1 Thessalonians 1:4
"Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." – 1 Thessalonians 1:4
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, he spoke confidently to God's saints there about the indisputable fact of their election. He said, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." Paul gave thanks to God for them, for their faith in Christ, for their love to one another, and for the other manifold blessings of God's grace upon them, because he knew that, all these things must be traced to their election unto salvation by God.
This blessed, glorious, gospel doctrine of election is one of the most delightful doctrines of the gospel. Believers rejoice in it. In this study, we will simply go through the Word of God, observing the fact that the Bible teaches the doctrine of election, what the Bible teaches about election, and who God's elect people are. Because there is so much needless controversy among men about this subject, let me make three practical statements, by way of introduction, which I trust will help clarify some things for you.
1. Election is not the first thing to be learned.
Precious, delightful, important as this doctrine is, it is not the first thing to be learned. We preach this doctrine without apology. I preach it everywhere I go. We teach it in our Sunday School classes, beginning with the toddlers. We are not, in the least bashful about proclaiming God's electing love. However, it is not our mission in this world to convince people that the doctrine of election is true. A person can go to hell believing election as well as he can go to hell denying it. Our mission is to get sinners to believe, trust, and come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Any sinner who bows to Christ as Lord will have no problem with the doctrine of election.
The first question to be settled in your heart and mind is not, "Am I one of the elect?" It is impossible for anyone to determine that until the matter of first importance is settled. "Do I trust the Lord Jesus Christ?" "Am I a believer?" That is the matter of first importance. As I will show you in this study, if you trust the Son of God, if you, as a poor, helpless, guilty, bankrupt sinner, trust Christ alone as your Savior and Lord, your faith in him is the proof of your election. The first thing to be learned is faith in Christ. Where faith is found in the heart, election is believed and loved.
2. God's sovereign election of some to salvation and eternal life in Christ is in no way inconsistent with the promises of God in the gospel.
Let men say what they will, all the promises of God in Christ Jesus are yea and amen. You may not be able to see how election can be true and the promises of the gospel to sinners are also true; but they are. Hear the promises God makes to sinners in the gospel. Come to Christ, whoever you are, believe on Christ, whatever you have done, trust the Son of God and these promises are yours!
· Matthew 11:28-30 – "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
· Mark 16:16 – "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."
· John 3:36 – "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
· John 6:37 – "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
· John 7:37-38 – "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
· Acts 16:31 – "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."
· Romans 10:8-13 – "But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
· Revelation 22:16-17 – "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
3. God's election, this gospel doctrine of sovereign electing grace, does not, to any degree or in any way, remove or destroy your responsibility to obey the gospel.
God commands all men, everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). Our responsibility is not derived from the decree of God, but from the Word of God. We are not responsible for what God has purposed; but we are responsible for what he has commanded. We are all responsible to be perfectly holy; but we cannot do it. We are responsible to make complete atonement for our sins; but we cannot provide it. We are responsible to believe on and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as our only righteousness and our only redemption; but we cannot even do that. We are, therefore, shut up to God's sovereign grace in Christ.
I want to show you from the Word of God that election is God's sovereign, eternal choice and purpose of grace toward his people in Christ, by which their salvation was secured and guaranteed before the world began. In order to accomplish that purpose, let me raise and answer three questions.
DOES THE BIBLE TEACH THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION?
The very first matter to be settled is this: – Does the Word of God teach the doctrine of election? If the Bible teaches it, believers bow to it, believe it, and rejoice in it. We do not have and do not want to have the option of believing what we want to believe. We believe God. If the Word of God teaches this doctrine, it matters not who opposes it, all believers bow to it. If God does not teach this doctrine in his Word, then we must reject it and denounce it, no matter who believes it, no matter who teaches it.
I ask only that you read the Word of God. Let God speak for himself. Let God be true, and every man a liar. This is the question – Does the Bible teach Election? I will not attempt to show you this doctrine in the Old Testament, though it is written upon every page of it. Adam had two sons. God chose one and passed by the other. There were untold millions in the earth in Noah's day; but Noah alone found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Abraham had two sons. God chose one and passed by the other. God chose the nation of Israel to be his peculiar people, and passed by all the other nations of the world. God gave his law to Israel alone, sent his prophets (with rare exception) to Israel alone, and established his worship in Israel alone. But it will suffice for us to begin in the Book of Matthew and simply read some of what the New Testament says about election. I have selected only those passages of Scripture where the very words elect, elected, election, chosen, and ordained are used. I deliberately left out those numerous texts where the doctrine of election is only, by necessity, implied. In these texts it is plainly stated by Divine inspiration!
· Matthew 24:24 – "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
· Matthew 24:31 – "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
· Mark 13:20 – "And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days."
· John 13:18 – "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me."
· John 15:16 – "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."
· Acts 13:48 – "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."
· Romans 8:33 – "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth."
· Romans 11:5 – "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."
· Romans 11:7 – "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded."
· Ephesians 1:4 – "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."
· Thessalonians 5:9 – "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ."
· Thessalonians 2:13 – "But we are bound to give thanks alway 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 of the truth."
· 1 Timothy 2:10 – "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."
· Titus 1:1 – "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness."
· 1 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."
· 1 Peter 2:9 – "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."
· 1 Peter 5:13 – "The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son."
The Word of God makes no attempt to explain how God can be righteous and just in showing mercy to whom he will, while passing by whom he will. In fact, rather than answering such carping objections from unbelieving men, the Apostle Paul simply says, God does things this way because God has determined to do things this way.
· Romans 9:11-23 – "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 of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory."
Without question, the Book of God teaches the glorious, gospel doctrine of election. No honest person can even question that fact. Anyone who denies that the Bible teaches this doctrine is either totally ignorant of the Word of God, or a liar. In either case, such a person has no business attempting to teach others. Since it is obvious, unmistakably obvious, that the Scriptures teach this doctrine, the second question to be answered is this.
WHAT DOES THE WORD OF GOD TEACH ABOUT ELECTION?
Keep in mind the things we have already read in the Word of God. Here are eleven things expressly taught in the Word of God about election.
1. Election is "in Christ."
2. Election is "unto salvation."
3. Election is an act of God's pure, absolute, sovereignty.
4. Election took place in eternity.
5. The source and cause of election is God's eternal love for his people.
6. God's election was an act of free, unconditional grace.
7. Election is God's personal choice of specific sinners to eternal life in Christ.
8. Election is irreversible.
9. Election is effectual.
10. Election is distinguishing (Isa. 43:1-4).
11. Election is blessed, for it is the cause of all blessedness (Ps. 65:4; Eph. 1:3-6; 1 Cor. 4:7).
Go back to 1 Thessalonians chapter one; and let me show you the answer to one more question.
WHO ARE THE ELECT?
No mere man can open and read the Lamb's Book of life. No mortal can ever know who the elect are until they are regenerated and called by God the Holy Spirit. However, each of us can prove our own selves. We can make our calling and election sure. In 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul, writing by Divine, inspiration tells us that he knew these men and women in the Church there were elect, chosen of God, and precious by five distinct marks of grace upon them. If you are one of God's elect, these five marks are upon you. If I am one of the elect, these marks are upon me. Who are God's elect? Look into the Word of God and see. There is no guess work here.
1. God's elect are people who hear the Gospel preached and receive the Gospel as it is preached in the power of God the Holy Spirit. The elect are those who are called by the effectual, irresistible power and grace of God the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 1:5).
2. God's elect are those who follow Christ. Chosen sinners, when saved by the grace of God, are made disciples, followers of Christ, voluntary servants, of King Jesus (1 Thess. 1:3, 6).
3. God's elect are a people who are committed to Christ and the Gospel of his grace (1 Thess. 1:8).
4. God's elect experience repentance and conversion by the power of his grace. They turn from their idols to serve the living God (1 Thess. 1:9).
5. God's elect are waiting for Christ (1 Thess. 1:10).