The knowledge of the election of the church (including ourselves as living members of Christ) is vital, not least, for our sense of belonging. Believer, you belong to the Triune God wholly and completely, now, and from your regeneration to the end of your days here and throughout all eternity in the new heavens and the new earth. You belonged to Christ when He was on the cross, for you were in Him and died to sin with Him (Rom. 6:2-6). Moreover, you belonged to the Father in eternity, because you were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). You are beloved in Him and possessed everlastingly by the Triune God! Let us sing His praises!
You and I, and all the saints on earth, and all the faithful who have died before us, and all the elect who are yet to be effectually called in the future, together belong to God in Christ. The eternal state will reveal to us the wonderful blessedness of this. In eternity past, all the church was elected together in Christ. In eternity future, all the church together will perfectly enjoy the fruits of our election from before the foundation of the world.
Thus elect saints in these last days belong together in true Reformed churches. Those chosen as part of the organism of the church belong in faithful instituted congregations. This includes our elect children. The Ephesian church, addressed as "blessed" and elect (3-4), includes the seed of believers (6:1-4). Of course, not all physical children of believers are elect: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:13). Elect, covenant children belong everlastingly in God’s church and, therefore, belong in a Reformed congregation, manifesting the three marks of a true church. Families with their children and individuals must remain in or seek out and join a biblical church and there hear and obey the preaching of God’s Word, partake of the Christian sacraments and submit to church government and (where necessary) church discipline (Belgic Confession 28-29).
The knowledge of the election of the church is vital also for evangelism. The true church is convinced that the chief means of converting unbelievers is the preaching of God’s Word—not puppets, "messages in song" or other gimmicks. We are convinced that God uses and blesses the means He has ordained to gather His elect church. In this confidence, we witness of Christ to unbelievers and seek to bring them under the proclamation of His gospel, which is "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" (Rom. 1:16), namely, the elect.
When unbelievers repent, this is, therefore, not for the glory of the preacher or the church. The glory belongs to the Triune God, who irresistibly and yet sweetly calls those whom He chose in Christ before the foundation of the earth.
If few repent, do not despair, "For many are [externally] called, but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14). Noah, "a preacher of righteousness" (II Peter 2:5), and Jeremiah also had few converts. The Lord declares, "my word … shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55:11). The Scriptures explain that "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48), and as many as were not ordained to eternal life do not believe but are hardened (Ex. 4:21; Rom. 9:18).
If the church is very small or even tiny, we must remember that God’s truth concerning the church is not confessed on the basis of sight. "I believe an holy, catholic church"—because the Bible says so. It is not a matter of experience or observation but of revelation. This is what Elijah had to learn in a day of apostasy and persecution (I Kings 19): "I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:4-5).
Now we are in a position to see the foolishness of ministers and churches in ignoring the election of the church. They do not know where the church comes from, why it is the size it is, or why it must be gathered the way the Bible requires! Thus in their evangelism they are open to all sorts of unbiblical innovations seeking to persuade people to "Let Jesus be your Saviour."
Moreover, ministers and churches who deny the election of the church rip the heart out of the church, for election is the cor ecclesiae (the heart of the church). Such false teachers attack the church; they attack the church at its very source: election. Denying God’s unconditional election, the church can only be a gather-up of people who used their free will aright, and not the temple and body of Christ eternally planned and graciously formed exclusively by the Most High. The church of Jesus Christ was elected before the foundation of the world and not after the cheap decisions of sinners.
So let us embrace the truth of God’s Word and bless God for His election of His church. This doctrine leads us to worship Him, for it is "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Eph. 1:6; cf. 12, 14). However, unconditional election would kill many "praise services" with their "praise leaders," "praise groups" and "Christian rock." As Calvin puts it, "Those who will not speak of predestination or are even reluctant to speak of predestination are mortal enemies of God’s praise." Only the election of the church leads to true worship and humility before God: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (3-4).
- Volume: 11
- Issue: 7
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