Summary: Election is one of the thorniest, controversial issues among biblical Christians. The 2 main views are Calvinism and Arminianism. But are these the only alternatives? This sermon examines the Corporate-Vocational View of Election.
The Elephant in the Room: Corporate-Vocational Election
Sermon 4 in series: Ephesians - Live Like You Really Are
February 5, 2012
TEXT: Ephesians 1:4-5 – “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
POWERPOINT: There is a PowerPoint presentation for this sermon available by requesting it from me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This sermon is somewhat technical and was difficult for those in my congregation who were young believers or relatively untutored in theology. I received the most positive comments I ever received on any single sermon I have preached…and also the most negative I ever received on a single sermon. The positives all came from those familiar with election and had grappled with its implications as taught by the two major systems of thought on election; and the negatives all came from those who were new to the subject.
Today we’re going to dive deep into the waters of theology. Over the next 2-3 weeks we’ll exegete Ephesians 1:3-14, but before we do that, we have to deal with “the elephant in the room.”
“The elephant in the room” refers to an obvious problem no one wants to discuss. The elephant in the room in our text is the issue of election and predestination.
As we deal with the elephant in the room in Ephesians, let me say a few things at the outset:
• If you’re a visitor this morning, let me say that this is a very technical sermon, and unlike ANY other sermon I have preached in a Sunday morning sermon. – So please come back again when you will hear a normal sermon of exhortation or edification.
• Second, if you’re a new believer who has never heard of these things before, don’t be alarmed. – These are deep issues that you may find complex and disconcerting, but which you can grapple with later in your Christian life.
• Finally, if you already have definite views on these issues, understand that I’m not attacking you this morning. Election is a thorny issue in the Bible and there are good, godly, Bible-believing men and women who hold all the major views on election. I’ll explain rather forcefully why I reject BOTH of the main views—Calvinism and Arminianism and why I now believe in what is known as “Corporate-Vocational Election.” If at the end of this sermon we still don’t agree, that’s perfectly fine. My only request is that you listen with an open mind as I present my case.
First, we need a little history lesson:
For several hundred years before the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, Roman Catholicism had devolved into a works-based religion wherein salvation was largely dependent on man, with some enablement from God. When the Reformation occurred in the 1500s, the Reformers reversed the equation to the idea that man had no role in receiving salvation, but that God did everything.
There were many good things about the Reformation, but it was not really a return to biblical Christianity nor to the church in the first four centuries of its relative purity, but rather mainly a return to the teachings of a fifth-century church father named Augustine of Hippo, especially his views on election. Thus, the Reformers retained several unbiblical practices and beliefs, such as the state church, the right to persecute and put to death those who disagreed with them, the practice of infant baptism, and inaccurate views on communion.
Baptists, I might add, were never a part of the Protestant Reformation. Various baptistic groups by many names existed apart from the Catholic church beginning in the fifth century in pockets all over Europe, eventually being stamped out one by one out as heretical by the Catholic Church, and later by Protestants also, only to pop up somewhere else—kind of like the Whack-a-Mole game. For a couple of informative histories of these faithful baptistic groups that existed alongside the Catholic Church long before and during the Reformation, I recommend reading The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent or The Baptists, by Jack Hoad.
Getting back to the Reformation, one of the most important of the reformers was a man named John Calvin whose book, Institutes of Religion—a thorough systematization of Augustinian views on election—was so influential that today Augustine’s views on election are not know as Augustinianism, but Calvinism. As Calvinism spread, a man by the name of Jacobus Arminius challenged Calvinism, and his views became known as Arminianism—and for the past 450 years Calvinists and Arminians have been duking it out, producing a lot of heat, but very little light.