“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” II Peter 1:10
Wherefore . . . !
Herewith the apostle connects the exhortation in our text with the preceding context. The text appears, first of all, as a conclusion to what the apostle had been speaking of especially in the verses 5-8 of this chapter. There he had exhorted his readers to give diligence to put on Christian virtues. Those who do this, so he informs us, will never be unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And consistent with this they will also give diligence to make their calling and election sure.
The rather, brethren . . . !
In these words the text, in the second place, appears in direct contrast to that of which the apostle spoke in the immediately preceding verse. There he informs us that “he that lacketh these things is blind and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” In contrast to this, the brethren are urged to give diligence to make their calling and election sure, for if they do these things they should never stumble as the blind.
Urgent it is, therefore, that we make our calling and election sure!
Mark well the order in which the apostle presents the exhortation in the text!
It is not: make your election and calling sure; but precisely: make your calling and election sure! The former is the order of God’s counsel and eternal purpose; while the latter is the order of our experience. Obviously it is the latter which the apostle has in mind.
Indeed, from God’s point of view, that is, from the viewpoint of His decretive purpose, then election precedes in the order of our salvation. Such is the order as expressed in Romans 8: ‘Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called . . .” But this is not the viewpoint in our text, though it is surely the background.
Rather, as we suggested, the apostle would have the Christian brethren come to an assurance of their election as they stand in the midst of the world, and are beset on every hand not only by the trials of faith, but also as they walk still in an evil nature. He would have them to observe their election by its fruits. Consequently, make sure your calling and election!
Make sure your election?
But how can that be?
Is not our election sure?
Is it not eternally and unchangeably decreed in sovereign predestination who are, and who are not God’s elect? Is it not plainly declared in the infallible Word of God that the names of all the elect are indelibly inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life? Is not their number fixed, so that none can be added, and none can be subtracted, and that at last there shall appear on Mount Zion the one hundred and forty-four thousand, the sum total of all the elect of God, figuratively speaking? And if, as the Scriptures plentifully aver, the elect are determined by the predestinating counsel of the Most High, is it not also true that these same Scriptures declare: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my good pleasure?”
And, of course, the answers to all these questions are in the affirmative!
Indeed, there is nothing more sure than that the Lord knoweth them that are His, and that no one, or nothing shall be able to pluck them out of His hand. It is precisely this truth which gives the Christian the solid comfort he needs. It is this faith that prompted the Reformed fathers to declare: “Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, he hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault, from the primitive state of rectitude, into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of Salvation . . ,” (Canons I, 7). It was this faith that moved the church of Christ to declare: “I believe an Holy Catholic Church . . .”; and the author of the catechism to explain: “That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member thereof.” (H.C.-L.D. XXI, Qu. 54).
Indeed, our election is very sure!
But how, then, is it that the apostle exhorts us to make it sure?
No doubt, there are many, also in our day, who will point to our text as proof that our election is sure only when we make it sure. Arminianism has a way of speaking of election, and at the same time leaving it to be something that hangs by the slender thread of man’s free will. Deceiving the minds of many, they inform you that God certainly chose certain nations or classes of people, but the election of the individual depends on and waits for the action of his will, or of his faith. We are told that God from eternity chose those whom He saw beforehand would believe in and accept Christ and His proffered salvation. Your election therefore is accordingly conditional, and it depends on your action whether it will be realized. You must make it sure!
But don’t you see, beloved reader, that if certainty of our election depends on man’s will, there can be no assurance of election whatsoever? Man, whose breath is in his nostrils, whose will is fickle and mutable, can never be depended on. If our election rested on such shallow basis, it could never be sure. Thanks be unto God, our election rests on solid ground,—the Immutable, and Eternal Himself. So that when the apostle exhorts us to make our election sure, this cannot mean that our election is that which has yet to be determined, or that the realization of it depends on us. God forbid that, that should ever be so!
But again, we ask: what then does the apostle have in mind? What does he mean when he exhorts us to make our election sure?
The answer is very simple. In one word, he means to say: make it sure in your own consciousness. Make certain in your own heart and mind that you are one of God’s elect.
And is there anything in all the world that you would wish to be more sure of than that? O, there may be many things concerning which you might desire assurance. You may desire to know, especially when you grow older, whether you will be taken care of in a material way to the end. You may desire to know with assurance whether your children will continue in the faith, and not fall away in the great apostasy of our time. You may want some assurance whether you yourself will be able to withstand the fiery darts of Satan when Antichrist comes to his own, when you shall be required to endure tribulation such as the church of Christ has never before experienced. But when you sum it all up, and try to determine what it is that you are most desirous to know with unerring assurance, is it not this, that God has chosen you in Christ Jesus to be an heir of eternal life, and to share with Him His blessed fellowship for ever?
But again, how shall we make our election sure?
The answer very simply lies in the text itself. We make our election sure by making sure our calling. This is also the reason why calling is mentioned first.
Calling and election go together. They are one. They are so related that the former is the fruit of the latter; and the latter is the ground of the former. When you make your calling sure, you at the same time make your election sure. You will recognize your election by its fruits in your lives.
Give all diligence, therefore, to make your calling sure!
Understand well, this cannot refer merely to that initial calling whereby God spoke inwardly to your heart as He spoke to you outwardly through the preaching of the gospel, according to which calling you were consciously translated out of the kingdom of darkness into that of His marvelous light. Though, to be sure, your calling had indeed such a beginning, and was realized initially perhaps in such an experience. The Word of God here is not urging us to recall a drastic experience you may have had somewhere and sometime in your life when, like the apostle Paul, you were suddenly halted on your way, and your whole life was drastically changed. We are not exhorted here to simply call to mind a sudden change in our life, when, like the Philippian jailor, through a spiritual earthquake we were made to cry out: “What shall I do to be saved?” It is very well possible that you and I may never be able to boast of such a drastic experience. And if our calling depended on such an experience, then it is possible that we could never be assured of our calling.
Nay, rather, our calling, though it certainly is outwardly through the preaching of the gospel and inwardly by the voice of God to our heart, whereby we are translated from darkness to light, is also constant. It continues, and in such a way that it makes us to walk in the way of sanctification, without which no man shall see the Lord. Our calling comes to us daily as we have to struggle with the old man of sin within us, to mortify our flesh, and to put on the new man, created unto all good works. Our calling is to walk in the midst of the world of darkness as the children of light. Our calling is to be holy as He is holy, to hate evil and love the good, to hate the lie and speak the truth. In one word, our calling is to walk in all good works, which God has before prepared, in order that we should walk in them. When we are diligent in making our calling sure, we will also, in the light of the context, be adding virtue to our faith, knowledge to our virtue, temperance to our knowledge, patience to our temperance, and godliness to our patience. We will not be barren in our Christian life, but fruitful!
Give diligence . . . !
That is, desire earnestly, and give it all your attention!
And when you do this faithfully by the grace of God, you shall never stumble! Neglect to do this, and you will surely stumble and fall.
Make sure your calling, and two things will happen; you will come to the blessed assurance of your own election, and an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be given unto you.