Aside from the myth of the Rapture, nothing stirs up a theological hornet’s nest like Predestination and Election. Just five minutes ago, I overheard some students at my high school debating Arminianism and Calvinism. They don’t even get that worked up over Trump! While I don’t want to diminish the points of disagreement, I find it helpful to discuss five truths surrounding the doctrine of Election that all Christians, whether Arminianist or Calvinist in leaning, can (and should) agree on.
Editor’s Note: This article was written as a follow-up to an article published earlier this year by REO on Five Statements made by Arminius that even Calvinists can agree with. If you missed that article you can read it here.
Election equates Christians with God’s chosen people.
When the writers of the New Testament use the term “elect” their first-century audience would have thought immediately about God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. Peter calls believers a “Chosen Nation” and a “Royal Priesthood.” In doing so, he identifies the calling of the believer with the calling of God’s chosen people Israel. Just like the people of God under the Mosaic Covenant, Christians also have a calling to worship God as one people and to be a priesthood for other “nations” who do not know the God of the Bible. As priests, our role is to connect the nations with the one true God. This is not through animal sacrifice but by the living sacrifice of a Gospel-centered life.
Election speaks to our being in Christ.
The title “Christ” denotes Jesus’ position as God’s “Chosen One.” He is the Lord’s anointed, the chosen king, THE servant spoken of in Isaiah; Jesus is the Elect (Luke 9:35). Ephesians 1 tells us that we have been chosen “in Him.” Our status as “the elect” is made possible because we belong to “The Elect” One. We are chosen because we belong to the Chosen One.
Election connects us a larger community of faith.
Perhaps this is a restatement of point number one but from a different angle. As modern Americans, we envision faith as private and individualistic. We need a greater emphasis on the community of faith. Too often we think that the gospel is about me and God. Paul, however, usually presents the gospel as us and God. While we are certainly not saved because of the faith of others, every passage about election in the scripture is addressed to groups of Christians. When John calls the congregation receiving his letter “The Elect Lady” (2 John 1:1) the point is clear—the people of faith are God’s elect. This emphasis on community is why the church father Cyprian proclaimed that “there is no salvation outside of the Church.” Christianity never imagines the Christian life outside of a community of faith. To be Elect is to belong to something bigger.
Election makes ethnic differences insignificant.
Many Puritans applied the idea of “the Elect Nation” to what they thought was God’s eschatological purpose for the nation of England. In doing so, they missed the purpose of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians, Colossians, and Galatians. There is a reason Paul spends the first chapter of Ephesians discussing Predestination and Election. There is a reason he asserts God’s activity and the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice. In establishing these doctrines, Paul is getting to his point in chapter 2—The unity of Jew and Gentile. God is creating “one new humanity out of two.” (Ephesians 2:15) Any feelings of racial superiority or hostility are burned away by the truth that in Christ we are one people. (For more on this you can read this article)
Election makes no room for pride.
In light of all these truths, the doctrine of election should primarily be a humbling one. We don’t deserve to be God’s chosen people, we don’t deserve to be in Christ, we don’t deserve to be part of a family of faith, we don’t deserve to be healed of our racism. As much as we may or may not have tried, we have done nothing to deserve God’s election. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
If Ephesians 2 is true, rather than prompting us to argue over TULIPs and the order of decrees, maybe the doctrine of election should prompt us to humility, unity, and good works. If it doesn’t do that, it’s not a doctrine worth teaching.