Ephesians 1:3-5 is far from the only passage in God’s Word in which the Holy Spirit teaches the churches about the church’s election in Jesus Christ.
The congregation at Thessalonica was probably only a few months old, yet Paul wanted them to be sure of their eternal election, speaking of it at the beginning of his letter: "Knowing, brethren beloved, yourelection of God" (I Thess. 1:4). There are congregations today, hoary with age, which do not have this knowledge, and the last thing that their ministers would want to teach them is unconditional election. This is disgraceful and totally opposed to apostolic Christianity!
In case the Thessalonians missed it in his first epistle, Paul refers to their election in his second inspired letter to them: "we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, becauseGod hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (II Thess. 2:13). The apostle thanked the Triune God for their election, especially in this context (vv. 3-12), because it is the grace which comes to us from election alone (v. 13) that keeps us, unlike the reprobate (v. 11), from the apostasy, corrupt worship, lying miracles and false teaching of the man of sin (vv. 3-4, 8-10) and the "mystery of iniquity [which] doth already work" (v. 7).
Peter also taught the election of the church to the churches. At the start of his first inspired epistle, he addresses the saints in "Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (I Peter 1:1), as "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (v. 2). Their election, issuing in their "sanctification of the Spirit" (v. 2), made them "strangers" in this world (v. 1) and the recipients of "grace" and "peace" (v. 2). Peter ends this same letter by reminding them not only of their election but also of that of the church at Babylon: "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you" (I Peter 5:13). In his next epistle, Peter wants them to be convinced of their election, by seeing the fruit of the effectual call in their lives: "give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (II Peter 1:10). This living, humble knowledge of your election, he states, will keep you from becoming "barren," "unfruitful" or "blind" (vv. 8-9) and it will enable you to persevere: "for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (v. 10). Instead, we will see the "entrance … into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" open wide to us through a healthy, God-honouring faith (v. 11).
In Colossians 3:12, the Holy Spirit instructs us that the consciousness of our gracious election works graciousness in us: "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering." Election is far from a cold, dry, joyless, loveless doctrine. It is God’s eternal, unconditional love and choice of us! Away with the blasphemous talk of some, who refer to God’s dearly beloved and blood-bought people (Deut. 7:6-8; John 3:16) as "the frozen chosen"—profane language inspired by Satan!
Paul, that "wise masterbuilder" (I Cor. 3:10) whom Almighty God "appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles" (II Tim 1:11), considered the knowledge of the election of the church vital for Christian ministers. The true "gospel according to the power of God" is this: "[He] hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (vv. 8-9). This is the gospel manifested in the incarnation, cross and resurrection of our Saviour (v. 10) and which Paul and all in the true line of apostolic succession preach (v. 11). This gospel of God’s Word, including the church’s election (v. 9), is the "sound words" (v. 13) and "the good thing … committed" (v. 14) to Christian ministers, which they must "hold fast … in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (v. 13) and "keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us" (v. 14).
Later in this same pastoral epistle, the apostle explains that election is crucial in understanding the apostasy of some church office-bearers and members. Hymenaeus and Philetus had embraced and taught preterism, claiming that "the [general] resurrection is past already" (2:17-18). Their heresy spread like gangrene (v. 17) and overthrew "the faith of some" (v. 18). What were the saints to make of the apostasy of these two teachers and some of their fellow church members? Does this mean that true believers can actually fall away and perish? Can our regeneration, calling, justification and adoption be negated? Do God’s faithfulness and promise fail? Are Christ’s sacrifice and intercession for us weak and unavailing? NO! "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his" (v. 19)!
Other passages in the NT epistles could also be considered, especially Romans 8, 9 and 11. For the sake of brevity, I will also omit references to the other NT books and the OT Scriptures. It will suffice to say that the election of the church is taught throughout the Bible from cover to cover. It must be believed, rejoiced in and preached as part of the whole counsel of God.
Next time (DV), we shall consider the practical significance and comfort of the election of the church.
- Volume: 11
- Issue: 6
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851