Any real study of the doctrine of election will mean a study of plain Scripture, the whole Scripture throughout, from beginning to end. The holy Scripture alone is our standard of doctrine and practice. Faith and life have their rule in the doctrine of Scripture. There is really only one doctrine—the doctrine of Scripture. It is called the doctrine of the Lord, the doctrine of Christ or the doctrine of God, the latter receiving the main emphasis, for Scripture is God-centered. The doctrine of Scripture may be thought of as a great diamond of the faith once-for-all delivered unto the saints, and so having many facets. Then we may speak of the doctrine of election, the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of atonement, the doctrine of regeneration, calling, faith, justification, sanctification, etc., just as we may speak, as Scripture itself does, of the doctrine of baptisms, of the resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment. Never in the plural does the Bible refer to “the doctrines” or to “sound doctrines.” It is always in the singular. Of course, we do, and may, speak loosely, of the doctrines of the faith, or of the doctrines of grace, or of the doctrines of Calvinism. Yet there is but one doctrine of grace, for there is but one grace. Calvinism is really the doctrine of Scripture. The name Calvinism is a term of convenience which immediately illustrates what we mean by Reformed doctrine or biblical doctrine. But Scripture does not speak of all kinds of doctrines, in the plural, for the biblical usage of the plural, “doctrines,” as found in the Word of God, refers not to the faith or that which is of the truth, but to denial of the faith and all kinds of errors. Then you read of “doctrines, the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9), “the doctrines of men” (Col. 2:20), “doctrines of demons” (I Tim. 4:1), “divers (various) and strange doctrines” (Heb. 13:9). The doctrine of Scripture is the truth standing over against the lie, and then it is “the doctrine” (I Tim. 4:16), “good doctrine” (I Tim. 4:6), “sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1), and “the doctrine which is according to godliness” (I Tim. 6:3). Just so with the truth; there is only one truth. Truth is a unit. The Word of God has such language as “the truth of the Gospel, “not “truths” of the Gospel, or “the truth of God,” but not “truths” of God. It is “truth versus error,” the truth versus the lie, not truths and untruths. An exhaustive concordance will show that the wordtruth never appears in Scripture in the plural form.
Paul the apostle is known for the expression, “the doctrine,” and in all his epistles “the doctrine” has a high intellectual side, but it also has running through it a spiritual vein. So it is with that facet of the doctrine we are treating. Election has a doctrinal emphasis; it also has a practical-emphasis. We now enter upon the latter. We have seen in what way election has been instructive. It now remains to be seen how it is related to practice. Since the divine foreknowledge of love is the originating cause of all things, and the final cause of all things, and election streams from that fountain, then the relation of election to a practical life of godliness is one of cause and effect. The effect of divine election is the production of every saving good.
One outstanding product of the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty, of His election of a glorified, perfect church, is that of humility. The person who has a true conception of God’s sovereignty, and consequently, of God’s election, has had all his pride abased. He takes his place in the dust at his Maker’s feet! At first, a man may believe, like Cain, that God will surely be satisfied with his lofty efforts to exert his cultural skills and develop mankind and the earth into an advanced civilization! Certainly, then, if there is a heaven, he must be on his way to it! It must come to him as somewhat of a shock to learn that God is the God of election. How that changes the picture! God has from eternity chosen to Himself a people in His Son Jesus Christ and under His headship. He has also determined upon the means that He shall use to accomplish this great end. He now begins to show some concern as to whether he is one of those ordained to glory. He is impressed deeply with the eternal issues involved. Thinking becomes painful and unsettling. He is no longer “at ease in Zion.”
If he persists in the direction of his old self-inflated carnal assurance, he will not want anything to interfere with his counterfeit peace. He will begin to rebel against the idea of electing grace, distinguishing grace. But that very grace will humble him and bring him to inquire more openly and honestly into the truth. To him it may seem, to begin with, like plunging into an icy stream of frustration to learn that God’s eternal purpose of grace is limited to an elect people. He finds it much more comforting, so he may at first think, to believe that stupefying philosophy that God loves all men. To face the question whether I am one of the chosen in Christ is most difficult because it is not easy to give a satisfactory answer. Who is sufficient for these things? It is not an issue the hypocrite will face. But the regenerated elect will not draw back from it. He will wrestle in prayer until he obtains the desired help from God, “and all is made plain.”
Then assurance will be wrought. Now that he has come this far, finding himself trembling with doubts and fears, he need not think that this is evidence that he doubts the Word of God. That he doubts himself or doubts the reality of his Christian profession is one thing. But now he believes the Word of God. He does not doubt that! He believes the Lord’s chosen people are a “little flock” (Luke 12:32). What he doubts is that he belongs to that flock! He believes, but he cries, “Help thou mine unbelief!” Of necessity, for now he believes that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). He realizes something of the deceitfulness of sin, and regardless of whatever others think, he prays God to undeceive him! He longs for full assurance of salvation. He desires to know his election of God. He is inclined to believe that certain knowledge of this is possible (I Thess. 1:4). He finds no comfort in the Romish dogmatism that no one can know his election, unless favored with an unusual, personal revelation from God. He wants to stand, not in a supposed apostolical succession, but in the assurance the apostles had, that their names were “written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). They were men who knew their election! They did, because they took God at His Word. “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven,” Jesus exhorted. One does not rejoice in the unknowable, the unknown or the uncertain. The Romanist with his constant doubt as to his soul’s welfare, and his utter lack of assurance of salvation, still claims to have faith. Is it possible to have faith, saving faith, and that of long standing, and still not know one has salvation? Or is it not rather that the man who has faith soon learns that true faith is a sure mark of election, since “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48)?
The implication is, that knowing, brethren, your election of God, is something attained by faith. It comes not by ascending up to heaven to get a glimpse of the register of the names in the Lamb’s Book of Life, not by peering into the book of God’s eternal decree. Much less does such knowledge come by some preternatural event or extraordinary providence. C.H. Spurgeon struck at this self-delusion when he said, “. . . some imagine themselves to be elect because of the visions they have . . . but these are as much value as cobwebs for a garment . . . at the day of judgment . . .” (Sermons on Sovereignty, p. 73). No, but rather it is this way: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thess. 2:13). The witness of my own spirit is that I believe the truth, and therefore, that witness continues, God has chosen me to salvation! I believe the truth of the Gospel because the witness of God’s Spirit with my spirit that I am a son of’ God impels me to that conviction. It is God who works faith in me. Faith is the operation of God (Col. 2:12).
We happily know our election by the evidences of election. One of its evidences is that of true prayer. The elect are a praying people. “Shall not God avenge His own elect who cry day and night unto Him?” (Luke 18:7). Their prayer is that of a deep, heart-felt cry out of the depths of sin, misery and death—a prayer like the publican’s prayer: “God be a mercy-seat to me, the sinner!” Their prayer is, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?” and he prays this with groanings which cannot be uttered. He prays as an elect child of God blessed in God’s sovereign election. “Remember me, O Lord, with the favor that Thou bearest unto Thy people: O visit me with Thy salvation, that I may see the good of Thy chosen that I may rejoice in the gladness of Thy nation, that I may glory with Thine inheritance” (Ps. 106:4, 5). The elect pray as no others do. They seek the things (above) no others seek. They know God’s grace is only for the elect. They pray for His saving grace for themselves. But they also covet the same for all the rest of God’s elect. They pray for the good of His chosen ones. In prayer they rejoice with those that do rejoice in the Lord. They rejoice in the gladness of that holy nation (I Pet. 2:9) which is God’s “elect race” (ASV). In the communion of prayer they glory with the Lord’s heritage. They aim to endure all things for the elects’ sakes!
Another evidence of election is a looking for and longing for the final coming of Christ, whether He comes by death or by His return in final glory and visible majesty. Naturally, the Christian flinches at the thought of physical death. It is not only an abnormality, but the first, the persistent, ubiquitous and last enemy we have to face. Then his own indwelling sin makes the thought of death still more difficult. For how shall such a sinner stand before the holy God, the Judge of all the earth? But the new man in him has strength to raise his soul above such hindrances. The renewed man cannot be satisfied with his sin-laden existence, his imperfect prayers and distracted communion with God. He longs for full and perfect fellowship with the Lord. He feels as Paul did about it, “having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). This is an attitude common, perhaps not to every professing Christian, but to every child of God, and to the entire election of grace. They long for that “crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (II Tim. 4:8).
(To be continued)