Election: the Foundation of Christian Effort

7 Nov

One of the most common charges made against those who teach the biblical doctrine of election is that those who believe in election and its related doctrines become passive in evangelism.  But real understanding and real delight in these doctrines does not take away our motivation for evangelism, it fuels our desire to share the gospel.  I think it is important to say that understanding and delight are both necessary.  Understanding without delight will not result in a more fervent evangelism nor will delight without understanding (if that is even truly possible).  But a renewed mind resulting in great passion for God and His plan of salvation will result in a real desire to make Him known.  Thus, one who holds firmly to the doctrine of election (and I would add, the other doctrines commonly called the doctrines of grace), will generally be more motivated to share his or her faith rather than less motivated by his or her belief in these things.

We see this motivation clearly in the apostle Paul.  In 2 Timothy 2, he writes:

2Timothy 2:8  Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9  for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10  Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Verse 10 is fascinating.  “I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”  Many people would say, “they are elect, why does Paul need to endure?  They’re going to be saved anyway.”  But this is clearly not the way Paul thought of election.  Paul realized that God uses means to accomplish His plans and that Paul himself was one of God’s means of reaching His people.   To take part in that great plan, to be dealing with that unshackled Word of God which would accomplish its purpose in every heart God purposed to save, to be a part of that great mission, was worth any price in effort and energy and endurance.  Paul’s mission was in no way diminished by his understanding of election.  Paul’s ministry was fueled by his understanding of election.

We strive more forcefully because we know God is at work saving a people.  We know God will not fail to save a people.  If salvation came down simply to human free will, how hopeless would our ministries be?  We would be constantly doubting ourselves:  “was I persuasive enough, did I find the right people who would be open to the message, did I say the right words?”  But with a rock-solid belief in God’s work of saving a people from the foundation of the world, we can move forward with great energy.  We are freed from self doubt and set free to serve with faithfulness and energy.  We are freed through a real trust in God’s sovereignty from competition with other believers or envy of the ministry of others.  We become hope-filled rather than pessimistic.

So celebrate the goodness of God in purposing to save a people.  Don’t simply make it an academic exercise or a matter simply of debate.  This good news of God saving a people from the beginning changes everything.  Because it is true we go forward with confidence and joy and hope and can expend great energy for the sake of the gospel knowing that God’s Word is not chained.

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