Anchor Sunday School Class
by Bob Marsh
Election & Pre-Destination
The subjects of ELECTION and PRE-DESTINATION have sadly created uncertainty, confusion, and division among the Body of Christ. Denominations have been formed based on various views of the subjects; e.g. “Arminianism vs Calvinism.” Abstruse terms have been formulated in attempting to codify the subjects: e.g. “reformed theology,” “Calvinism,” “double predestination,” etc. This ARTICLE is an attempt to take hours of theological debate, and reams of theological writings, and distill them into a succinct, and certainly a totally inadequate, digested statement. I respect and honor the good and honest believers who might disagree with my conclusions, while insisting that no consensus about election/predestination has emerged from the theological debates among some of the greatest theologians in Church History. This paper is an attempt to at the least identity the issue(s), and make the claim that any valid understanding of election must derive from Scripture.
First of all, let’s get rid of some terrible stereotypes that have evolved through the ages. Here is one: “Presbyterians believe in predestination, and Baptist don’t.” The term Presbyterian has become connected to the doctrine as though it is an exclusive concept of Presbyterians. “If you are a Baptist, you surely do not ascribe to that doctrine.” The truth is, if the Word of God teaches a subject as truth, then all of God’s people should believe it. The Word of God teaches ELECTION AND PRE-DESTINATION, so Baptist had better well get on board, as should all of God’s people. However, some essential questions must be asked, such as “what in the world are we talking about???”
So secondly: The fundamental question that must be asked is WHAT DO THE TERMS MEAN, WHERE DID THEY COME FROM? If Predestination means that God says to some, “you are saved, I have chosen you to be saved,” and to others, “sorry folk, but off you go, you did not make the cut,” then we have some real theological and philosophical problems. Let’s just stick with Paul and Peter for the moment. For here again, “what are we talking about, or better asked, what did Paul and Peter mean by using those terms?”
WHERE DID PAUL AND PETER GET THEIR CONCEPTS OF ELECTION AND PREDESTINATION? Answer: from the OLD COVENANT, the OLD TESTAMENT. Summary: the Old Testament writers present two types of election. (1) God chose individuals to perform certain tasks. They were chosen to SERVE HIM. E.G. Priest, Kings, Prophets. (2) The second and dominate motif is his election of the people of Israel. (3) Election in the Old Testament did not necessarily relate to SALVATION, but did relate primarily to SERVICE. E.G Isaiah 43:10, 12. (4) Paul and Peter believed that the Body of Christ comprised a new chosen people. In the Old Covenant God had chosen Israel to be His servant. In the Messianic era He has chosen the Church; those who are “IN CHRIST.”
And this is so important to note: Never do the Biblical writers describe ELECTION as a reward, nor did it give ISRAEL a privileged position among the nations so ISRAEL could boast. God chose ISRAEL to serve Him and make Him known among the nations (this is what the prophet JONAH IS ALL ABOUT, the failure to be the servants of Jehovah). God chose ISRAEL to reflect His character, make known to the nations “what is the nature of Jehovah?” God’s choosing Israel does not imply His rejection of the GENTILE NATIONS! On the contrary, ELECTION OF ISRAEL created the task for Israel of representing God among the nations so SALVATION MIGHT COME TO THEM. Please read Psalm 67 and note carefully the emphasis on THE NATIONS!
BOTTOM LINE: ELECTION in the Old Testament means that God called Israel to SERVE AND REVEAL. ISRAEL was NOT ELECTED TO SALVATION while Gentile nations were ELECTED TO DAMNATION! This axiom must sink in: ISRAEL WAS ELECTED TO MAKE JEHOVAH KNOWN TO THE NATIONS. Israel was the COMMUNITY OF FAITH, THE PEOPLE OF GOD, and THE ELECT OF GOD. The Purpose of God’s ELECTION OF ISRAEL was that “the nations would come over the King’s Highway into the presence of JEHOVAH!)
So, when Paul speaks of “Chosen, or Pre-destination,” (Ephesians 1:2-6), and Peter speaks “the ELECT who HAVE BEEN CHOSEN,” (I Peter 1:1,2,20) they are bringing Old Testament concepts to their fulfillment by stating that the Old Testament is fulfilled IN CHRIST (Colossians 2:17), AND THAT THE BODY OF CHRIST, THE CHURCH, IS NOW THE ELECT, THE CHOSEN OF GOD. Note carefully I Peter 2:1-12, and see how Peter identifies the CHURCH, THE BODY OF CHRIST, as the fulfillment of the OLD TESTAMENT TYPES. I Peter 2:9-10.
In his letter to the EPHESIANS, Paul makes clear that ELECTION AND PRE-DESTINATION have to do with the Church, the Body of Christ, so that those who are IN CHRIST are a part of the ELECT. Ephesians 2; 11-12. Paul and Peter emphasize a COMMUNAL aspect of salvation; i.e. you IN CHRIST people are now members of a NEW COMMUNITY, the family of God. Election concerns the Church, the corporate body of believers, and the Church finds her election in her union with Christ!
Let’s make certain this is clear: Paul takes Old Testament images and states categorically that ELECTION AND PREDESTINATION have to do with a COMMUNITY, and that COMMUNITY IS NOW THE CHURCH, a NEW NATION, A NEW FAMILY, AND A NEW TEMPLE (2:19-22) (Galatians 6:16, “the ISRAEL OF GOD” refers to the Church).
How does a person become AN IN CHRIST MEMBER OF THE ELECT? Read carefully Ephesians 1:11-14. Vs 13, YOU WERE INCLUDED (IN THE ELECT) WHEN YOU HEARD AND BELIEVEED!!!!!!!! You made a personal decision to receive a PERSON, JESUS (JOHN 1:12; ROMANS 10:9, 10). You could have made the decision not to believe what you heard, but you heard, received/believed and were MARKED IN HIM WITH THE SEAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. You were brought into a NEW COMMUNITY, THE PEOPLE OF GOD, GOD’S POSSESSION (OLD TESTAMENT TERMS). Note carefully Ephesians 1:13, 14.
1. Now that you are an IN CHRIST BELIEVER, your destiny is DETERMINED. Philippians 3:20-21, Romans 8, I John 3:1-3.
2. It was determined BEFORE THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, Ephesians 1:4, PRE-DETERMINED. You are secure in Him, and He promised that you will be delivered safely to Him, Ephesians 1:13-14. Jesus made it clear “you will not be plucked from my hand.”
3. Who are the ELECT? In the OLD COVENANT, ISRAEL. Under the New Covenant the Elect One is Messiah. It is imperative to note: It is Messiah who is now the elect of God, Jesus the Christ, and those who by faith have come IN CHRIST, baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12), are the CHOSEN PEOPLE OF GOD, THE ELECT. I Peter 1:1-12.
4. What IS THE PURPOSE OF ELECTION? Why is the Church CHOSEN, ELECTED? I Peter 2:9, 10. TO DECLARE THE PRAISES OF HIM WHO CALLED YOU. He called you to make Him known, to reveal Him by living and doing a life of righteousness (the entire book of JAMES).
5. So, do we believe in ELECTION AND PRE-DESTINATION? Better question: DOES THE NEW COVENANT TEACH IT? Yes, then we do believe in it, BUT AS VIEWED BY PAUL AND PETER, (Calvin?).
6. The argument can be made that both Calvinist and Armenians focus on the individual as being elected, but Paul and Peter focus on the corporate BODY OF CHRIST, THE CHURCH, ELECTED as Servants of God, Chosen to make God known to the nations. In other words, it is not “I am elected to go to Heaven,” but “We are elected as the Church, the Body of Christ, to go INTO ALL THE WORLD and make Him known.” In the OLD COVENANT God chose Abraham and his seed to be His Chosen Nation. Under the NEW COVENANT God chose Christ and those IN HIM to be HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE. Christ is God’s Chosen One, and the Body of Christ is Chosen IN HIM. This is the theme of GALATIANS.
7. God has pre-determined certain benefits and privileges for those who are IN CHRIST: (I THESSALONIANS 5:9, assurance of salvation), (Romans 8:29-30, present conformity to the image of Christ), (EPHESIANS 2:10, capacity to do good works,) and (certainty of FUTURE GLORY FOR THE FAMILY OF CHRIST, EPHESIANS 1:11-12, I CORINTHIANS 2:7).
8. The Mystery of Election/Predestination becomes a blessing when we grasp some clearly stated Biblical truths:
a. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, Luke 19:10.
b. God loves the world, John 3:16.
c. He invites all to come to Him in faith II Peter 3:9.
d. Whoever believes in Him will experience “everlasting life.” John 3:16, John 1:12, Romans 6:23.
e. Those who are IN CHRIST, are secure, destined to “dwell in the House of the Lord Forever.” John 10:28.
So, let us praise and pray COLOSSIANS 1:9-14. Especially vs 13: “He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves (has chosen). IN HIM we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” May Grace and Peace abide.