Divine Election

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Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ; I Peter 1:2

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Election is used in the word of God three ways. It is our purpose now to look at these as set forth in the Bible. Of the three ways it is used, we begin with:

1. Election is sometimes used in the Bible with reference to an office.

A. It is used in this sense concerning Saul. “And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.” (I Samuel 10:24) As to whether Saul was saved or not has no bearing upon his election to office of king by God.

B. It is used in this sense concerning the apostles. “Jesus answered them, Have I not chosen you twelve and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70) Eleven of these men were saved and one was lost. Their being elected to the office of an apostle by Jesus Christ had nothing to do with their salvation.

To these could be added many examples of God’s choosing unto an office. Many kings of nations other than Israel would come under this election. See Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar, and others.

C. It is used in this sense of Jesus Christ Himself. “Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.” (I Peter 2:6) The election of Christ refers to His office of Prophet, Priest, and King. In I Peter 2:6, we think the reference is mainly to His work as Priest when He offered up His blood to God. For the election concerning the other two offices, see Isaiah 42:1 and 65:9.

2. Election is sometimes used in reference to the enjoyment of special privilege.

A. It is used in this sense concerning Israel of old. “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.” (Deuteronomy 7:6) See also Isaiah 45:4. Israel was chosen of God for special and peculiar blessings. God committed His oracles to them. (Romans 3:2) What a privilege for them! What a blessing! They did not deserve it but were elected to it of God. God, Himself, dwelt in their midst. They were chosen for this by Him in grace.

Many have great difficulty with Israel and Romans 9:10-11. Paul states there that out of that elect nation, i.e., to special privileges, there is another election which is quite different. It is an election to eternal life which will be discussed in the third point. Many would have us to understand that Romans 9:11-13 deals with two nations rather than two individuals. This will give great difficulties for it isn’t so. What nation would Pharaoh (who was an individual) represent in that context? Take all of them as individuals and your problems will be fewer.

B. It is used in this sense of special privileges in relation to the angels of God. “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.” (I Timothy 5:21) It is surprising that it does not appear more often. Yet if God says but once some were elect and some “kept not their first estate” (Jude 6), it should satisfy a believer.

There seem to be many privileges and special blessings to which angels are elected. It has to be with the angels, an election to privileges, for Christ never died for them that they may obtain salvation. They carry God’s messages to people as is seen in the case of Daniel (Daniel 9:21), Joseph (Matthew 1:24), Zacharias (Luke 1:13), Mary (Luke 1:30) and many others. The angels were chosen, instead of men, to minister unto Christ after His temptations of Satan. (Matthew 4:11) They have charge given of God concerning Christ. (Matthew 4:6) Angels, too, are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. (Hebrews 1:14) They conduct saints on to heaven. (Luke 16:22) Of their privileges we could multiply Scripture. This is their election.

3. Election is spoken of in the Bible as being to eternal salvation. “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the spirit and belief on the truth.” (II Thessalonians 2:13)

A. It is used as being to eternal salvation in II Timothy 2:10. “Therefore, I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, they may also (as Paul had and his readers) obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” The context tells us Paul was in bonds (verse 9). Most tell us Paul was at Rome in prison when he wrote these words. Even though Paul was bound, the Word wasn’t (verse 9). There were some in Nero’s court and in the prison who were not as yet saved although they are said in verse 10 to be elected. Paul declares he would endure the bonds, and all other things that might come upon him in order that those chosen of God might hear the unbound Word (verse 9) and thereby obtain salvation. Here Paul gives the greatest reason in the world for preaching and enduring; through the unbound Word some are going to obtain salvation. If God did not have people in the world, we wouldn’t need to preach because the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit. Paul did not know who the elect there were, but he knew they were lost and needed to be preached to.

That these “elect” were Jews (in Nero’s court) or people already saved will not be allowed in this context.

B. It is used in the sense of eternal salvation in I Peter 1:2. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ; Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” This verse states they were “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Foreknowledge has two meanings in the Word of God.

(1) It is used of mere prescience, i.e., to know before. Thus, a mathematician surely foreknows when an eclipse will be. Our moon shots depend upon the scientists foreknowing where the earth and moon will be at an exact time. In no way may we assume that this kind of foreknowledge is the cause of anything. The mathematician who foresees an eclipse does not, by his knowledge, cause that eclipse.

In this sense, God foreknows evil but His foreknowledge is not the cause of it. God knows all things from the beginning. He is never introduced to something which He never knew about before.

Many would have us to believe that because of God’s prescience, He did His electing, but this is not true. He did not look down through eternity or time and foresee who would have faith in Jesus Christ and because of that faith, elect them to salvation. All that God foresaw in us was bad.

(2) Foreknowledge is use in the Bible to signify counsel, appointment, and approbation. This simply means that God foresaw some with regard to a purpose. “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands, have crucified and slain:” (Acts 2:23) Here the death of Christ was not only foreseen, but foreordained as in I Peter 1:20.

In the text under consideration (I Peter 1:2), God foreknew these elect for the purpose of obedience and the atonement (and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ).

It is in this same sense foreknowledge is used in Romans 8:29 and 11:2. It would be interesting to note Matthew 7:23. “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” It is certain that Jesus had a foreknowledge (prescience) of these folks. It is just as true that He never foreknew them with the purpose to do them good as He is said to foreknow His elect. This about this verse.

C. Election is used, in this sense of eternal salvation, in the following places: Romans 9:11; 11:5; I Thessalonians 1:4; and II Peter 1:10. Of all this word’s cognates (see Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 2-B), we would refer you to a concordance or lexicon. Choose, chosen, etc., have the same root word as elect, election, etc., in most cases.

Conclusion: So many today would insist that election is only one of the first two uses or both of them, but never the third. We feel one might just as well deny the first two as the third. All of God’s Word is to be believed and preached in spite of how our old nature reacts. Election unto salvation took place in Jesus Christ before we were ever born. “…neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth;” (Romans 9:11) To say the least, boasting is hereby excluded.