Who is/are the chosen?
Some recent headlines as I continue my exploration of the doctrine of election:
Poll: Jewish Israelis Love Trump
Notes from Jerusalem: Everyone is in love with Donald Trump
A pro soccer team in Israel wants to rename itself in Trump’s honor
Although the headlines feature President Trump, this commentary on election isn’t about his, but about the election of Jesus Christ. Wait…what? No, not that kind of election…even though I did suggest him as a write-in candidate in 2016. Let me explain.
All the Trump love from Israelis is in response to his moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, which was a long time coming and reflects our commitment to supporting the nation of Israel. But why is the United States Israel’s strongest and most committed ally? Certainly in part because of Israel’s own commitment to democracy in a part of the world that is largely antagonistic to it. But also because of our Christian heritage recognizing Israel as God’s “chosen people,” his elect.
Hold that thought.
In my previous post I responded to a defense of the Calvinist view on the doctrine of election, which I find objectionable. According to John Calvin, “All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation.” In his view, multitudes will be forever condemned and separated from God who having been born in a state of sin were guilty before they could even think, and being passed over by him for salvation have no hope and no chance of being counted among the redeemed. In my view, this makes God out to be cruel and unjust, which just doesn’t square with how the Bible clearly portrays him.
But we do read in Scripture that believers in Christ are chosen, that we are “the elect.” What does that mean if not that God individually chooses some and not others? As many have proposed, in opposition to Calvinism, it means that as in the Old Covenant…the Old Testament…God chose a people for himself, so too in the New Covenant he has elected a people to belong to him. And these people are all those who submit to God in trusting faith, and so are “in Christ,” who is God and Savior. So the election is Christocentric and corporate primarily, and individuals become elect upon their free choice to trust in him. It is only as we are “in him,” as the New Testament repeatedly emphasizes, that we enjoy the blessing of being among the elect.
So the elect is/are the church…not an institution but all those who by faith belong to God, including the faithful under the Old Covenant. More specifically, Jesus Christ is the Elect…the chosen Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 42. Before the foundation of the world God knew we would all be separated from him forever because of our sin unless he provided a remedy…a Redeemer. And in choosing Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins he also chose all who would be “in him” by faith.
For an in-depth examination of this interpretation of the doctrine of election, I recommend Robert Shank’s book Elect in the Son. If you’d like a quick overview, William Lane Craig can always be counted on to explain the different views fairly. Here’s the transcript to his Defenders lesson where he presents this view, loosely known as Arminianism, and references Shank’s book.
And if you’re interested in having a reasoned discussion of the different views, please share yours below. As I said last week, I’m still open to persuasion. Calvinism repels me, yes, but perhaps I am misunderstanding something, or it repels less or even attracts from a different perspective. Plenty still hold to it, that’s for sure. Why?
It is interesting how many times in the Old Testament, especially as I think of the prophet Isaiah, when the Lord refers to “My People”, He is speaking of Israel. When we get to Matthew, when the angel tells Joseph that “He shall save His people from their sins”, some have misconstrued this to mean that Christ only died for “His people”, thus justifying the limited atonement.
But in this verse in Matthew, the angel is actually talking about how Christ would save His people Israel from their sins.
The elect in the OT can be referring to Israel, or to Christ, or in a combined way to both, Christ as the ultimate representative of Israel.
Calvin’s big mistake was to make everything in the entire Bible to refer to “the Church”, when according to Paul, the things that were revealed to him, and by him to us in the New Testament were hidden from ages and generations, in other ages not made known, and hid in God.
In Paul’s epistles, as you said, the elect of God are those that are in Christ, because He is the elect of God. We also find out that Christ died for the ungodly, which includes everybody. In Romans 3, we read about the righteousness of God without the law unto all (no exceptions, offered to all), and upon all them that believe (these are those that actually receive it), because their is no difference, for all have sinned.
But by mixing some of the things specifically meant for Israel the nation to refer to us, Calvinism becomes the necessary conclusion. Arminianism often does the same thing, but sometimes arrives at a different conclusion in the details, but from a far away big picture view, the conclusions are not much different, because the assumptions are not much different.
Thank you for this post…it is a joy to be in Christ, and being numbered among the elect of God.
Thank you for reading and commenting, Charles. I too rejoice, not that I am one of the few “preordained to eternal life” and not “to eternal damnation,” as Calvin taught, but that God chose Christ and that I am in him by faith. And so do have eternal life, by his grace and my reception of it.
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