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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thoughts on the Word "Election"

I have been preparing a sermon on Ephesians 1 for my Biblical Preaching class on Thursday nights. One of the greatest chapters written by the Apostle Paul is exhibited in the opening doxology of Ephesians. However, in this doxology (meaning an outburst of praise and worship in the text) Paul explains spiritual and theological implications of the blessings we have received in Christ. One of these blessed gifts is our adoption and how God has brought us into his eternal family (i.e. kingdom of God). The other main word is election, which has been overemphasized by Calvinists and Augustinians for centuries. Now there is nothing wrong with having strong theological convictions, but if they affect ministry and Christian living, then those convictions are not true to their faith. This blog is just some brief thoughts on that word since I did a word study on it for my sermon.

The word "election" comes from the Greek word eklegomai that means to choose, pick out, and call someone unto yourself. It is referencing those whom God has set apart in the world as dear unto himself. Therefore, election is the distinct calling by God to accomplish a distinct plan of God according the distinct counsel of God's will (i.e. God's Decree).

There are 5 types of election in the Bible:
A. God elected and appointed the angels (1 Tim. 5:21; 1 Cor. 6:3; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6).

B. God elected and appointed specific people to service and office such as King David as Israel's king (1 Sam. 16:7-12).

C. God elected and appointed Abraham's descendants to form the theocratic nation of Israel (Deut. 4:37; 7:6-7; 10:15; 1 Kings 3:8; Isa. 44:1-2; 45:4; 65:9, 15, 22; Amos 3:2; Acts 13:17; Rom. 9:1-5).

D. God elected and appointed Jesus as the Messiah who was called the chosen one of God (Isa. 28:16, 42:1, Matt. 12:18; Luke 9:35; 23:35; 1 Pet. 1:20; 2:4-6)

E. God elected and appointed believers from the foundation of the world unto salvation (John 15:16; Eph. 1:3-11; Rom. 8:28-11:36; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 2:9)

The first four are usually never usually argued about and are fundamentally presuppositions of evangelical theology. In other words, almost all Christian complete agree. However, the last presupposition of the biblical doctrine of election has been debated and argued about over thousands of years. I believe one of the reason why it is so debated is because it is about the salvation of souls. The others forms of election are not based on the only salvific hope for the New Testament believer or sinner. With that being said, examining all the New Testament Scriptures that mention election are key to interpret in context with the author's original intent for that word to its original readers. Never do we read the word election in the writing of Paul that is specifically delineating some people are chosen and some are passed by, but rather God has chosen those (who believe) that Paul is writing to and that they should glorify God through holiness because of their holy calling (cf. Ephesians 1:4-5). Therefore, election is very important! It is not just a doctrinal word for sovereign foundations but a practical word to teach us we are called to live as God has called us to live. he called Israel to be holy because He is holy, and the same standard applies to the those in the New Testament church who are of the elect.

Nevertheless, Election is a mysterious and infinite complexity to our minds. It is difficult for us [who so willing want to know how] to discover how God works in his salvific ways, and how God can choose some to be saved and leave some to be saved. God's ways are mysteries to us as they were to Moses (Deut. 29:29), his infinite eternal ways are higher than our finite temporal ways as they were to Isaiah (Isa. 55:8-9), and none of us can fully understand his vast wisdom just like the expression of the Apostle Paul (Rom. 11:33-35). Well, I guess the age old answer to that question is, "Well election is God's decree - his will. It is not a matter if it is fair or not fair, God is God and he can do whatever he wants for his glory." This is true because the Bible tells us so ("Everything was created for his glory," Isa. 43:7). However, the question regarding election is not about fairness or based on the means of what God can or cannot do, but "how".

How does God choose only some, and by what standards?
How does God only choose some and for what plausible reasons?
How does God choose some who will believe and who will not believe in eternity pass?

All of these questions are difficult to answer and theologians have tried to answer it through logical and reasonable thinking based off Scripture. But for me this is all I know: I do not know "how" election works, but I just know that there "is" election. The Bible makes it clear that election exists. Election is a biblical doctrine found in the Old Testament and New Testament. I do not know how it works, but I know God does it and he has operated sovereignly since the beginning! God is sovereign and that means there has to be election. 

In order to be born-again and regenerated, you must be born of the Spirit. You cannot be saved unless your of the elect of God, which are those who believe. Faith to believe only comes through hearing the Word of God. The Spirit of God convicts you of sin, righteousness, and judgment which leads you to Jesus. Jesus then calls you because he said "his sheep" hear his voice and follow him. Finally,  through confession and repentance you receive him as your Savior and God. Those implications suggest that salvation is based off of the prerogatives of God working in an active and sovereign way in the life of those who will believe in him. Salvation can only happen by the supernatural work of God through election in which people are redeemed. God in Christ vividly expresses that those who are in the church as saved, sealed, and sanctified believers are of the elect - the children of God - and have been called out of darkness into his marvelous life to the praise of His glory. Wow, this is so perplexing! I feel like Paul when he said, "Oh, the depths of God, how unsearchable are his ways!" (Rom. 11:33).

So let's just remember what Election refers to in the Bible. Here are six things:
1. Election is a sovereign, eternal decree of God.

2. The presupposition of God's eternal decree of election is that the human race is fallen; election involves God gracious rescue plan of sinners.

3. Election is "election in Christ"; election involves rescue from sin and guilt and receiving the gracious gifts of salvation.

4. Election involves both the elect's salvation and the means to the end.

5. Election is individual, personal, specific, and particular.

6. Election has the ultimate goal to exalt the glory and praise of God.

So this brings us to another question. Does the Bible teach “double predestination,” that God has selected some for damnation as well as some for salvation? Predestination exists because God has to be sovereign and know all things from the beginning, but does that mean he literally chose some to be condemned? This is difficult to answer because our minds work in pursuit of truth through logistics and philosophy.

I believe the Holman Bible Dictionary answers this perfectly:
"There are passages (Romans 9:11-22; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16) which portray God as a potter who has molded both vessels of mercy and vessels of destruction. Yet the Bible also teaches that God does not wish any one to perish but for all to be saved (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9). We are not able to understand how everything the Bible says about election fits into a neat logical system. Our business is not to pry into the secret counsel of God but to share the message of salvation with everyone and to be grateful that we have been delivered from darkness into light."

There are three eternal attributes of God that help me rest in contentment of trying to know how it all works. God is all powerful and can do anything he wills and all things he wills are done perfectly - Omnipotence. God is all knowing and understands everything that is happening, will happen, and will not happen - Omniscience. God is all present and active in every place and in the realm of every person who breathes - Omnipresence. These three doctrines are so important to remember because our God is so powerful, wise, and vast that he is always in control and knows what he is doing graciously. He is a pursuer of sinners and desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth, even though the he says not all will come to him. Therefore we need to understand two things: Preach the Gospel  to all people so they can hear the Word and come to faith in Christ crucified. Secondly, understand election about Christians being called to be holy because of their sovereign foundation in Christ. Election has nothing to do with non-believers.

So the bottom line about when you hear the word election, do not think that God only saves some, but that God is in the business of saving and he has saved you if your a believer! God elects to save and rescue sinners through Christ of their sins! Think of the doctrine of election as a "family secret" once you get into the kingdom (i.e. become a Christian). You did not know of your inclusion into the kingdom until after you got saved. What a grace-giving doctrine that God would chose and call us into a relationship with him and give us the unmerited spiritual blessings found only in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. We need to go preach the Gospel to people so they can know the same blessed God who loves us with an everlasting love!

1 comment:

CatalogK9 said...

Fantastic job! (^_^)v

What is your favorite subject in Christian Studies?