As ‘Mericans we love our individualism. Historically we like it when we get to do what we want when we want to do it (which has lead to some bad foreign policy decisions over last couple hundred years admittedly). I mean our country was founded on a spirit of rebellion not submission after all. Some of you non-Americans are nodding your head. But as humans we like getting our way and we like being in control. This why when it comes to God we so often struggle with seeing Him as sovereign because the natural implication is that we are not in control. We struggle with understanding that God is the only person who has the right and the ability to truly do. As MacArthur states, “When He acts, He does so only because He willfully and independently chooses to act. According to His own nature, predetermined plan, and good pleasure, He decides to do whatever He desires, without pressure or constraint from any outside influence.” This is true in the doctrine of election when he graciously choose those who would believe in Him in eternity past.
When discussing election you have to start by understanding: (1) the need for election; (2) the provision of election; (3) the result of election.
The Need for Election: The Sinfulness of Man
When Paul wrote to the Roman church he presented the unrighteousness of all mankind, Jew and Gentile (Rom 1:18-3:20). Paul wanted his readers to understand that there is no significant difference between Jews and Gentiles in the covenant community of God. All of mankind is guilty before God because “though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude” (Romans 1:21). Paul makes clear that all men have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals… and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator who is praised forever” (Rom 1:23,25). Even the Jews have no advantage in their heritage for “if [one] is a lawbreaker, [their] circumcision has become uncircumcision” (Rom 2:25). The Mosaic law is of no benefit in regards to one’s positional righteousness before God (Rom 3:9). God’s righteousness is not only revealed in His wrath but in the justification of unrighteous men as God imputes Christ’s righteousness to believers (Rom 3:21-5:21). Paul wants his readers to know for certain that God imputes righteousness to all who believe by faith for all are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). In the book of Romans election, salvation as a whole, must come from outside of man. It is not within man’s natural will to pursue salvation or even to know that he needs to be saved or what he needs to be saved from. Man will naturally choose to reject God.
So when you hear “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom 9:13), what do you think of? If you understand the sinfulness of man, if you understand your own sinfulness, and how election is love language by which God so graciously saves men who cannot save themselves, then you shouldn’t ask “How could God hate Esau?” You ought to ask yourself, “How could God love Jacob?” And therefore, when talking about election it’s not about man’s free will it’s about your will. Are you and I not prone to wonder? How could we choose God unless he choose us? When you study election don’t ask “How could God hate so and so?” But “How could God love me?” Election is extremely humbling and ought to drive us to repentance.
The Provision of Election: God’s Drama of Redemption
When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he began by setting the stage of the drama of redemption in his introduction (Eph 1:1-19). God Himself had taken action to redeem men and it is God who has set the stage on which the church is to live out the roles that he has created. He had elected and predestined to pour out grace on the saints all “to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph 1:6). God had taken all the steps required to saved sinful men through His Messiah and He had “lavished on us [the riches of His grace] with all wisdom and understanding” (Eph 1:8). God had done this so that the saints “might bring praise to His glory” (Eph 1:12). God has even given His Spirit as a down payment, to give assurance of His work in the church, “to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:14). Paul concluded his introduction by speaking of his prayer for the Ephesians. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would grow in their knowledge of God (Eph 1:15-19). Paul’s introduction clearly demonstrates the Ephesians were to fully understand God and what He had done for them so that they could live out the redemptive drama set before them for the praise of His glory.
Within the redemptive drama man is unable to do anything but sin, until God steps on to the scene of the redemptive drama. Election by God is always seen as being unto life. Election is seen as God choosing to graciously bring someone to spiritual life on the redemptive stage. Luke demonstrates this point stating, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Jesus talks about electing those whom He gives life to stating, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (John 5:21; cf. 6:44; 13:18; 15:16). Election is the motivator for the Christian life on the stage of the drama of redemption. Paul motivates the Thessalonians in their own sanctification (1 Thess 1:4; 2 Thess 2:13). Paul sees election as the motivator for evangelism stating “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory” (2 Tim 2:10).
Hence election is the decision of God to save a certain specific group before time began and conform them to the image of Christ through the drama of redemption. Election is divine love language. Election always refers to an election unto salvation and there is never a reference to election unto damnation. Thus election is presented as a comfort. God always works for the good of those who are chosen (Rom 8:28-30). Furthermore in our inward response to this divine love language election is a reason to praise God (Eph 1:5-6, 12). This love language externally is an encouragement for evangelism (2 Tim 2:10).
The Result of Election: Elected for the Covenant Community
I almost titled this blog “TCAC: Elected by God” just so it could fit my series on “The Church as Community” but decided not to let you could probably figure out I was heading there.
The Church is the covenant community made up of Jews and Gentiles whom Christ has purchased by His own blood (Eph 2:13-22). Thus the Church began at the cross (Eph 2:13) where Christ broke down the dividing wall (Eph 2:14-16), and so Christ has formed a covenant community of believers whom are to live together glorifying God in the Spirit (Eph 2:17-22). This definition describes what the church is and the implications of the local church in the life of a believer. Election is not only individual but it is also corporate. Individuals are elected to be part of a corporate body of believers.
The Church is a collection of sinners who do not deserve the salvation that God has provided in Jesus (Eph 2:1-7). As a group of sinners the Church is united in belief (Eph 4:4-6) and ultimately seeks the glory of God (Eph 3:20-21). God has chosen to use sinful people to serve His Church (Eph 4:7-12). Paul uses many illustrations of the church in his epistle to the Ephesians. Paul refers to the church as the body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). In other words, Jesus is the head, the leader, and the lord of the Church. The Church is the workmanship of Christ (Eph 2:10). Christ has worked to justify His Church and he continually sanctifies Her. The Church is the household of God (Eph 2:19) and the dwelling place of God (Eph 2:22). Yahweh Himself dwells among His covenant community in the age of the New Covenant and not only among His community but within each member of that community. The Church is the Bride of Christ (Eph 5:22-33). The Church is therefore meant to submit to Christ. The Church is to look to Christ and Christ alone for Her nourishment and cherishment. The Church is to respect and glorify Christ.
As the Church belongs to God, all believers are members of the Church, are under his headship, and ought to honor him as Creator and Savior in everyday life. The local church is the context and the community in which believer lives out their election. Hence, Paul instructed Timothy about the roles that all the different members supposed to play in the household of God in the book of 1 Timothy.