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by John B. Marchbanks (1914-2001)

There is something to which the Christian is to give diligence: To make his calling and election sure.

In approaching the subject of election we must be able to accept by faith that which we cannot fully understand. We must not speculate about that upon which God has been silent. It is well to remember that "the secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things revealed belong unto us" (Deut. 29:29).

The Bible clearly teaches that "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…hath chosen us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love" (Eph. 1:3, 4). This is the work of God, and it is not explained by simply saying that God foreknew who would believe, and chose these; "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).

We have heard more than one person try to explain election by saying, in effect: "God votes for you, and the devil votes against you, and your own vote determines the election." This is a very superficial view of the Biblical teaching of election; for election is altogether the work of God, and neither the devil nor man has anything to do with it.

We must remember that the doctrine of election is for saints and not for sinners. God's message to sinners is the Gospel, "how that Christ died for our sins according to Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3, 4). This "Gospel of Christ…is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16). "And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).

We, in our limited and finite understanding, cannot reconcile the doctrine of God's electing grace with the doctrine of man's responsibility and free choice. We are not to try to reconcile them; both are true and, from God's viewpoint there is no conflict between them. Neither will there be with us if we simply remember that the saint is to be comforted and encouraged by the fact that he is one of God's elect; and that the sinner is to be given the Gospel, how that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

Many of our readers have doubtless heard the illustration of Christ as the door of salvation (cf. John 10:9). The unsaved person, outside the door, sees written above it the words: "And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." He enters in response to this gracious invitation and is saved. Inside he sees, written above the door, the words: "He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world." These words could not be seen from the outside; one must be in Christ before they are applicable.

Election is not the same thing as foreknowledge, nor the same as predestination, though these three doctrines have many similarities. As will be seen in later studies of this series, D. V., foreknowledge means that God was acquainted with and knew us as His own before time began, whereas predestination speaks of the predetermined destiny of the saints of God. On the other hand, election speaks of the fact that God has chosen or selected certain to compose the elect groups: Israel and the Church; and has also chosen certain individuals for a special work or service. This group election, that of Israel or of the Church, may be called "corporate election," while the individual election to service may be called "personal election."

Here are a few of the main references to Israel's corporate election: "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. The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people; but because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Deut. 7:6-8). "For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto Himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure" (Psa. 135:4). "For Jacob My servant's sake, and Israel Mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me" (Isa. 45:4).

Certain of these references look upon Israel in the future, at the time of our Lord's return to this earth: "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" (Matt. 24:24). "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 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" (Matt. 24:30, 31).

Israel alone is God's elect nation. To them He says: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2). As indicated above in the passage from Deuteronomy, they were not chosen because of anything in themselves but according to God's purpose and grace.

It is the same with God's New Testament people, the Church, which is the body and bride of Christ. He has "saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (II Tim. 1:9).

Observe, then, some of the references having to do with our corporate election: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 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" (Eph. 1:3, 4). "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 Pet. 1:2). "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God" (I Thess. 1:4).

In studying the various Scripture passages on election, it is well to observe that the references that have to do with salvation and glory, are references to corporate election, or group election; whereas the election of individuals has to do with service. In the first case, notice II Thessalonians 2:13, 14: "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: whereunto He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." While the election passages having to do with salvation are allusions to corporate election, we recognize, of course, that we must be chosen individually in order to be a part of the corporate body, the Church.

We have stated that the references to individual or personal election have to do with service and not with salvation. The case of Paul is an illustration, when the Lord spoke about him to Ananias: "Go thy way; for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). However, it is not to be thought that every reference to election for service is related to an individual. There is also corporate or group election to service, as when our Lord said to His disciples: "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" (John 15:16).

When we believe the Gospel and are thus saved, we prove ourselves to be the elect of God. It was their belief of the Gospel that caused Paul to recognize the election of the Thessalonians: "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake" (I Thess. 1:3, 4).

We stated in the beginning of this article that our finite minds cannot fully understand the fact that God has chosen us who are saved to be His own, and yet has a whosoever-will Gospel which He graciously and freely offers to all the unsaved. In II Thessalonians 2:13, already quoted, these dual truths are put together, the truths of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility: "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." Though we are "chosen…in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4), that election becomes effectual to us by our "belief of the truth." This is why Paul was so willing to suffer in getting out the Gospel, and could say: "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (II Tim. 2:10).

If any reader should not be certain of his or her salvation, give heed to the words of the Spirit penned by the Apostle Peter: "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things ye shall never fall" (II Pet. 1:10). "These things" have reference to Peter's words in the preceding verses of this chapter, first of all to the obtaining of "like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (vs. 1). It is this personal faith in Christ as Saviour that saves, that makes our calling and election sure. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

Let us thank God anew for the Gospel, the good news of salvation which we can freely offer to any unsaved person with the full assurance "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:15).

Let us who are saved also be comforted and encouraged because we are the elect of God, for "who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:33, 34).

The fact that we are the chosen of God ought to be a powerful incentive to godly living on our part. We are sinners, but God, in mercy and grace, chose us as His own. What humbling of heart this ought to bring, what yieldedness of life to Him! "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 marvelous light: who in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (I Pet. 2:9-11). "Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Col. 3:12,13).

From Great Doctrines Relating to Salvation by John B. Marchbanks. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1970. Chapter 12.

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