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Election in Luke 4

November 21, 2006

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: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:4-6

And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;
But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.
And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.
Luke 4:24-27

Jesus incited murderous hatred when he preached the doctrine of election. The Pharisees who had
wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth (v. 22) moments earlier,

all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. (vv. 28-29)

when they heard the truth: All are afflicted; not all will know mercy. The gentile widow of Sidon received mercy; the gentile Naaman did as well. The Pharisees knew what Jesus was talking about, and they were furious.
The idea that God is sovereign and has the power, glory, right, and will to choose his own Church, continues to elicit wrath, and I expect it will until Judgment. My husband and I were at a Christmas gathering with some friendly Arminians a few years ago. A woman mentioned that her son’s girlfriend would certainly become a Christian, because her son would explain the gospel to her. My comment, “I guess that’s up to God,” was not well received. In fact, my name was shrieked around the room. It continues to be a joke between my husband and me: “All I said was….”Nearly everyone who says they believe in God will say they believe God is sovereign. Then the shrieking begins if you say that conversion to saving faith is within the secret counsel of God’s will. Usually the word, “fair” is held up as dispositive that no such thing could be true. Or, conversely, everyone will be saved, so election is fair. One individual I know dismisses the doctrine of election as “a cosmic game of duck, duck, duck goose.” Yet he readily accepts the grace he feels it is God’s to give.Calvin says this of the doctrine of election,

“when human understanding hears these things, its insolence is so irrepressible that it breaks forth into random and immoderate tumult as if at the blast of a battle trumpet.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XXIII, Library of Christian Classics, John T. McNeill, Ed., p. 947)

That sounds like the Christmas party, all right. The above-cited chapter goes through the objections to the doctrine of election, and the refutations to those objections. Briefly, the objections are as follows, and I will be quoting from the above-referenced source:

  1. The doctrine of election makes God a tyrant (ibid., p. 949;
  2. The doctrine of election takes guilt and responsibility away from man (ibid., p. 953);
  3. The doctrine of election leads to the view that God shows partiality toward persons (ibid., p. 958)
  4. The doctrine of election destroys all zeal for an upright life (ibid., p. 960);
  5. The doctrine of election makes all admonitions meaningless (ibid., p. 961).

The Reformed thinker is armed against these evilly fallacious objections. We can readily demonstrate that these objections impugn God’s grace, justice, mercy, and love, all of which are inextricable from his sovereignty. But we will always meet those who hold their hands over their ears and gnash their teeth.

John Owen refers to election as “the especial fountain and spring of holiness” (Banner of Truth: The Works of John Owen, Vol. 3, p. 503-4). Owen observes that God chose his elect before the foundation of the world in order to make us holy, “that is, with a design and purpose to make us so” (ibid., p. 504). Thus, resistence to the truth of election is a resistance to holiness. This serves those who would prefer to be saved just as they are, with their sin, not from it.

The truth of election engages the wrath of the children of wrath. To object to this doctrine is to hate the very nature and truth of God himself. A Reformed Christian should know that election is an exquisite element of the doctrines of grace, without which the doctrines could not cohere. But others would be self-serving and pick and choose what they would suffer of God.

The Pharisees would have pitched the Lord over the brow of the cliff for enunciating this teaching; at another point they were ready to stone him (John 8:59). They determined to kill Jesus not for blasphemy, but because they hated God for being God. They envied those on whom he showed mercy who were not of Abraham’s entitled lineage. They likely envied him his sovereignty over themselves. Blasphemy was simply a pretext they could use to turn the law to his destruction. But it was the doctrine of election that lay beneath their wrath: how dare God save anyone in their entitled stead.

Holiday gatherings may be approaching. Calvin’s Institutes are good preparation.


Victorbravo said…
Holiday gatherings may be approaching. Calvin’s Institutes might make a good gift too.I do still get a chuckle out of “All I said was. . . .” The doctrine of election works even better than politics to calm down a party. At least they let us eat the dessert.Very nice post.

1:26 PM  
Mike Pitzler said…
Yes. Let us break a lance or 2 under the mistletoe this year in friendly but earnest jousting. Let the art of polemics be fashionable at winter solstice parties, and the essential doctrine of election be the wonderful subject of every toast. God grant us boldness and a free copy of Calvin’s Institutes to brightly decorate every desktop.
4:29 AM  

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