Having looked at the various blessings that we receive according to election in the last News, we now need to consider their qualities. The blessings which flow from the fountain of election are heavenly and spiritual. All believers are not promised physical healing in this life or political dominion or vast hordes of money. We are promised "all spiritual blessings in heavenly places" (Eph. 1:3).
These blessings are also "in Christ" (3). The elect believer is in Christ, united to Him by the Holy Spirit. Being united with the blessed One, we share in His blessedness. He merited blessings for us, and in Him we receive these spiritual and heavenly blessings by faith. All of them! For God "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (3).
Since all the elect receive all spiritual and heavenly blessings in Christ, all God’s people are equal in the office of believer. All are prophets because we know and confess the mystery of God’s eternal purpose: to unite all things in heaven and earth in Christ (8-10). All are priests because we are holy, consecrated to our heavenly Father (4). All are kings because we are adopted as children of the Lord God (5). Thus election is the fountain of this spiritual blessing too: our being in the office of believer, as prophets, priests and kings.
There are also some divine gifts that not all the elect receive. These are not the ones listed in Ephesians 1. First, there are the special offices in the church. God has eternally predestined some men in His grace to serve as deacons, elders or ministers, for He "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (11). Second, there are spiritual gifts. These too are sovereignly administered such that some elect saints receive more gifts than others (Rom. 12:6; I Cor. 12:11). Of course, the gifts are useful only in so far as they serve the edification of the body.
Also, although all the elect receive all spiritual blessings in Christ, some of these vary in degree among the elect. While all elect believers are sanctified, there are degrees of sanctification in this life.
Thus God’s sovereign election determines the church’s existence, continuance, location, size and membership (News XI:23-XII:1), plus all the church’s spiritual blessings (News XII:2), as well as the degree of our sanctification and the distribution of special office-bearers and spiritual gifts in the church. From top to bottom, the church is controlled and shaped by God’s eternal election.
Do you see it, dear saint? The true church, as organism and institute, is wholly of God, created, gathered, preserved and glorified solely by His sovereign will, so that the church and every member must glory in the electing God! Rest in this truth of election! Labour, pray, worship and witness in the light of it!
But why is election the heart, source and fountain of the church and all her blessings? Why is election "the fountain of every saving good" (Canons I:9)? Because God Himself is "the overflowing fountain of all good" (Belgic Confession 1). Election is the fountain of the church and all her blessings. The electing God is the fountain of the church and all her blessings. God is the fountain of the church and all her blessings. These last three sentences are essentially saying the same thing. Thus to attack election is not only to attack the heart of the church (cor ecclesiae), but it is also a wicked, futile attack on the heart of God Himself, a heart filled with love for His dear church for which He sent His Son to die on the cross.
Election is also the fountain of the church’s four blessed attributes: unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity. The church is holy because it was "chosen … before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy" (Eph. 1:4). Ephesians chapters 4-6 describe the holy life of the church. The church is apostolic because it is elected to faith (Acts 13:48) and true faith receives apostolic doctrine (Eph. 2:20). The church is catholic because it consists of Jews and Gentiles (2:11-22; 3:6), "according to the eternal purpose which [God] purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (11). The church is one because God "hath chosen usin him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy" (1:4). This blessed unity of Christ’s body, the church, is explained more fully in Ephesians 4:1-16.
Thus the church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic because of her eternal election. More particularly, the church has these four attributes because it is chosen in Christ (1:4). Christ is holy (totally devoted to the Father), apostolic (revealed in sacred Scripture and not in the vain imaginations of men), catholic (the Saviour of the world and not just Jews or people of a particular class or age) and one (the incarnate Son of God). Being eternally chosen in Christ and united to Him by His Spirit, the church must be and is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. This fits perfectly with the theme of Ephesians: the church as the body of Christ.
The church, therefore, is to confess and preach its four attributes. It must teach that it is one, holy, catholic and apostolic according to God’s eternal election in Christ. Where this preaching is found and believed and obeyed, there the four attributes of the church are clearly seen, and there Christ is spiritually present reigning over and blessing His beloved people.
- Volume: 11
- Issue: 9
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