Some thoughts on election: I Thessalonians 1:4
- We do not have the skill in our human condition to understand election. Simply we acknowledge the doctrine and we leave it with God.
- Understanding the doctrine of election fully is not needful for our salvation or sanctification. This is not to say we should not believe in the doctrine of election and also work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We should understand the characteristics and evidences that attend our election. But to understand election, put in in a formula, box it and conquer it is not possible or acceptable. Furthermore, at the outset of our salvation experience, we are the farthest from understanding the doctrine. Just as a child cannot understand advanced literature before he masters the alphabet.
- We that are saved acknowledge that we contributed nothing to our salvation except for the sin that made it necessary—Jonathan Edwards. Yet we all acknowledge that it is the love, mercy and grace of God that saved us and nothing in ourselves.
- There must be an emphasis on God’s good and glory over man’s perception of fairness. God cannot be called into question and placed on trial just because we sense something is unfair. We search the scripture to see what is according to God’s standards. Upon searching the scriptures, we will find God does as He pleases and He is the standard of good and fairness.
- The doctrine of election does not negate the promises and commands of God in the call of salvation. The election of God uses them as the means to call the sinner to repentance and faith. So when the scripture says, all, whosoever, the whole world, anyone, it means just that. The invitation is for all. And those that find themselves around the table of God are his precious elect.
- Another point of reflections brought out from Spurgeon is that the election of God does not negate one’s duty to obey and work. The fruit of genuine faith is works of righteousness. These works are of necessity for genuine faith. They are to be actively pursued by the saints.
- The obvious meaning could be that the elect of God have an intense self-searching. There are two fruits from self-searching:
- Daily probing questions are asked probing the Christian’s character. How is my fruit? Are my motives pure? What are my glaring weaknesses?
- In addition to these probing questions there are pleading prayers. Prayers that seek God’s mercy and grace in uncovering and healing our faults.
- The election of God is powerful. This is the subject that we will abide on for the time. Especially since it relates to verses 4-6.
The power of election is manifest in these ways:
- The word of God comes in power. Notice the power must first be manifest in the preacher. Paul says it is “our gospel.” Why? Because he has experienced this power first hand on the road where he was smitten off his horse. Has the gospel had such power with you that it bounds and compels you to share it? This principle is in accord with Paul’s sentiment in verse 5. The minister must be blameless and living righteously in the sight of God and men.
- The Word of God comes in word. As the sower went out to sow, he sowed the Word of God. The word was the same, however, the soil was different. There is not a different gospel for the different soils. God’s responsibility is the soil, not the sowers. The word has an effect that is life to some and judgement to others.
- The Word comes in power to change the heart, not just to make one emotional. Remember one can be happy and receive the word in gladness but not produce fruit of repentance. The word must change the heart.
- The gospel comes in the Holy Ghost, power, and much assurance. This seems to be a great trifecta of doctrinal teaching. I don’t know if we should break these words up into individual concepts or take them as a variety of meanings expressed by three words. I seem to think the latter.
So the meaning can be as follows. The gospel comes in the Holy Spirit and power producing assurance. There are varies types of power. Humans have the power to elicit emotion. There are music, poetry, speeches and even sermons that greatly affect human emotion. Yet these in themselves have no power to change a person’s heart. The gospel attended by the power of the Spirit is altogether more. The gospel effects the very thoughts and intents of the heart. Changing the heart from it’s hard, stony state to a heart of flesh. Jonathan Edwards has this comment in his work, Religious Affections,
“False emotions and revelations do not go deep enough to be sources of actions; they never reach the deepest point in us from which our behavior springs….This is the greatest strength of true godliness: it changes the way we act” (Edwards 271).
One product of the Spirit’s delivery of the gospel is much assurance. The deep seated confidence produced through the Spirit that Christ has been appropriated for sin, is our righteousness, we are in union with Him, and He will present us to God as a spotless, blameless, Bride. This confidence is paramount in times of testing. For during some times of testing the false convert will fall away. The true convert will flourish. Spurgeon has a wonderful illustration on this in his sermon, “Degrees of Power Attending the Gospel.” A ship without sails caught in a tempest will sink. So a person without the power of the Spirit will sink. However, if a ship has sails, the tempest will serve to push the ship along to it’s destination. So with the Christian, the trials will serve to mature us in Christ. This brings to us much assurance in times of testing.