The Salvation of the Christians: Election, Part 1

Bible and crossSeveral posts ago, I mentioned my belief that the NT doctrine of election is the same as the OT doctrine of election — that is, “election” means that God has elected Israel as the chosen people. The Gentiles have been grafted into Israel so that they enjoy God’s covenant promises with Abraham, and so they are elect, too (Rom 11).

The Calvinist view is that NT election is quite unlike OT election, being individual and unconditional — that is, not even conditioned on faith. Rather, in the Calvinist view, if you are among the elect, God grants you faith through the Spirit and you will necessarily be saved.

Calvin’s teachings were rejected by Jacob Arminius. And the Arminian view is that we  have free will to decide whether to believe, but then what does Paul’s teaching on election add to “those who believe are saved”? In the Arminian view, not much.

A better view is to think, not in terms of 16th Century Reformation theological disputation, but like Paul — a First Century Jewish rabbi who thought in OT categories and terms. This is why I conclude that the Pauline teachings of election and predestination are about the Gentiles enjoying the same blessings as Israel as God’s chosen or elect people.

Let’s check some key passages to see just how crazy my theory is. And as promised, I want to start in Ephesians. (I covered Rom 9 – 11 in another series some time ago.)

(Eph 1:3-4a ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,  4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

First, many take “we” to mean “we Jews.” Paul will include the Gentiles in these blessings later, beginning in v. 12, but Paul starts by speaking of God’s election of the Jews. However, most commentators read “we” to refer to “we Jewish and Gentile Christians” until v. 12, and I think that’s right.

Look ahead to —

(Eph 1:11-14 ESV) 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,  12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Clearly, in v. 12, “we” means “we Jews,” just as “you also” means “you Gentiles, also.” But the commentators conclude that Paul shifts from “we Christians” to “we Jews” beginning in v. 12 — Paul’s point being that all these blessings that we Jews and you Gentiles enjoy were originally for just the Jews, and the Gentiles were added later.

That is, vv. 2 – 11 are about Jews and Gentiles, but viewed through a Jewish lens. Paul is recapitulating the First Testament and God’s covenant promises to the Jews — promises that the Gentiles now also enjoy.

He’s exulting in the fact that both Jews and Gentiles receive the blessings that were originally only for the Jews, and to make the point very clearly to those familiar with the Torah, he borrows language over and over from Deuteronomy, especially the early chapters that are all about God’s decision to choose Israel is his own.

So back to —

(Eph 1:3-4a ESV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us [Christians, Jew and Gentile] in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,  4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Now, is Paul thinking in ethnic/national terms or individual terms? Well, he borrows his language from Deuteronomy. And in Deuteronomy these terms refer to the nation of Israel as a people or nation — not to each individual Jew.

With only two exceptions, every Israelite who crossed the Red Sea died in the desert and did not reach the Promised Land. They were God’s chosen people, but they were not individually elect or guaranteed a reward.

Calvinists speak of “perseverance of the saints,” meaning that those who are once saved will remain saved — and faithful to God — until the end. But the Israelites who left Egypt did not remain saved and did not persevere, even though they were God’s chosen people.

“Chose us in him” is a reference to the choosing of Abraham and his descendants, particularly —

(Deu 4:37 ESV) And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power,

(Deu 7:6-8 ESV) “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

(Deu 18:13-14 ESV) 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God,  14 for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.

This is but a small sampling of similar language that courses through Deu. In writing Eph, Paul has Deu in mind and God’s covenant with Israel — even though his point is that the Gentiles are included in those covenants.

Now, the Greek for “chosen” in Eph 1:6 is eklegomai, elect. It’s easy to read “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” as a reference to each Christian having been elected by God before he created the heavens and the earth. Whether or not that’s true, Paul is not saying that here.

His reference to our being chosen is about us as “a people for his treasured possession.” Paul is deliberately borrowing Deuteronomy’s language of ethnic or national election, and we should read his words to mean what they mean in Deu until the text itself forces a different reading.

I don’t expect to have persuaded the readers just yet. But there’s more —

(Eph 1:4-6 ESV)  In love  5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Compare —

(Deu 14:1-2 ESV) “You are the sons of the LORD your God. …  2 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

(Deu 26:18-19 ESV)  18 And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments,  19 and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.” 

Again, Paul has Deu in mind. He adds to Deu the idea of adoption. The Torah says nothing of “adoption,” nor did the Jews practice adoption during Paul’s day, to our knowledge. Rather, Paul adapts a Roman term to explain how the Jews and Gentiles become sons of God.

The Israelites were declared God’s sons in Deu 14:1. To be a “son of God” is very nearly to be declared divine. The same term is used of the Messiah, as king (Ps 2), but in much of the OT refers to God’s relationship to Israel as heavenly Father (Exod. 4:22; Deut. 14:1; 32:6; Jer. 31:9; Hos. 1:10; 11:1).

The point of “adoption” is that God made a choice. Israel (and later, the faithful Gentiles) have no right to call God “Father.” Rather, God chose Israel to be his children. Like adopted children, we were chosen by our Father — but this is a national/ethnic adoption. After all, the OT is filled with stories of Israel rebelling against God and individual Israelites being rejected by God because of their faithlessness. God remained true to his covenant with the nation, but individuals often failed to receive the covenant promises.

Regarding “predestination,” Paul’s point is that the coming of the Messiah, the outpouring of the Spirit, the arrival of the Kingdom, and even the expansion of the Kingdom to include the Gentiles were all foreseen by the prophets. The adoption of both Israel and the Gentiles as God’s sons had to happen because God’s Spirit prompted the prophets to say so.

But he’s speaking at an ethnic and national level, not about particular individuals. After all, most Jews did not accept Jesus. God preserved a remnant to believe and to be the true Israel (Rom 11), so that his covenant promises would not fail. But the test of whether his promises were kept is national, not individual. Most of Abraham’s descendants rejected God’s promises and election and were therefore not saved.

(Eph 1:7-10 ESV)  7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight  9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ  10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Compares with —

(Deu 7:7-8 ESV)  7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 

(Deu 4:37-39 ESV)  37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power,  38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day,  39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 

(Deu 4:6 ESV)  6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

“Redemption” is a slave market term. It refers to being freed from slavery by paying a price. God redeemed Israel from literal, physical slavery in Egypt. He now redeems his people from enslavement to sin.

And so we come to —

(Eph 1:11-12 ESV)  11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,  12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

“Inheritance” you say? It’s used about 20 times just in Deu, 77 times in the Torah.

(Deu 4:37-39 ESV)  37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power,  38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day,  39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

“Inheritance” in the Torah is the Promised Land. Only two of the Israelite slaves who left Egypt received a portion of the Promised Land.

In Jesus, “the meek shall inherit the earth.” Our inheritance has been expanded from the Promised Land to include the new heavens and new earth — the perfect unity of God with his Creation.

(Eph 1:13-14 ESV) 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Here Paul makes explicit what was implied in the earlier passages. “You also” refers to the Gentile readers. Just as was true of Cornelius and his household, the receipt by the Gentiles of the Holy Spirit sealed (marked, displayed) the truth of God’s promises regarding the Gentiles. Joel 2:28-29 promised that the Spirit would be poured out on “all flesh,” for example.

“Our inheritance” is, again, the redeemed Creation, the new heavens and new earth, that we’ll possess at the resurrection.

So we see that Paul is speaking in terms of God’s OT promises, in OT language. The questions that Calvin wrestled with — such as how God can see the future and yet humans have free will — are legitimate and important questions. But they are not Paul’s questions. Paul was dealing with how it be true that God would be in covenant relationship with Israel and yet most of Israel would reject the Messiah and the Gentiles would enter the Kingdom by the thousands. He was trying to fit the NT reality he saw with his own eyes into the covenant theology of the OT.

So why does election matter? We’ll get there.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Atonement, Connection of Church with Israel, Election, Soteriology, The Salvation of the Christians, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Salvation of the Christians: Election, Part 1

  1. Richard constant says:

    Pretty nice J
    although when I’m reading.
    I find myself saying prayers for you to get better.
    I find this disturbing J.
    so you think you can get well. You know. I’d say something but you know I think you would get letters about how rude I am even though it was meant to be funny.
    So I’ll exercise a little discernment.
    See there you’re teaching me now.
    blessings J have a nice day bud

  2. Richard constant says:

    Ooops
    I think I had to tell you J that’s the first time I’ve ever used that word I hope I used it right.
    Discernment.
    since you’ve got all that Bible Software and you are a lawyer maybe you could tell me whether or not I’m using it right.
    Oh well blessings

  3. Richard constant says:

    You see there.
    I just can’t help myself.
    I just walk around smiling and giggling just almost 24/7. here
    Is a couple of words I could use help with, maybe? grateful and joyful.

  4. Richard constant says:

    You Know Jay, my mom used to say.
    I think I put it down before.
    Richard,
    You’re just so happy.
    It as if you had good sense.
    🙂

  5. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Two comments received on Facebook:

    Mario Mendoza Bermejo: Paul had Christ in mind, the real Israel of God, the real Son of God, in whom and through whom Jews and Gentiles were chosen and predestined.

    Mario Mendoza Bermejo: My problem with this approach is that it is Israel-centered rather than Christ-centered.

    The purpose of election is clearly stated in Eph. 1:4 “that we should be HOLY and BLAMELESS before him.” This is possible ONLY through the IMPUTED righteousness of Christ which God reckons to everyone who believes. The reason why God chose us IN CHRIST and not in ourselves directly and individually is because we can never be holy and blameless in ourselves because of sin! Therefore God chose Jesus to be our righteousness BEFORE God.

  6. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Mario,

    I entirely agree that election has to be about Jesus, not just Abraham or Moses. Absolutely. But this is true of both Calvinistic and Arminian theories. And it’s true of the idea I’m suggesting.

    Hebrews teaches that those who were saved pre-Pentecost were saved by the blood of Jesus just as is true of those saved post-Pentecost. Israel’s election under Abraham and Moses was election — God’s choosing — for Israel to be saved by the blood of Jesus.

    We covered this just a few posts ago. http://oneinjesus.info/2015/07/the-salvation-of-the-jews-grace-abounding/ and http://oneinjesus.info/2015/07/the-salvation-of-the-jews-once-for-all-and-perfect-forever/#more-71011 and http://oneinjesus.info/2015/07/the-salvation-of-the-jews-the-roll-call-of-the-faithful/

    Therefore, because the Jews were saved by Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, to say that our election is our entry as Gentiles into Israel’s election does not deny the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice. It affirms it!

  7. Richard constant says:

    J.
    Read Joshua chapter 6 through chapter 8, contextually and pay close attention to their actions of Faithfulness.
    And then read the confirmation of the Covenant verse 30 chapter 8.
    you might find there a good example of imputed righteousness, the heart of the people of Israel Resonated acceptable faIth by works, and then the binding agreement through acceptance of both parties at the mountains. of course along the way they had a similar problem as God had with their fathers also. that being one person disobeyed unfaithful to God.
    they had to take care of properly.
    I look at this as Faithfulness,
    God testing their Faithfulness and Israel acting on their faithfulness to God through obedience and so in verse 30 that is accepted Chapter 8.
    and the Covenant confirmed.
    this would be an example of imputed righteousness.

  8. Richard constant says:

    and course this Becomes complimentary to the new testament.
    going to take a stab at it here I think it goes to Romans chapter 4 Verse 20? Walk in the Steps or walk in the Faith of Abraham.
    to me you’re getting a little sketchy With Imputed righteousness Concept.

    that would be Romans 4 verse 16 but we see that their Faith did not waver…

  9. Richard constant says:

    The conclusion to this would be for me.
    if you look to Acts chapter 10 who initiated the action and why,?
    Then after the confirmation by the Spirit of Christ, Peter said Who am I so I ordered them to be baptized in the water.
    as far as I’m concerned it happens again on the day of Pentecost the same way 12 or 120 I really don’t see why that’s so hard to understand.
    so with Schroeder’s cat.
    when do peoples hearts resonate with faith.
    God knows without opening the box.
    we’re the ones that are supposed to use discernment.
    create relationships the way God create some with us and speak to people in a loving caring understanding way. To communicate to them the necessities of love.
    The new creation as best we can.
    But don’t just tell somebody there going to hell cuz they didn’t get baptized right.
    It’s best not to say anything at all if you don’t create any kind of a trusting relationship or a very little bit I mean I can go on and on with this but it would just get redundant

  10. Richard constant says:

    Oh and as a side note
    best not to say anything at all because it’s Spiritually divisive and

    you just might be a dead cat,In the box.
    I’ve learned a lesson or two over these last few years.
    I’d much rather be loved then be right.
    I know just how right I am.
    And I’m pretty sure that’s why Paul says I don’t even want to judge myself.
    How does that go knowing the fear of the Lord. I had
    better keep that always on my mind, the Lord in in the garden praying by himself asking God to find please, help me, find, another way, but Your will be done.

    the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.!
    Who said that!
    ,

  11. Richard constant says:

    Oops I guess that’s the soul is willing But the flesh is not.
    ok John Mark now I’m thoroughly confused again.
    I know, exactly what you’re saying, I can just hear it!
    So what’s new rich.
    boy oh boy
    😉

  12. rich says:

    Galatians

    Salutation
    1:1 From Paul, an apostle (not from men, nor by human agency, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead) 1:2 and all the brothers with me, to the churches of Galatia. 1:3 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father, 1:5 to whom be glory forever and ever! Amen.

    1:11 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 1:12 For I did not receive it or learn it from any human source; instead I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ.

    1:15 But when the one who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace was pleased 1:16 to reveal his Son in me so that I could preach him among the Gentiles, I did not go to ask advice from any human being, 1:17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, but right away I departed to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus.

    2:8 (for he who empowered Peter for his apostleship to the circumcised also em-powered me for my apostleship to the Gen-tiles) 2:9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who had a
    reputation as pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we would go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

    2:15 We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners,

    2:16 yet we know that no one is justi-fied by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

    2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

    2:21 I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!

    3:5 Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?

    3:6 Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,

    3:7 so then, understand that those who believe are the sons of Abraham.

    3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”

    3:9 So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believ

    8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”

    3:9 So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believer.

    3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 3:9 So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believer.

    3:10 For all who rely on doing the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the book of the law.”

    3:11 Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith

    3:12 But the law is not based on faith, but the one who does the works of the law will live by them.

    3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)

    3:14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gen-tiles, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith

    3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abra-ham and to his descendant.

    Scripture does not say, “and to the descendants,” referring to many,

    but “and to your descendant,” refer-ring to one, who is Christ.

    3:21 Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God?
    Absolutely not!

    For if a law had been given that was able to give life,

    then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

    3:21 Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

    3:23 Now before faith came

    we were held in custody under the law,

    being kept as prisoners
    until
    the coming faith
    would be revealed

    JAY
    WHOSE FAITH IS IT???

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