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Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election (11)

  1. Its Exhibition

The view of the decree of election presented in the last three installments is not only the most acceptable, but the correct one, not because it happens to agree with our opinion, but because it is most in harmony with Scripture.  Divine election is that act of God according to which He chose to everlasting life, not a group of individuals merely, but a whole church.  All of the members of this elect church without exception, from the beginning to the end fot he world, God regards as His own children.  That, of course, means there are yet many unconverted elect, who nevertheless from all eternity are His dear people.  However, such a wonderful truth does not enjoy any place in the man-centered theology of modern popular “evangelicalism.” For the latter teaching has it that we become children of God only after we are regenerated, that we have no relation to the Redeemer until we are converted and accept Him by faith.  Such ignorant thinking is inexcusable with the Scripture so plain on this score.  But if any will repudiate such perspicuous teaching, they must answer to the primary Author of holy Scripture for their impudence.  Surely they can understand that the Lord regarded the people of Israel as His own chosen possession before they were redeemed out of the land of Egypt, before the Passover lamb was slain! And this while they were steeped in utter idolatry (Ezek. 20:5-10)! Even then the Lord referred to them as “My people” (Ex. 3:7, 5:1).  For in the midst of that idolatrous nation was the divinely ordained Israel of God, the spiritual seed, the remnant according to the election of grace.

Admitted that all the elect are “by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:3), but before that was true of them the Lord had said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” Then He loved them as His own before He quickened them.  They were His children before they were saved by grace through faith.  Adoption does not stand on faith as its basis, but on election.  They were His children before they believed.  For “He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52).  They were His children before gathered by the Son of God.  As they were His people before they were redeemed from Egypt and their heathen idolatry, so they were His people before they themselves were made willing to be his people. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power” (Ps. 110:3).  It is no strange thing that God has unconverted elect, whom He deems His people even before the Gospel is preached to them and they become converted.  This is plain in Scripture. “I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:10).  They are His elect sheep long before brought into the fold. “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold.  Them also I must bring” (John 10:16).  These other sheep are the elect Gentiles.  These Gentiles the Lord called “the Tabernacle of David” while still involved in the Fall of Adam.  “God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.  And to this agree the words of the prophets… ‘after this I will return, and will build again the Tabernacle of David, which is fallen down’” (Acts 15:14-16). The designation “the Tabernacle of David,” then, is one which identifies the elect of God, though involved in the Fall, as set up again, not in the first Adam, but in the Last Adam, not in the first man, but in the Second Man, who is the true David.

Election is exhibited in God’s people being clearly identified.  “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (I John 4:9).  The love of God has exclusively very particular objects as marked by the pronoun “us.” This designation appears in the Word of God to indicate the elect.  “God commendeth His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8, ASV). This is the distinguishing term the apostles used to specify the election of God, thereby including themselves, the saints and all believers in it.  We read then that “the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us,” not for all men.  “If God for us, who against us… He… spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all… Christ… also maketh intercession for us” (8:26, 31, 32, 34. See 35, 39), but “not for the world” (John 17:9). Further, “God …hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world… In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children… He hath made us accepted in the Beloved One” (Eph. 1:3-6).  The repeated “us” shows how particular grace, predestination, election, atonement and intercession are.  So particular and limited-to-the-elect is this “us” that it excludes all other, and can neither truly nor properly be applied to any but God’s chosen in Christ.  Election is definitely exhibited in the love of God being manifested “toward us” (I John 4:9).  Nor is it possible that this “us” may be stretched to include all men in the world, for it is very carefully qualified in, “I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world” (John 17:6).

God’s election is further evidenced in Effectual Calling.  Divine calling is distinguished in different ways.  First, there is fiat calling, according to which God calls the things not being as being (Romans 4:17).  “For He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:9).  He said, “‘Let there be light!’ and light was.” Second, there is the efficacious creative calling of all men, which brings them to their ordained place and labor within the stream of history.  According to His counsel God calls forth the rulers of the nations to their destiny.  Cyrus is a case in point.  “For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel Mine elect, I have called thee by thy name, I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me” (Isa. 45: 1-4).  Third, there is a providential calling directed to all men, including the reprobate, which calls them to serve and glorify the Creator in a life of thanksgiving.  This calling comes to men through the natural creation.  “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork, Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge” (Ps. 19:1, 2).  This is a powerful witness which, like a titanic, wrap-round, three-dimensional television screen with the volume turned up full, clearly reveals the invisible things of God by the things which are made.  This calling leaves the reprobate without excuse (Romans 1:19, 20).  Fourth, there is the external calling through the Word.  This is a somewhat general calling, although it does not come to all men, but only to all who in the good pleasure of God come under the sound of the Gospel.  In general, this call comes through the Gospel.  In general, this call comes through through the Gospel not only to the elect, but also to the reprobate.  However, that call is refused by both.  “Unto you, O men, I call, and My voice is to the sons of man… I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded” (Prov. 8:4; 1:24).  But the significance of this call is not that it is grace to all who hear it.  For the Gospel is a savor of life to “us” who are being saved, but it is a savor of death to them that are perishing.  Its significance is rather that the responsibility of man is maintained and increased over the providential calling.  Fifth, there is the saving, efficacious calling of the people of God.  This call comes to the elect alone.  The ones God calls are the elect, the sheep, “He calls His own sheep by name… and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice” (John 10:3,4).  They did not become sheep when they were called or converted.  They were sheep from eternity.

This effectual calling is not an offer to all men, the efficacy of which depends on man’s acceptance of it.  There must be no suggestion that the dead sinner has any ability to respond to the call.  That would be the word (teaching) of Arminius or the word of Pelagius, not the word of the Cross (I Cor. 1:18, ASV). Nor is it an invitation, but a translation out of darkness into light.  So the calling must be; since it is the necessary effect of eternal election. Calling is a sure demonstration of election, as in the call to Lazarus (and are we not all Lazaruses?), “Come forth!”, in the call to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thy hand!”, in the divine imperative to the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!”, and in the efficacious command, “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear.” For through the effectual calling we are made to pass out of death into life, we are given faith to believe, and do believe through grace, and we receive ears to hear, eyes to see and quickened members to yield to the Lord as instruments of righteousness.

We are called to peace. “God hath called us to peace” (I Cor. 7:15).  He has done so because peace was ordained for us (Is. 26:12).  When Peter addresses the elect, he determines the originating cause of every saving good to them.  In that connection he mentions “peace” (I Pet. 1:2), appending one affect which invariably and infallibly follows from that cause.  As the calling is particular so also the peace unto which we are called! For “there is no peace to the wicked.” They from of old have been ordained to condemnation (Jude 4). But God’s people are blessed with peace (Eph. 1:2, 3), a peace which passes all understanding, which the world can neither give, take away nor have, and which arises from the blood and righteousness of Christ.