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Tuesday, August 18, 2015


The presidential election is still more than a year away, so I'm not going to talk about that. Instead, I'm going to think about election as it is in the Bible. I know, I know, that might be a more volatile subject than the political version is, but I'm brave.

First, let's agree on something. Election is in the Bible. There can really be no disagreement on that point. In the ESV there are 8 references to "the elect" (including some from the lips of Christ), 3 references to "election", and 9 more to "elect" (in addition to the "the elect" list). Add "the called" and the like, and the list starts to get longer and longer. It cannot be disputed that election is in there. The question is not whether election is biblical; the question is how it works. That's where all the friction occurs. Good news! I'm not going there, either.

Here's one question that always comes up. Whether the elect are elect from the foundation of the world or are elect by virtue of making the right choice, how do you know if you're elect? You see, whenever the concept comes up, some are seriously uncomfortable. "If you're chosen by God, what makes you so special when others are not?" One person told me, "If that election thing is true, I'm going to join the KKK because it's not much different." Some are offended that you might claim to be among the elect. "Oh, yeah? How do you know?" Or the other side. "Yes, I see that the saved are the elect. How can I know if I'm one of the elect?" Not offended; just unsure. I get it. In fact, it's a reasonable question. Did you know it is a biblical question, too? Peter says, "Be diligent to make your calling and election sure." (2 Peter 1:10) In other words, you mustn't simply assume it; you need to be sure. On the other hand, John wrote his first epistle "that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) So apparently you can know. So ... how?

Well, we'll all start with an agreement. We are saved by faith, not by works. All okay so far? No one is saved by working for it. "By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Eph 2:8-9) So whatever we might do to make our election sure, it is not by working for salvation. Then how?

In Peter's version, he says that God's "divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" through Christ who "called us to His own glory and excellence." Thus "you may become partakers of the divine nature" (If that doesn't give you pause, you aren't paying attention.) and have "escaped from the corruption that is in the world." Therefore, "make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love." (2 Peter 1:2-8) In this stack of "effort" (which is supposed to be yours and increasing in verse 8) Peter says in verse 10 that you can "confirm your calling and election." So, we know that works don't save, but we see also that works ("effort") are not insignificant. Works don't save, but they are evidence.

Is Peter alone in this? No, of course not. Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) We are His disciples by faith (not works); it can be demonstrated by love for one another (works). Jesus ran afoul of modern liberal Christians who urge us not to judge when He said, "You will recognize them by their fruits." (Matt 7:16). John wrote, "No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him." (1 John 3:6) He goes on to say, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." (1 John 3:9) We understand "abides in Him" produces a difference in behavior, but John says "born of God" produces that difference. Indeed, John says, "He cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." Not only is there a change of behavior; there is a change of nature.

How can you know if you are one of the elect? Being born of God produces a change of nature which carries a sure change in "fruit", in behavior. There is an indwelling of divine power, the participation in the divine nature, the escape from the corruption of this world, the new person. Those who are born of God (the elect) are born for a reason -- "to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 8:29). No change = no new life. Simple as that. Matthew Henry said, "None can know their election but by their conformity to Christ; for all who are chosen are chosen to sanctification." That is the Bible's message on how you can know if you're one of the elect. Changed hearts make changed lives. That's the answer.


Anonymous said...

Good Morning Stan
i love the truth about election, its such a wonderful thing to think about, knowing that God so loved me that He called me to be His own child. there is assurance, joy, and thanksgiving all wrapped up in this one idea. for some may feel that the doctrine of election diminishes evangelism, but actually the doctrine only changes our perspective not our responsibility. some may feel that the doctrine creates loose living, but to those that have the Holy Spirit, they will be guided and disciplined by the Spirit. perhaps the biggest concern has to do with God's sovereignty, God doesn't want robots, Really?? i love the idea that God would change me and give me new birth and a new heart. (even against my sin full nature) yes the doctrine of election is truly wonderful to those that are being saved.

Stan said...

Someone asked me once, "Well, if your understanding of election" (that God chooses whom He will from the foundation of the world and saves whom He chooses) "is true, then you can sin all you want, can't you?" To which I replied, "Yes ... yes I can. The point is that those who have been so chosen and saved have a new nature and don't want to sin." Changed hearts make changed lives. And I'd be a robot for Christ in a heartbeat if He'd arrange it.

Josh said...

A post on election that we both agree on! We may bot always agree, but I enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up.