The gifted Bible teacher and scholar A. W. Pink once began a sermon by saying this:
I am going to speak to-night on one of the most hated doctrines of the Bible, namely :—that of God’s sovereign Election. There are those who have dared to call it a terrible and horrible doctrine, which is surely a fearful way to speak of any truth in God’s Word. There are others who speak of it with bated breath, as though it is something to be kept in the background. There are others who profess to believe in it and who say it is a most blessed truth, but for Christians only. … Now the reason for man’s antipathy against this truth is not far to seek. It is a truth that is too deeply humbling, in fact humiliating, for it makes nothing of man. It puts him into the dust where he belongs. (Studies in the Scriptures, pg. 39)
What he’s saying is, it’s hard for some people to accept the biblical doctrine of sovereign election. It’s hard for man to acknowledge the fact that his salvation is an act of God. In his fallenness, he wants to assume some responsibility, even if it’s a small responsibility, for having believed. He wants some credit for having made a right choice.
Furthermore, the doctrine of election seems repulsive to us because it seems unfair that God should, out of all the world of human beings, choose some at His own discretion to be saved, and not the rest.
Is God unfair? No. God is never to be measured by any human standard. Are we so foolish as to assume that we who are fallen, sinful creatures have a higher standard of what is right than an unfallen and infinitely and eternally holy God? What kind of pride is that?
It says in Psalm 97:2, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” Whatever God does proceeds from a base of righteousness and justice. It may not be human righteousness and human justice, but it is divine. As it says in Isaiah 55:8-9:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares Yahweh.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
We are in no position as fallen creatures to determine whether what God does is just, right or fair. You’ve stepped out of bounds when you say that God does anything that isn’t fair.
And you don’t want to talk too long about justice when you talk about salvation. If God gave us all justice, we’d all be sent to hell. The creator owes nothing to the creature, not even what He is pleased to graciously give to the elect. He doesn’t owe that. How then could God be called unjust if He elected certain ones to be saved when they didn’t deserve it?
Salvation is never a matter of justice. It is always a matter of pure grace.
Now, in discussing the doctrine of election, there is no better, more condensed section of Scripture than the opening of 1 Peter:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. (1 Peter 1:1-2)
Peter begins his letter by emphasizing that those to whom he writes are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. He wants them to grasp that tremendously comforting reality.
These aliens, the believers, are eklektos, “the called out ones.” The word means to pick out or to select. In fact, you could even translate it this way: “select aliens.” It’s a term for Christians. The saved are the chosen.
This can be seen elsewhere in Scripture:
And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matthew 24:22)
Now, will God not bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? (Luke 18:7)
Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. (Romans 8:33)
So, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12)
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of the elect, so that they also may obtain the salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)
So, when Peter says, “I am writing to the elect of God,” he means believers. The term “elect” or “chosen” is synonymous with “Christian,” with “saved,” with “born again.” We are the chosen of God. He made the choice, not us.
What Peter is saying is so wonderful. What he’s saying to these persecuted Christians is, “Hey, you may not be the choice of the world, but you are the choice of God.” That’s comforting. That’s a rich reality. It was intended to be an encouragement to persecuted believers.
In this series, we’re going to look more closely at the elements of election. And we are going to start next time with its nature.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1988, titled “Chosen by God, Part 1.”
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