Divine Election

The Doctrine of Election has sparked many debates throughout the history of the church. There have been scores of books written for and against Election. There have been characterizations on both sides. It is a widely debated issue. Last year I was sitting on a pastors’ panel at a college and one of the questions was, “What do Baptist believe about election?” I was the first to answer and I simply said. Baptist believe it because it is Bible and we believe the Bible. Election is in the Bible. We cannot ignore it. It is interesting that when election is spoken of in the Bible, it does not produce debate, but awe. We should be in awe that a holy God would chose sinners to share his nature. A young woman asked Charles Spurgeon one day, “How do you reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s free will?” Spurgeon simply replied I do not reconcile friends.

            The Apostle Peter shows how both divine election and man’s free will are not contradictory, but complementarity. 2 Peter was almost not included in the cannon because many people believed that Peter was teaching a salvation by works. Peter is not teaching a salvation by works, but rather a salvation with works. He wrote 2 Peter to refute false teachers who claimed that the Day of the Lord was not coming and who lived lives that were contrary to God. You can be a false teaching by your doctrine or by your life. This is why Paul urged Timothy to keep a close watch on his life and on the teaching. Persist in watching, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 2 Peter 1:3-11,

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-11)

Peter does not pit God’s calling and our effort against each other. The one should confirm the other. If we have been called, then we will make every effort.

            Spiritual fruit comes from a spiritual tree. Apple trees always produce apples. Banana trees always produce bananas. Good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit. Peter writes,

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Restated positively, if you possess faith, virtue, self-control godliness and knowledge in abundance, then you will be effective and fruitful for Jesus Christ. If your life is marked by a pursuit of godliness, you will be growing in Jesus Christ. And if you see no growth and/or desire to grow in your Christian character then you may be ineffective in your knowledge of Jesus. Meaning that you most likely have never experienced the true knowledge of Jesus.

            Jesus warns about the seed falling and the various kinds of soils. We have to be careful that we have not misheard the Word, but that the Word takes root into our lives. Peter continues to clarify what he means in the next verse, “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Peter 1:9) If people who confess they are Christians, but they have no evidence for Christian fruit, they are blind.  They have forgotten that they were cleansed from their former sins.

Peter is most likely referring back to the believer’s baptism. It may not be a direct reference to baptism, but baptism and faith are not divorced in the New Testament. Almost every believer in the New Testament was immediately baptized upon their profession of faith. In his first letter, Peter says that baptism is an appeal to God for a clean conscience. Baptism is an appeal to God by faith. It is a demonstration that a person has been cleansed from their former sins. Peter is saying that those who do not live like they are Christians, have forgotten their baptism. This is the same argument that Paul makes in Romans 6 when he poses the question about those continuing in sin so that grace may abound.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)

Christians, should look different after their baptism because they have died to the world and have been raised with Christ. How do people claim to know God if they do not have faith?

            There were some false believers in the churches that Peter was addressing. We know that there were false teachers who were denying Christ by their lifestyles and probably others who were seduced into following the false teachers. And yet there were others who were doubting whether they had true faith even though the evidence would be obvious that they are trusting. Some people were self-deceptive and some had weak faith. Peter responds to both groups,

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10)

Peter is not doubting God’s ability or desire to save. God has not changed his mind, but Peter places the emphasis on the believer’s role in confirming their calling and election. God saves, but believers give themselves to their calling. We can give subjective confirmation that we have true faith by our way of life. We are not saved by the subjective confirmation of our faith, but the objective of our faith. We are saved because of what Jesus Christ has done for us in the cross. We are saved by his victory over the grave. It is by His wounds we are healed.

            If we give ourselves to grow in Christ, then we will never fall away from Christ. Fall could be a reference to sin, but more likely it means stumble into apostasy. Peter is worried about the people falling away from the church into the trappings of the false teachers. God is the One who calls and elects, but it is our job to follow that call and make the election sure. Peter has a very serious aim. His aim is to make sure entrance into God’s eternal kingdom. If you get it wrong, you will not inherit the kingdom of God. Think about the seriousness of Peter’s concern. He is concern with one’s eternal blessing or eternal condemnation.

            There are serious consequences of apostasy, but there are serious benefits in giving yourself to growing in Christ. DL Moody is known for saying, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” He was diligent in his pursuit of God. He shares an illustration of the how the doctrine of election, God dying for an individual sinner, can grip our hearts to avail ourselves after God. He writes,

One thing I know—I cannot speak for others, but I can speak for myself; I cannot read other minds and other hearts; I cannot read the Bible and lay hold for others; but I can read for myself, and take God at his word. The great trouble is that people take everything in general, and do not take it to themselves. Suppose a man should say to me, "Moody, there was a man in Europe who died last week, and left five million dollars to a certain individual. "Well," I say, "I don't doubt that; it's rather a common thing to happen," and I don't think anything more about it. But suppose he says, "But he left the money to you." Then I pay attention; I say, "To me?" "Yes, he left it to you." I become suddenly interested. I want to know all about it. So we are apt to think Christ died for sinners; He died for everybody, and for nobody in particular. But when the truth comes to me that eternal life is mine, and all the glories of Heaven are mine, I begin to be interested. I say, "Where is the chapter and verse where it says I can be saved?" If I put myself among sinners, I take the place of the sinner, then it is that salvation is mine and I am sure of it for time and eternity

If you realize what Christ has purchased for you, how he has given himself on the cross for you. shed his blood for you, pierced for you, beaten for you; so that you can receive the rich inheritance of the eternal kingdom. Dear sinner, Jesus died for you. He took your place. Salvation is yours for all time. If that be the case, why would we not want to make every effort to confirm our calling and election?