Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Taz.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Why is the Doctrine of Election Important?

Election = to choose out of a group. Paul, in Ephesians 1:4 called believers "elect before the foundation of the world." Many Christians are offended, and some are greatly offended, at the idea that God chose who would and who would not be believers.

Some have fashioned systems of doctrine that teach that man elects himself. Others hold that God, through nothing that he found in man, chose some to be the recipients of his grace. These people, called the elect receive the gift of salvation from God.

From the Reformed, or Calvinistic, viewpoint, why is it important to believe in election? So many people try to connect a belief in the doctrine of election with their beliefs about evangelism. To these folks, a belief in election is to be used to determine who is and who is not among the people of God. But is this what election is really about? I think not. I will tell you why.

I was surprised, after everything I had heard about election, to learn that it's most famous proponent, John Calvin, did NOT connect election with evangelism. We know that every true believer is elect. But there is no way to know if someone is elect or not unless they believe. So, it is pointless to try to figure out ahead of time who is elect and who is not. The Bible tells us to avoid vain disputations. There is no more vain thing to dispute than something God has kept to Himself.

Instead, Calvin puts his section on election in the chapter (of his famous "Institutes of the Christian Religion") on a believer's assurance of salvation. Calvin saw election as a comforting doctrine for believers. It was never, in his mind, a tool for evangelism. However, Calvin cautioned that a mishandling of the doctrines of election and predestination could hurt one's faith. Therefore, it is important to put these doctrines in their proper place.

Election, according to Calvinistic belief, is God's choice of who He will save. It is based on His foreknowledge (1 Pet. 1:2). This foreknowledge is believed, by some who are not Calvinistic, to be God's foresight of future events. Such believers hold that God sees into history and finds the people who will freely choose to be believers in Jesus, and that He makes this group of people to be his "elect." But this view is wrong. Foreknowledge is not foresight. No! Foreknowledge is an experiential knowledge, an intimate knowledge of a person.

Friend, hear me here ... Jesus did not die so that you could be enabled to save yourself if you want to. Jesus died for a certain, particular group of people. Are you a believer? Then tell me this? Is this your testimony ... that Jesus died for you? Personally? It should be.

Let me use myself as an example. God, the whole Trinity, knew me before the foundation of the world. Before the universe was created, the Trinity knew me personally. God knew my sins, my failures, my habits, my heart .. everything I was, am, and will become ... God knew me. God knew me intimately. And still the Father chose me to be one of His people. He chose to adopt ME into His family. He chose ME to be a Priest and King in His kingdom. And He covananted with His Son to leave behind His glories in heaven and come to the earth to die a criminal's death for ME personally. He sent His Holy Spirit to find ME. He showed grace to ME. With all these things being true, He will keep me until that day when He calls me home. He will not lose me. He has loved ME for trillions or millions or however long I have been on His mind, He loved me that long already.

As one preacher wrote, God cannot love me more than He does now. But neither can He love me less than He does now. God sent Jesus to die for ME. It is true that God so loved the world. But that knowledge will not save you. What saves you is when you know in your heart that Jesus died for YOU personally. If your testimony is not that Jesus died for YOU, then it needs to be.

Such knowledge is a comfort to me and to every other believer. I know my sins and how often and how badly I fail God. I have trouble even chatting about the things of the Lord without falling into sin. It is good for me to know that, even in the darkest of my days, that God has loved me from the very start of all things. I rest in knowing that He moves heaven and earth for me, even to the point of giving Jesus Christ as a substitute for me. Knowing all these things, I draw comfort and strength from knowing I am one of God's elect.

Election is not a hammer to hit people with. It is not an x-ray machine with which we search for people to evangelize. It is a soft, warm blanket of God's love to wrap ourselves in .. in good times and bad. It assures us that if we are truly saved, we have been in God's plans from eternity past. And if that is true, we are assured we will be with Him in eternity yet to come. And that is why the doctrine of election is important.


Anonymous Andy(honest) said...

Amen Semper! You're right, so many Christians are offended at this doctrine, when it is one of the most comforting doctrines we have! Thanks for the post, and may you keep it up!

BTW, very good exchange with Tony on the forums. I bet I'm not the only one profiting from it.

8:17 PM  

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