Colossians 3. 11 - 15|
Our democracy is the great blessing of western man, where the majority rules and the minority is protected. It’s an unwritten rule in America that you don’t step on the downtrodden, and it’s a given we help everybody and every nation–when they will let us–to an equal start and to stay equal. These virtues have a basis in the Christian ethic. When coupled with the doctrine of ‘election’, however, critics balk. They say God is not democratic in His dealings with man; because of election, a selective process, they put Him on terms, so to speak. They turn away, offended by the whole idea of insiders vs outsiders. Some Christians view themselves as insiders–chosen, elected–not to worry, they are saved. Other Christians look at nature which is after all, a manifestation of our Creator–arbitrary, capricious and wasteful. Of bodies in space planets are few in number, and of the planets only one bears life; in the formation of life only one seed out of billions is fertilized, and of the many species of life, only one is rational. Of that one, only a few attain beauty, strength, excellence. All these truths seem to support the idea that they are on the outside looking in. They see that maybe they are not so special.
Let’s reason this out, advised Paul. A little common sense may illuminate the matter. There is no doubt that ‘election’ must be dealt with. The preponderance of references to the word appear almost exclusively in the New Testament, except for a few Old Testament verses in Isaiah, where in one case Israel is called ‘mine elect’ (Is 45. 4) Presumably the reason for this dearth of references to ‘election’ in the Old Testament is because the word applies to the whole nation and is a common condition of all Israelites. Everyone knows the Jews are the people of the book–the chosen–the elect of God. When God called Abraham and covenanted with him, sealing it with the law of circumcision, He promised to make of him a great nation–him and his seed after him, the miraculous seeds of promise, Isaac and Jacob. To Jacob He said:
Be fruitful and multiply: a nation and a company of nations
shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins.
And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac
to thee will I give it, and to thy seed after thee
will I give the land. (Gen 35. 11, 12)
Such is the prologue of God’s plan for the earth that will end in the establishment of the kingdom of God–on the earth–with Christ as king, so we are told in the scriptures. It’s interesting to note that John the Baptist rebuked the Pharisees for their lack of fruits worthy of repentance, who trusted in their physical descent from Abraham to secure their salvation–a nationalistic salvation. Don’t count on it, John told them, because God can of these stones raise up children to Abraham. (Mt 3. 7 - 9)
Christianity is epitomized by Judaism and by God’s chosen people, Israel–a notion people don’t like. We can look back and see that God chose Abraham, then Isaac and Jacob, children of promise, chosen and elected. God made Israel a custodian of the law given by the hand of Moses; this law became a schoolmaster to lead man to Christ (Gal 3. 24). Now the Old gives place to the New. With the election of Christ, God’s relationship with man changes. Election becomes a two way street. By his miraculous birth God says,
Behold, my servant whom I uphold;
mine elect, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him:
he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles (Is 42. 1)
Now the way, so far as we can tell, is not undemocratic at all. Why? Because the call has gone out to the whole world, heralded by Christ and the apostles.
Go thou, he said to the seventy, and preach the kingdom of God (Lk 9. 60)
go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mk 16. 15)
Indeed, here you see democracy in its purest form. All are included in the invitation. Man can obey the call, or not; it’s up to him. So man has a choice. Obey God’s call and you are elected. In short, your election comes after the fact, not before, as with the early church fathers. God has called and you have responded. You can now call yourself God’s elect. The scriptures overflow with examples of God’s acceptance of you, based on a full and perfect faith in Him and His promises. No longer under a schoolmaster, we are justified by faith, and come face to face with an open door to immortality.
The next logical step is to ask why everyone is affronted with the Christian notion that the way to salvation is a straight and narrow road, not a broad highway. Paul, preaching to the Galatians, was astounded that they would follow those who had perverted the gospel (Gal 1. 6 - 10). He warns Timothy that the time will come when people won’t endure sound doctrine, but will turn away from the truth to fables (1Tim 4. 1 - 4). He admonishes Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth. And this comes as early as the first century. Are people irrational who think of you as an elitist because you act as though it matters what you believe, and that if you don’t believe in the one way, there is no reward? Well, not irrational perhaps, but they judge without knowing the facts. It’s not logical when the Bible contains so much testimony to the effect that there is a way of life and there is a way of death. Man has a choice. Obey God’s call and you are elected. You can consider your response a miracle if you choose. God has called. You have responded. Now you are the elect of God.
Look at the world around you–full of examples of men whose false beliefs led them nowhere, or worse, to total destruction. Life’s like this. There’s truth and there’s error. If you believe only in error, you’re in for a lot of trouble, e.g. alchemy, astrology, doctrine of devils, and so on. If your behavior defies the laws of nature, then you are defeated before you start. It follows logically that religion is like nature–it is selective–and in ways that seem to us to be arbitrary and capricious. It’s true that religion is selective like nature, but not in a random or impulsive way. The call is clear. With no talent or virtue, when we believe and embrace God’s truth, even though we observe hundreds around us to be far better persons than we are, we know we will be saved–selected–because of our faith. But Christians beware. Never forget what happened to Israel.
Can man by searching find out God? One of Job’s comforters, Zophar, told him that God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves–there is some comfort in that. But can man by searching find out God? (Job 11. 7, 8) Never. We don’t know why we’re chosen. Will we be chosen in the final analysis? That is the question. If this exhibitionism is suffocating, you must understand we’re not judging. But in a search for truth we are led to the bull’s eye. We don’t know its perimeter, and that is a blessing that gives us hope.
Stop now and consider the import of what has been said. In endless time and space, from countless beings, through a selective process known only to God, we have come to the knowledge of the most precious truth of all: the secret to endless, painless, joyful life.
Were God to write an elegy, a lament for the dead, how would it help me to honor my position today as an elect of God? My actions would be simple and rewarding: to be diligent in my work–steady behavior–regular and temperate habits to help me support to others–daily reading of His word–and above all prayer to keep me in the way of right. We know what we need to do to get in shape as a Christian–and the time is far spent.
Give diligence to make your calling and election sure;
If you do these things, you shall never fall. (2Pet 1. 10)