Today we are going to begin to explore how this whole reality (or economy) of salvation is worked out. Specifically, we’re going to begin by talking about this very non-controversial topic of election.
There are a lot of aspects to the unfolding plan of God’s salvation, and we plan to cover many of those, but today we’ll begin with the doctrine of election.
Now, before we get into election, let us just say a word about God’s motive and method of salvation.
The motive is sovereign grace.
In the OT, there are two terms used to speak of this.
“Hanan” - usually translated as “charis, grace” in the LXX.
Gen. 6:8 - “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”
Ex. 33:19 - “And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion."
2 Kings 13:23 - “But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them and turned to them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them or cast them from His presence until now.”
“Hesed” - A covenantal term, often translated as “steadfast love” or “lovingkindness.” It carries the idea of loyalty, and unfailing love.
In the NT, there is one main word used to speak of God’s grace.
By far, this word is mostly used by Paul to describe the work of salvation for sinners.
Its basic sense is that of free, unmerited favor. The term “free” is not speaking of the cost (and because it was very costly, indeed), but rather, it is the idea of being free of any external compulsion. And this is what makes his grace truly sovereign. It was not owed to anyone, and God was not externally coerced or moved to feel any obligation to save sinners.
This is important, because many conflate God’s sovereignty with God’s omnipotence (that He is all-powerful). That is not the meaning of sovereignty.
Rather, it is the idea of being removed from something external -- think of a “sovereign state.” It is accountable to no one, and does what most benefits itself.
Eph. 2:1-10 is a good example.
We don’t have the time to walk through it, but in that passage you see God’s provision of salvation being not only gracious, but also sovereign. You see it most explicitly, because it comes against the backdrop of human depravity (in vss. 1-3).
Vss. 4-10 then helps us understand what grace is. It is important to understand that grace is far more than mere mercy.
Mercy is the idea of not giving to a sinner what he does deserves.
But then grace is the idea that God now gives to the sinner what he doesn’t deserve, namely, abundant blessing.
And so, vss. 4-10 outline the unfathomable blessing in light of our great sin.
We see the details of our blessing in vss. 4-6, including the source, which is God Himself.
We see the design of our blessings in v. 7-- which is the eternal reality of this provision.
And, then in vss. 9-10, we see the elaborations of our blessings.
It is a wonderful passage, because not only does it show that grace comes against the backdrop of our sinfulness, but it shows how utterly sovereign God’s grace is.
The method used:
Here we enter into space and time and consider the actual outworking of God’s plan of salvation in the lives of humans.
Romans 8:28-30 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
This is a key passage that gives us a biblical ordo salutis (order of salvation) versus the ones that are logical constructs. And there are many different thoughts on this.
As Murray right observes, “Nothing clinches the argument for this feature of the call [namely, that it is efficacious, and accomplishes what it sets out to do] than the teaching of Romans 8:28-30, where the call is stated to be according to God’s purpose and finds its place in the centre of that unbreakable chain of events which has its beginning in the divine foreknowledge and its consummation in glorification. This is just saying that the effectual call insures perseverance because it is grounded in the security of God’s purpose and grace” (Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied).
This passage is very powerful because of the aorists that are used. Each of these events are viewed by God as having already been accomplished.
In addition to this, the point made by Paul is that we know all things ultimately work out for good because those foreknown (graciously loved by God) are also those who will be glorified. There is no hint of potentiality, no hint of failure, simply an unbroken chain of events all having been accomplished by a God who is “for us” (8:31).
So, in short, God saves sinners through the method of sovereign grace, where although salvation is a complete/finished act in the eternal mind of God, He chose to use means in time, space, and history to accomplish that salvation for the sinner.
So a person has to be elected.
A person has to be predestined.
A Person has to be called through the hearing of the Gospel.
A person has to respond to the Gospel (regeneration).
A person has to, then, grow in that Gospel, being conformed into the image of the One Who has called them (Sanctification).
A person has to finish the Gospel race that has been set before them (perseverance).
A person has to be finally set apart and made new in the end of all things (final glorification).
There are many more realities within these, but while the salvation of the sinner was a sovereign act (i.e., an unmoved choice by God to save the sinner), there is a way in which this saving act works itself out in the life of the sinner.
So, this is to what we will now spend the next several episodes unpacking. And we will begin with the issue of something referred to as the “doctrine of election.”
Terminology for election:
“The word is used to express that choosing which has ultimate and eternal significance. On the one hand, God chooses a people (Psa. 135:4), certain tribes (Psa. 78:68), specific individuals (1Kings 8:16), and a place for his name (Deut. 12:5). In all of these cases serviceability rather than simple arbitrariness is at the heart of the choosing. Thus YHWH chose Israel to be holy and thereby to serve as his witness among the nations (Deut. 14:6). But her election is not based on her own greatness, but on the greatness of the Lord’s love (Deut. 7:7). The choice of Israel is confirmed by the exile and restoration, for in a new way Israel now bears witness of the Lord to the nations (Isa. 41:8). The scriptural doctrine of divine capacity for choice demonstrates that purpose and personality, not blind mechanism, are at the heart of the universe. Since God carefully chooses certain ones for a specific task, He can also reject them if they deviate from that purpose (1 Sam. 2:27ff.)” (TWOT).
In addition, there is the idea of separating in this word as well. (Deut. 4:37; 7:6ff.)
This word carries the range of meaning of, “to separate selves to, to be separated, make a difference, divide, separate, sever.”
Lev. 20:24, 26. 1 Kings 8:53.
The term simply means, “to know.”
It is used in a myriad of ways, but one clear way speaks of God’s choosing.
Gen. 18:19 - “"For I have chosen him (yada), so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him."
Jer. 1:5 - “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you (yada), and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Amos 3:2 - “You only have I chosen (yada) among all the families of the earth; Therefore, I will punish you for your iniquities.”
To take (get, fetch), lay hold of (seize), receive, acquire (buy), bring, marry (take a wife), snatch (Take away). This carries the thought of taking in the manner of choosing or selecting.
Num. 8:16; 1 Kings. 11:37.
(Terms related to choosing)
The eklegomai word group.
“...the basis of salvation in God’s calling people to belong to himself elect, chosen; substantivally, of the community of believers elect” (Friberg).
Matt. 24:22 - “And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short.”
The hairetidzo word group.
“Choose; in a strengthened sense choose with delight, perhaps in the sense of adopt” (Friberg).
Matt 12:18; 2 Thess 2:13.
The procheiridzomai word group.
“...strictly handpicked beforehand; hence choose in advance, ordain, appoint; passively, to be appointed”
Acts 3:20, 22:14.
“...choose in advance, appoint beforehand, select previously.”
(Terms related to appointing)
“... assign to a place or task, appoint, decide; passive, in relation to properly constituted authority be instituted, be appointed, be established…”
“... figuratively; of persons being appointed, being set, being destined....”
Luke 2:34; Phil. 1:16; 1 Thess. 3:3.
Carries the idea of choosing or placing something, or someone, in a particular place.
Jn. 15:16; Acts 1:7; 13:47; 1 Pet. 2:8.
(Terms related to predestination)
“... decide on beforehand, determine in advance.”
Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29, 30, Eph. 1:5, 11.
Twice in the NT, this refers to knowing in advance (Acts 26:5; 2 Pet. 3:17).
The rest of the NT usages refer to “...select in advance, choose or appoint beforehand…”
The basis for election:
First, the basis for election is not found in man in any way.
This all flows from the massive number scriptures that show the fullness of man’s depravity. We saw many of these when we discussed hamartiology.
Now, this doctrine will always be the source of stumbling for many until they have come to rest with certain truths:
- First, that God is not unjust in election.
- Second, that there is nothing meritorious in man.
- Third, there is no one who will go to hell who truly desired to be with God according to God’s standards.
- Fourth, that there will be any who wanted to be saved, but were prevented.
We would also say that this doctrine does not suppress evangelism, if it is properly understood. Rather, it is a source of motivation for evangelism. When a believer rightly understands this doctrine, he understands that God, not him/her, is the ultimate source of bringing salvation to man.
Deuteronomy 7:7 - “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.”
John 1:13 - “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 15:16 - “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”
Romans 9:11, 16 - “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” … “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
The basis for election is found in God’s sovereign grace.
We already discussed this in the beginning.
But key passages would be Detu. 7:8; Jer. 31:3; Hosea 11:8-9; Rom. 9:14; 11:5-6, et. al.
When election is considered, therefore, it follows that it is truly unconditional election. This simply means that there is nothing outside God’s own sovereign choice that is a motivation behind election. When we can grasp that, it can no longer be discussed that election is somehow unjust of God. It is never on the basis of the elct, but on the basis of the Elector.
The Purpose of Election
Immediate purpose-- Sanctification (both puntiliar and progressive).
Speaking to Israel - Deut. 7:11 - “Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them.”
Rom. 8:29-30 - “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
The ultimate purpose-- God’s glory.
Eph. 1:3-6 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
1 Pet. 2:9ff.
How to Teach Election
First, teach it in its biblical context.
There is a place to teach it in a theological context, but not for the purpose of creating a logical system that will then be placed over the Scripture. Great care needs to be taken to strive to give election its positive meaning that is frequently found in the Scripture. Too often this is taught in a cold, sterile way that robs it of its goodness and glory. The primary recipients to this teaching are not the unconverted, but the converted. Remember, Paul is always writing to believers. Also, it is not to be shielded from the young or the newly converted.
Along with that, evangelism is not the place to start talking about election. It creates more confusion than clarity.
Second, teach the reality of human responsibility.
Rom. 10:14; 1 Cor. 3:5-9; 2 Tim. 2:10, et al. teach that man is 100% responsibility, and yet right next to passages which speak of God being 100% sovereign in His election.
It is a tension we must become comfortable with, because the Scripture is.
So don’t put too much weight to one side or the other. But rather, hold them both up in their proper place.
Also, it is proper to teach the reality of perseverance alongside this doctrine. Too often many will use the phrase, “once saved, always saved," but that is not in the Bible.
Rather, the Bible speaks of perseverance. So election is a biblical doctrine, but only those who ultimately persevere to the end will be shown to be who the truly elect were.
Matt. 11:28; Rom. 10:8-13; 2 Pet. 1:5-11.
So that is our basic discussion of election.
There is so much that we didn’t even touch on because it just wouldn’t be conducive for a podcast like this, but if you have any thoughts or questions, we’d love to hear from you.
Next time, Lord-willing, we’ll get into the idea of “Effectual Call, Regeneration, and Adoption.