Why do we get antsy about the E-Word?
Our church just started preaching through the book of Ephesians, and it took a whopping two weeks before we hit a hot-button theological topic! That being, of course, election, or God’s gracious purposes, his holy and infinite wisdom and will in saving sinners by faith in Jesus. His heart to redeem sinful people from all walks of life and welcome them into His family (Eph. 1:4-6).
A word with so much good news attached to it—and so much baggage, too. There are many reasons for this, of course. Election brings to mind the question of how God’s will works in accordance with humanity’s free agency. (We are tempted to reduce these as an either/or, where Scripture seems to present them as a both/and.) It also challenges our ingrained desire to earn our salvation by undermining our ability to boast. God saves us not because we have obeyed his commands, but he loves us (and loves us because he loves us). But for many of us, it raises the question about the need for evangelism: are there people who don’t need to hear the gospel if they’re not going to be saved?
Before returning to the Father, Jesus commissioned His followers to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel. In giving this commission, He didn’t tell them to look for a specific subset of people with signs above their heads that read, “Elect.” God intends for this message to be shared with everyone, everywhere, without restriction. Let me say that again: The gospel is for all people in all places, without distinction. We may not know the how and the why, but we know the who. All are sinners who need salvation found only in Christ Jesus. And all of us who are under God’s grace—who have been saved through faith—are to proclaim the gospel to the nations. And as this message is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit works in the heart of a person who has ears to hear, prompting and calling that individual to turn from sin and trust in Jesus.
That’s how God works to call and to redeem His people. He calls us to proclaim the gospel to everyone, calling them to believe in Jesus, and some will. As much as we can be bewildered by questions about election, we can’t lose sight of this mission. The call to believe the gospel along with the call of the Holy Spirit in the heart of those who hear it work together to bring people to faith in Christ (2 Tim. 1:8-10).
Who are the elect? Only God knows. Our responsibility is to call everyone to believe. God will take care of the rest.1
- This post is adapted from Devotional Doctrine, 104-105. ↵
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