth Podcast we are conducting interviews with special guests from recent conferences held at Founders Baptist Church.  In this week’s episode, Dr. Richard Caldwell is joined by Phil Johnson, Director of Grace to You.  Phil was with us for the Truth in Love Conference on Evangelism and The Sovereignty of God. 

Dr. Caldwell sits down with Phil and asks him to share about his personal journey with the doctrines of grace, when he was first exposed to them, and how and when he came to understand and embrace them. Phil begins by telling us that he grew up in a Methodist church, where the notion that God chooses who will be saved,  was something “we don’t believe." So when he began hearing about the doctrines of grace, especially of God's sovereignty in election, there was resistance. He had become passionate about evangelism and saw these doctrines as somewhat detrimental to that. Phil then began to question what was the point of telling anyone if God chooses who gets saved. He says he could have understood human depravity if someone had explained it, but the idea of election struck him as arbitrary and unfair.

Are you carrying baggage of bad theology?

Phil proceeds to tell us that about two years after he was saved, he enrolled at Moody Bible Institute. He came to Moody with very little biblical and theological knowledge, carrying baggage that he didn’t know was bad theology. Yet he had a heart for evangelism wanting to get the gospel to other people, while still very hostile to the idea of election seeing it incompatible with evangelism. It was at Moody where he met a group of young men that he calls “rabid Calvinists”, who happened to be in the same dorm. 

In his interactions with them, he tells us they patiently and graciously explained the sovereignty of God in salvation. They further explained how the doctrines of grace actually gave them the confidence to go out and proclaim the gospel, knowing that it wasn’t their persuading by sheer logic or talking people into the kingdom that people became saved. They told him, we just have to proclaim the message God has given us and He will draw people to Himself.

The doctrine of total depravity

Phil also explains that it wasn’t until he heard John MacArthur teaching from Ephesians 2 on the doctrine of total depravity, that he saw his need to study it intently; John’s teaching through Ephesians 2 helped him do this. It brought him to a clear understanding of sins effect on the human soul helping it all to make sense and bring coherency to the doctrines of grace. However, the hardest of the five points (of Calvinism) for him grasp was limited atonement.

It must begin with a clear understanding of Christ's work on the cross. He explains that he prefers to call it particular redemption or definite atonement, but also tells us that the extent of the atonement is not nearly as important to get right, as the nature of the atonement. He then, along with Dr. Caldwell, discuss the role of the Trinity in salvation, they give us some deeper understanding of substitutionary atonement, and help us to see biblically how we can faithfully present the gospel, calling the lost to Christ without saying “Christ died for you”. 


Dr. Caldwell asks Phil to share with us some important things we should consider when we encounter the doctrines of grace, and we struggle and wrestle with them. Phil leaves us with these thoughts, come with an open heart and mind, study the scriptures and don’t just react, and don’t be misled and confused about these doctrines as they are summed up with the acronym TULIP.  Each letter just happens to be an easy way for us to remember the doctrines behind them. He then reminds us that when we come to study them, they aren’t easily absorbed, especially when you come with presuppositions as he did; we need to be patient. Phil tells us it took about 15 years from the time he was saved until he came to the place of clear understanding and embracing these doctrines.

Related Messages

If you are interested in listening to the conference messages on Gods sovereignty in salvation and the doctrines of grace that were presented at Founders Baptist Church, you can click on the following link:
(Phil’s message on the atonement of Christ can be found and accessed for listening from this same link)

2019 Truth In Love Conference Messages – Evangelism and The Sovereignty of God

For more information about the Truth In Love Conference visit

About The Straight Truth Podcast

The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at

The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo.  The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.

The topics discussed in the Straight Truth Podcast are current events, matters that challenge traditional Christian values, and questions submitted by audience members. Dr. Caldwell, Dr. Philpot, and their guests seek to answer these questions with Biblical truths and from a Christian conservative point of view. The Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God; it alone is and will be the basis and authority of
answering any and all questions.

The Straight Truth Podcast is the perfect podcast for those seeking to strengthen their faith, to be informed on how to broach difficult topics with a Christian point of view, to share their faith with unbelieving friends, to challenge the status quo of their own beliefs by viewing them under the lens of the Scriptures, to interpret current news events from a Biblical point of view, and more.

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Season 4 Credits

Produced by
Juan Carlos Claveria

Executive Producers
Joshua Philpot
David Anders

Hosted by
Joshua Philpot

Social Media Descriptions by
Michele Watson

Makeup Artist
Samantha Claveria

Graphic Design
David Navejas


Special Thanks to
El Centro Network
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Motion Graphics
Szymon Masiak

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