Paul's Passing Thoughts

What is Election According to the Bible?

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 24, 2016

ppt-jpeg4If the laity want sound definitions of biblical words in order to obtain truth, they will have to study the Bible themselves in order to show themselves approved of God. For example, Protestant scholarship has always defined “election” as the pre-selection of individuals for salvation and damnation. This conclusion can only be drawn by foisting presuppositions on many passages. Election often refers to things and people having no need of salvation. For example, according to Nave’s Topical Bible: Christ; Isa 42:1, 1Pet 2:6, National Israel; Dt 7:6, Isa 45:4, and angels; 1Tim 5:21.

Election is God’s choosing of things and people for specific purposes. It is interesting to note that things and people contrary to God’s purposes are never referred to as some kind of other elect class. There is only one elect category.

In conjunction with election, there is the “called” who are in essence everyone defined by three groups of people: the Jews, the Gentiles, and the “one new man” (Eph 2:15). The manifestation of the one new man is a word often translated, “church,” viz, “ekklesia” which means, “called out assembly.” This called out assembly is also elected (1Pet 5:13).

Election is the choosing of things, groups, and individuals that serve the purposes of God’s redemptive plan. Individuals are NOT chosen unto salvation or damnation, election pertains to God’s plan of salvation and what He chooses to serve that purpose. Election is about the means of salvation offered to all people as a gift. Man did not, or could not devise a plan of salvation, but he is able to participate in the plan of his own free will. The plan was not of man’s will, in fact, his tendency is to hide from God, but he does have the will to be persuaded to accept reconciliation on God’s terms. The plan of salvation and its terms are elected and offered to man as a “promise” contingent on faith alone.

Let’s begin to develop this with passages that speak of God’s election, or “purposes.”

Romans 13:1 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

So, governments are elected (“Instituted” or “ordained”) by God for what purpose? “…for he is God’s servant for your good.” But, are all governments elected by God? No, only those who are performing the purpose of election. Election is defined and qualified by its intended purpose. Now, in many theologies and philosophies, the purpose of election is reduced to whatever supposedly glorifies God. This makes election a determinism issue. Hence, everything that happens is God’s will and for the purpose of His self-love and glory. By reducing election to this single purpose, it strictly defines election in terms of God’s sovereignty or the “gospel of sovereignty”—a term that appears nowhere in the Scriptures. What God elects is confirmed by the application of its purpose, or the practice of its purpose (2Pet 1:10 ff.). Hitler’s Nazi Germany was not elected by God; their practice did not coincide with God’s purposes. Governments are elected, but not all governments are of God’s elect.

Therefore, election also speaks to generalities as well. As far as Christ’s called out assembly, what group of people did He primarily focus on?

1Corintians 1:26 – For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

As far as calling, which includes the three aforementioned groups, God focuses primarily on the lower-class among those groups. And what is the purpose? His glory, because the upper crust tend to get credit for what God does. Does this mean God only saves the poor? Of course not. But culturally, God has always fought against man’s tendency to worship aristocracy, nobility, and errant authority. When Christ told the apostles that it was easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle in comparison to the salvation of the rich, He was using an extreme example to smash a cultural paradigm. Have you ever noted the response He received from the disciples? Who then can be saved? Christ then cited the impossibility of men to come up with plans and means of salvation which is, for all practical purposes, often attributed to the noble. Listening to men rather than studying to show one’s self approved of God is the worship of man’s authority. James also addressed this same problem in his epistle.

God does elect individuals to serve in His purpose of salvation. This election of individuals for ministry in God’s salvific purposes is often attributed to individual predeterminism. In contrast, people groups are chosen for a purpose, not salvation for the sake of salvation, or damnation for the sake of damnation. With that said, God does single out individuals, or elects them for specific ministries and purposes. The following concerns the apostles:

John 15:16 – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Many are quick to jump on this passage as a proof text for individual pre-selection, but Christ is addressing disunity among the apostles and reminding them that it was Him who chose them for the task of apostleship which was being compromised by their selfish mentalities.

Also, as we shall see, those presently not fulfilling God’s purposes of election are not necessarily destined to continue in their rebellion, but before we move on, let’s pause to consider another point:

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Who are the “those,” and “many brothers”? We assume individuals, but could this not be referring to elected types or groups of people made up of individuals that accepted the free gift of God’s elected plan of salvation? Before you write this off as a stretch, consider the following:

Matthew 22:1 – And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Now, as in many of the English translations, “chosen” in verse 14 should really be “elect.” This conveys more of an idea of a group rather than those who were preselected. But one thing is clear: the “called” are both Jew and Gentile. Those who accept the invitation to the wedding feast become the elect. The real idea here is in essence, many Jews and Gentiles are called, but few are of the elect. Prevalent among the Jews of that day was the idea that being a Jew alone made you the elect. No, this parable refutes that idea and encompasses Paul’s purpose of calling Gentiles as well in order to make the Jews jealous (Rom ch., 11) and thereby save some of them. At any rate, the Jews and Gentiles both are called to Christ, and what is the PURPOSE of that calling?

Ephesians 2:15 – by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

The gospel is God’s elect plan to reconcile mankind to Himself, but also to reconcile and bring peace/unity between Jew and Gentile, in fact, this is the very “mystery of the gospel.”

Ephesians 3:1 – For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

1Corinthians 12:13 – For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Galatians 3:28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Every diverse type and group of people imaginable are called to be baptized into this one new man of which Christ is the head. And what is the purpose of this calling?

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Who are the predestined? Groups and types of people who are called: “And those whom he predestined he also called.” However, it is very clear from Matthew 22 that all of the called do not accept the invitation, but if they do, they are also, “justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” How can someone who is not yet redeemed be glorified? They aren’t; the glorification of the group or the elect is what is predetermined. The purpose of election is to justify and glorify the called, but all of those called to not conjoin themselves with God’s purposes.

John Calvin was not oblivious to the contradiction in regard to the called for those who want to buy into pre-determinism, and therefore sought to rectify the contradiction by created a class of elect that were temporarily elected. Hence, the called (Rom 8:30) who are justified are justified temporarily as opposed to the other classification of elect: those who persevere.

In Romans 8 those who are predestined are called, but in Matthew 22 not all who are called are of the elect. That’s a contradiction. Therefore, this is best understood through the purposes of election: it is God’s predetermined purpose to justify and glorify all who are called, and in fact, has already done so through Christ’s work on the cross. Nevertheless, those who do not accept the invitation of the call remain disinterested in God’s purposes.

We will conclude with a look at Romans chapter 9 because it seems to emphasize individual pre-selection. Again, we struggle to not see this as individual predestination because of how we have been conditioned. But the point of the passage is God’s purposes in election through miraculous rebirth according to “the promise.”

Romans 9:6 – But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

God elected governments, but not all governments are his elect according to his purposes. God elected Israel, but not all Israelites are of His promise because the promise is through new birth, not Jewish birthrights. Those who are Israelites according to the flesh (born into nationality) are not the elect group, but rather those born into promise by the new birth. The whole passage should be interpreted in regard to elect/non-elect  groups, not individuals. Let me drive this point home by citing what Paul says further along in the text:

Romans 9:23 – in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people, ’and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

Romans 9:30 – What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.

Who is the “us” in Rom 9:24? It is the “one new man” called from among two other groups. Individuals are not in view here, elected groups are. And, not all of the called are part of that group; only those who respond to the invitation by faith alone. Remember, the backdrop of Romans 9 is Jew/Gentile. The purpose of election is to make Jew and Gentile one unified body—the goal is to reconcile the hostility between the two groups as a result of being reconciled with God.

In regard to the whole prepared vessels for wrath or glory in verses 19-23, Paul writes,

Romans 9:19 – You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

But again, Paul clarifies what this speaks to immediately following in verse 24, “US,” as in, the one new man, not individuals. I believe this is key; God calls groups for His purposes, but it is their choice to accept or reject the invitation. Once they do one or the other, they themselves choose to remain in group A, or join group B. I believe Matthew 22 is the interpretive key for this thesis.

The vessels are people called to God’s elect purposes; those who are called into purposes and works prepared beforehand by God—not the salvation of individuals:

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

2Timothy 2:21 – Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

God elects the work and defines what is honorable or dishonorable, but note our choice to cleanse ourselves. We put God’s purposes into practice because this is why we choose the gospel in the first place; a desire to align our individual purposes with God’s elective purposes. We can only affect this through the new birth which only God can bring about, but we can accept the invitation or reject it.

This is another consideration in this passage; the new birth.

Abraham is the father of national Israel and its descendants, but the gospel (the promise) only comes through miraculous new birth. With Abraham, it was the birth of Isaac when Sarah was well beyond childbearing age. God’s offspring are brought about by God’s life creating work, not men. In the case of Rebekah, it was God prophesying that Jewish tradition would be reversed and the older would serve the younger.

Romans 9:8 – This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Please note, that once again, election is hitched to a specific purpose: to eradicate all notion of works from justification. No one can birth themselves. However, they can accept the promise of new birth through faith alone. This whole discourse regards…”that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls.”

Now, also note that many make, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” something that God did before the two were born. No, read the passage that Paul cites (Malachi 1:2-3). This is something that happened well after the fact. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy that righteousness would come through the promise of miraculous birth, not works via Jewish tradition or default salvation by Jewish heritage/nationality. This why God elected the one seed, Christ, and Paul continues on in explaining two more groups: the children of Jewish flesh (nationality), and the “remnant” that are children of the promise.

And finally, even in all of this, consider those who are in a group that is not of promise: “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious” (Rom 11:11 NIV).

Listen, proponents of the so-called “sovereign gospel” can’t have it both ways, and we also see yet another purpose of election; to make Israel jealous, which assumes cause and effect. Those in any given group can recover through the preaching of the word, or the casting of the life-giving-seed of God’s word which Paul also writes about in the same context.

Election is defined by God’s MANY purposes, not a reductionist “gospel of sovereignty.” God calls individuals to elect groups and purposes. His purposes are predetermined, not who will accept the free invitation which is to everyone because God “shows no partiality.”

Do you want to enhance your presentation of the gospel? Do a study and list all of the purposes of God’s election. Election is defined by God’s purposes. Give lost people a vison regarding what God is up to in his wonderful plan of salvation. This is a pretty deep topic, and per the usual, my goal and the goal of this ministry is to get the ball rolling in the right direction. However, it will take the collective efforts of God’s laity to unpack the wonderful doctrine of election.

paul

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