The Doctrine of Election
The whole sum and scope of the Gospel rests firmly in the doctrine of election. If you truly believe in the doctrine of the absolute sovereignty of God then you cannot but accept and believe the doctrine of election.
The doctrine of election is the very foundation of God not only because it is preeminent, but it is a foundation that He Himself laid. He alone is the author of this teaching, doctrine or truth, and He is Himself its basis. It is a sure foundation and all those who stand upon it can be sure of the firmness of that foundation.
Election is the good pleasure of God, choosing and decreeing to eternal life: it is the great charter of heaven. Election is God's special and free-grace deed of gift to his chosen ones, made over in trust to Jesus Christ for their use
and benefit. Where there are deeds of gift there must be named the name of a donor and the name of the donee, that is the one who gives and the one who receives but not only the one who receives but the quality and extent of the thing given, the time when it was given and the consideration that moved the donor to act. When the one who is to receive the gift is impotent there is one named to hold the gift in trust for the donee's use. All of this is found in the Doctrine of Election and can be summed up in a proposition like this: There is a peculiar people, who were personally chosen of God in Christ, according to His own good pleasure, and ordained to eternal life, before the world began.
The gift was made by Almighty God, the Sovereign God, for reasons of His own.
The gift was made before the world began and was put into the holding of Jesus, the Christ, against the day when we will no longer be impotent to receive it but receive it in the spirit in which it was given.
In further explanation, the word "peculiar" denotes that a person is exempted or given privilege from the power of another and this stands well with what we are trying to teach. This "peculiar" or special people are no longer in the power of Satan.
Though Satan rules the world and is called the "prince of this world", yet, as touching the elect, it is only an usurped and temporary jurisdiction that he has over them. They belong to another Prince, to whom their chief Lord has given them, who then, will at the appointed time rescue them from that terrible Usurpation. They are in the world but not of the world. Strangers in a strange land.
This "peculiar" people are the Lord's treasure and His inheritance, obtained by labor, indeed, with blood, sweat and tears.
This "peculiar" people are the Lord's holdings; He keeps them in his own hands, tends them as the apple of His eye, and will not trust them into the hands of another, no, not. even into their own hands.
This is the proposition, that there is a peculiar people, who were personally chosen in Christ, according to His own good pleasure, and ordained to eternal life, before the world began.
Before we enter into the proof of this proposition we shall first need to understand our terms.
Let us look at the word "chosen" which properly means "to select or make choice of, one or more, out of a greater number". Here we hold elections to choose or select one of a number to serve in certain positions in our government, local, state and federal. They are elected.
"Personally chosen"-i.e., one who was singled out by name and chosen in Christ, or into Christ, as their Head and Mediator, that being in Him, all the grace and glory that they were chosen into might become rightfully theirs, and accordingly applied to them. They are chosen in Him and inherit with Him so that all that is His is theirs.
"To ordain".-Is the same as "predestinate, appoint, prepare, decree, or fore-determine things to come". That was done and in such a way, that each event always has, does, and ever shall justly happen, according to its ordained manner. In this sense men cannot be said to predestinate because they cannot, with the slightest amount of certainty prophesy or determine the action of things not yet in existence. But we must remember that all things were present with God from eternity and that his decree is the cause of their existence that came at the moment that God so desired or ordained.
"Eternal life."-It is my understanding that not only do the saints actually possess this blessedness and glory, which really exists in their perfect conformity to God and, of course, union with Him, according to John 17 (this whole chapter of prayer tends to this but particularly starting with verse 20 where He prays for all that are to come), verse 21, "That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us...". But the saints also are possessed of whatever is requisite by the way of proper preparation, or whatever else is needed. Included in all of this is the mediation of Christ, effectual calling, and final perseverance in faith and holiness, all of these being parts or sub-divisions of election.
All of these are put together in one verse in the book of Isaiah, chapter 62 and verse 12, "And they shall call them, The holy people. The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shall be called Sought out, A city not forsaken."
This whole chapter of Isaiah 62 is one of the great moments in the Bible where He says that His people will no more be called "Forsaken" or "Desolate" but "Hephzibah" meaning "My delight is in her". And it says the land will be called Beulah, that is, "Married".
Starting in verse ten (10), it speaks of "casting up the highway", those for whom the highway is "cast up" are termed "The holy people", this speaks of their election. Let's look at verses 10-12, "Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. Behold the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world. Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken." Here you can see that these are
the people of God who have salvation and reward. They are called, "The redeemed of the Lord" and so our redemption is very plainly spoken of. Then they are said to be "Sought out," which can speak of nothing but their effectual calling. "A city not forsaken," implies preservation. They are here in this Old Testament book put into their order of time. Election is, therefore, called by Paul, who certainly knew his Old Testament, a preparing unto glory," in Romans 9:23. "And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory." Note, please, that the word "prepare" is used here and one of its meanings is "to ordain."
"Before the world began."—It means what it says. Before time began. To put it briefly "eternity," or sometimes in the scriptures we read "from everlasting...".
"For his own good pleasure."—Here we have the root of election, the rock on which it is founded, it excludes everything else. There is nothing else that can be said to be contributory nor can there be anything that can be stated as motive.
To show that there is election let us consider a lesser kind or form of election, that is, God choosing someone by name (and some of them before they were born) to a particular and special service in the world. In this they are patterns of the election we are speaking about and may well be termed collateral proof and evidence of it.
There is one I have spoken about before(in my book on The Sovereignty and The Righteousness of God) and that is Abraham, chosen to be the root and father of God's chosen people, the Jews, a people whom He would own and honor above all the peoples and nations of the world and that in him, "...in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed," Gen. 12:3c. Contained in this promise is the Messiah, or Savior of the world, that He should come of the posterity of Abraham. There could not be a greater honor to any nation or people.
But what was there in Abraham that would move God to prefer him above the rest of the people of the earth, or even others in his immediate family. Was he anything more to God than the others? Had he served God any better than any other man on the earth? No, in no way, certainly in no way that is ever given or stated and yet God singled him out from all those men who lived at that time and called him alone, Isa. 51:2, "Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him".
No other reason can be given for the love he had for Abraham and his children than that which is given: He loved them because He loved them, Deut. 7:7-8, "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people: for ye were the fewest of all people.
But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt."
Nor was he chosen to be the father of many nations nor Sarah chosen to be the mother of God's people, for any natural fruitfulness in them above that of others. Abraham's body was now dead, and Sarah, besides her natural barrenness was past the age of child-bearing, which made her laugh at the promise. Who indeed would choose an over-aged dried-up root stock and barren soil to raise up eternal fruit? There was certainly no human inducement in such a situation, yet God made His choice for His own reason or reasons.
In the same way in which He chose Abraham from all the men of earth and all the men of his family so God did not choose all the children of Abraham, Gen. 21:12d, "...for in Isaac shall thy seed be called," not Ishmael nor his sons by Keturah.
God did not ignore Abraham's prayer for his son Ishmael for God knew that Abraham loved his son and so He blessed him with material things but as to the chief blessing. God rejected him and establishes His Covenant with Isaac, Gen. 17:9, "And God said unto Abraham, Thou shall keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations". Isaac was the only promised seed for he was the only son of both Abraham and Sarah Note that this statement was given before the birth of Isaac.
Just as He did with Abraham's children so He did with the children of Isaac, Mal. 1:2 and 3. "I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I love Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness". This is repeated in the New Testament in Romans 9. In these two passages we have the prophet and the apostle making exposition of Gen. 25:23c, "...and the elder shall serve the younger".
The difference was established before they were born and inherited by their descendants. One people, the people of His wrath, against whom He had indignation forever, Mal. 1:4, "Whereas Edom saith, we are impoverished but we will return and build the desolate places; thus said the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and. The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever." When Edom was finally destroyed it was for ever, it disappeared forever from the earth.
When the Jews went into captivity God took a different view for they were His chosen people, Jer. 32:37 and 41, "Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again into this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely". "Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul."
He loved them and made these promises to them but was it because Jacob's demeanor was more pleasing than that of Esau? It certainly was not what Jacob did that earned him the blessing and the birthright nor was it Esau's actions that cost him these things. Actually, in a sense Esau did more to achieve these things that Jacob did. Esau wanted to please his father, he hunted for the real venison that he so loved which he then cooks and makes it ready just as his father loved it, he came bearing what he had been asked to bring and he came expecting his father's blessing but it was too late.
What had Jacob done to receive the blessing? With his mother's help he had cheated and schemed. He had invaded another's place for the birth-right legally belonged to the firstborn. He perverts the known intention of his father. He abused his father with false venison and lied to him as to who he himself was and in a manner took the name of the Lord in vain by saying that he found the venison quickly because the "Lord thy God" brought it to him. Jacob sought the blessing by fraud and downright lying.
Ask yourself which of the two would seem the more deserving in your eyes. One might easily say that certainly the blessing belonged to Esau for he behaved himself more dutifully than his brother Jacob.
Yet when Isaac finds out about the deceit of Jacob he makes no attempt to reverse it but instead he recognized the purpose of God and re-affirmed the blessing in Gen.27:33, "...where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it to me, and I have eaten of all before thou earnest, and have blessed him? Yea, and he shall be blessed."
How can we look at and understand this strange and, according to me, irrational event? It was that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, "the elder must serve the younger," Rom. 9:11 where Paul writes of Esau and Jacob we read, "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but him that calleth."
It was the purpose of God however it was done, and it is wonderful to observe how God ordered the whole course of this transaction, as intending its full and wonderful example of eternal election. It holds forth plainly the sovereignty of God over His creatures, in taking whom He will: the freeness of His grace, in choosing those that are less deserving, the sure effect of His purposes and His wise and absolute ordering of all thing! relating to Himself and eternity. We also see that he uses the means and instruments at hand contrary to what they were intended and even outside their natural scope.
Consider the Israelites, the people the Lord chose in Abraham four hundred years before He publicly owned them; they are expressly termed "an elect nation", in Isa. 45:4 and 65:9, in each of these verses Israel is called "mine elect". God's use of this term means a people separated from the rest of the world and are referred to at various places in the Old Testament as a "holy people" and "elect" people, signifying a special people unto God. In Lev. 20:26 we read, "And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine", precious words to the people to whom they referred. Deut. 7:6, "For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth."
God does choose whom He will. He never tells us why He chooses except where Israel is concerned when He says in Deut. 19:5, "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then shall ye be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine."
He says that they will be a "peculiar treasure" and to me this seems to say that there is no difference between you and the other nations, it is simply that "all the earth is mine" and I do what I want and take whom I will.
He looks from heaven and sees the hearts of men and sees that all hearts are fashioned alike, "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it"? and then after having been chosen were they any better for it? Isa. 48:4 and 8, "...I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew and thy brow brass", "...for I knew that thou wouldst deal very treacherously, and was called a transgressor from the womb." Being elect is not salvation and certainly is not perfection.
What was God's reason or motive for choosing some above others then and now? It is and was His undeserved love and favor to them, to the chosen, "...the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen,..."
Deut. 7:8 (we have noted this verse before). He loved them because He loved them. All this applies to election where His New Testament or New Covenant people are concerned. The people of the Old Testament are an example to us or so we are told in the New Testament. He chose a people in the Old Testament and He has chosen a people in this day and this time, the church He established during his ministry and empowered at Pentecost.
Consider David; God provided Himself a king from among the sons of Jesse, Samuel had to go and anoint him, but it must be the one that God would choose and not the eldest nor the most handsome, so we read in scripture that when the sons of Jesse passed before him he would say, "...The Lord hath not chosen these" 1 Sam. 16:10 but when David was finally brought in from the fields where he was caring for the family's sheep, God spoke to Samuel and said, "...Arise anoint him: for this is he."
God does the choosing and we must never forget that for just as He chose in the Old Testament times so He has chosen in all times.
Note that David was the youngest, and must not have been very highly valued in his family for he was not even brought before Samuel until Samuel said that there must be another son and they finally admitted that there was and sent for him. 1 Samuel 16:7 "...for the Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."
In Job 37:24 we read, "...he respecteth not any that are wise of heart." Certainly here in the instance of David this can be held to be true for David had no prince-like qualities above those of his brothers, until afterwards when time and place had given them to him. We are told in 1 Samuel 16:13 that from that time forward the Spirit of God was upon David. He had the direct guidance of God.
Then there was Jeremiah, the Lord ordained him to be a prophet, "See I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant ", Jer. 1:10- So God spoke to Jeremiah the prophet. Why should God call this man to such a great and vast work, an imperial work?
Because God wanted Jeremiah to do that work, he was born for that work, it was the work that God had set for him, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou earnest forth out of the womb I sanctified (author's note: meaning "separated") thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations". Jeremiah speaks up and says that he can't do the job (author's note: remember Moses said he couldn't do the job that God had for him to perform but he did) but God says to Jeremiah that he can do the job for this was the reason for his birth and that He (note: God) would be with him. He said in vs. 8 of Jeremiah 1,"...I will be with thee to deliver thee".
Whom the Lord chooses He prepares and never leaves alone. The elect of God are chosen for a work, we too are known before we were formed in our mother's womb and we carry a message to the nations.
Then there was Cyrus who was decreed to do a great and wonderful work. It was, in brief, to destroy the monarchy of the golden head (Babylon), and then to release God's people out of captivity so that they could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of God. This was prophesied of him more than a hundred years before he was born. And in that prophecy he is called by name. God calls Cyrus His "anointed," His "elect," and His "shepherd" some of this is in Isa. 44:28 and 45:1-6, and in verse 4 of 45 we read, "...I have even called thee by name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me." Whom God calls He knows. Our very names are His. Your name is what it is because God fore-ordained it. Your job is fore-ordained. Note please, that Cyrus' name is not called just once but twice in these passages. There can be no mistaking. Two witnesses of such a prophecy is unusual in biblical terms. But the Word says it takes two witnesses to prove a thing.
And then there was Paul, called by God and sent by God to turn the world upside down. The apostle to the Gentiles. Acts 9:15, when God sends Ananias to Paul at Damascus He uses these words, "But the Lord said unto him, go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:...". He was chosen and he was given a work to do. Let me interject here that any work for God is a great work for God.
Paul, himself, states in Gal. 1:15 that he was called by God, "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace", meaning that he felt his calling was undeserved on his part.
We could go on with the stories of Samson, Josiah, John the Baptist; the Bible is full of examples and they are all to the same effect, - God called them and set them to a specific work, the work that He had planned for them.
We come now to a more direct discussion of the proposition not so much to prove that there is an election unto salvation but to try to detail what this election is. Human affairs are exposed to a thousand incidents which human prudence can neither prevent nor provide but with God this is not so, no event is new to Him. Isa. 46:10, "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying. My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." And in Job 23:13 we read that He is immortal and that the "thoughts of his heart stand fast to all generations." Job 12:10 declares that there is no creature living that can hide from His sight and His judgment, "In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind."
This is the quality of the election unto salvation, that the simplest or most seemingly casual emergency is by His power and His wisdom and all are for the accomplishment of His purpose and neither the incident nor anyone involved in it can resist being made subservient to His will.