Why pursue a relationship with Christ if he hasn’t chosen you? Learn how Satan uses the biblical doctrine of election to keep people from God.
A trustworthy election
We just experienced an election in the U.S. in which one of the candidates consistently expressed distrust in its reliability. He cast doubt on the electoral process and the outcome. He caused many voters to doubt the results of state vote tallies and to question the news agencies that reported them.
This undermining of a bedrock institution of our democratic republic could have destroyed our citizens’ hope for a fair and valid election. It may have discouraged them from voting, thereby altering the outcome.
But it didn’t. Voters showed up and cast their choices in record numbers in 2020. We trusted the system our founders constructed hundreds of years ago. Citizens placed their faith in polling place volunteers and government agencies to execute a free and fair election, during a global pandemic, no less. And it worked.
No political election is perfect. But a peaceful, reliable outcome proves the value of a citizenry’s faith in it. Faith is not a magical force or methodological formula. It’s only as good as the object in which a person places it.
And if your faith is in the God who proves his value over and over in the saving of souls, you cannot fail.
Chosen of God
The biblical doctrine of election is, in a morbid way, like the subject of death. We can’t deny it exists, but we don’t like to talk about it. For some reason it causes arguments and discomfort. It’s similar to the word “predestination.” We can’t avoid it when the Bible contains the phrase: “He predestined us.” So it helps to clearly define the term.
The Greek noun eklektos also has a verb form, eklegomai. Some English translations render it “chosen” or “choose,” rather than “the elect” or “to elect.” The verb’s action is always from God toward those he choses and not the reverse. God is the chooser; we are the chosen.
God even uses the term toward Jesus in some scriptures to indicate the Lord is the one chosen to bring salvation to the world. For instance, when Peter in his first epistle references Isaiah 28:16 as speaking of Christ, the Greek translation is “a choice stone.” Jesus is thus the one God “elected” to become the foundation of redeemed mankind.
How and why does God choose us?
Now that we know what “elect” means, we should briefly explore how the New Testament uses it to discover to what, or why, we are elected. This is an incredibly deep, rich subject that deserves a lifetime of study. So for our purposes we’ll outline some noteworthy uses of the term here.
We are elected:
- To receive eternal life (Acts 13:48)
- To become like Jesus, to be justified by faith and glorified in the end (Ro. 8:28-30)
- To be holy and blameless before God (Eph. 1:4) and to receive an inheritance from him (v. 11)
- To receive the gospel and the gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 1:4) so that we might be sanctified, set apart for his glory (2 Thess. 2:13)
Taken together, these scriptures plainly reveal election is an act of God’s will. He elects believers to accomplish his purposes, which is part of a great plan he determined before us and without our input or consent.
I found this statement from The Gospel Coalition’s Concise Theology Series essay helpful. An unconverted sinner is incapable of choosing God, apart from the Holy Spirit’s awakening power, because sin makes the gospel both foolish and unwanted. Thus:
This consideration of the blinding effects of human depravity is a necessary corrective to a common mischaracterization of election. Scripture nowhere allows the notion that some who may have wanted to be saved were refused.
What should we do with our election?
That we cannot choose God doesn’t absolve us of any responsibility. Follow the above cited scriptures to their conclusions. You’ll note that the New Testament writers consistently add “therefore” language after their use of election. In other words, now that you know God chose you, what should you do?
The apostles teach we should have faith that our election is sure. We should believe it is true and hold fast to it as a promise. Because of this, we should live holy lives, avoiding sin and pursuing acts of love and service to God and to our fellow chosen brothers and sisters.
In short, the doctrine of election must drive our ever increasing reflection and likeness of Christ’s life and actions.
Doubting your election
This is the final installment of a five-part series having to do with Satan’s attacks on unbelievers. To keep them from coming to God, says author Thomas Brooks, he causes them to doubt God’s love for them, his willingness to save them, and their worthiness of his concern.
In his final device, Brooks explains how our enemy tricks some people through clouding their thoughts about God’s election. If you aren’t elect, nothing you can do will win God’s favor. And so he causes them to doubt God has chosen them.
It’s a subtle tactic that may remind you of Jesus, in the gospel of Matthew, explaining to his disciples how God will separate his sheep from the goats at the end of this age. If you’re a goat, that’s it. There’s no hope for you. Therefore, why seek God’s mercy?
Brooks’s remedies to this device are the briefest in the entirety of his book, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices. In theological works, this usually means little needs to be said. Satan’s argument is weak, so the answers need scant explanation.
Let’s learn how Brooks encourages unbelievers to trust God’s promises by faith and find hope in their hearts’ desire to know him.
Remedy 1: No one knows you’re elect but God
There is no scripture in all the Bible that says Satan knows who are God’s elect. To the contrary, everything we read about God’s choosing whom he will save points to his will, his purposes, and his foreknowledge. God has not sought counsel on these matters and has shared this information with no one.
Our judicial system relies on expert witnesses in court trials. Attorneys may call professionals in medicine, criminal science, psychology and other disciplines to share knowledge before juries that pertains to the case at hand. In such instances, lawyers for the opposite side may vet these witnesses, scrutinizing their credentials and ensuring the validity of their testimonies. They do this to protect their clients’ interests.
In the case of your election to salvation, Satan fails the expert witness test. He is utterly unqualified to testify of your position before God. To do so would be to claim knowledge to which he is not privy. Anything he might say in court against you on this matter would be deemed inadmissible, untrustworthy.
The only reliable witness is God himself. And interestingly, the only corroborating evidence is your response to his call.
Remedy 2: “Stop doubting and believe”
These are the words the risen Lord Jesus said to his apostle, Thomas, when he appeared bodily in the room where his followers had gathered. We don’t know if Thomas really placed his fingers in Jesus’s wounds. Seeing his Lord standing before him probably cured his doubts immediately.
The Bible’s consistent response to doubt is: “Believe!” Nowhere does scripture encourage us to continue questioning or fretting over our soul’s state. While scripture acknowledges our uncertain hearts, and God is patient with his weak-minded children, he expects us to move forward in faith.
Worrying about your election is pointless, because your desire to be saved proves you are elect. God does not drag sinners into heaven against their will. But, according to Paul, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” And yet, we must “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling.” Because of God’s election of us as his adopted children, we respond in faith, belief, and duty.
Brooks quotes one of my favorite Old Testament verses to prove his point.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.Deuteronomy 29:29, ESV
Instead of trying to discern what God has not expressly commanded us, we should focus on obeying what we know he has said. And for believers today, the Lord Jesus was abundantly clear about what he expects.
Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”John 6:28–29, ESV
Belief is a “work” we must perform in response to God’s mercy. And yet, it is God’s work within us that creates our belief.
Leave the unknowns in the Lord’s care. Operate on the knowledge you have. Place your faith in the God who loves you enough to tell you what he desires and to empower you to obey him.