This Sunday morning I’ll preach, God willing, on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5. Paul had heard of the effects of the gospel in the Thessalonian believers’ lives. The fruits of their faith, love, and hope confirmed to him “their election of God” (v. 4). I want to make some statements about the biblical teaching of election as I preach but I don’t intend to spend a major part of the sermon on it. So I’m placing some thoughts here so those who wish can go over them at their convenience.
These statements are simple, and that is on purpose. I usually think in pretty simple terms, and I think it helps the average person to see a complicated concept like this presented as clearly as possible.
They are also presented without much in the way of comment, explanation, implications, logical conclusions, etc. I don’t intend to try to explain or defend the doctrine of election, just state facts.
There is one clarifying point I’d like to make. There are three categories of election in the Bible. God elected the nation of Israel for His special favor and blessing. God elected people to offices or positions, the supreme example of which is Jesus’ election to be the Messiah. And God elected individual lost sinners to be saved. It is mainly this third category of election that I am writing about here.
1. Election is in the Bible.
I count 19 occurrences of words in the vocabulary group associated with election (elect, election, chosen) that clearly refer to individual salvation.
2. Election is an act of God.
God is the subject. If God does it, it is good and should be accepted and revered.
3. Election is a choice.
There’s no way around this. The word “elect” in Greek is eklegomai and means to choose or select.
4. Election favors some and not others.
Using the other categories of election as examples, God chose Israel and not other nations. God chose Jesus and not an angel or another man. And in the category of salvation, God chose “the elect” and not everyone.
5. Election is based on God’s sovereign will and pleasure, not on anything we do.
Ephesians 1:4-5 says of God’s election of believers, . . . He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will . . .
1 Peter 1:2 says we are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. God’s foreknowledge in the Bible is not merely His awareness of what will happen in the future. It is a knowledge that views something or someone in the future in a positive way. See Acts 2:23. God did not only know ahead of time that Jesus would die, He ordained it. His plan for Jesus to die was not conditioned on what someone else would do. Regarding our individual salvation, God did not merely know ahead of time that we would believe and base His election on that. His foreknowledge is not merely cognitive. It is determinitive.
6. Election does not preclude human responsibility.
It is the responsibility of Christians to preach the gospel to every creature. It is the responsibility of sinners to repent and believe.
7. Election is a source of assurance.
See Romans 8:28-39. Verse 33 says, Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? The implied response is, No one, and the stated reason is that the ones God has elected, He justifies.
8. Election is not Calvinism, it is Biblicism.
Whether you embrace or eschew the label of Calvinist, believing in election does not make you one. If you are a Biblicist you will accept and embrace the truth of God’s election.
9. Election forces us to accept things about God that are uncomfortable to us and don’t make sense to us.
People struggle to understand how God could elect to save some and not others. If we attempt to shape God’s character, decrees, and acts in ways that fit our finite logic and feelings, we will be frustrated or will redefine the terms to our satisfaction. To do so is to diminish the nature of God. We must be willing to accept who God is and what He does as the Bible presents Him.
10. Election glorifies God.
Ephesians 1:6 states that our election and predestination is to the praise of the glory of his grace.
It is not our place to dispute election, nor to make it any greater or any less than what it is. It is not necessary for us to grasp it or to make sense of it. God is eternal and sovereign, and what He does is right and just. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). You must give diligence to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). All are true. Our place is to say what Paul did in Romans 11:33 after he expounded the truth of God’s election of the nation of Israel, Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!