A SURE ELECTION
By Pastor Glenn Pease
One of the principle characters in the book Darkened Doors is Adrian Mallard, who is a brilliant but skeptical lawyer and sportsman. He learns that he is the victim of a serious heart disease. His friend, Professor Boyd, a distinguished psychologist, was one day singing the praises of the open mind. "Is that good enough?" asked Mallard. "An open mind doesn't get you anywhere. I'm beginning to want certainty!" Boyd is amused by this hopelessly unscientific desire. "Certainty!" he replied. "Certainty! I am surprised at you! What do you want to be certain about?" Mallard answers in all seriousness: "About life-about death-about what happens afterwards. What's the good of your scientists if you can't tell us that?
Mallard speaks the mind of the modern man who wants to be sure of something ultimate in a world in a whirl of constant change. It is hard to have any security in a world characterized by change. Dr. Samuel Miller of Harvard Divinity School describes the rapid acceleration of change in our society. "Regardless of whether it is good or not, and article must be constantly changed in order to sell. Professions disappear overnight; complex techniques become useless with the twist of a knob. And M.I.T. Professor complains that the instruction he gives will be obsolete by the time his students get a degree for learning it. Everywhere continuity is in the shambles, cut and chewed by the incessant chopping of the jaws of progress."
The result is that very few people can stand with the prophets of old and say, "Here am I." They stand instead as bewildered and asking, "Where am I?" They are uncertain as to where they are and where they are going, and so they tend to remain in a rut and go nowhere. This can happen to Christians also, and that is one of Peter's concerns for the Christians of his day. He wanted to get them out of the rut of complacency and to catch a vision that would lead them on to fruitfulness for the glory of Christ and their own happiness.
Certainty plays a major role in the success of this goal, and so Peter urges them in verse 10 to make their calling an election sure. Man does not have to certain about everything, but he has to be certain about something. F. W. Boreham said, "There is no craving in the human heart more persistent or more passionate than the craving for certainty." Luther put it negatively when he said that no more miserable state of mind existed than that of uncertainty. Certainty concerning some value in what gives life meaning is essential to happiness. Happiness can be measured by the number and quality of a person's certainties. One of the most beautiful love poems I ever read is that by Amelia Burr:
I am not sure the earth is round,
Nor that the sky is really blue.
The tale of why the apples fall
May or may not be true.
I do not know what makes the tides,
Nor what tomorrow's world may do,
But I have certainty enough,
For I am sure of you.
One solid certainty makes up for many uncertainties. This is true also in the spiritual realm. A know-so Christian is not a know it all Christian, for Paul says that we only know in part, and any honest Christian knows that he is ignorant and uncertain concerning many of the mysteries of life. Luther wrote, "For although we may be certain that we believe in Christ, nevertheless we are certain that we believe in all the things that appertain to Him, and therefore what we actually believe is uncertain."
Peter is not aiming for the goal of absolute certainty concerning everything, for this would be, not to partake of the divine nature, but to become God Himself. Peter's goal for Christians, and the goal all of us are to aim for, is certainty concerning our election. In this we can be sure and we say with Paul, "I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." In other words, I can be certain of Christ and be certain of His promise of eternal life. We can be unsure of many things and yet have the security that brings us God's best if we are sure of this.
John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, said in his declining years, "When I was young I was sure of many things. There are only two things of which I am now sure; one is that I am a miserable sinner, and the other that Christ is an all-sufficient Savior." This is the kind of certainty that all Christians should have, and it should be even more specific than this. It should go so far as to say that He is my Savior, and that I am sure I am one of the elect. Make sure of your election says Peter.
He is not writing to a pack of politicians, but to a church of common people. All of us are to have something in common with politicians, however. The politician's big aim is his election. He works, speaks, and drives himself on and on to the end of becoming elected. What politician would not love to have a list of procedures to guarantee the certainty of his election? Peter says he has given us just such a list here so that if we follow it we cannot fail. If you do these things you shall never fall is what he says. This is encouraging enough, but then he goes on to say that on top of the certainty of a lifetime office our election made sure will lead to an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom of Christ. Just think of it! The winner of the coming election for the highest office of our land gets only an entrance into the White House. It is a great honor indeed, but not to be compared with the consequences of the election we have in Christ. The president may be out of the White House in four years, but our entrance into the kingdom of Christ is forever.
We see then why Peter is so concerned that Christians make their election sure, for to be sure of this is to have certainty concerning the highest value of life, and this leads to the best, happiest, and most fruitful life. All kinds of questions arise out of this challenge to make our election sure. It leads us into the depths of the most complicated and difficult questions that theologians struggle with. The problem with God's sovereignty and man's free will are involved here, for how can we have anything to do with making our election sure when it is God who elects? This then gets us into the problem of the relationship of faith to works. Is our assurance of salvation to be based on our faith in Christ, or upon the doing of these things as Peter says? Is fruit taking the place of faith here? Is man's will superseding the will of God here? These and numerous other questions arise the deeper you probe into this verse and the concept of election.
We cannot investigate every tunnel in the cave of this truth, and so we will have to be selective. The first thing we need to do is to get a grasp of just what it is we are talking about. What is election? We are not running for anything, and our names are not on ballots to be voted on by anyone. Someone tried to simplify the idea of election by saying that God votes for us; the devil votes against us, and we cast the deciding vote. There is a lot of truth in this over simplification, but it is not what the Bible means by election. Election has nothing to do with the devil's vote or ours. It is totally a matter of God's vote.
Augustus Strong in his Systematic Theology defines it: "Election is that eternal act of God, by which in His sovereign pleasure, and on account of no foreseen merit in them, he chooses certain out of the number of sinful men to be the recipients of the special grace of His Spirit and so to be made voluntary partakers of Christ's salvation." Misunderstanding of this doctrine has led to many futile battles and much unjust criticism of God. He has been labeled a tyrant and called unfair by those who have never taken the time to investigate the purpose of God in election. They jump to the conclusion that God elects some to be saved, and by not electing the others He dams them. This cruel caricature of God has no basis in the Bible. As we learn the purpose of God's election of some we will also understand how we can give heed to Peter's challenge to make our election sure.
God's election is teleological, and this means that it is for a purpose. It is a means to a greater end. God chose Israel to be His elect people, but not just so He could bless them and curse the rest of the world. It was that through them He might bless all the rest of the world. Abraham was chosen and his seed blessed that through his seed all the nations of the earth might be blessed. Election is God's way of making sure that His will is represented on earth. Just as we elect a representative so that our voice can be heard in congress, so God elects individuals and nations that His voice might be heard on earth. We elect a president not just to be a blessing to our party, but for all the people of the nation. The purpose of God's election is also that through the elect the non-elect also might be blessed.
God reaches down and in a dramatic way converted Paul. It was not just so He could bless Paul, but because Paul could be an instrument to communicate the Gospel to millions. God is not being unjust and unfair in electing some, for His purpose in so doing is that all may have the hope of salvation. God has no obligation to save anyone, for all have sinned, and all are worthy of His judgment. God loves man, however, and desires to save all that can be saved. Election is the method by which He will be able to save the most.
Jesus followed this same procedure. He chose 12 to be with Him, but not in order to discriminate against others, and to deny to others the blessings of His teachings. His purpose in choosing them was that through them His teachings might benefit all. He makes this clear in John 15:16, "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain...." The purpose of His election has been fulfilled, and we are reaping the fruit of the Apostles today.
It is only when we get the mistaken idea that God arbitrarily chooses some for salvation and special privileges as end in itself. That we feel is unjust and unfair. But if we keep the biblical view in mind, election is just another example of the marvelous grace of God. Election carries with it great responsibility, and when this is forgotten, and the elect see only the privileges and become proud, then they are in danger of forfeiting their election. Israel was God's elect, but when she continued to fail to fulfill the purpose of her election and bore no fruit, she was cut off. She repudiated her election and God's wrath fell. In His mercy He preserved a remnant to form the basis for a new Israel and a new elect people. This new Israel was founded by Christ, and the church became the new elect and chosen race.
Paul makes it clear that the new Israel is under the same obligations as the old Israel. The purpose of God's election is the same, and that is that the elect are to be His servants taking His good news to all men. If the new Israel fails to fulfill this purpose, she has no more reason to feel she will be allowed to remain a fruitless branch on the tree of God than did old Israel. This is not a matter of speculation but of clear revelation. Paul in the context of Israel being cut off writes to the church in Rom. 11:19-22, "You will say 'Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.' That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if ?God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. Note then the kindness and severity of God; severity toward those who have fallen, but kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off."
God's election is for the purpose of the elect being His servants and bearing fruit. If the elect do not fulfill this purpose they repudiate their election and fall. We must grasp this purpose of election. It is the goal of the elect to be tools of God to reach those who are not elected. God does not elect some so as not to elect others, but that He might have someone to reach the others.
Henry Van Dyke said, "Election to service is the supreme saving truth." Failure to see this is to be blind like Israel of old. When we elect a president it is not for the sake of showering upon him great honor and blessing. This happens, or course, but only as a means so that he can in his place of honor and power be a servant to all of the people. This is the principle behind God's election also, and now we can see what Peter is driving at. To make our election sure is to fulfill the purpose of it by adding all of these virtues to our lives that we might bear fruit. This is the way to security and assurance and certainty in our relationship with God.
No wonder Peter is so urgent and insistent on this matter. No wonder he wanted it kept before Christians at all times. He did not want to see the new Israel fail as did the old Israel and fall from election. Here is a guide, therefore, that if followed guarantees you will never fall. Elections will come and go, but here is an election we must be concerned about constantly. Let us give heed to what we have learned in this single tunnel of truth. Election is for a purpose. Let us fulfill that purpose and so live with the confidence and certainty that comes with the knowledge of a sure election.