Love is the characteristic motive for God’s actions. It was because God so loved the world that He sent his only Son. In 1 John 4:9-12, John tells us that it was because God loved us that he sent Jesus to provide our atonement, not because we loved Him. The Apostle Paul writes something similar in Romans 5:6-11. God acted and demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus Christ while we were still His enemies.
Therefore, God’s motive in election is love. He chooses us because He loves us. This motive is characteristic of God as He is understood in all three manifestations of the Trinity. 1 John 3:1 says that the Father has shown us His love in making us His children. Galatians 2:20 says that it was Jesus who showed His love for us in giving Himself up for us. Romans 5:5 teaches that God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
God chose and predestined us in love to be adopted as His children. In Ephesians 1:4-5, the phrase “in love” is sometimes translated as belonging with the earlier sentence in verse 4 and sometimes as introducing the words in verse 5, but either way, whether the verses teach we were chosen in love or predestined in love, we can know that God acted for our redemption in this manner out of His love.
Election is God’s sovereign choice in eternity past to bring some lost men to salvation. His choosing is not arbitrary, but is based in His love. It seems arbitrary to us because it is not based on human merit. It is not just good people, wealthy people, educated people, or any other reason we can understand. But God’s choice is based on His wisdom, His righteousness, and His love. Romans 8:28-37 reveals that we are called according to His purpose, not according to capriciousness or random draw. In love He did these things, therefore nothing can separate us from Him and no one can bring any charge against us. Election is clearly taught in scripture, but it is not arbitrary.
Many examples of Old Testament illustration of God’s sovereign choosing can be found. In Genesis 6 we see that God’s heart was grieved over the sin of mankind and He was ready to destroy everyone and everything, but Noah found favor with God. Verse 9 says that Noah was blameless among the people, but scripture teaches that our righteousness is like filthy rags before God. Yet God fines Noah righteous in his generation and shows him grace and mercy.
In Genesis 22:17-18, God chooses Abraham and Abraham’s descendants to receive His promises. Abraham’s descendants have not lived to do anything to merit God’s favor, but they are already given His promise. God’s blessings are given as a certainty.
God decides who will come to Him. He doesn’t wait around for people to become holy enough to start paying them attention. But God’s choice is always based on His own character. It is not arbitrary. Noah is said to be a righteous man. Abraham is said to be an obedient and faithful man. God’s choice is not irrational or unreasonable. But it is God’s choice, not the man’s choice. God grants promises that go beyond Noah and beyond Abraham, but they are granted in keeping with His character and His love.
Jeremiah is another example. In Jeremiah 1:5, God tells Jeremiah that even before he was formed in the womb, God knew him and had appointed him as a prophet. This is election being taught in the Old Testament.
There are many New Testament examples as well. Luke 1:13-17 tells of an angel speaking to Zechariah about his yet to be conceived son John, who we call John the Baptist. God speaks with certainty about John and what he will do and how people will respond to him. God already knows John, just as He knew Jeremiah, and calls John to service before he is even conceived. Luke also writes in Acts 13:48 that it was all those who were appointed to eternal life that believed the gospel message about Jesus.
Before going to Gethsemane, on the night of the Last Supper, Jesus taught his disciples in John 15:16 that they did not choose Him, but He chose them, and they were chosen to bear fruit for Him. Jesus’ choosing was not arbitrary and it was not apart from His set purpose.
In Galatians 1:13-17, the Apostle Paul says that he began his life as an active enemy of God, yet still he teaches that God chose him before he was born and showed him grace. He was chosen to be God’s messenger to Gentile nations. God’s choice of Paul was not arbitrary, but was a choice with purpose.
Paul teaches again in Ephesians 1:3-14 that God chose us before the foundation of the world and we are predestined according to God’s plan. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 again teaches that God chose us to be saved and sanctified through the Holy Spirit.
If God has worked out everything in history and has set for us a certain future, has he not also worked out our salvation? Could God do one without the other?
This is part 1 of the fourth lesson in a twelve part series on Basic Theology. Each part is broken into two half-hour sections. These recordings are part of a series called Theologoumenon. They were recorded by Dr. Bush in 1979 so that people in the churches, not just in seminary classrooms, could have easy access to lessons in basic theology.
1. The Word of God (part 1 – part 2)
2. God the Creator (part 1 – part 2)
3. God the Redeemer (part 1 – part 2)
4. Redemption (part 1 – part 2)
5. The Holy Spirit and His Gifts (part 1 – part 2)
6. The Trinity (part 1 – part 2)
7. The Doctrine of Sin Part 1 (part 1 – part 2)
8. The Doctrine of Sin Part 2 (part 1 – part 2)
9. Salvation (part 1 – part 2)
10. Doctrine of the Church (part 1 – part 2)
11. Last Things (part 1 – part 2)
12. How to Recognize Heresy (part 1 – part 2)