In the last three installments of this series we have endeavored to present that view of the decree of election which is not only the most acceptable, but which is the correct view, the one most in harmony with Scripture. We showed that divine election is that act of God according to which He chose to everlasting life, not a group of individuals, merely, but a whole church. Also we must maintain that all the members of this elect church without exception, from the beginning to the end of the world, God regards as His own children. That, of course, means that there are yet many unconverted elect, who, nevertheless, from all eternity are His dear people. Such a wonderful truth finds no place in modem man centered theology. For according to it, we are not, children of God from eternity, but that God only foresees that certain will believe in Christ, accept Him by faith and so become regenerated and converted children of His family. But Scripture does not make the work of God contingent upon the act of man. Scripture does not make regeneration the effect of faith; it sees the plant of faith growing out of the root of regeneration. Also it presents the Lord as having predestinated us unto the adoption of sons (Eph. 1:5). That is why and how the Lord could regard the people of Israel as His own chosen possession before they were redeemed out of the land of Egypt, before the Passover lamb was slain and even while they were, as far as they themselves were concerned, hopelessly involved in idolatry (Ezek 20:5-10)! Even then the Lord referred to them as “My people” (Ex. 3:7; Ex. 5:1). For in the midst of idolatrous Israel, like the grain in the thick of the chaff (Amos 9:9, 10), was the divinely ordained Israel of God, the spiritual seed, the remnant according to the election of grace.
Admitted it is that all the elect are “by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:3). But there is something wonderful said about them that has priority over the fact of what they are said to be by nature and by the fall, and that is, “I have loved thee’ with an everlasting love.” Surely God sees His people in His covenant and counsel first of all as glorified sons of God. How they get to glory comes next, in His min4, namely, through the way of sin and redemption, so that He loved them as His own before He quickened them. It is His everlasting love which seeks them, finds them and quickens them. (Recall the lost son, Zacchaeus and the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda.) Therefore, adoption or sonship, in Scripture, does not stand on man’s act of faith as its basis, but on election. They were His adopted children before they believed. For “He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52). They were His children before the Son gathered them. They were His people before they were redeemed from Egypt. They were His people before they were willing to be His people. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power” (Ps. 110:3). It is no strange thing that God has unconverted elect, whom He deems His people even before the gospel is preached to them and they become converted, This is plain in Scripture. “I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:10). They are His elect sheep long before brought into the fold. “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold. Them also I must bring” (John 10:16). These other sheep are the elect Gentiles. These Gentiles the Lord called “the Tabernacle ofDavid” while still involved in the Fall of Adam. “God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name; And to this agree the words of the prophets. . . ‘after this I will return, and will build again the Tabernacle, of David, which is fallen down'” (Acts 15:14-16), then, is one which identifies the elect of God, though involved in the Fall, as a congregation set up again, not in the first Adam, but in the last Adam, not in the first man, but in the second Man, who is the true David.
Election is exhibited in God’s people being clearly identified. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (I John 4:9). The love of God has exclusively very particular objects as marked by the pronoun “us.” This designation appears in the Word of God to indicate the elect. “God commendeth His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, ASV). This is the distinguishing term the apostles used to specify the election of God, thereby including themselves, the saints and all believers in it. Further on you read, “the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us,” not for all men. “If God for us, who against us! . . . He . . . spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all . . . Christ . . . also maketh intercession forus” (Rom. 8:26, 31, 32, 34. See Rom. 8:35, 39), but “not for the world” (John 17:9). Then, “God . . . hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world . . . In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children . . . He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” One (Eph. 1:3-6). This repeated us reveals the particular character of grace, predestination, election, atonement and intercession. So particular, and limited-to-the-elect, is this “us” that it excludes all others, and can neither truly nor properly be applied to any but-God’s chosen in Christ. Election is definitely exhibited in the love of God being manifested “toward us” (I John 4:9). Nor is it possible that this very’ particular “us” may be stretched to include all men in the world, for it is quite carefully qualified in the words, “I have manifested Thy name unto the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world” (John 17:6).
God’s election is also involved in Effectual Calling. This divine calling is distinguished in different ways. First, there is that calling, according to which God calls the things not being as being (Rom. 4:17). Another instance of fiat calling you have in Psalm 33:9, “For He spake and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast.” Also, He said, “‘Let be light!’ and light was.” Second, there is the efficacious creative calling of all men, which brings them to their ordained place and labor within the stream of history. According to His counsel God calls forth the rulers of the nations to their destiny. Cyrus is a case in point. “For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel Mine elect, I have called thee by thy name. I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me” (Is. 45:1-4). Third, there is a providential calling directed to all men, including the reprobate, which calls them to serve and glorify the Creator in a life of thanksgiving. This calling comes to men through the natural creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge” (Ps. 19:1, 2). This is a powerful witness which, like a titanic, wrap-around, three-dimensional television screen with the volume turned up full, clearly reveals the invisible things of God by the things which are made. This calling leaves the reprobate without excuse (Rom 1:19, 20). Fourth, there is the external calling through the Word. This is a somewhat general calling, although it does not come to all men, but only to all who in the good pleasure of God come under the sound of gospel. In general, this call comes through the gospel not only to the elect, but also to the reprobate. However, that call is refused by both. “Unto you, O men, I call, and My voice is to the sons of man . . . I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded” (Prov. 8:4; Prov. 1:24). But the significance of this call is not that it is grace to all who hear it. For the gospel is a savor of life to “us” who are being saved, while it is a savor of death to them that are perishing. Its significance is rather that the responsibility of man is maintained and increased over the providential calling. Fifth, there is the saving, efficacious calling of the people of God. This call comes to the elect alone. The ones God calls are the elect, the sheep. “He calls His own sheep by name . . . and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice” (John 10:3, 4). They did not become sheep when they were called or converted. They were sheep from eternity.
This effectual calling is not an offer to all men, the efficacy of which depends on man’s acceptance of it. There is no suggestion, either in Scripture or the Confessions, that the dead sinner has any ability to respond to the call. That is the thinking or the word (teaching) of Arminius, or the word of Pelagius, but not the word of the Cross (I Cor. 1:18, ASV). Nor is this calling a mere invitation; it is a translation out of darkness into light. This is what the calling, of necessity, must be; for it is the necessary effect of eternal election. Calling is a sure demonstration of election and its effect, as in the call to Lazarus (and are we not all Lazaruses?), “Come forth!” as in the call to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thy hand!” as in the divine imperative to the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!” and as in the efficacious command, “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear.” For through the effectual calling, we, as born of the Spirit, are made to pass out of death into life, are given faith to believe, therefore, do believe through grace, and receive ears to hear, eyes to see and quickened members to yield to the Lord as instruments of righteousness.
We are called to peace. “God hath called us to peace” (I Cor. 7:15). He has done so because peace was ordained for us (Is. 26:12). Peter, in addressing God’s people as Elect determines the originating cause of every saving good to them. (I Pet. 1:2). At the same time Peter shows that “peace” is part of that saving good which flows to us from the fountain of election, an invariable effect following that cause. As the calling is particular so also the peace unto which we are called. For “there is no peace to the wicked.” They from of old have been ordained to condemnation (Jude 4). But God’s people are blessed with peace (Eph. 1:2, 3), a peace which passes all understanding, which the world can neither give, take away nor have, and which arises from the blood and righteousness of Christ.
(To be continued)