Our Calling and Election (3)

We concluded our second article on this subject with the observation that the apostle’s exhortation to make our election sure surely repudiates the objection that this making sure of our election is really vain and impossible. The Lord would not exhort us to make our election sure if this were vain and impossible. The Lord does not exhort His people unto that which is not attainable for them. 

In this connection, we would make one more remark. Shall we make our election sure through a secret and mysterious revelation? Shall we wait, for example, until an angel whispers into our ear that we are elected of God? Shall we wait until the Lord reveals this unto us, let us say, in a dream or vision? Or, if this does not occur, shall we separate ourselves from the world to seclude ourselves in a monastery, and there, subjecting ourselves to a crucifying of the flesh, press behind the curtain of this time and penetrate into the hidden thoughts of the Lord to receive an answer to the question: am I an elect of God? How wrong this conception is! First of all, there is the word of Scripture that the hidden things are for the Lord our God (Deut. 29:29). And, secondly, this is not God’s way of salvation and of revealing to His people His counsel of their election. The reason for this is plain. Could this not become an occasion for spiritual laxity? If we could penetrate into God’s book of life to ascertain whether our name is recorded there, whether we have been foreordained to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, then we surely could lead a careless and profane life, inasmuch as having been elected unto eternal life we would never be able to perish, regardless of how we conduct ourselves in the midst of the world. 

The making sure for ourselves of our election is possible only in the way of making sure our calling. We have already called attention to the fact, as recorded inRomans 8, that, scripturally, election and calling are inseparably connected. The calling here, we understand, is God’s almighty, efficacious, irresistible calling. The apostle here does not refer to what we call the external calling through the preaching of the gospel. This would not make sense. Must we make sure for ourselves that the Lord calls men unto repentance and faith? Of course He does. We need not confirm this. How could this confirm us in the consciousness of our election? The Arminian, we know, speaks of the general, well-meaning offer of salvation through the preaching of the gospel. But this simply means that God loves everybody, also those who perish, and this can never give me the assurance that this general love of God establishes my salvation, inasmuch as He also loves those who perish. Here is meant, of course, the particular, saving, almighty calling of God whereby the Lord, through the preaching of the gospel, efficaciously calls me unto salvation. Even as the Lord speaks at creation’s dawn, calling the things into existence that were not, so the Lord, by His almighty, creative word, calls His people out of darkness into His marvelous light, out of death into life. He opens our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, and leads us to the cross of Calvary to see the wondrous beauty of the Man of Sorrows; He convicts us of sin and evil and prostrates us into the dust before the living God; He calls us, consciously, out of the darkness of sin and evil into the light of His everlasting covenant. This is the calling whereof the apostle speaks here, God’s almighty calling of His own by the power of His irresistible grace and Spirit. 

It is only when we make sure our calling that we make sure our election. Election and calling—this is the order as far as God’s counsel and His work of salvation are concerned. Our election, of course, is first. God did not elect us because of our translation into His light; we are called because He elected us. This is clearly set forth by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:30, where we read that “whom He did predestinate, them He also called.” However, as far as our knowledge and conscious experience are concerned, this is the order: calling and election. This is simply the divinely ordained way God calls those whom He has foreordained to be made conformable to the image of His Son. Hence, the one called is therefore an elect, and therefore we must make our calling sure to make sure of our election. To be assured of our election we must stand in the fruit of that election, our calling. Make this calling sure. If we know this constantly, if this will stand firmly in our consciousness, namely our calling, then we must walk worthy of the calling wherewith we have been called. Indeed, give diligence, put forth all diligence, exert yourself to the utmost to stand in this calling in order that we may rejoice in the knowledge of our election. Does the doctrine of election lead to carelessness and indifference? How absurd and ridiculous! 

How urgently necessary is the diligence whereof Peter speaks in this scripture! We read: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence.” “Wherefore,” we read, and this refers to the immediate context. Hence, give diligence rather, or if you will, exert yourself to the utmost, with all that is in you, to do what? To make your election sure, for yourself, in the making sure of your calling. We must not be barren (verse 8), or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, according to verse 9, he that lacketh these things is blind, cannot see afar off, has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Indeed, this can occur in the consciousness of the people of God, ‘to whom Peter addresses these words. 

We must not build our hope and assurance upon the fact that God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light, that He has converted us in the past. There are people of God who incline to this view. They can tell you vividly how they walked in sin and how, dramatically, the Lord converted them. However, we must not build our hope and assurance upon this. Indeed, this conversion may have been real. And if it occurred very recently we are able to recall it. It stands vividly in our consciousness. But as the moment of our conversion recedes more and more into the background, our memory of it may become hazy and blurred. Besides, the devil will attack us, ask us if we are sure that our conversion was true and real, especially in the light of the fact that we continue to sin every day and all the day. And if our assurance be based solely upon the past, that we were once converted, then we may finally question its realness and we may forget that our old sins have been purged. The fundamental question is not whether we have been converted, but whether we are converted. God’s work of conversion is not merely a matter of the past, but of the continuous present; it is a work that, once begun, never stops, always continues. 

That it is so urgently necessary for us to put forth all diligence, exert every effort to make our calling sure, is simply because we can make sure our calling only in the way of sanctification. You were converted? Well and good. However, a conversion without a continuous walk in sanctification is an impossibility. Whoever has been called by God out of darkness into His light has died to sin, forever. Of course, this is always true only in principle throughout our earthly pilgrimage. If we have little desire for the divine worship services, for a walk in sanctification, we may well question whether we have been called out of darkness into light. Always we must put forth every diligence to stand consciously in our calling, because this work of God, once begun, never stops. If we walk in sin, and in Scripture we have the examples of Noah, Abraham (who lied twice in connection with Sarah), and of David. We cannot possibly glory in our election. The two, election and calling, are inseparably connected. Of course they are! Election is the source of our calling, our calling is the fruit of our election, and they can therefore never be separated. Election is not merely a sovereign decree of God to translate a people into glory, but this decree also includes the way to that glory—hence, a cold, dead election is an absurdity. In the measure that we seek the things that are below, we do not seek the things that are above. And if we seek not the things that are above, how can we be interested in the doctrine of election, God’s sovereign decree to lead His own into that eternal and heavenly glory? Besides, there is so much that would divert our eye from the making sure of our calling and election. How many and great are the forces of evil all around us and especially within us! There is the power of the world and of Satan which always surrounds us. And then there is the power of sin within us and which is always ready to lead us astray. All things would lead us to err. 

Wherefore, the rather, let us make our calling and election sure. Put forth every effort unto this end, that the fact of our calling may ever be for us firm and immovable, and this in the way of sanctification. How sad it is when a child of God goes along with the world and does not rejoice in the glory of his election! Or, how sad it is when a child of God becomes involved in sin, comes to the consciousness of his sin, and doubts then assail him with respect to his election and he doubts whether his former faith and conversion may have been in vain! And this happens! Hence, exert yourself to the utmost, with all that is in you, for this is the meaning of the expression: give diligence the rather. Strive to walk in the way of holiness, continually. Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity of love. Struggle in the faith, pray fervently, confess your sin, be spiritually pure. Know that you are the called of God, live in it by walking in it, as having been called by God, irresistibly and efficaciously, out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, out of sin and death into the life of God’s everlasting covenant. This is our calling as set forth by the apostle Peter and throughout the infallible scriptures. 

And the fruit of all this? Doing these things, we shall never fall or stumble. Doing these things, that is, all the things to make our calling and election sure, we shall never stumble. Literally we read: we shall never, never stumble; or, we shall no, never stumble—the expression serves to emphasize the thought that we shall never stumble. To fall or stumble does not mean that we can ever lose the blessedness of our salvation. This is impossible. But it does mean that we proceed stumblingly, uncertainly to the everlasting glory. Hence, do these things: walk worthy of the calling wherewith the Lord has called you, be it always in principle. And you will never stumble, never doubt, but stand firmly in the certainty of your election, to walk with head uplifted to the City that has foundations. 

Is this doctrine of election a cold doctrine? Is it a doctrine with which we should not concern ourselves, either upon the mission field, or in our own personal lives? Is it a doctrine which tends to make men careless, indifferent and profane? Is it a doctrine which we should ignore? The apostle exhorts us to make it sure for ourselves, to live out of it. Indeed, it is the anchor of our hope and salvation, the rock upon which we are safe, now and forevermore.