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Saturday, November 26, 2011

The "Election" of the Believer

Yesterday I did some Christmas shopping. The Apple Store was very different from all the others I visited. Someone greeted me as I entered the store. I told the guy (I think they call him a genius but I have my doubts. ) what I wanted He asked if I already knew what model and color I wanted. I told him exactly the model, color and capacity I wanted to buy. He directed me to a place right by the door. A few moments later a young lady with a mobile credit card reader reached directly behind herself to pick up the product I wanted, scanned it, took my credit card, bagged my product, emailed the receipt and thanked me for coming in. The total shopping experience took less than five minutes. I am a guy and this is my way to shop!

Lots of believers think this also gives a picture of salvation. They believe that God places an order for those whom He wants saved. Since He has already paid of their salvations, He can pick them up without regard for what they want for their lives. They have no choice but to go with Him. They call this election. I don't see it this way.

The Bible clearly speaks of election. It means "called out." I believe it is much more special than God's ordering system to bring people to heaven. I believe it involves the person's response to the gospel as much as God's calling.

I have been hit with following question in the past: "If the only way to salvation is Jesus, then what about all the people in darkest Africa who never heard of Him? Are they condemned because they never heard?" This has been a "show stopper" for many people sharing Christ over the years. So, here is my answer.

God is a loving and a gracious God. God gave His only Son for the salvation of souls. He has sent missionaries and witnesses long distances and into dangerous situations to bring salvation to people. He will send this message anywhere it will be received. In some cases the message would not have been received because the people are steeped so deeply in their own personal self interest religion that there is no need to send the Word. In other cases, I believe God still gives grace to those who would believe. I remain that God's character does not change. He remains a loving God.

Thus, the word "election" is not one that makes a person special only because of God's choice for it also makes the person special because of their choice of Him. He knows who will respond. He gives grace. He even gives His grace from the response of those who believe to share with those who will never believe.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians to tell them how special they were. God had chosen them. He told how the gospel had been received in power, the Holy Spirit and full conviction. The presence of God was there to present this gospel to them. The Holy Spirit filled these believers and they fully believed. Their election was dependent upon their response.

Stephen preached a powerful message before a group of Jewish people. His message had power and he saw a vision of Christ standing at the right hand of God. Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit but the people rejected his message because, as he told them, "you always resist the Holy Spirit." The problem was not with the power of the gospel or the presence of the Holy Spirit but their own resistance to the message that came from Him. (Acts 7)

The fact that it also depends upon our response does not diminish the grace God has given us. He sent the message to a people who did not deserve to hear it. His Son died for those who killed Him. There is no good that we can do to save ourselves nor are we ever to earn this privilege. We are totally dependent upon that message coming to us. We need to receive the faith necessary to have the conviction necessary for salvation.

God has worked miracles through the believer and non-believer. He has used circumstances to bring people to Himself. He has urged and used others to repeatedly give the gospel message to some. He has literally moves the world for the salvation of one and He continues to move the world for the salvation of one at a time. The gospel is no pyramid scheme. Everyone is directly attached to the Owner.

Why would God have allowed Adam and Eve to sin if He really wanted programmed robots in His kingdom? Why would He allow any of us to sin or even allow any of us to be born if He simply willed a few to Himself? The answer is simple. He wants people to decide for themselves and His election those who do very special.

You see, we forget that God does not have to take us. He could reject those who want to believe in Him if He wasn't the loving, gracious God we know Him to be.

Yes, I believe in election. I think it makes those who know Him very special.

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 (ESV)
 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,  because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.


Anthony Chia said...

As can be seen from my past comments, I can go every lengthy, but I will try not to, on this one. There are 3 angles I would like to talk about: One, the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, I believe, is pointing to, for New Testament (NT) time, election is thrown open to all (you have to read and study the Parable to catch this). But NOT all wanting (of course, there were those who did NOT want to) to come to the Wedding Banquet would be accepted, some were thrown out. There is a difference between the initial picture painted in the Parable and the later one; the initial one is, if you are NOT in that special list (like, in the Old Testament {OT}, you were NOT an Israelite), you are OUT. The picture was changed to, "No, there is no more such a special list, open to all, but we still need to go on His terms; it is NOT no terms! How should I put it? Pardon me for insensitivity, but this will show it well, a good metaphor: In times of racism, blacks were excluded from many careers and jobs; if you were black, you were out. But past that period, many things, including careers and jobs are open to ALL, blacks, whites, and yellow-skinned (to be fair, I labeled myself in there - a yellow-skinned), etc; but it still does NOT mean that every tom, dick and harry can be a doctor or an accountant. Can anyone be a doctor or an accountant? Used to be "No", but it is a "Yes", but there are still things one needs to comply or "qualify himself" with. In short, what I am saying is that there was probably a difference between election in OT and NT, although it does NOT mean that Israelites are NOT "valued" anymore, or some individuals hand-picked by God are NOT special. Why is the NT era an era of grace? It is because God has widened the things that He could widened, but certain requirements must still be met. Why? Main reason is because He is a holy God (I believe).

Now, the other angle that I want to talk about, pertains to exceptions. I tell people this: Now, God has a door or a gate (or a way if like that better), although NOT a very wide one, opened up to you to come through; so, please go through the door. Why do you want to be like the cockroach, and try to squeeze through any cracks in the wall. Do you know what happens to cockroaches squeezing through a crack? Maybe, a few get pass me, the rest, I will either spray them down, with you know what, or I will smack them flat with my slipper! Why take the unnecessary risks? The gate or door is already narrow, you still want narrower entrance, the crack; I say you are crazy!

So, some, instead of accepting the grace of God through Jesus, will try all the other "cracks", like through good works, without even the need to be a believer; mind you, I know of an ("Christian") elder already written a book, and in it, he underscored this, even using the Parable of the Goats and the Sheep to justify it. I mean there is only one road leading to “my Rome”, even though there many roads leading to Rome.

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Anthony Chia said...

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The last angle is the prerogative of God, and it got to do with the sovereignty of God. Even so, I believe the prerogative of God is governed by His highest or most fundamental attribute, which I believe, is holiness. It is possible under certain extenuating circumstances God admits people pass the 4 walls of Heaven, so to speak. But there again, why do you think you are in that certain extenuating circumstances. When it is His prerogative, it is like He said it, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." Hello, those who go by the door, when they reach it, they walk through it, and they have their home-run, so to speak; those who are NOT headed through the door, for they are purportedly under certain extenuating circumstances, they got to wait for God to move them through the wall; and I am saying, you don't know if that would happen or NOT, for that route, God did NOT make any promises; unlike the proper "gate/door" route.

Special cat (category). will be judged accordingly by God, why do you want to be in this cat., and we should minimize this cat. (and so, we do the Great Commission work), for it is the desire of God for all to go through the proper route. The Gospel is the proper route. Don't encourage any other route. There is only one solid ground, the rest are sinking sand. If you are on the solid ground, you are safe for you are standing on the promises of God, if you are in the sinking sand, you are relying on the mercy, grace and compassion which God already said, it is up to Him, which means that He can, NOT give it; it is His prerogative! Think about it, what is Christianity, in a large sense? Standing on the promises of God.

What will happen to the individuals in the darkest Africa who have NOT heard the Gospel? I do NOT want to "promise" anything, because God did NOT promise anything. So, our job is to understand that God has thrown open the Gospel to all (election is of a different meaning already!), and to the ends of the earth, we are to bring the Gospel. When we think of cracks and extenuating circumstances, we will have excuses NOT to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth, and that would NOT be honoring God, for us, believers, collectively.

But I like the affirmation that Ps Prentis introduced to NT's election theme: we are special because we responded to love Him back; we chose and continue to choose to believe Jesus died for us. It is no longer we are special just because God chooses an individual, although that is special. May God bless this sharing of my understanding of His ways.