Understanding Election

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This article is the first of several that discusses a particular step in the Ordo Salutis; the order of salvation. Scripture clearly teaches that there are several steps involved in converting a child of wrath to a child of God. Many debate the order of the steps, but for the sake of this article and those to follow, the point is in understanding each step. The inspiration for these articles comes after reading Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray.

Scripture very clearly teaches that God has elected a group of people, before the foundations of the world, that He will save.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” – Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV

“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. “ – Romans 8:29 ESV

Salvation would not be possible without election.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV

Romans 9 is the definitive chapter in teaching God’s sovereignty in electing a group of people.

“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. 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.” – Romans 9:6-13

Before Jacob and Esau were ever born God had already determined to love Jacob and hate Esau. Paul, aware our natural response to this teaching responds with:

“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” Romans 9:14-18 ESV

Before Moses returned to Egypt, we read:

“And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. “ – Exodus 4:21 ESV

Election reinforces the sovereignty of God. The story of redemption is a story that God Himself is in complete control over. He is the exclusive author. You and I do not choose Him. He chooses us before the foundations of the world. If you have ever wondered why some people are Christians and others are not… election.

Had God not chosen us, we would never choose Him. We are born children of wrath, dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2) and therefore are incapable of choosing Him. The Father draws us to Himself and regenerates because of His sovereign choice.

While many find offense with election, since we naturally believe it to be unfair (Romans 9), we must remember that sinners are rightfully owed the judgment and wrath of God. A single sinner regenerated and ultimately glorified, shows how gracious and loving God is. God is not obligated to spare anyone. He does not have to extend mercy or grace to any of us. In our sinfulness, we demand that He do so. We should be ashamed.

Understanding Election should cause those now in Christ to worship Him all the more, with the deepest sense of humility. We, therefore, should praise His name all the more and offer our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

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