Our Calling and Election (1)

The doctrine of election, it is claimed by those who despise and reject this truth, makes men careless, indifferent, and profane. This, of course, does not and should not surprise us. This charge against the truth of divine sovereign predestination is not new. The enemies of the truth have always opposed this doctrine. This charge has also been leveled against the truth of justification solely by grace. In our Heidelberg Catechism, in Lord’s Day 24, Question 64, speaking of our righteousness before God, as solely by grace, reads: “But doth not this doctrine make men careless and profane?” And the answer reads: “By no means: for it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by a true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.” It is not difficult to understand the rationale behind this accusation. If we are elect, sovereignly, not because of our works, then, it is claimed, it makes no difference how we walk. Of course, this reasoning is utterly fallacious. An elect must walk in good works. And this is true because, although we have not been elected because of good works, we have been elected unto good works. Election and good works are, therefore, inseparable. It is this truth which is also clearly emphasized in the Word of God, recorded in II Peter 1:10: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” 

The context of this Scripture is clear. “These things” refer to what we read in the verses 5-7. In these verses we are admonished to give all diligence to add to our faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity, or love. Upon these things follows the fruitfulness of verse 8 in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. This knowledge is not merely an intellectual, head knowledge, but a conscious, personal, and spiritual knowledge of living fellowship, personally to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His all-comprehensive, far-reaching, blessed significance for God’s people, to increase spiritually, not being unfruitful, but fruitful, growing spiritually in the personal knowledge of that Christ. And, as is plain, this is practically the same as what we read in verse 10, in connection with the making sure of our election, with this distinction, that Peter in verse 10 directs our attention to this growth in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ as further assuring us of our election.

However, between this tenth verse and the admonitions as recorded in the verses 5-8, lies one link which receives all the emphasis here. Peter admonishes the church of God of all ages: “Wherefore the rather. . . .” This receives here all the emphasis. We must always give diligence to make sure our calling and election; but verse 9 gives us a reason why this must occur. The “rather” give diligence, exert yourselves, in ever increasing measure, much more than if this were not the case! Why? Fact is, according to verse 9, he that lacketh these things is blind, cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Having been purged from his old sins, but failing to put forth all diligence to walk in sanctification, he will forget it, fail to walk consciously in his glorious deliverance out of his sin and darkness, walk stumblingly in the midst of the world. Indeed, make your calling and election sure. Does the doctrine of election make men careless and profane? Does this charge, often made by those who hate the truth of God’s sovereign predestination (election and reprobation), have any ground whatever? How this charge is refuted here by the apostle Peter! I believe it is pertinent to call attention to this particular Word of God in two or three articles. 

We believe that the apostle Peter, in II Peter 1:10, refers to God’s eternal decree of election. It is true that there are those who dispute this and who ‘believe that the Word of God here refers to an election in time. The word election means literally: to choose out of, gather from among. According to this interpretation, this word, then, does not refer to the Lord’s eternal decree (although it must be added that they also believe in God’s eternal decree of predestination. and have no intention of denying this truth), but to that act of God in time whereby He gathers His people, thereby chooses them out of the world, causing His people, the children of Zion, to stand apart in the midst of the world. They base their interpretation upon the word calling and its position in this text. This calling, they say (and in this they are certainly correct) is not to be viewed merely as God’s command unto repentance through the preaching of the gospel, but as the efficacious, particular, saving calling of God. Hence, whereas we read: calling and election, and whereas this election, therefore, follows upon this calling, therefore this election must be understood as following upon this calling, and this .must refer to God’s actual selection of His people in time, gathering them from among the peoples of the world. It needs no elucidation, I am sure, to show that this interpretation, in itself, is not necessarily wrong. 

However, it is our conviction that this is not the correct interpretation of this Word of God. First of all, it is surely Scriptural that God’s eternal election and the efficacious calling unto salvation are inseparably connected. In Romans 8:28 we read of those who are the called according to His purpose. And in verses 29-30 of the same chapter we read: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called. . . .” That we read here, therefore, of calling and election need not surprise us. They surely belong together. That God’s decree of election is meant here is also plain, we believe, from the text itself. It is said that because this calling is mentioned first, and precedes election in the text, we must therefore conceive of an election here that follows upon this calling. And, yet, this does not necessarily follow, and it is not the idea of this Word of God. Peter is not speaking here of calling and election as such, but that we must make them sure. And what the apostle is actually saying is that we must make them sure for ourselves. The apostle is speaking here of our knowledge, our sureness, our conscious assurance. He is not speaking of making them sure as such. How, incidentally, would that be possible? Shall we establish our calling, our election? Shall we confirm make sure that the Lord has elected us and called us? Is not this calling the almighty, efficacious, irresistible work of God, calling us out of darkness into His marvelous light? And we must establish that, make it sure? Besides, is not election an eternal decree of the alone living God? And we must establish that? O, yes, the Arminians at the time of the Synod of Dordt, 1618 to 1619, believed in an election upon foreseen works. According to them, man does establish, make sure his election. This, however, we know is not Scriptural. According to the apostle Paul, in Ephesians 1:4, we have been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, not because we were holy (as the Arminians believed), but that we should be holy. The apostle Peter is speaking here of making our calling and election surefor ourselves, in our consciousness. This explains why the word calling precedes the word election here. Whereas the calling follows from God’s election, inasmuch as He calls those whom He has chosen, therefore we must know our calling if we are to know our election; and because our knowledge of our election is possible only through our knowledge of our calling, therefore the word calling appears here as preceding the word election. We therefore believe that Peter here is speaking of our eternal election. But then it must also be plain that calling and election are not coordinate here, as having the same significance. Our election is surely the central thought here, and our calling must be viewed as a means—we must make our calling sure, for ourselves, in order that we may make sure, for ourselves, our election. We must stand consciously in our election, in our sovereign election of God. Let no man lead us astray from Scripture’s glorious doctrine of divine sovereign election. 

What is the doctrine of election? The word election, as far as the word itself is concerned, is infralapsarian. The supralapsarian has the following order: election, fall, creation. The infralapsarian has this order: creation, permitting of the fall, election. We must bear in mind that we must understand this order as occurring within the counsel of God. According to the infralapsarian God has elected out of a fallen human race (reprobation is then presented as God’s sovereign decree to leave the sinner in his sin); according to the supralapsarian God’s decree of election precedes the fall, and the fall of man must serve the Lord’s decree of predestination. Now it must certainly be conceded that the word election gives the preference to the infralapsarian view. Fact is, the word means literally: to choose out of. If, then, we bear in mind that the whole human race is fallen, and that the Lord has elected, chosen out from among the children of men, then we can understand that the word election itself, is infralapsarian—God chose out of the human race, the human race as fallen. 

Against this view of the infralapsarian one can surely lodge very serious objections. And we do not hesitate to say that the infralapsarian will concede this, and that Supralapsarianism was therefore never condemned. The infralapsarian has no explanation for the reality of sin. Of course, we always, when speaking of God’s sovereignty and sin, are dealing with truths that transcend all human understanding. Nevertheless, the infralapsarian makes no attempt to come to any solution. He has no explanation for sin, makes no effort to solve the problem, simply begins with the reality of sin. We understand that he would avoid making God the Author of sin (the supralapsarian too, however, would avoid making God the Author of sin), and therefore he proceeds, in God’s counsel, from the fact of sin. This, however, solves nothing. The Lord God is surely sovereign, also over sin and evil—sin is not an accident. God must remain God, also as far as sin and the reprobate are concerned. The infralapsarian may contend that God has elected and reprobated out of a fallen human race, but the question will persist: from whence this fallen human race? It is surely Scriptural that the Lord, also in His counsel, created the wicked for the day of evil, and God’s reprobation is not merely a permitting of sin and then a divine refusal to deliver out of sin, but it is surely as positive as is the divine decree of election. The Lord is sovereign. The Lord alone is God. The Lord has sovereignly willed to glorify Himself. This God has willed centrally in Christ Jesus. To reveal this glory the Lord has sovereignly chosen a people and He willed to save them in the way of sin and grace. However, to reveal this glory, antithetically, the Lord willed, sovereignly, the reprobate who must serve the elect, so that the world exists for the sake of the children of God. Hence, God’s Election of His people is that sovereign decree of the Lord, whereby He willed a people who will serve Him in heavenly glory. This, we repeat, is God’s sovereign decree.