God's Sovereign Election of the Saints (Ephesians Sermon 2 of 54)
April 19, 2015 | Andy Davis
Pastor Andy Davis preaches an expository sermon on Ephesians 1:1-4. The main subject of the sermon is God's sovereignty in salvation and His kindness to the saints in election.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
A Celebration of Worship on an Infinitely Deep Topic: Election of the Saints
This morning we are looking at Ephesians 1:1-4. In my opinion, there is no book of the Bible that flies in such a lofty way and looks over the grandeur of the saving work of God as does the book of Ephesians. It is densely packed with truth, so densely packed that just a handful of verses, like you heard read for us a moment ago, is filled, jam-packed, with more concepts than we could get through in a couple of weeks of preaching. We could ponder them for days and days and still not plumb the depths.
Specifically, at the very beginning of this epistle, Paul leads the Ephesian Christians in a celebration of worship to Almighty God on an infinitely deep topic. That topic is God’s eternal election, His choosing of the saints from before the world began. So difficult is this idea to grasp that many have debated these ideas back and forth with tremendous passion and even unholy intensity.
Many Christians, knowing this, have shrunk back from thinking or talking about election or God choosing or predestination, or any difficult doctrines, thinking, “We cannot understand them; they are just going to lead to arguments anyway.” Because they want to steer clear from controversy, they might even be proud of themselves for blunting or turning away from these things. They are, they think, in a strange way, maintaining “unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” quoting the same book that we are studying today.
But in doing so, they forget that God intended for us to know these things and therefore has told us about them in Scripture — not just here in Ephesians, but in many places. God gave this Scripture to us to read it, to ponder it, to meditate over it and to allow it to transform us. It is a sin for us, therefore, to fail to ponder these things, to shrink back from the title deed of our full inheritance that we have in Scripture, here in Ephesians 1. It would be a sin as a pastor to skip or avoid it, to deal with it lightly or to gloss over it — to refuse to lead FBC in a thorough contemplation of Ephesians. The apostle Paul did not do that with these Ephesian Christians. He says in Acts 20:20 to the Ephesian elders, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.” Then a few verses later, he says,“I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” So also, it is not right for us as individual Christians, or certainly not for me as a pastor, to shrink back from Ephesians 1:1-4.
What is the Right Approach?
What is the right approach to engage these deep ideas? I am going to lean on Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a twentieth-century Welsh preacher, who gives us some “rules of the road”: First, we should not come with an argumentative spirit, loyal to one faction or party or another. We should never come to this topic with heat or dogmatism; Second, we should come with a spirit of utmost reverence and a sense of profound worship about these things, as on bended knees, having taken off our shoes, for the ground on which we are standing is holy; Third, we should come as if God himself were speaking these words to us, telling us deep and mysterious things that we would have no other way of knowing; Fourth, we should come based on our experience as Christians — not from a detached theoretical, academic, intellectual, philosophical standpoint — knowing that the overwhelming majority of people in the world in which we live do not believe any of these things at all. They do not believe any aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They chose to sleep in today rather than to go to a place of worship. (It was very easy for me to turn left onto Highway 15-501 this morning — much easier than it will be tomorrow morning.) Where are all the people? They haven’t moved, I don’t think, but they are not choosing to come to worship.
Why, then, am I choosing to come to worship? Why am I here today? You could ask the same thing about yourself. Why do you believe the gospel? Why do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God? Why are you hoping in Christ for full forgiveness of your sins and to spend eternity in heaven? Why has this happened to you and not to all of them, your co-workers, fellow students, people that you shop with at the malls? Why you?
"Why do you believe the gospel? Why do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God?"
1 Corinthians 2:14 says,“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Why, then, can you understand them? How did this happen to you? If you search your own heart, look at you own experience, you will know that God, by His sovereign grace, has rescued you from the dominion of darkness, and He has, by His sovereign grace, brought you into the kingdom of the Beloved Son. To God be the glory for that! God took out your heart of stone and He gave you a heart of flesh.
Fifth and finally, we come not with mere human understanding, but recognizing that eternal election is an infinite mystery: something that soars well beyond human ability to fully comprehend, no matter how smart or learned you are, how many Scriptures you have studied or how many books of theology you have read. This is infinite mystery. No one can fully explain or comprehend it. It is a heavenly doctrine, and thus, no human being would ever have concocted it — who would have come up with the idea that God chose us before the creation of the world, by name, to be His children?
A few weeks ago, in Isaiah 55:8-9, we heard these words that I think are helpful now. God says this to the human race, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” We can apply that as we venture into our study about eternal election. God rebukes the argumentative human spirit. In Romans 9:20, He says, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’” Who are we to argue if God has told us that He has done this? Those are some preliminary “rules of the road” to help us.
Benefits of Studying and Embracing Election
I tend to ask another question — it is utilitarian, but it is the way I am: What benefit comes from studying this? What do we get out of this? All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable. What is the profit? I see two profits from studying eternal election and predestination:
First (very useful), we get humility. This doctrine has tremendous power to humble the arrogant human heart, to lay it low, to level it completely. Actually, every aspect of our salvation does that, the more you meditate on it. It is very necessary for us to be humbled. We are so arrogant. To know that we were chosen before the creation of the world, completely apart from anything positive that God saw in us, is humbling.
Second, we get assurance. We get the security of knowing that we are going to be finally saved in the end. We are going to be in glorious resurrection bodies in a resurrected world, and nothing, no power in heaven or earth or under the earth, can stop it. This gives me assurance and confidence as I battle my own sins, day after day. Jesus put it this way in John 6:37-39, “All that the Father gives Me [that is the elect] will come to Me [one hundred percent of them] and whoever comes to Me, I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given Me [that is the elect], but raise them up at the last day.”
If you can read those words and not end up with a surge of assurance, then read it again! Look at how much assurance comes from the doctrine of election. God will never lose any of His elect but will raise them up on the final day. Therefore, (Philippians 1:6)“… He who began a good work in you will [most certainly] carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
I. God’s Trophies of Election: Paul and the Ephesian Saints (vs. 1-2)
Now let’s look at the text, Ephesians 1:1-4. We could approach these verses in a variety of ways, but I am going to use the organizing rubric of election for this sermon. We will start with Paul and the Ephesian saints as trophies of God’s sovereign election. Verses 1 and 2 say,“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul is most certainly an eternal trophy of God’s sovereign election. Amen? I know of no one in redemptive history so perfectly positioned to write this epistle as the apostle Paul. He is certainly and clearly a trophy of God’s grace. Paul makes an initial assertion here, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” God the Father exerted His sovereign will in Paul’s life and changed him forever. We know the story of Paul because it has been so thoroughly covered in the New Testament, as in Galatians 1:13-14, in which Paul says, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” Paul was a very zealous, Christ-hating, church-hating Jew. In 1 Timothy 1:13, he says this about himself, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy…”
The Circumstances of Paul’s Conversion
The circumstances of Paul’s conversion are told no less than three times in the book of Acts. It is very important. In Acts 9:4-6, Luke says that Saul of Tarsus was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” “He obtained letters from the Sanhedrin to go to synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to those synagogues who followed Christianity, he could arrest them and drag them back for trial to the Sanhedrin.” That was how much he hated Jesus. He was filled with it, breathing these things out. He was more zealous than ever, excited about his trip to Damascus. He woke up that morning a Christ-hating persecutor of the church. He went to bed that night loving Jesus and wanting to build the church. How did that happen? It is the sovereign grace of God! There is no other explanation.
Paul might say, “If God can convert me, He can convert anyone, anytime.” By sovereign grace, he was on the road when he saw a blinding light and heard a voice from heaven: “‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ ‘Who are you Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus…’” Those three words shattered his old way of life. I think that was the moment of conversion for him, when the light shone in his heart. “I am Jesus,” the radiant, majestically glorious, resurrected God of heaven and earth. “I am Jesus, [the very one that] you are persecuting… Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” That is the way a King talks! One thing he “must do” was to be an apostle to the Gentiles. That was God’s will for his life, the beginning of his ministry, his calling. Paul is clearly a trophy of God’s electing grace.
The Ephesian Christians: Also Trophies of God’s Electing Love
The Ephesian saints were also trophies. Paul writes “to the saints in Ephesus.” (Regarding the word “saint”: I was raised in the Roman Catholic church, which uses a narrow, corrupted definition of the word — I went to Saint Anselm’s School and Saint Jeremiah’s Church — referring to a person who has led a life of conspicuous holiness and exemplary service to the church, perhaps martyred for the faith, with evidence of performing at least two miracles either directly or through intercession; that person is then canonized by the Pope and venerated along with all the others who are on the list of saints.) We understand the word differently in the New Testament: a saint is a believer in Christ, a genuine Christian, somebody who has been regenerated, transformed by the grace of God. The word means “set apart as God’s holy possession” — that is what we are. These Ephesians are ordinary Christians, but they are supernatural beings. They are trophies of God’s grace.
They lived in a place that had one of the wonders of the ancient world, centered around their religion: the Temple of Artemis of the Ephesians. People came from all around the inhabited world to worship at this pagan temple of a goddess, and this religion brought in a great deal of money for the Ephesians. But God had chosen some of them out to become Christians, so that when Paul came and preached the gospel, they heard, they repented and they believed. They also were trophies of God’s grace.
No one becomes a Christian apart from God’s election and predestination and sovereign grace in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, every one of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is a trophy of God’s grace, and so am I. We will celebrate this for all of eternity. To God be the glory for our salvation!
Grace and Peace to You
The greeting is appropriate (verse 2): “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace is at the core, at the center of all of this. What is grace? There are many definitions that are somewhat helpful but are, in my opinion, partial and therefore a bit weak. I prefer this definition: Grace is the settled determination in the heart of Almighty God to do us infinite good who deserve infinite wrath. Grace is something in God’s heart, and out of that determination in His heart flows everything we need for salvation. The implication in verse 2 is that we need more — grace needs to keep coming to us: “Grace to you. Grace to you. Grace to you.” We are dependent on grace — we must have more grace. This epistle, Ephesians, is a conduit, a pipeline, of grace to us. So are all epistles; so is all the Bible; so is every good worship service, every good sermon. God is sustaining our souls by grace until we are finally in heaven.
He also says “peace to you.” Justified by faith in Christ, we have peace with God. It is a settled status of peace that will never end. God will never be at war with us, nor we at war with God; that is in the past. What is in view here is an experience or feeling of peacefulness: a heart at rest and at peace in your salvation; a sense that God is ministering “the peace of God that transcends all understanding [that] will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) There is a ministry of peace as you read Ephesians. It comes to you from both God the Father, who is the source of every blessing, “…and the Lord Jesus Christ” — the Lord Jesus Christ is the mediator by which all grace and peace come. Apart from Christ you have no good thing.
II. God’s Purpose in Our Election: Worship (vs. 3)
Now we will examine some particular aspects of election. First, God’s purpose in election (verse 3) is worship: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Paul begins with worship: “Praise be to God.” You should begin everything with worship. Begin every day with worship; get up out of bed in the morning and say, “Praise be to God. Praise be to God for everything.” “For the praise of His glory.” We see this again and again. He does everything for the praise of His glory. God created us to worship Him. He redeemed us to worship Him. He is keeping us in Christ and is doing all of these good things so that we will worship Him. That is the purpose of all of this, so blessed be, praised be God. May God be honored. May God be esteemed. May He be spoken well of. May He get all the praise and honor He deserves for our salvation. May He be happy and satisfied in His work. Heaven is a world filled with praise, with archangels and angels and spirits of righteous men and women made perfect. They are praising God all the time.
Notice who is praised here: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a specifically Christian, Jesus-centered designation of God. It is Trinitarian, ultimately. God is not merely the Creator of the ends of the earth — He is that, and it is Biblical to say that. He is not merely the sustainer of all living things — He is that. The King and Judge of all the earth — He is that. Nor is He merely the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — He is that. The God of the Jews — certainly. These are suitable ways to address God. But here, He is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is who we Christians worship. We believe this is one and the same God as all of those appellations. But this is God the Father, the God who had said about Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
Every Blessing Comes from God the Father
Paul is zeroing in on God the Father as the source of every blessing that you have in your life, and specifically, the spiritual ones. It is easy for us Christians to be a bit standoffish with or afraid of God the Father. Perhaps you did not have a good relationship with your own biological father, or you have never seen fatherhood done well; or you read about the terrors of the law and the judgement and wrath of God and are afraid. But Jesus came specifically to reveal the Father to us. He said so sweetly and beautifully in John 16:26-27, “In that day, you will ask in My name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. [You will ask Him.] No, the Father Himself loves you…” In other words, “The Father loves you like I love you.”
We Will Spend Eternity Worshipping God
If you are a Christian today, you are infinitely, perfectly and eternally loved by your Heavenly Father. He cherishes you. He is the highest authority in the universe — there is no higher than God — and He loves you. He set His love on you in Christ. It is mind-blowing. He is your Father by adoption. We will spend eternity worshiping God the Father. This is our destiny, our heavenly occupation. The New Heaven and the New Earth will be staggeringly beautiful, free from all decay and all corruption, free from death. It will be exactly the world God intended when He created the heavens and the earth, only it will be glorified. It will be radiant with the glory of God. We will see the glory of God and we will delight in every blade of grass and every flower in the New Heaven and the New Earth. Every soaring mountain and lush valley, every glistening river and placid pond — all of these things will glow with the glory of God the Father. You will see them and give Him praise and honor. You will worship Him.
Application: Praise the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Let me pause for an application: Let’s worship God the Father all the time, by the Spirit. Let’s see, even in this present sin-corrupted world, still so much evidence of the glory of God. Let’s be people of worship and live for the praise of God’s glory and say, “This is such a marvelous world. This is my Father’s world and everything around me tells me of His glory and His power.” We should be far more filled with worship.
"Let’s worship God the Father all the time, by the Spirit. Let’s see, even in this present sin-corrupted world, still so much evidence of the glory of God."
III. God’s Generosity in Our Election: Every Spiritual Blessing (vs. 3)
Second, see God’s generosity in election, with every spiritual blessing coming to us. Verse 3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” God the Father has blessed us with specific blessings, packages of grace given to us. The lavish grace of God the Father toward sinners like us should take our breath away. Think about the father who came running down to the end of the road when his prodigal son returned home (Luke 15): “… the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.” Each of those things — the robe, the ring, the sandals, the calf and the feast and all — is a packet of blessing, a packet of grace. So it is with our salvation.
Every Spiritual Blessing
God has so much grace to give us; “grace upon grace” as it says in John 1:16. Here it says “every spiritual blessing” has been given to us. How do we understand “every spiritual blessing”? It is not true that God gives us every spiritual blessing there is, but it is true that He gives us every spiritual blessing we need — to make it out of Satan’s dark kingdom, through this wicked world and beyond Judgment Day into the New Heaven and New Earth. All the blessings we need are supplied for us in Christ — everything! 2 Peter 1:3 puts it this way, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” “Life” in this case means eternal life; “godliness” means sanctification. We are fully equipped for the Christian life, fully equipped for Judgment Day, fully equipped for eternity.
He mentions here spiritual blessings. He is not focusing on what we would call common grace blessings. Those are things God lavishes on His enemies and friends alike. He causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the righteous and the wicked alike. Those are significant blessings — food, clothing and shelter, a good job and family, fun times and hobbies — all those earthly pleasures, all the honey in this world. God does give those things, but here Paul is talking about spiritual blessings, which he then enumerates (though this list is not exhaustive): His love, in which“He predestined us to be adopted as His sons”; redemption through the blood of Jesus; all wisdom so that we understand His eternal purpose in all of this; the blessing of the Gospel, which we believed; repentance and faith; the sealing of the Spirit. We have all these blessings coming on us one after another from God the Father.
Spiritual Blessings: In the Heavenly Realms
Third, Paul tells us that these spiritual blessings are “in the heavenly realms.” These blessings must be received spiritually, by faith, or we will not receive them at all. We cannot see them; we do not have physical tokens of them. We Christians need to live much more in the heavenly realms than we tend to do. People go through many varied afflictions, struggles and trials in life — cancer, job loss, death of a loved one, infertility, adoption frustrations, singleness, loneliness, loss of homes through flood, fire or other disaster, serious injury, or other afflictions. During such trials people may be tempted to question God’s love. They may wonder why they have not been blessed. But the blessings that we all need most are these: the spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. We have been given those. We need to realize how infinitely rich we are in Jesus. We tend to focus so much of our effort, our prayers, our drive and our minds on physical blessings in the earthly realms. We must meditate much more on these spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms.
The Prosperity Gospel: A Dangerous Lie
Some false teachers espouse the “Prosperity Gospel”. They are leading their congregations week after week to focus almost entirely on physical blessings in the earthly realms. One such teacher, Joel Osteen, says, “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us.” According to Osteen, God wants to pour out His “immeasurable favor” on human creatures. We have to reorder our thinking: “… you must rid yourself of that small-minded thinking and start expecting God’s blessings, start anticipating promotion and supernatural increase. You must conceive it in your heart and mind before you can receive it [but if you can conceive it in your heart, you will receive it].”
What do we say, then, in response to Christian martyrs? What do we say to brothers and sisters in Christ who live in third world countries who live in what we would consider appalling poverty their entire lives but are happy in their spiritual blessings in Christ? What do we say to those who are thrown overboard by Muslims because they are Christians? Or to those who are beheaded? What do we say to house-church pastors who are afflicted by Communist governments and who have not been out in years? How does the prosperity gospel fit with that? I picture Paul and Silas with backs bleeding and incarcerated for preaching the gospel, singing praise songs to Jesus because of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms that are theirs in Christ Jesus; no one can take that from them. “… moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20)
Therefore, away from the false teaching — the prosperity gospel — and instead meditate on every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm. Some of our depression, discouragement and dejectedness in the Christian life is surely caused by meditating too much on earthly blessings in the physical realms. We need to repent and ask that God would lift our hearts.
IV. God’s Timing of Our Election: Chosen Before the World Began (vs. 4)
Fourth, God’s timing of our election, chosen before the world began (verse 4): “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” The fact of our election is plainly asserted. God chose us. The Greek word “chose” is used in many places to refer to the elect or the chosen ones. To choose means to select one or a few out of a larger group. This is one of the most valuable and yet one of the most difficult doctrines in the Christian faith. The idea of election is taught in many places in the New Testament. Jesus said it in Matthew 24:31: At the time second coming,“He will send His angels … and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
Paul said the elect were constantly on his mind when he did missions and evangelism. So they should be on our minds. In 2 Timothy 2:10, Paul says, “Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” Evangelism here in the Triangle and missions to unreached people groups is the search for the elect. I have said before I wish they had an “E” on their foreheads, but they do not, so we preach the gospel to everyone and we know that the ones who respond vigorously, at least, are elect. It says in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth [the truth being the gospel].” The gospel came to Thessalonica, they heard the gospel, believed, repented, received the gift of the Holy Spirit, began to live the Christian life — thus, Paul knew they were elect. Peter wrote his epistle to the elect: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.”
What Is “Election”?
What is election? It is God choosing, from among the mass of humanity, those who would believe in Jesus Christ, who would be His children. The elect are the focus of everything God did in Christ and by the Holy Spirit. This election is the ground of everything that follows, including predestination — it is because of election that everything else comes. You might say, “How does my own choosing fit into that? How do I reconcile my choosing with God’s choosing?” I like to paraphrase another verse to explain this idea. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” It is not a reach, then, to say, “We choose because He first chose us.” We do choose to follow Christ. We are finally free to use our “chooser mechanism” for the thing it was made for: Jesus and God. We choose as finally, the work of Satan and the hardening of the heart is removed and we can see things as they really are. Yes, we will choose God in Christ then. God’s choice of us is the ground of our choice for Christ.
The Timing of the Election
Look at the timing of when this election happened. He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world. If this does not stretch your brain to breaking point, you have not thought about it enough. Think again! Before the creation of the world, God chose us. Before God said, “Let there be light,” He chose you by name. In 2 Timothy 1:9-10, “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus.” This is infinite mystery. God says in Jeremiah, “I have loved you with an everlasting love [and therefore], I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” God sets His love on us by name.
Think of all the moments in history. When Adam and Eve were formed, if you are a Christian, He was loving you by name in His own mind while He was forming them. He was loving you by name when He flooded the world and rescued Noah. As a matter of fact, you could say He rescued Noah, in part, so that He could rescue you. He was thinking about you by name when He called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans. He was thinking about you by name during all of the history of the Jewish nation, including the Exodus — He was having a love relationship with you in His mind. Before your parents met, He was loving you by name. That is, in part, why He brought your parents together. He was loving you by name and having a relationship with you in His heart and in His mind. If this does not give you security, I do not know what will, if you are a Christian.
On What Basis Were You Chosen While Others Were Not?
On what basis were the elect chosen and others not? You may say, “Why ask that question?” It is relevant because there is one of two possible answers. One, God chose you before the creation of the world because He saw something that would eventually be in you, some attribute or some action in you. On that basis, He chose you, foreseen, because God knows the end from the beginning (which we do not deny). Or two, God chose you despite anything He saw in you, in and of Himself, by His own sovereign grace. The Bible teaches the second, not the first. How do we know that? We understand this plainly from Romans 9:11-12. Let me read these verses which are key for understanding why God chooses, why election. Romans 9:11-12 says this, speaking of Jacob and Esau, “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by Him who calls — she was told [the older was to serve the younger].”
It is clear: sequencing means everything to that argument. The fact of election before they even exist removes anything in the individual as the ground for election. Sequencing means everything. What do I mean by that? Consider a miracle of Jesus in light of its sequence. Suppose Jesus had been sleeping in the back of the boat in the midst of a storm — the waves, the wind and all — while the disciples feared they would drown, and He continued to sleep through the whole thing. Then suppose that suddenly, while He continued sleeping, the storm abated, just stopped, and then 10 minutes later Jesus woke up, stretched, stood up and said, “Peace, be still.” The disciples would have wondered, “Where was that 10 minutes ago? We are glad the storm stopped, but we could have used some help before that.” Would you call that a miracle? I would not. Sequencing is everything! While the storm was still going on, Jesus spoke, and then it stopped — that was a miracle. And so it is in Romans 9:11-12. Before we were created, God chose us. It had nothing to do with anything He saw in us. If there is anything good in us, whether repentance, faith, good works, or anything else, He worked them in us. To God be the glory! Thus, our election is not based on foreseen-anything.
God’s Provision for Our Election: Chosen in Christ (vs. 4)
Fifth, God’s provision for our election is through Christ. “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world.” What does this mean, “in Him”? It means that you do not get anything except through the work of Christ. Every good thing you get, including your election, is blood bought. When God chose you, He was thinking about the blood Jesus would shed for you. You get nothing apart from that.
V. God’s Intention in Our Election: Our Holiness (vs. 4)
Sixth, what is God’s intention in our election, our holiness? “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” God chose us to be pure from sin. This is the ultimate purpose of our election. In justification, when you call on the name of Jesus for your salvation and you say, “I am a sinner, please forgive me,” and you trust in Jesus, you are forgiven; you are justified. You are made positionally holy in God’s sight. In sanctification, by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, you are made progressively holy in His sight. Finally, at glorification, you will instantaneously be made actually and perfectly holy in His sight. This whole work has been for salvation from sin and from all its corruption and defilement. That is why God chose you. Therefore, holiness is very much the issue of our salvation. You should not think of holiness as this austere state of fasting and wearing simple, drab clothes, as many people tend to think of holiness.
What Is Holiness?
Rather, holiness is the most beautiful, virtuous, attractive, joyful state possible for any being. It is the perfection of joy and beauty. It is loving righteousness and hating wickedness. Jonathan Edwards says this: “Holiness … appeared to me to be of a sweet, pleasant, charming, serene, calm nature; which brought an inexpressible purity, brightness, peacefulness and ravishment to the soul… it made the soul like a field or garden of God, with all manner of pleasant flowers; all pleasant, delightful and undisturbed; enjoying a sweet calm, and the gently vivifying beams of the sun. The soul of a true Christian … appeared [to me] like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the year; low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom, to receive the pleasant beams of the sun’s glory; rejoicing, as it were, in a calm rapture; diffusing around it a sweet fragrancy…” That is holiness. It is beautiful, fragrant, the exact opposite of all wickedness and corruption. God chose you to be holy, and that is what you will be some day; God is working that in you day after day.
Quickly, some applications:
Election is the Basis of All Evangelistic Appeals
First, as we reach out with the gospel, let’s make election the ground of our confidence in evangelism and missions, amen? Let’s say, “There are elect people at my work. There are elect people in my neighborhood. There are elect people in my dorm or in my classes. There are elect people here in the Triangle region that have not yet come to faith in Christ. Oh, God, make me an instrument of bringing them over from darkness to light. I want to be part of that work.” Do you see how that will give us such confidence along with humility as we reach out with the gospel? Unreached people groups will be reached, because there must be elect from each tribe, nation, and language.
"As we reach out with the gospel, let’s make election the ground of our confidence in evangelism and missions."
Come to Christ
Second, I appeal to you who are non-Christian visitors here today. I do not know who you are, but we are so glad you are here. You have heard the gospel today. You know enough. Jesus is God’s Son who died on the cross for sin. Trust in Him. Do not leave here unregenerate. Do not leave here lost. You say, “What about election? How do I know?” You do not need to worry about that. Just come to Christ. Believe in the gospel. Then you and all of the people who know you will know you are elect.
Praise God for All the Spiritual Blessings of the Gospel
Third, let’s be a people of praise, worship and thanksgiving. Let’s stop complaining and instead spend more time worshiping. The complaining is based on earthly things in the natural realm. You have been given everything you need in the spiritual gifts in the heavenly realms in Christ. You are fully equipped. Praise Him, worship Him. Get up in the morning and say, “I praise you, God, that you chose me by name before the creation of the world. I praise you, oh God, that you sent Jesus to die for me.”
Ponder the Mystery of Election
Fourth, ponder the mystery of election. Do not press the eject button on this doctrine in your mind; do not shrink back from it. Return to it, meditate on it. Read and ponder Romans 9:11-12. Not by works, but by Him. That is the contrast. It is not “Not by works but by faith” — that is not what he says. Not by works, but by God.
Focus More on the “Heavenly Realms”
Fifth, focus in your daily conversation, more than you every have before, on spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms. Talk about them with your friends.
Yearn for Holiness in your Daily Life
Sixth, yearn for holiness in daily life. Do not look at holiness as stark austerity but as delightful and beautiful.
Pray for God’s Elect to Come to Faith in Christ
Finally, pray more than ever before for God’s elect in unreached people groups to be reached with the gospel. Pray for FBC to be more involved in missions than we have ever been in our history. Pray for a flowering of missions in this church.
Close with me, if you would, in prayer. Father, we thank you for the meditation that we have had today in the deep topic of election. It is beyond our ability to comprehend how you could choose people by name before they are even born, before they could do good or bad, but Lord, you have. I thank you for that. I pray that you give us a rich, full understanding of what we have in Christ and how Christ shed His blood that we might receive each blessing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.