Our Calling and Election (2)

We concluded our first article on this subject with the observation that the infralapsarian conception of the doctrine of Election cannot be maintained in the light of Scripture, and that the Lord sovereignly willed a people whom He would save in the way of sin and death through faith in Christ Jesus unto everlasting glory and heavenly immortality, provided that we understand that this way of sin and death through faith in Christ has been divinely and sovereignly willed and decreed. 

We also remarked in our preceding article that the word election, as far as the word itself is concerned, is infralapsarian. The word means, literally, “to choose out of.” Does this not indicate that the human race was there, and as fallen, when the Lord elected, chose out His own? This is the view of the infralapsarian, is it not? How, then, must this word election be explained? The explanation is not too difficult. We place ourselves, then, upon the historical standpoint of the development of God’s counsel. Scripture appears to be infralapsarian because it treats God’s counsel in the light of its fulfillment. When we build a house, what was decided first is carried out last. We first decide to build a house. Then we decide the type of house we desire. Finally, we decide to buy a lot and lay the foundation. In the carrying out of this plan, however, the execution occurs in reverse order: the foundation is laid first and finally we live in the house. This is also true of Scripture. First, God created the world; then He also created man; man sins, the whole human race falls into sin, and finally Christ comes to seek and to save that which was lost; then, at the end of time, we have the new heavens and the new earth. Now, if we place ourselves, historically, in the midst of this fallen human race, we say, with the Word of God, that God has elected, chosen out of this human race His people. Does this necessarily mean that thus it also was in God’s eternal counsel, that in God’s counsel the human race appears as fallen and that the Lord chose out of this fallen human race? Indeed not! We read, do we not, in Isaiah 43:3-4: “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honorable and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee and people for thy life.” And in Romans 9 we read that the Lord loved Jacob and hated Esau before either did good or evil, that the Lord is the Potter Who of the same lump makes one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonor, and that He raised up Pharaoh in order to show His power in him. But, viewing this fallen human race we simply say that God has elected, chosen out of it His own. And, secondly, “election” has historically this result that, as a result of God’s election, His own are indeed separated from out of the world and are called to be God’s own covenant people—hence, God’s election is nothing else than God’s sovereign choosing of us which has as its result that we are separated from the world; God’s election is, historically, therefore, always a “choosing out.” 

The election of this Word of God is therefore that sovereign and eternal action of the Lord God whereby He has positively willed a people, together with the equally sovereign and eternal rejection or reprobation of others. The apostle admonishes the church of God throughout the ages: “Give diligence to make yourcalling and election sure.” Indeed, the doctrine of election presupposes the doctrine of reprobation. Election implies that God has elected some, not everybody. The Lord has not only sovereignly chosen and willed a people, but He has also sovereignly willed others who would be the objects of His wrath. This doctrine of reprobation is denied almost universally today. And if you deny reprobation you cannot maintain election. Sovereignly the Lord loved Jacob and hated Esau. Incidentally, Scripture also uses other words to denote the doctrine of election, words such as “to know, to love.” For these elect the Lord has laid away a heavenly glory, the blessing that they will walk with Him and have fellowship with Him in His eternal tabernacle, everlastingly to walk in His light and to be clothed with honor and glory. Some were ordained unto that eternal glory, others unto eternal ruin and damnation. Indeed, although our Confessions are infralapsarian, clearly the sovereign character of Divine Predestination (election and reprobation) is set forth in the Canons, as in Article 6 and 7 of the first head of the Canons and in Article 15 of the same first head. Indeed, make your election sure, writes the apostle. This implies that we do not reason concerning this election as a cold, dogmatical subject, but we are dealing here with the personal assurance of the fact that the Lord has separated us from the world to form a part of that wonderful company whom God has loved from before the foundation of the world. Never shall we glory in ourselves. Never shall we exalt ourselves above those whom the Lord did not choose to be His own. That the Lord chose us was not because of any good in us. We are all by nature objects of wrath and children of disobedience. All the people of God can do into all eternity is to thank the Lord upon bended knee for His sovereign mercy. 

Wonderful is the knowledge of this election, unspeakably wonderful! This knowledge surely refers to the calm, blessed certainty that I belong to the people of God, that I shall therefore receive the glorious crown of victory at the end of my earthly pilgrimage, the final victory over sin and death, over all the powers of darkness and hell. For God’s election is Jehovah’s unchangeable and eternal purpose of love towards us. This election is in no sense dependent upon our righteousness and good works, does not rest upon anything in us, is not based upon the fact that we were holy and blameless, in order that no flesh should boast. This election never rests upon man but only upon God. God’s election is God’s eternal purpose of love and mercy towards us, not because we were holy, but that we should be holy, according to Ephesians 1:4. Therefore this election of God’s people is as immovable as the mountains, as sure as the Lord God Himself, the eternal, all-sufficient, unchangeable Rock of all the ages. And the knowledge of this election is the knowledge that, before the world was, the Lord God chose me, knew me, loved me, willed me to partake of His life, to be conformed unto the image of His Son, and that in unspeakable and heavenly glory. Therefore this also implies that we, knowing to be elect in Christ, share in Christ’s work, His suffering and death, His atonement and glory, and that therefore nothing can separate us from His love, the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Indeed, it is the blessed assurance that from before the foundation of the world an eternal and all-wise God elected me in Christ unto eternal life, and that therefore, according toRomans 8:28, all things must work together for my good. This knowledge of our election in Christ Jesus from before the foundation of the world, not because of anything in me, inasmuch as what we receive follows from that eternal love of God, is surely the basis for our comfort, our strength in the battle, our courage amidst all danger, our patience in suffering, our endurance to continue unto the very end. A cold doctrine? A doctrine to be rejected as making men careless and profane? A doctrine to be silenced in the preaching? How absurd and terrible! The Lord has sovereignly willed to bestow upon us eternal life; and we shall repudiate it, silence it? It is the rock, the sole rock of our salvation. To it we shall surely cling. 

This election, now, we must make sure. Shall we discard this doctrine? Shall we refuse to make it our own? Shall we fear to preach this truth, also and especially upon the mission field, because it will interfere with the saving of sinners? Has the eternal love of God ever prevented a single sinner from being saved? It is the love of God which alone saves the sinner. Of course, in our preaching we must adapt ourselves to the ability of an audience to understand the message of the gospel. Of course! But, shall we not concern ourselves with the doctrine of election? Does not the apostle Peter refute this conception in this scripture when he exhorts us to put forth all diligence to make our election sure? Hence, we must and shall concern ourselves with it. The Lord commands us to do this very thing. 

We must make sure our election. Does this mean that God’s election of His people lies in the realm of uncertainties? We, now, must establish, make sure that election. This is alone possible through our perseverance unto the end—this is left to us. Whether we are saved unto eternal life, also in God’s counsel, is not definite until we are victors and receive the crown. This, then, is why Peter exhorts us to make our election sure. What an impossible view! This would merely be an election, awaiting the end of the race, based upon foreseen faith and our perseverance. In other words, the Lord has elected but we determine that election. This is surely not Reformed, but Arminian, which teaches a conditional election, an election based upon foreseen works. How comfortless is this view! It deprives us of all assurance, inasmuch as it presents this comfort as dependent upon the sinner. This view, however, is also contrary to this Word of God. It is surely not the idea of the apostle that we make sure this election. How can we make sure God’s election? How can we make sure and seal the Lord’s decree? What the apostle means is that we make this election sure for ourselves. We must stand fast in its knowledge. That knowledge must stand fast in our consciousness. We must be personally sure that the Lord has elected us, that we therefore do not stumble, believing today and not believing tomorrow. Make this election sure for ourselves. 

Secondly, this scripture also overthrows the idea that this making sure of our election is really vain and impossible. Is it not a vain effort to attain unto that assurance in this life? Is not this knowledge of our election altogether too high and too wonderful? Is it not ridiculous even to conceive of this, to entertain its possibility? Will this the rather not be the case, that we merely strive after that assurance, that that much desired object will always escape us, even as the foot of the rainbow who would pursue after it? Moreover, is not our election too deep a mystery, that we should concern ourselves with it? We cannot look into God’s book of life. Is it not better to control our curiosity; in fact, is it not really sinful and should we not be satisfied with but a stumbling to heaven’s gates, always uncertain, ever wavering, never sure that we shall receive the victory? Besides, why fight and struggle for the crown when we already know the outcome before the battle begins? Besides, are not the hidden things for our God? Must and may we concern ourselves with them? Moreover, who, I ask you, concerns himself today with his election? Today the preaching is generally Arminian. Besides, it is even stated that this doctrine of election tends to make men careless and profane. However, the apostle Peter in this Word of God enjoins upon us to make our election sure. He surely refutes the charge that this making sure of our election is really vain and impossible. 

The Lord willing, we will continue with this discussion in our following article upon this subject.