Yesterday we mentioned some general details about the doctrine of election. But what does the doctrine mean for us as individuals? Here are five features.
First, election links us with Jesus Christ. Paul writes that God’s people were chosen in Christ. This means they were chosen because of Christ and for Christ.It was the Father’s will that his Son would have a permanent relationship with saved sinners, including us. In a sense, divine election was the basis of the mission of Jesus, as he said in his prayer recorded in John 17, when he referred to those who the Father had given him to save. We were given by the Father to the Son, and the Son was delighted with the gift and willing to do what was required to bring about the fulfilment of this relationship between him and us. This led to his becoming a man and paying the penalty for our sins. All the while we were united to him, and this union continued as he ascended back to heaven and will remain always. Election was with a view to us finding our security in the Son, and to be satisfied by the Son in this permanent relationship.
Second, election is the first stage in God’s eternal purpose for us. This is a reminder that God is a God of order. There is nothing haphazard about God’s purpose of mercy, for he works to a plan. Because election was first, we can describe it as the foundation from which all other acts of mercy towards us arise. Everything that the Father does, that the Son does, and that the Spirit does flows out from this election of the Father. This is true not only of ‘spiritual’ activities, but also for all other events that occur. The whole of providence works because of the election of God.
Third, election is worked out through means. This is true both as far as we as individuals are concerned and as far as the church as a whole is concerned. Sadly some respond to election with a fatalism or with indifference. But election does not remove either our human rationality or our human responsibility. For example, election enables evangelism to be successful. The man who wrote this letter, and who was fully convinced of the truth of election, was an enthusiastic evangelist. A true grasp of this doctrine will also enable us to witness about Jesus with confidence.
Fourth, God’s election links us with one another. We are in our congregation at this stage in our lives. While there are many secondary causes for our being together, there is one primary cause. It was God’s plan, which is marked by wisdom and love, that we should be together. Of course, this should make us love one another and appreciate one another.
Fifth, the goal of election’s goal is a community of perfect beings who will love God freely and eternally for his grace. God's election will result in holiness and not in licence. This goal has a partial accomplishment in this life in the ethical change that occurs in the lives of believers. There is a sense in which we live our lives even now in his presence, which of course is the major reason why we should be holy and loving. Election brings responsibilities as well as privileges. As John MacPherson, the nineteenth-century Free Church scholar who wrote a very helpful commentary on Ephesians, summarized: ‘The elect are chosen, not to the possibility, but to the realisation of holiness.’ But the total fulfilment of God’s intention will not occur until all his people are in his presence for ever. That is our destination.