Summary & Conclusions
This discussion of divine election aimed to demonstrate that there is no tension between this notion in Scripture and the love of God.
Israel was God’s chosen people, elect for the purpose of showing God’s love to the world. The church, made up of Jews and gentiles in Christ, is God’s chosen people, elect for the same purpose. Divine election, then, shapes the identity and mission of the people of God. God sets his love upon a particular people from eternity past so that through them God might draw even more people into his love.
Divine election always has this outward focus. It does not appear in Scripture to emphasize God’s preference for certain people over others. Misconstruing election leads to an insular mindset that is inappropriate among God’s people. It is ungodly since it does not reflect God’s love for the other. Divine election flows from God’s salvation program which has a universal scope. He chooses a particular people to be the agents of his saving pursuit of the world.
Divine election appears in Scripture to emphasize that salvation flows from God’s mercy. It is not anyone’s birthright. No one has an inside track with God based on ethnicity or achievement. Salvation flows from God’s grace and is available to anyone and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord.
Double-predestination is not taught in Scripture. It is not the case that in eternity past God chose some for salvation and others for damnation. That is a theological move that Scripture does not make. Double-predestination only makes sense once election is removed from its biblical context and set into some other context. The tension between election and God’s love emerges only when we take election out of its biblical setting and draw conclusions that Scripture does not. Such theological moves may seem to “make sense” or appear to be logical corollaries, but they only pervert divine election. The tension is relieved once we understand divine election in its biblical context.
The alternative group to the elect in Romans 9-11 is unbelieving Israel. They are not part of God’s saving righteousness because of their unfaithfulness. It is not the case that they were predestined to reject the gospel. God has hardened them in their rejection because they have become obstacles to God’s mission of saving the nations. And God has done this in the hope of eventually restoring unbelieving Israel.
Paul’s point in Romans 9-11 is that God is so committed to saving the nations that he will set aside his chosen people for a time if they fail to be agents of his love to others. Israel has failed to be a light to the nations, perverting their identity and rejecting their mission, so God is saving the nations in Christ with the hope of eventually saving Israel, too.
This becomes a warning to the church that it not become arrogant or complacent (Rom. 11:17-32). The people of God must take seriously the universal scope of God’s redemptive mission. If they do not, they run the risk of failing in their identity as God’s elect. God remains passionately committed to saving humanity and transforming them into agents of his love to even more people.
There is no tension, then, between God’s love and God’s purposes in election. Divine election flows from God’s love for all of God’s creation.
Further, divine election is completely compatible with the universal scope of salvation. Anyone and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. All those in Christ can celebrate that they are those whom God has loved in eternity past.
14 thoughts on “Election According to Scripture, Pt. 8”
Jason Staples (@jasonstaples)
Jer 50:25 (LXX 27:25) is notable here given the referent of Jeremiah’s τὰ σκεύη ὀργῆς αὐτοῦ.
I’m not sure it’s that “God has hardened them in their rejection because they have become obstacles to God’s mission of saving the nations” so much as God has hardened them in order to save the nations. They were set apart to bring salvation to the nations, and if they would not do it through obedience, God would use their disobedience to bring salvation to the nations—and still to Israel.
Thanks, Jason, that’s the nuance I’d like to have captured.
I would add that the ‘election’ has only ever been intended to be the mechanism of ‘the great Commission’:
[Exo 19:5-6] “For the whole earth belongs to me, but you are to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to me.’ These are the words you are to declare to the people of Israel.” (also [1 Pet 2:5] & [Rev 1:6])
The elect were to carry knowledge of God into the world (the idea being that the kingdom would reflect the nature of character of their king who had revealed Himself to them so that their ways be known by all the nations of the earth,along with your deliverance.[Ps 67:2])
(See also [Isa 42:6][Isa 49:6][Isa 51:4][Isa 60:3][Mal 3:12])
Excellent point, Andrew!
Read this blog after reading Psalm 89 today. I thought it really coincided as do so many of your blogs when I once in awhile scroll by. Amazing! Thanks.
Just a highlight though from Psalm 89…
“…If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, I will punish their sin with the rod their iniquity with flogging; but I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness. I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered…”
Have you read John Piper arguments for Double Predestination: “The “sixth” point, double predestination, is simply the flip side of unconditional election. Just as God chooses whom He will save without regard to any distinctives in the person (Ephesians 1:5-6; Acts 13:48; Revelation 17:8), so also he decides whom He will not save without regard to any distinctives in the individual (John 10:26; 12:37-40; Romans 9:11-18; 1 Peter 2:7-8). By definition, the decision to elect some individuals to salvation necessarily implies the decision not to save those that were not chosen. God ordains not only that some will be rescued from his judgment, but that others will undergo that judgment. This does not mean that someone might really want to be saved but then be rejected because they are on the wrong list. Rather, we are all dead in sin and unwilling to seek God on our own. A true, genuine desire for salvation in Christ is in fact a mark of election, and therefore none who truly come to Christ for salvation will be turned away (John 6:37-40).”
Thanks for this, Tim.
I think Piper is precisely wrong in making that theological move. It makes “logical sense” that if God chooses some for salvation, he must choose not to save others. But that move can only make sense as Piper takes election language out of its biblical contexts and puts it to use in some other way than its biblical function.
His thinking–as reflected in the link you provide–works from starting points other than Scripture and distorts both election language and the character of God’s sovereignty. I do realize what he’s doing, but he’s starting from other assumptions than Scripture and so working logically and reasonably toward theological conclusions that aren’t in Scripture. It’s a way of thinking that makes a kind of sense, but ends up with a distorted view of God, unfortunately.
With regard to theological method, one must be careful not to make moves and draw conclusions that aren’t in Scripture, even if they seem to make sense “logically.”
Piper listed lot’s of scripture for his point and you say he, “works from starting points other than Scripture and distorts both election language and the character of God’s sovereignty.” And yet your point of view does not have any scripture references. Are you saying that phrases like, “whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 17:8), John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.” Romans 9:11–18
11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of thim who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 1 Peter 2:7–8
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
I’d be interested to know how these verses do not fit into the “election language.”
I worked through the argument of Romans 9 a bit in a few posts in this series, so I’ll refer you to those. The John and Revelation texts don’t use election language, which was the main point I had been making–that election language is only used of God’s people in Scripture.
A few comments on the 1 Peter text:
The “election” language is used in 1 Peter 2 to speak of “those who believe,” and election language is set aside when speaking of those in vv. 7b-9.
Second, the two groups in the context are “those who believe” and “those who disbelieve” (v. 7), and not “those who are elect” and “those who are unelect.” So the emphasis is on the human response to the gospel, specifically to the way God has done his work in Christ, which is an offense to human wisdom, pride, and self-sufficiency. Those who believe are God’s elect, but those who disbelieve aren’t spoken of with regard to election.
Third, in v. 8 (“being disobedient they stumbled at the word, unto which they were also appointed”), what is appointed is that those who are disobedient and unfaithful will stumble and go down to judgment. That is, the inevitable result of the way God works is that those who are disobedient and unfaithful will be scandalized and will stumble. It’s not that they were appointed to disbelieve, but their disobedience inevitably leads to fatal stumbling—and that by God’s design.
This is a consistent theme throughout Scripture. Those who are arrogant will miss what God is doing and only those who are humbly faithful will truly “get it.” This is what’s happening in that John passage, too, and throughout John. It’s not that anyone is chosen for damnation, but Jesus tells people that they don’t believe because they are morally corrupt, a condition which they can change through repentance.
Lots more to say about all that, but regarding 1 Peter 2, it seems that the emphasis in the passage is on the privileges (including the identity of being elect) for those who believe and the inevitable results for those who disbelieve and are disobedient.
I think those who advocate double predestination start at the wrong place by starting with election in eternity past. Scripture doesn’t start there, but with Christ. All those in Christ are those upon whom God set his love from eternity past. This is true of anyone who turns to Christ. According to the biblical logic of Ephesians 1-2, believers are formerly “children of wrath” before they believe. That’s the core of their nature–hopeless and without God in the world. Yet, when they turn to Christ, they are given a new history that stretches back to eternity past–they are now spoken of as those upon whom God set his love from eternity past.
This isn’t the way that Westerners would do theology–we work linearly, which is why we get election wrong. I think Piper is one example of that.
I guess the thing is you see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear.
Unfortunately, that happens a lot in this discussion–as in other areas of theology. Far better to be constrained by the text of Scripture.
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Thank you for this labor of love, Dr. Gombis! Very helpful…