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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

God's Choice (Eph. 1:4)

The action of God that we are going to think about today is one that is difficult and requires delicate handling, and I certainly feel very inadequate to deal with the subject of election. Nevertheless it is part of the whole counsel of God, and one of the spiritual blessings given to us, and when we appreciate it in a biblical manner it gives stability to our lives. We need to feed our souls on strong meat as well as on milk. As we approach the doctrine of election we are to remember certain things about it.

First, the doctrine is a divine mystery, which it is impossible for us to solve by human reason. One common attempt to rationalise it is this. God knows, because of his foreknowledge of what people will do, the response individuals will make to the gospel and therefore he resolved to elect those who would believe in Jesus. This is the Arminian interpretation, and what it does is reverse the order. They make it like this: a person believes, and God then elects him or her; but the true order is God elects, so people then believe.

Second, we are not to accuse God of being unfair because he has elected some and not others. I know it is a very poor illustration, but humans function on the principle of election in the way they interact with others because at times they give something to one person that is withheld from others, not because they are being unfair but for other reasons. A biblical example is Joseph and his brothers. Was Joseph obliged to show them favour after they had sinned against him? The answer is no. It was within Joseph’s sovereign control to show mercy to as many of them as he wished. The difficulty we often have is that we assume that sinful humans have rights, and that the Lord is bound to respect those rights. One of the real problems in the church today is that we no longer really believe that no-one deserves salvation.

Thirdly, we are not to regard God as being arbitrary or indifferent in his method of election. The fact that we cannot see a reason for God choosing some and not others does not mean that there is not a reason. God does everything after the counsel of his own will, and all that he does is marked by love and wisdom. According to Harold Hoehner, the verb is in the middle voice, which indicates personal interest, and so points to God’s choosing ‘with great personal interest rather than a random impersonal choice’. It is evident, since they are chosen to be holy, that they were regarded as unholy when they were chosen. Therefore, says Hoehner,‘the real problem is not why he had chosen some, but why he chose any.’

Fourth, we are not to imagine that God has only elected a small number. At the end of the day, heaven will be populated by a number that no-one can count (Rev. 7:9).

Fifth, we are not to think that there is an inconsistency between divine election and the gospel offer of salvation. Election guarantees the success of the gospel.

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