Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology
by Doyle D. Dewberry
Text: 2nd Thessalonians 2:13
Date: Updated 10/5/2000
"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
Election is that eternal act of God whereby he in His sovereign good pleasure and on account of no foreseen merit, chooses or elects a certain number of people to be the recipients of special grace and of eternal salvation, passing over the rest. The word election is the translation of the Greek word, eklegomai, which literally means ek "out from" and legomai "to say, speak for one self". When the word pertains to God it means He has merely spoken the word to separate unto Himself or for Himself a number to be taken out from among mankind. The word legomai means to utter words, or express orally.
The doctrine of election is to be looked upon as only a particular application of the general doctrine of Predestination or Foreordination as it relates to the salvation of sinners; and since the Scriptures are concerned mainly with the redemption of sinners, this part of the doctrine is naturally thrown up into a place of special prominence. It partakes of all the elements of the general doctrine; and since it is the act of an infinite moral Person, it is represented as being the eternal, absolute, immutable, effective determination by His will of the objects of His saving operations. And no aspect of this elective choice is more constantly emphasized than that of its absolute sovereignty. (L. Boettner)
Election is not a controversy with man who is, in some respect, a serious Bible student, for he would just have to out and out deny the Bible if he denies the doctrine. The problem men have has to do with the conditions for it. In other words, is election conditional or unconditional? Is there a work to do that causes God to elect anyone, or are there no conditions? Most Christians probably believe in election, but there are few that believe in unconditional election. The former place some condition in which God foresaw in eternity past, such as faith or good works, and thus elects on that basis. It makes God somewhat like a seer or fortune teller. They would say, perhaps, God chose me because I chose Him. This would be conditional election rather than unconditional election.
A.W. Pink said this concerning foreknowledge and quotes from Jonathan Edwards:
It has often been pointed out in the past that every objection made against the eternal decrees of God applies with equal force against His eternal foreknowledge:
Whether God has decreed all things that ever come to pass or not, all that own the being of a God, own that He knows all things beforehand. Now, it is self-evident that if He knows all things beforehand, He either doth approve of them or doth not approve of them; that is, He either is willing they should be, or He is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be is to decree them. (Jonathan Edwards).
The Bible teaches that God has predestinated us according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph 1:5). This is also said to be, according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Eph 1:11). These are the only conditions one can say which can be applied to election. One may add love, as Paul indicates predestination involves love, but does not say why he loved anyone he elects, except that he loved Christ and those who are united in Him, those who were given to Him by the Father.
One of the most often heard criticisms to unconditional election is unfairness of God. A passage which best denies this has to do with Esau and Jacob. Why and when did God set his hand on Jacob and pass over Esau? We are told, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (Rom 9:13). These choices were not based on any foreseen works or faith, as we are given this explanation, For 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 (Rom 9:11). Is God unfair in election? What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid (Rom 9:14). In all this we are given the when, but not the why! God made his choices before the recipients were ever born.
There are several passages which would serve as a text for this message, such as the verse where Jesus said, ye have not chosen (elected) me, but I have chosen you (John 15:16); or where Paul said, According as he hath chosen (elected) us in him before the foundation of the world.. (Eph 1:4), or, again, where Paul speaks of God calling according to his purpose, and thus foreknowing, predestinating, and glorifying, and Paul adds, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? (Rom 8:28-33). And what of the scripture where Paul speaks of the remnant of the nation Israel which God is saving? He calls it, the election of grace (Rom 11:5). Grace and unconditional election go hand in hand. Paul adds, And if by grace, then it is no more works: otherwise grace is no more grace (Rom 11:6). The church at Thessalonica was suffering great persecution because of Christ, and we could have used what Paul said to them, Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God (1 Thess 1:4). There is no greater message for the suffering children of God than to be told what Paul wrote. Peter wrote to the scattered Christians to remind them they are, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1 Pet 1:2.
We can learn from these passages that we do not in the strictest sense choose God, but He us, and that He does not base election on foreknowing, because foreknowledge is based on God's purpose which precedes it. Foreknowledge is never used of God foreknowing events, but people, as the passage states, for WHOM he did foreknow (Rom 8:29). God foreknows everything He has purposed, and it is on that basis that he foreknows, and the basis for what He has purposed is in himself, not in the future. Someone has well said, "God doesn't rely on the future, he makes the future".
Another difference among those who look at election is that it concerns God electing for service only. However, our text indicates that God elects unto salvation as well. How anyone could miss this fact is a mystery indeed. God does choose his servants, but it does not discount the fact that he also elects unto salvation. God chose the nation Israel and saved them out of the land of Egypt. Most Christians find no fault in that, but when it comes to the individuals comprising the church, many reject it.
FOUR (4) FACTORS WITHIN OUR TEXT WHICH SET FORTH UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION:
I --- THE ONE WHO ELECTS IS GOD: "God hath .. chosen"
The Thessalonicians were not commended that they had chosen God, but God is thanked since He chose them. It is not saying that God chose them because they chose Him. The pattern follows our love to God. We love Him because He first loved us. God is the one receiving thanks for the people that He has chosen as He is the one who has made them to be what they are, brethren. These are children of God which He has begotten through birth because of His mercy. As Peter has written, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant MERCY, hath BEGOTTEN US AGAIN unto a lively (living) hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pet 1:3). They were born again (i.e., from above) by the Holy Spirit.
II -- THE TIME OF THIS ELECTION IS IN THE PAST: "From the beginning"
The time in which God made His choice is in reality, before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4), for we are told that the works were finished from the foundation of the world (Heb 4:3). It was made before they were ever born, and thus they have never done anything good to deserve it. It is by grace, and by grace alone. These are the ones who are the called according to His purpose, FOREKNOWN, predestinated, and glorified. They are the elect. They were chosen when the kingdom was prepared, as we are told of the kingdom prepared .. from the foundation of the world (Matt 25:34). The preparation of the kingdom includes its inhabitants. They were chosen when it was determined that Jesus would die for ihem, as it is written, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8).
We must remember that God lives in one eternal day; He is not time-bound. All that is to come to past is to Him finished works. He has determined all and that makes it settled and sure to Him, and He considers it as finished though it may not yet have come to past. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning (Acts 15:18). A.W. Pink said this concerning the time in which God has made His determinations:
The divine councils went before creation. As a builder draws his plans before he begins to build, so the great Architect predestinated everything before a single creature was called into existence. Nor has God kept this a secret locked in His own bosom; it has pleased Him to make known in His Word the everlasting counsels of His grace, His design in the same, and the grand end He has in view. Divine Election and Justification, P. 9.
III -- THIS ELECTION IS OF PERSONS: "God hath .. chosen you"
God elects certain individuals. Some feel when is it stated chosen in the Lord, that it does not mean individual people. It is true that Christ was chosen first being the Head, and that we, as individuals, were chosen in Him to be His body. Charles Hodge said this of this expression:
Much in the same sense the Israelites are said to be chosen in Abraham. Their relation to Abraham and God's covenant with him, were the ground and reason of all the peculiar blessings they enjoyed. So our covenant union with Christ is the ground of all the benefits which we as the people of God possess or hope. We were chosen in Christ, as the Jews were chosen in Abraham. The Epistle to the Ephesians, P. 31.
Peter wrote to the elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1 Pet 1:2). We must remember that God foreknows on the basis of his purpose for us. It is written to them who are the called according to his purpose. For WHOM he did foreknow, he also did predestinate (Rom 8:28-29). God forknows his people, individuals, before the foundation of the world and it was then he elected. How well did He know us? Our names were written in the Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world!
God chose Jacob and not Esau. It is said this choice was made before they had ever done any good or evil. Why? that the purpose of God according to election might stand (Rom 9:11). God would have us to know this about Himself; it is His prerogative to chose or reject.
When Paul greeted the church in Romans, he said, Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord (Rom 16:13). It is not things that God elects, but people. He chose the nation Israel which was made up of individuals. The nation Israel fulfilled only a temporal place in God's purpose, and not eternal salvation. There were, however, individuals out from Israel who were chosen unto eternal life.
IV -- THE ELECT OF GOD ARE GATHERED THROUGH MEANS: "Sanctification..faith"
A -- SANCTIFICATION:
The idea behind sanctification is to be set apart, and we are set apart unto salvation in election. Peter tells us with regard to election, that it is, through sanctification of the Spirit (1 Pet 1:2. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. We have learned that God's works were finished from the foundation of the world, and since He sanctifies, it took place then. Jude wrote to those who are, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called Jude 1:1. Sanctification of the elect is a completed work. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us we were sanctified once. There is a sense in which we do sanctify ourselves, but it is not unto salvation. We set ourselves apart by growing in grace. There is no way, nor is their a need, that we become more holy than that which was accomplished in the beginning by the Father. It is as complete as Justification. Paul said, But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, (that is,justification) and sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor 1:30).
B -- FAITH:
We are told that without faith it is impossible to please God. But this faith is not of ourselves. For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and THAT not of yourselves, it is the GIFT OF GOD (Eph 2:8). What is true Biblical saving faith? Now faith is the substance (reality) of things hoped for, the evidence (conviction) of things not seen (Heb 11:1). Quite obviously faith is not a meritorious, humanly motivated work. It is divinely given substance of things we hope for, and evidence of things we cannot see so that we stand upon them for salvation.
In light of all the scriptural evidence, and this by no means exhausts the subject, election is unconditional. There are no conditions placed upon God's choosing certain individuals unto eternal life. Salvation is not out from human merit in works, or even in faith. We are saved by grace, and grace alone which is unmerited favor. Jesus is the Savior, and salvation is of the Lord. Our passage teaches that election is unconditional since God does the choosing. He did not do it for any foreseen merit. Even our faith is not meritorious. This election was in the past, from the foundation of the world. Though we are chosen in Christ, this election was of individual persons. Yet God used means to elect us. We were sanctified (set apart) by God the Father through the Holy Spirit, and given the gift of faith which was the evidence we needed in order to believe.
In conclusion we can learn a great deal from how God deals with the angels. There are elect angels and their are angels which are reserved unto the day of judgment. Paul when writing to Timothy mentions the elect angels, I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the ELECT ANGELS (1 Tim 5:21). Peter mentions the angels imprisoned until judgment, God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment (2 Pet 2:4). Just as we cannot charge God with unrighteousness or unfairness because there are angels which have no hope of eternal life, so it is with mankind of those whom God has passed over.
Election does not take away hope for man. It does mean he should make his election and calling sure. Since man has no ability to come to Christ without God's quickening Spirit, election gives him hope. Let man cast himself upon the mercy of God, and cry out to Him for salvation if he is at all concerned. Let him be like the two blind men who, when they saw the Lord, said, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David .. that our eyes may be opened (Matt 20:31,33). Jesus said, Come unto me all ye that LABOR and are HEAVY LADEN, and I will give you rest.
"(No) one may object that this view (of unconditional election) represents God acting arbitrarily and without reason. To assert that is to assert more than man know. His reasons for saving particular ones while passing others by have not been revealed to us ... Some are ordained as sons, 'according to the good pleasure of His will' (Eph 1:5), but that does not mean that He has no reasons for choosing one and leaving another. When a regiment is decimated for insubordination, the fact that every tenth man is chosen for death is for reasons; but the reasons are not in the men. Undoubtedly God has the best of reasons for choosing one and rejecting another, although He has not told what they are." (L. Boettner)
- May not the Sov'reign Lord on high
- Dispense His favors as He will;
- Choose some to life, while others die,
- And yet be just and gracious still?
- Shall man reply against the Lord,
- And call his Maker's ways unjust?
- The thunder whose dread word
- Can crush a thousand worlds to dust.
..ought not the doctrine of election to be plainly and freely proclaimed? If God's Word be full of it, if the gospel cannot be Scripturally preached without it, if the grace of God cannot be maintained when it is suppressed, if the proclamation of it abases man into the dust, if it be a divinely appointed means of faith, if it be a powerful incentive unto the promotion of holiness, if it stirs in the soul the spirit of praise, if it establishes the Chrisiian in the certainty of his security, if it be such a source of stability to the servant of God, if it supplies encouragement to praying souls and affords valuable instruction therein, if it work in us a sweet submission to the divine will; then shall we refuse to give unto God's children this valuable bread merely because dogs snap at it or withhold from the sheep this vital ingredient of their food simply because the goats cannot digest it? (A.W. Pink)
John 15:19 I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Acts 13:48 As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation
Revelation 17:14 For he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Psalm 65:4 Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts.
Psalm 110:3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.
Doyle Dewberry, formerly of Alameda, California, is a retired Pastor and author of Sovereign Grace Baptist Proclaimer, Setting Forth The Doctrines of Grace In Salvation. He can be reached by email at sovereigngrace at 5star-living dot com.