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January 28, 2018 Unconditional Election

 

            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 to himself 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. (Eph 1:3-6, ESV)

 

I love verse three. It begins with a blessing to God the Father. I love to bless God the Father. We bless Him because He first blessed us. He blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing!

 

Verse 4 tells us two things. That God the Father chose us in Christ before the world was even made. And, that we should be holy and blameless before His face. If we belong to Him we should be free from sin. This means we turn away from all known sin and walk in obedience to his good and pleasant commands. We do this by a supernatural life, the divine life, that he has imparted to us. We do not do it by our own power or efforts.

 

Presently, I wish to consider the first half of verse 4 and verse 5. God chose us. This choosing is known as election. To elect and to choose are the same thing. They are synonyms. Because the Bible addresses election, even calling those whom God has chosen “the elect,”[1] we must learn it and we must teach it. We should not neglect it.

 

In fact, every denomination (and “non-denomination”) has some doctrine of election because it is in the Bible.

 

Notice that verse 4 says that he chose us. What has been chosen is not just a plan or a goal, but people. Often, when the import of what the doctrine holds is impressed upon people they will try to escape it by saying that God just chose a plan or a purpose. But, clearly, that is not what this verse (nor many others) is saying. Paul is teaching that God chose certain people.

 

In verse 5 Paul writes that God predestined us for sonship through Jesus Christ. The word predestine can be understood by its parts. Destine comes from “destiny.” A destiny or a destination is where you end up. Those are nouns. Destine is the verb. It tells you that someone is doing an action that will cause you to end up somewhere. According to the apostle, we end up as sons (i.e., children of God) because God destined us to be. But, there is also the prefix, pre. Pre means “before.” God destined us before something. Before what? He told us in verse 4: “before the foundation of the world.”

 

 

God has elected some before the foundation of the world. The question that often arises in people’s minds is whether this election, this choosing, is conditional or unconditional. Does God choose certain people before he made the world based on something about them? Or, does he do it based on his own good pleasure without respect to their future choices or deeds in life? Our natural inclination is to say that he chooses based on something about the person being chosen. After all, isn’t this the way we elect people? When a candidate is running for office we elect them based on their positions on certain political issues. We also consider their lives. Have they served their country in military service? Have they been good fathers or mothers? So, it is natural to assume that God elects some in the same way. We may even think it is unfair if God does not. This may be why people get heated up about this discussion. Those who believe that God’s election is conditional think it reflects poorly on God if he chooses unconditionally. Those who think that God chooses unconditionally may get upset with those who take the opposite position because, they will say, the Scriptures are clear on the matter. The Bible is the source to which we must look in order to get our answer. The question will not be settled by philosophical considerations. We do not want to neglect philosophical considerations because God cannot be seen as unjust. But the final and authoritative appeal must be the Holy Scriptures. If our philosophy and the Bible’s message contradict one another our philosophy must go.

 

Hence, to the Scriptures we look.

 

   And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11         though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12            she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13   As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14            What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15   For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16   So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. [2]

 

Romans chapter 9 is all about election. The apostle Paul uses the example of Jacob and Esau as an illustration of it’s truth. In verse 11 Paul says that before they were born and before they had done anything good or bad God elected one of them. Some, again wishing to avoid the implications of this beloved doctrine, will say, “Yes, it was before they did anything good or bad, but God still knew what they were going to do.” Well, of course, God knew. God knows all things. But, it is obvious that Paul’s point is that what they did or, more accurately, what they would one day decide to do had nothing whatsoever to do with God’s choice!

 

In the last half of verse 11 Paul makes himself exceptionally clear: “- in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works, but because of him who calls –“ Some will admit at this point that it is not because of anything that people do, but election still depends upon the foreseen exercise of their will to choose Christ. God looks down the corridor of time and sees who will exercise their human will and choose Christ, so they say. I think we will get our answer to that philosophical dream soon enough.

 

In verse 13 we read God’s words about these two: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I hated.” If this statement were made based upon their deeds or decisions then few people would have objections. They objections arise when this statement is made without respect to anything in the person! Is this what Paul really meant? Did he mean to say that God loves some and hates others without respect to something about them? Think about it. If you choose to favor someone based upon their behavior or their own choices then the charge of being unfair is not raised. It is only raised if you choose to favor someone for some other reason.

 

Paul anticipates this and asks preemptively, “Is there injustice with God?” (vs 14) This proves that Paul means to say what he plainly says. The charge of injustice only comes up if God is choosing without respect to the person.

 

Is there injustice with God? “By no means.” Then, in verse 15, we read: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” God chooses whom he will have mercy upon. And, he is under no obligation to give mercy to all. If he is, then mercy is not mercy.

 

In verse 16 Paul answers our earlier speculation that if God’s choice is not according to what he knows people will do, maybe it is because of the exercise of their will to choose Christ. He writes, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion…” It is neither deeds nor man’s choice. It is God’s choice!

 

Despite these clear statements some still wish to insist that belief comes first and then God, seeing a person’s belief, appoints them to eternal life. But Romans 9 is not the only place in the Bible where that idea is refuted.

 

In Acts 13 the apostle Paul is preaching the good news to the Gentiles because the Jews have rejected his message.

 

48         And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. [3]

 

Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes that “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” See that the appointment comes first and the belief follows. It is just the opposite of what some would have you think and just the opposite of our natural inclination to always find something good in man.

 

We must remember that God is not under obligation to give mercy to all. He chooses some to have mercy upon. The rest get justice which is exactly what we all deserve for our sins. No one gets injustice. The real question is not, “why does God not save everyone?” Rather, the question is: “Why does God save any at all?” he would be perfectly righteous and loving towards the other members of the Trinity to uphold absolute justice and judge sin in an absolute way. But he has shown mercy to us! Praise his name!

 

A question that should naturally come to mind if one is not already sure of the answer is: “Am I one of the elect?” For the one who has not yet come to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, there is an easy way to answer this question. You place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ right now. Only the elect will believe in Christ. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will have your answer! Considering the import of this matter and the consequences of dying in one’s sins, do not delay what may be done today. Surrender your life to Jesus and know that you are the elect!

 

What about those who have already made a profession of faith in Christ? Merely because someone has made a profession of faith does not mean that they are one of the elect. This is because there are such things as false professions. Someone may make a profession and even think themselves that it is true but it may be that they were self-deceived all along. This is shown by what I consider the most terrifying passage in all the Bible. I recall reading this passage as a new believer and being truly frightened by it.

 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22             On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23         And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawless[4]

 

Here are people who are counted among the faithful. They are not just sit-at-home Christians. They are busy doing good deeds on behalf of the Lord. They are doing “mighty works.” But, they are not just doing mighty works. They are doing mighty works in the name of Jesus! They cast out demons! Yet, Jesus will say to some of these, “I never knew you.” Why does he say this? Because they were disobedient. They broke God’s laws.

 

One of the ways you can rest assured that you are one of the elect is by living in accordance with his commands.

 

Oh! There are so many who think that they are one of God’s children just because they have repeated some prayer at a gospel meeting. They believe that they are saved but they are not! We musn’t go by our feelings nor by men’s teachings. We must gain our assurance from the words of Jesus.

 

The main way that we can know if we are among the elect is by living by the words of our Lord.

 

I have given you one way to know. I will give you one way to know that you are not among the elect. Sadly, one can mentally assent to the Lordship of Christ, His vicarious sacrifice, and even live in accordance with God’s commands, at least outwardly, and still be not among the elect? What? How can this be?

 

Consider some members of the visible church during the days of the apostles. They were known as Gnostics. They believed what we would consider the fundamentals of the faith but they also held to some strange ideas. They were part of the visible church for some time. They took the Lord’s Table. They prayed with the others. They listened to preaching.  But, eventually they stopped meeting with the church. Here is what the apostle John says about this:

 

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. [5]

 

You see, if one is truly among the elect then they will not leave the church. According to the apostle, if one stops meeting with the church this is proof that they are not among God’s chosen ones.

 

What are the implications of this doctrine? We have already spoken about a negative implication. One may think that they are among the elect when they are not. Is there a positive implication?

 

There are two. In our main passage this morning from Ephesians 1, Paul concludes in 1:6 that seeing God’s election results in praise to his glorious grace! Even if grace were expressed the way some people think it is – God provides a way to be redeemed but a person’s decision to accept it depends upon them – it would still be grace. It would still be God’s favor upon them. Yet, when we see that it is all of God and none of us, that is glorious grace! That results in even more praise!

 

The other result of seeing our election is that we love God more. We saw that God chose Jacob and not Esau because he loved Jacob and not Esau. God’s choosing us is another way of saying that God loved us before the world began. He loved us when we were only a thought in his mind and before he created us! When we see this, a greater love is stirred up in our heart for him. Jesus could say,

 

“We love him because he first loved us.” (I John 4:19)

 

I recall how, after I had been a Christian about 10 years, I finally saw the truth of my election. Almost all Christians begin their Christian life thinking that their salvation depended in some part upon themselves. It is only through a careful study of God’s word that they may be enlightened. When I saw this my heart burst forth with greater love for my Father and it has been burning brightly ever since.

 

Meditate upon these passages this coming week. Pray them back to the Father, thanking him for choosing you, and experience the love for him that is sure to grow within you!

 

[1] Matthew 24:22,24,31; Mark 13:20,22,27; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 9:10–16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 13:48). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 7:21–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 2:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.