A Brief Look at the Doctrine of Election
1 Peter 1:1-12
I Peter 2:9-10
I mentioned last time – one of the features of Peter’s address to his readers in this letter, is the dual concept of “ELECT EXILES” in vs. 2.
This is his description of them.
This is meant to form part of their DUAL-SELFIDENTITY as Believers or Christians.
The reality that they ARE indeed exiles – exiled most likely by the Emperor Claudius.
The reality that in relation to God – they are to think of themselves as “ELECT”.
[3 SLIDES: LBD; NBD; EBD]
Election (בָּחַר, bachar; בָּחִיר, bachir; ἐκλέγομαι, eklegomai; ἐκλεκτός, eklektos; ἐκλογή, eklogē). God’s choice of a person or people group for a specific purpose, mission, or salvation. The theme of election is prominent in both the Old and New Testaments. The doctrine of election traditionally is related to the concepts of predestination, foreknowledge, and free will.
ELECTION. The act of choice whereby God picks an individual or group out of a larger company for a purpose or destiny of his own appointment. The main OT word for this is the verb bāḥar, which expresses the idea of deliberately selecting someone or something after carefully considering the alternatives (e.g. sling-stones, 1 Sa. 17:40; a place of refuge, Dt. 23:16; a wife, Gn. 6:2; good rather than evil, Is. 7:15f.; life rather than death, Dt. 30:19f.; the service of God rather than of idols, Jos. 24:22). The word implies a decided preference for, sometimes positive pleasure in, the object chosen (cf., e.g., Is. 1:29).
Election of Grace—The Scripture speaks (1) of the election of individuals to office or to honour and privilege, e.g., Abraham, Jacob, Saul, David, Solomon, were all chosen by God for the positions they held; so also were the apostles. (2) There is also an election of nations to special privileges, e.g., the Hebrews (Deut. 7:6; Rom. 9:4). (3) But in addition there is an election of individuals to eternal life (2 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:2; John 13:18).
The term ELECT as applying to Believers may be new to some of you, or possibly even disturbing to others – depending on how you’ve understood the Bible uses that term.
Sadly, many a person who has come to understand the nature of what it means to be one of God’s ELECT – has sinfully appropriated the idea and used it without care and discretion and has done great harm by it.
With that in mind, I heartily encourage you to take a copy of today’s notes to look over in a more thoughtful context later – and – if needed, I will gladly set up some discussion times for those who feel the need to dig a bit further.
In truth, while we’ll cover some key points this morning, the topic itself may raise some questions that the Bible answers in other places – or that it DOES NOT answer, casting us back on simply trusting the character of God and His revelation as He has given it.
At the bottom however – it should not be strange for us, especially as creatures made in the image of God and possessing at least some power over making choices – that the God who made us like Himself, has the power to make choices too!
We like reserving the right to make choices for ourselves,
But balk at God having personal preferences or at having the absolute power of HIS choices.
That SHOULD tell us that something is wrong in our thinking at the start.
When we consider God’s choice-making ability in the abstract, we don’t have TOO many problems.
It does not bother us that He made grass green, bananas yellow, bumblebees strangely capable of flight or the oceans to be full of salt water.
But when we come to a subject like salvation – that’s where the wheels come off.
That’s where many think God has gone too far.
To think that God might choose some to salvation while passing over others unnerves us.
It is frightening to let Him have quite that much power.
But I will argue today that that is precisely what the Scriptures teach on the subject.
It is revealed to us at least in part – to truly humble us and show us the vast difference between God and ourselves as His creatures.
AND – To heighten our sense of grace – that salvation is indeed a FREE GIFT.
And that God’s love cannot be bought or coerced.
For if it can be bought or coerced, then it can be bought off – or coerced elsewhere.
[SLIDE] Let me begin by laying out 4 controlling thoughts to help our study.
[SLIDE] Then we’ll look at a number of different ways the Bible treats the topic.
[SLIDE] 3rd, we’ll consider the “fairness” of it all. Especially in Romans 9.
[SLIDE] 4th, 3 Critical Lessons to learn.
- 4 Controlling thoughts: It is the testimony of Scripture that:
[SLIDE] 1. No one is lost BECAUSE they are not elect – people are lost because we are fallen in sin.
[SLIDE] 2. No one who desires to believe and obey the Gospel and be saved – is denied.
[SLIDE] 3. Because God is just, no one can either be under-punished nor over-punished for sin.
[SLIDE] 4. God owes salvation to no one.
[DOLLAR BILLS SLIDE] REMEMBER: ELECTION IS NOT SALVATION ITSELF – IT IS MERELY GOD’S DESIGNATING SOME FOR SALVATION. It is not based in any qualitative difference in the individuals – but in God’s personal pleasure.
Election – first and foremost = DESIGNATION. Nothing more.
- THE DIFFERENT WAYS THE BIBLE TREATS THE TOPIC.
[SLIDE] A. The Bible teaches Election – the freedom and right of God to make choices in all sorts of contexts.
[SLIDE] DANIEL 4:34-35
We must allow before anything else, that God has the right to make choices – period.
And we must understand that therefore the CONTEXT must define the purpose of the election –whatever it might be.
The question will be – does He make choices of any kind which have to do with people – and if so, what does that look like?
[SLIDE] B. There are different types of election.
[SLIDE] 1. Jesus is spoken of as God’s ELECT – but it is clear this has nothing to do with salvation out of sin: Isa. 42:1
[SLIDE] 2. Israel is spoken of as God’s ELECT – a chosen “people” – but not all are saved – this is not regarding salvation out of sin: Isa. 45:4. ; Romans 11:28
[SLIDE] 3. Some angels are spoken of as ELECT without relation to being saved out of sin, but preserved from falling into sin: 1 Tim. 5:21.
- God makes choices regarding individuals in terms of abilities and disabilities –
[SLIDE] Exodus 4:10–11 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?
[SLIDE] Exodus 31:1–6 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you:
- God makes determinations regarding when and where we each exist –
[SLIDE] Acts 17:26–27 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,
- In prophecy – God determines how all kinds of events occur and play out –
[SLIDE] Joshua 23:14 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.
[SLIDE] Isaiah 46:5–11 “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? 6 Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship! 7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble. 8 “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
- God’s electing right is displayed in His choosing people and nations both for all kinds of purposes, AND unto salvation.
[SLIDE] Deuteronomy 7:1–7 “When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, 2 and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. 5 But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire. 6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
[SLIDE] C. Election does not occur ONLY within the context of salvation from sin.
[SLIDE] 1. Sonship / In this context, we have the freedom of a Father to choose between sons (all other things being equal) as to who will be the “firstborn” – the head of the family.
[SLIDE] Ephesians 1:3–6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
[SLIDE] 2. Bride of Christ / In this context, we see God does no wrong to any when He chooses a Bride for His Son out of those available.
[SLIDE] 2 Corinthians 11:2
NOTE: ALL human beings reserve the right to choose whom THEY will marry – and yet we want to restrict God from having the same freedom.
[SLIDE] 3. People of God / In this context, we see God choosing a particular nation or group of people He desires to call His people – His own, out of all the nations of the earth. There is no wrong done to any in such choosing.
[SLIDE] 1 Peter 2:9–10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
[SLIDE] 4. Displaying mercy & grace / In this context, fallnness is part of the equation. We must be in a pitiful state to receive pity.
We have the large number of passages which tell us about God’s right to choose, and that He does choose some in GRACE unto salvation – while leaving or passing over others who will experience justice.
[SLIDE] Mark 13:20 — And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.
[SLIDE] Luke 6:13 — And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:
John 15:16 — You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
[SLIDE] 1 Corinthians 1:26–30 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
[SLIDE] 2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
We must recall that He owes salvation to no one – tho in the Gospel He offers it to all.
Therefore, the extension of GRACE to some is neither unfair nor unjust.
We must bear in mind as well, that due to the nature of our fallen condition, if it weren’t for election, none would be saved at all – for left to ourselves, we would never choose Him. Just like Adam, we would always choose ourselves first – which is confirmed as fact every time we sin now, choosing our own will above God’s.
For me, the first 3 are the controlling concepts, because they would function irrespective of the Fall.
[SLIDE] D. If election does not humble us, but rather becomes a source of pride – we have misunderstood it completely.
It is our UNIVERSAL unworthiness which must be accounted for.
[SLIDES] Election presupposes:
1 – A universally guilty mankind.
2 – A God who is holy and cannot simply overlook sin or dismiss the charges.
3 – A God who has sovereign discretion over His creation and all its creatures – including man.
4 – A God who nonetheless desires to reveal His capacity for and exercise His mercy and grace upon – undeserving creatures.
5 – A substitutionary sacrifice which He accepts in the place of those He pardons, so that justice is not in any wise compromised.
We find all of these elements present in the biblical record.
III. What it would take for God to be unfair or unjust in election?
- If God promised salvation to all, and then refused.
He has NOT promised that all will simply receive mercy.
He HAS promised that all who repent and believe can have mercy.
- If God condemned all for no reason.
He has not condemned mankind for NO reason
He has condemned mankind both for ADAM’S sin (and our part in it) and for our OWN sins.
NOTE: It is reductionistic to think God damned mankind for “merely” eating a piece of fruit. The condemnation is because eating the fruit was the way to become “like God”. To usurp His place.
- If God changed the agreement or terms.
The terms ALWAYS were – Sin and you will die.
- If God OWED salvation to any and then denied them.
God OWES all men justice, in that He is holy, and cannot pervert justice.
God owes NO ONE mercy. Mercy and Grace by definition are gifts, not rewards.
There is no prohibition in being generous, there IS a prohibition against stealing.
- If God had no absolute RIGHTS over His creatures.
- If God did what He did, not having the right to exercise mercy as he sees fit.
Election & salvation fits none of these
God has never promised salvation to all men, but HAS announced the Gospel and will receive all who come in faith.
God did not condemn mankind for no reason, but for its cosmic rebellion as a race.
God has never changed the terms by which He dealt with mankind – “In the day you eat of it, you will die”.
God owes mercy and forgiveness to none.
God HAS absolute rights over His creatures.
God has the right to exercise mercy as he sees fit.
[SLIDE] SO…Romans 9
[SLIDE] 1. (14) Is God being unjust in Election?
[SLIDE] 2. No.
[SLIDE] 3. Why not?
[SLIDE] 4. (15) Because God has said “mercy and compassion” are matters left up to His discretion.
Mercy is VOLITIONAL, not COMPULSORY.
Someone owed a debt has the power or right to forgive the debt. But he or she is never REQUIRED to forgive it, or it ceases to be an act of GRACE.
Grace to be grace must not be something OWED – Grace by definition is UNDESERVED.
[SLIDE] 5. (16) Mercy isn’t the product of either the will or the exertion of the one desiring it – but a product of the One SHOWING IT!
The intensity with which one desires mercy doesn’t make it happen
All condemned men want mercy.
In fact: Attempts to earn mercy try to make it a duty on the other person, not a free gift.
[SLIDE] 6. (17) Judgment on the other hand IS earned – e.g. Pharaoh. (Judicial hardening)
It is us getting exactly what is due us.
We must keep this in mind. God is doing no one wrong by carrying out their just judgment, even as He is doing no one wrong when He shows mercy – which is His to show.
– Even God’s mercy must somehow be “just” –
- Substitutionary atonement
Sin is never “overlooked” in one case and prosecuted in another. It is ALWAYS dealt with.
[SLIDE] 7. (18) Conclusion – Mercy is a matter of God’s own discretion, and hardening is a matter of His justice.
Mercy for some
Justice for some
Fairness to all.
Neither is being treated unfairly.
[SLIDE] 8. (19) Some will still ask – Then why does God find fault? If this is His plan (His electing grace) and none one can violate it – Why does He still find fault?
Some will be dissatisfied because they do not trust God with that kind of power.
They DO however trust themselves with it.
[SLIDE] 9-a. (20) Who are you (fallen creature), to try and judge God’s plan or righteousness?
A betrayal of the suspicion that God is somehow unjust or unrighteous in His arrangement – because we cannot work through the details to our personal satisfaction.
[SLIDE] 10-b. (21) God has a RIGHT to deal with His creation as He sees fit – period.
The forming of one for honor and another for dishonor – presupposes a fallen LUMP.
Water pail? I can use the same water for drinking or for cleaning my floor – without in some way being “unfair” to the portion used for cleaning.
[SLIDE] 11-c. (22-24) Why is it a problem for you that He has refrained from judging all peoples in one fell swoop and withholding His final fury, while He opens an opportunity for multitudes to come and be saved – both Jews and Gentiles?
Especially when He owes salvation to none?
[SLIDE IV. 3 CRITICAL LESSONS:
[SLIDE] 1. Our sense of fair play must be rooted in God’s justice as revealed in His Word, not radical egalitarianism.
[SLIDE] 2. Our sinful hearts are never more revealed than in the uncomfortability we feel when contemplating God’s absolute power and authority over His creatures without having to answer to anybody.
We are back in the Garden – making Him suspect.
[SLIDE] 3. Mercy is not ours to earn or obtain by effort, BUT – God DOES call us to seek it!
He willingly receives all who come and DO ask. He refuses none.
Why would this be so important to Peter’s readers at this point in their lives?
Because they could know that their being in exile is no less an “ACCIDENT” than their salvation – and vice versa – that their salvation is no accident either!
So for us today in our culture as it plummets down.
No Believer here today need fear that these events around us are merely random!
Our God reigns and is sovereignly at work around us.
As much at work in our external circumstances, as He was in our salvation.
And our salvation is secure regardless of our external circumstances, precisely because it is no accident either – but the outworking of God’s own eternal plan.
And YOUR individual part in it.
If you are Christ’s today – you are His because He chose you before He ever formed the worlds to be IN Christ and to be redeemed from your sin and to be part of His Son’s Bride!
If you are NOT His today – in His sovereign plan, He has seen to it you are here once again to hear the good news.
Christ has died for human sin! There is salvation from all of your sin in Him.
Come and trust Him as your substitute today! He calls you to Himself. Don’t fear – run to Him. He will not refuse any who come and cast themselves upon His mercy – trusting in Christ.
[SLIDE] Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
[SLIDE] John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
 Thornhill, A. Chadwick. 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. Election. (Ed.) John D. Barry, David Bomar, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, Douglas Mangum, Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, Lazarus Wentz, Elliot Ritzema & Wendy Widder. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
 Packer, J. I. 1996. Election. (Ed.) D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard & D. J. Wiseman. New Bible dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Easton, M. G. 1893. Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.