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Friday, February 11, 2011

Prevalence of Election

Sometimes when I discuss the doctrines of grace with people, they get agitated. They want to fight about it. I'm not interested, thanks. Enjoy together? Absolutely! Discuss? By all means! Fight? Not likely. The other option -- perhaps the more common one -- is the avoidance one. "Look, that whole 'election' thing is just minor. They couldn't figure it out in Church history. Why should we? It's no big deal."

I understand. They don't want to fight about it, either. I'm with you there. But I think that the suggestion that it's a minor point is shortsighted.

First, keep in mind that the notion of "the Chosen" was not a side issue or obscure up to the point that the Church began. It was ingrained in the mind of all Jews that they were the Chosen. "Never forget!" they would remind each other. Their lifestyles were prescribed to be a constant reminder. Ask a Jew in the 1st century AD, "Do you believe in election?" and they wouldn't offer a single objection. "Of course!" So solid was this that there had to be multiple statements from Jesus and the New Testament writers to assure the Jews that they were not the only ones. Jesus spoke of "sheep not of this fold." Paul wrote that in Christ there was neither Jew nor Greek. God had to give Peter a vision to shake his certainty that the Jews were the only chosen people. No, while they may have questioned whether there were elect among the Gentiles, there was absolutely no doubt that the early Jewish believers didn't even question the doctrine that God chose some out of the world to be His own, and the rest were not chosen.

But what about the New Testament? Sure, the Jews got it, but how big was this deal in the New Testament? A quick search is really enlightening.
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called ... to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:1,6).

Paul ... to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, (1 Cor 1:1-2).

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God (2 Cor 1:1).
(Note: Keep this in mind. The term, "the church", is literally "the called out ones".)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Eph 1:3-5).

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you ... knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you (1 Thess 1:1,4).

Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago (Titus 1:1-2).

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure (1 Peter 1:1-2).

The elder to the chosen lady and her children (2 John 1:1).

Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ (Jude 1:1).
The fact is that it's harder to find a single epistle in the New Testament that does not mention election than one that does. It isn't a fringe item; it is central. It isn't even a matter of discussion for the most part. No, it is assumed over and over and over. "God choose whom He will save. They are indeed saved. End of discussion. We all agree. Moving on." And all of that is without examining the passages that provide the arguments for the doctrine or all of the passages that are not at the beginning of an epistle that mention the doctrine or the claims of the Gospel that affirm it as well.

Election is not a doctrine in question in Scripture. Nor is it peripheral. It is a central theme, an assumed fact from Old Testament on, a virtual certainty. Oh, sure, we can find the passages that argue it, but most of the time it is thought to be a given. It seems like today's Christians who are relatively sure that this isn't the case need to do a lot of work to get there because the doctrine is foundational in the Bible.


Danny Wright said...

As a new Christian I thought that doctrine was not important. I have learned that not only is that not true, but it is very very much not true. Doctrine, or perhaps more specifically, ignorance of Biblical doctrine, I think is the root cause of our deteriorating society. Without proper doctrine the Church reduces itself from "salt" to "Prozac".

Stan said...

"'salt' to 'Prozac'" -- too appropriate. But, of course, "Prozac" would be an acceptable option from the world's perspective.

David said...

It's my belief that what most people consider "peripheral" is very telling about their worldview and biblical view. Sure, believing or not in election probably won't change that fact that someone has been saved, but not believing tells about their thoughts about the Scriptures, which leads to how they live their lives. So most of those "peripheral" point to the core, just like ALL sin has its root in pride.

Stan said...

Goes back to the thing I wrote last month (on which Charles Spurgeon agreed) that an easy way to test doctrine is "Does it magnify God or Man?"