The doctrine of election

This begins the second sermon on the practical application of basic Christian doctrine.  Today we will be looking at the doctrine of election.  Most of us are pretty sure we know what election is:  God’s choosing to save a particular group of people before the foundation of the world.  But that’s where we stop.  We think of it as what God has done and that’s the end, but the Scriptures don’t teach election as an abstract doctrine that we only have to believe.  In fact the term is used in several ways, and I hope we can see that as we proceed this morning.

Let’s start with what we know:  election is God’s choosing a people unto Himself – Eph. 1:4-6.

  • It is all of God and none of man – Rom. 9:11, 16.
  • We believe in God’s eternal election of men, and we believe it because Scripture clearly teaches it – John 6:37, 39.
  • But when we refer to this, we think of it almost always referring to individuals, while Scripture doesn’t always do that.
  • Election can refer to any individual (Isa. 42:1), in this case, it’s Jesus.  It can refer to all the predestined of God from eternity (II Tim. 2:10).

Most often though, the term “elect” or “chosen” is used to refer to a visible group of people who are in covenant with God (Deut. 7:6-8, Isa. 41:8, I Peter 5:13, II John 1, 13)

  • This is a key because we’re used to thinking in terms of the elect being an invisible group, but the prophets and apostles referred to the elect as the covenanted people of God, whether visible or invisible.
  • In the Old Covenant, it was Israel.  God referred to them regularly as His chosen (Deut. 7:6-7).  In this passage, we read that He chose them not because of their strength or size, but to show His glory, just like the story of Gideon and the three-hundred..
  • In the New Covenant, it is similar.  The covenanted people of God are the church.  The church is referred to as the elect, both local and universal (I Peter 5:13, I Thess. 1:4).  Notice in the previous passage that Paul spoke of them as the elect.  We come to what could be a dilemma:  what about those in the Old Covenant who didn’t have hearts towards God?
  • They are spoken of in Malachi 1:2-3 where God spoke of His electing love toward Jacob.  Then a few verses down, He spoke of how He had no pleasure in them (v. 10).  How do we explain that?  First He loves them (as a people) but there are some He has no pleasure in.  Paul explains it in Romans 9:6 – They are not all Israel which are of Israel.
  • Jesus said a similar thing – John 8:39, 44.  Even though Israel was God’s elect nation, not all were individually elect.
  • The same thing is true for the Church – Matt. 7:15, Acts 20:29-31.  Paul told the elders at Ephesus that there would arise “of your own selves” those who speak perverse things and draw disciples away.  These are the same church members (good and bad) unto whom Paul wrote at a different time that they were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.  What gives?  The false prophets or wolves weren’t chosen in Christ.
  • The answer:  the covenant people of God (baptized, professed faith, church-members) are called in Scripture the elect or the chosen people.  But in God’s kingdom there are tares among the wheat (Matt. 13:24-30).
  • If you wonder why I’m bringing this up, it’s because I want us to be comfortable with all of Scripture and not just the parts that fit our perspective.
  • I don’t want anyone to be confused.  God has chosen to save a people from all eternity and every individual elected will hear God’s call, will believe the gospel, and will persevere in faithfulness until the end.  The way God has appointed for us to call a person elect is if he has confessed faith in Jesus and is a member of a church.  That’s the standard Paul, Peter, and John used.  If it’s good enough for them, it should be good enough for us.

Now we come to the application of the doctrine of election.

  • Remember application is not, “Here’s a doctrine.  Believe it and it will make you feel better.”  Application is practicing (or changing) a particular kind of behavior because a teaching is true.
  • Doctrine that doesn’t affect the way you live is useless, and if we as the pastors of the church don’t give you practical application from what we teach, we’re failing you as ministers.

Election leads to good works – Col. 3:12-13

  • Those who love God will work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.  Being chosen of God means that He has put His Spirit upon you, just as He did Jesus.  Because you are in Christ, you have the same Spirit He had.
  • This means you will display meekness, humility, and love towards those who are unloveable.  If you have a quarrel with someone, forgive.  No this isn’t natural, but so what.  You are chosen by God, which means that He’s given you all things that you need – Eph. 1:11.
  • I Peter 1:2 – Your election is unto obedience.  There is no one elected who will not display obedience to God.  It’s part of what you were chosen for.  You are called to display the supernatural work of Christ.
  • It’s like being chosen to play on a basketball team and you’re 4’9, weak, slow, and uncoordinated.  You have nothing to offer to the team, but the coach said he would build you into a player.  Once chosen, you don’t have the option of sitting on the bench telling jokes to the ball boys while everyone else is practicing.  You’ve got to get out there and work.
  • Our election isn’t based on our foreseen good works, and certainly not on our abilities.  But because we are chosen, we will work out our salvation.

Election leads us to grow in God’s wisdom – II Thess. 2:13

  • It’s important to grow in good works, but good works must have the proper foundation.  That foundation is belief in the truth.
  • God has elected us to believe in the truth.  This doesn’t mean everyone must come to the same level of truth before they die, but you should never become satisfied with a little knowledge.
  • God has revealed things to His saints that the Old Covenant prophets could only dream about, and we don’t care enough to dig in.
  • This doesn’t mean everyone can be or should try to be a theologian.  But you should seek to grow in godly wisdom as well as in good works.

Election motivates us to sacrifice for evangelism – II Tim. 2:10

  • Paul knew he couldn’t make someone elect, but he could rejoice that he didn’t know who they were.
  • It is liberating that you don’t know who the elect are, otherwise imagine how unloving you would be, both to those who you knew wouldn’t be in heaven anyway, and to those you knew that it didn’t matter how you acted, that they would make it regardless.
  • Because God has elected many people unto Himself, we are called to go to sacrificial lengths so that they may hear the gospel.  Only the Spirit gives life to the heart, but after receiving life the elect will hear and believe the gospel.  We don’t know who they are so we indiscriminately should make the message known.  This means going above and beyond our comfort zones and giving up what we like for the sake of the elect.

Election motivates us live devoted lives to God – Deut. 14:2, I Peter 2:9

  • This is different from the above mentioned motivation to live in a godly way.  In Deuteronomy 14 God called Israel to be a priestly nation.  Priests were Israelites but they were special Israelites.  They couldn’t do the things everyone else could because they had a peculiar calling.
  • Israel was a special people.  They were not like other nations and God called them to not be like other nations, which is the context of Deuteronomy 14.
  • Peter picks up on that theme in I Peter 2, but he expands it to the church.  God’s elect today are a nation of priests.  We are to intercede before God on behalf of the world.  But are to be a peculiar people.
  • We can’t live like everyone else around us.  There are many things that are not sin but also are not the best.  We are to be that priestly nation, living holy lives devoted to God.
  • We should call others to join us.  We don’t know who the decretally elect are and we shouldn’t worry about trying to find out.

Live your life unto God; lead your family in living unto God; live together in the church as the elect of God; call others to embrace Christ and join the elect people.

Election isn’t just about my being chosen by God; it’s about God choosing to reveal Himself through me to others, and revealing Himself through His Church to the world.


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