Election = Affection
Text: Ephesians 1:3-4
By: Ken McKinley
Now last time I gave you all some homework. I told you all to take some time and read all the passages in the New Testament that speak of what we have in Christ Jesus. If you did that, I bet you found quite a few of those blessings we have in Christ right here in the book of Ephesians. In verse 18 of this first chapter Paul actually tells his readers that he was praying so that they might know the hope to which they have been called to, that they might know the riches of their glorious inheritance in the saints, and Gods incredible power for those who are His.
Here’s some trivia for you. Ephesians chapter 1:3-14 is the longest sentence in the New Testament. It begins with the word “Blessed” (or “praise” if you have an NIV), and from that word onward the sentence just gets better and better. But what happens so often when we read this sentence we go through it so fast that we don’t take the time to reflect on what it says, and what it means. It’s kind of like that movie “Vacation” where Chevy Chase plays Clark Griswald and he takes his family on vacation across the United States, and they stop at the Grand Canyon. The problem is that Chevy Chases character has just committed a crime in a truck stop, and as his family is taking in the awesome view of the Grand Canyon he rushes out of the truck stop and tries to urge them on so that he isn’t caught. His wife protests his prodding, so he stands there for about 3 or 4 seconds and then says, “Its beautiful isn’t it? Ok… Let’s go!” and he loads his family up and drives away.
Lucky for you all, I’m not Clark Griswald (though my wife might disagree). But instead of just glancing at this sentence and passing over it quickly, instead we are going to take the time to dissect it and let the beauty of it soak in. So lets take a look at our text once more (read vs. 3 and 4).
Paul begins with the word “Blessed,” and again the NIV uses the word “Praise.” In the context, either word can be used. Paul begins this sentence with a word of thanksgiving. He says bless God, or praise God, or thank God, why? Because He first blessed us. That’s one of the things I love about God. He’s always taking the initiative. We love Him because He first loved us; we bless Him because He first blessed us, and verse 4 even tells us that God chose us in Christ before the foundations of the world so that we should be holy and blameless. And again notice that it’s in Christ. All that God has done for us is in Christ. In Him the promises of God are yes and amen (yes and so be it).
As Christ has become our representative, we are now the recipients of all the Father gives to the Son. In other words, all the blessings and all the benefits God has promised us are ours only because Jesus has secured them for us.
Isn’t it amazing that all of that is found in just that little section of Scripture? But people usually don’t see that, instead people tend to get hung up on verse 4 where it says God chose us before the foundation of the world. If you ever want to a Christian gathering go from a civil, friendly, joy filled meeting, bring up the question of predestination or election.
That word chose is the Greek word “ecloghy” which is where we get our word “election.” And it is a Biblical principle. Israel is a classic proof of God’s sovereign election, Deuteronomy 7:6-7 describes to us Israel’s relationship with God and how that relationship came about. John records Jesus speaking of God’s sovereign action in our salvation in John chapter 6:37, 44 and in chapter 17:2-24. Paul writes quite a bit about this doctrine in Romans chapter 8:28-33, chapter 9:11, chapter 11:5, 1st Thessalonians 1:4, 2nd Thessalonians 2:13-14, and Peter refers to it in 1st Peter 1:1-2, chapter 2:9 and in 2nd Peter 1:10. It’s in the Bible but it is a teaching that is debated over and over again. There are 3 views of election. The first view goes something like this: God’s grace only goes so far as to reveal Himself to humanity, the rest is up to mankind to make the decision either for or against salvation and God. My problem with this view is that it limits God, it makes Him wish for your success but He is bound by mans free will and the devils influences on man as well. Ultimately this view makes mans will the ultimate source of salvation, and does not secure salvation for anyone. After all, if we can accept it by our own choice, we can later reject it by our own choice. This view does away with the teaching of our utter sinfulness, God’s grace, and the teaching of redemption.
The second view is that election is based on God’s foreknowledge. Those who hold this view say that God elects some to salvation based on His knowledge that they; by their free will, will at some point in time choose Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In other words, God looks down through time and sees that man will accept His Son as Lord and Savior by his own free choice, thus God elects them to salvation. The problem with this view is that election becomes something trivial. To answer this question ask yourself, would man who is spiritually dead in trespasses and sin, whose righteousness is as a filthy rag, who is an enemy of God, who does not seek after God, who is unable to re-birth himself physically let alone spiritually… Would this man choose to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? If you answer yes then you have just done away with the book of John, the book of Romans, and parts of the book of Ephesians. If you can’t say “amen” then say “oh my.”
If God is eliminated as the first cause of goodness or faith, or a God – directed human decision (or whatever it may be), how could there ever be any faith for God to foresee? We are all marred by sin to the point that we all run from God, not towards Him.
I’ve found that when people have trouble with the doctrine of election, their real problem isn’t with the actual teaching of God’s sovereign choice, their problem is actually with the doctrine of total depravity which makes election necessary. I mean are we truly dead in sin, or do we just need a quick pick me up?
What good is there in you… or in me that makes us worthy enough for God to choose us?
The third view of election is, I believe, the Biblical view. It teaches that we are too hopelessly lost in sin to ever choose God on our own. Instead; God in His great mercy and love, chose us. Think about it. 1st He made our salvation possible by sending His only begotten Son to die for our sin so that we might be justified in His sight. Then He made us capable of responding to Him by sending the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and our understanding to the truth of the Gospel. He then gave us the faith to believe it and receive it (that’s what Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches). And He did all of this before the foundation of the world.
Now the thing about this doctrine is that it should inspire a great deal of confidence in you if you are a Christian. Think about it. A God who chose you before time even existed, before anything existed, except for Him. That’s why Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. We are not an afterthought of God. We are not accidentally Christians. We are not members of the Body of Christ because of an emotional reaction we might have had at some point in time.
Think about that, and then think about the love that God must have for you. God’s love for you is not, and has never been based on your performance as a Christian. His choice of you is not rooted in who you are, but in His love. In other words, God’s been on your side since before the world was ever created.
Now there’s one other problem that people have with this doctrine and Paul addresses it in the book of Romans. When you tell people about election, like I’ve just told you, sometimes you get this reply, “Well if I’m saved, I can act however I want. Who cares if I live in sin, I’m chosen by God for salvation and eternal life.” But look what Paul tells us in our text (read vs. 4).
The goal, the purpose of God electing us is not just about us getting to heaven. The right teaching about election will lead to sanctification. Election doesn’t only take us halfway, it takes us all the way. We are given a new nature. Dogs bark because they are dogs, cats meow because they are cats, sinners sin because they are sinners, and the righteous are righteous because they are righteous. It’s not our own righteousness, we have been made the righteousness of God IN CHRIST. We have been given a new nature, we have been born from above. He chose us before the foundation of the world so that should be holy and without blame before Him in love. We become holy and without blame before Him in Christ Jesus.
This is the same thing that James and 1st John teach us, or Romans chapter six. This is telling us that any man… any one who is in Christ is a new creation… old things are passing away and all things are becoming new.
The power of sin in the Christians life has been broken. We have been set free, and whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Grace is not a license to sin; it’s a liberator that has freed us from it.
So when a person is a Christian, they are not going to be sinning more and more and more. They have been given a new nature, that no longer a bent towards sin, but towards righteousness. That’s not to say that a Christian will never sin, it’s to say that sins control over you has been broken, and that now righteousness is now present within you as well. The spirit and the flesh war against one another and will continue to do so until you receive your glorified body when you step into eternity. But in Christ eternity in glory is an assured thing.
So praise God this morning for His affection that has resulted in your election.