Election, Practically Applied
. . . and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48b).
Without question the Scriptures teach the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation. That is – ‘[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will’ (Eph. 1:4-6). As the Apostle Paul notes, Yahweh told Moses, ‘He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens (refuses to intervene with His grace and power leading to salvation) whom He desires’ (Rom.? 9:18). He goes further to say that God has vessels of wrath prepared for destruction and he has vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory (Rom. 9:22-23). And God made us his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which he prepared beforehand so that we may walk in them (Eph. 2:10). The Scriptures also teach the responsibility of man to believe the gospel, promising eternal salvation to all who repent and believe on Christ (John 3:16, 6:47; Rom. 10:13-17, 2 Corinthians 5:20, 6:1-2).
The Scriptures are replete with examples of the doctrine of election, practically applied. In Acts 13:13ff Paul is on his first missionary journey, making his way through Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia (modern day Turkey) preaching Jesus. His first stop is in Pisidian Antioch where, after preaching to the Jews who rejected his message, he went to the Gentiles who heard him gladly. Luke, the writer of Acts, tells us that as many of these Gentiles as had been appointed to eternal life believed the gospel (Acts 13:48). The word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. On Paul’s second missionary journey, beginning in Macedonia, on his first stop in Philippi, the Lord opened the heart of Lydia to respond to the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14). And later, when making his way to Corinth in Achaia, a very wicked city, the Lord said to Paul in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city’ (Acts 18:9-10). God is the sole author of salvation but he uses people as his instruments to bring it about in his time.
If indeed God is sovereign in salvation, then it seems logical that the human instruments whom he uses to effect that salvation would be evenly distributed throughout the church. That is, any believer would be a viable candidate of such instrumentation. This, however, is not the case. Very few Christians ever lead anyone to faith in Christ, while some believers do it all the time. What gives? Why do some people see many people make professions of faith while most Christians rarely see this happen? To be sure, a person ‘praying a prayer’ does not necessarily mean one has been born again. He is at best, in the days, weeks, and months following, a ‘hopeful convert.’ Time will tell if he has new life in Christ which will prove itself in bringing forth fruits in keeping with repentance (Matt.3:8; Gal. 5:22-24; Col. 3:1-5). Nonetheless, seeing people respond positively to the marvellous claims of Christ, leading to obedience in Christian discipleship, is the inestimable privilege of the believer. So then, why does this rarely happen for most of us?
The Triune God is far more concerned about the salvation of his elect than you are. The Father chose them in eternity past, the Son died and was raised from the dead for them two thousand years ago, and the Holy Spirit regenerates them in due time. He will make it happen, but he always uses people as his instruments of conversion. If Paul had refused to go to Pisidian Antioch, Philippi, or Corinth, then God would have raised up someone else to bring the gospel to his elect in those places. Practically stated – when God chooses to move powerfully and redemptively on his elect at the time of their conversion, he directs them to people who will share Jesus with them.
This is similar to the stock-broker who makes cold calls. It is hard work. It is a numbers game, but he knows there is business out there to be had. If he refuses to make the calls, then he does not gain new clients; but someone else will make those calls and will gain the new clients he could have had. It is like the players on a basketball team. The game is going to be played. Five men will be on the court at any one time. Several others are ‘in the rotation’, coming off the bench to give rest to the starters. But other players, who have refused to work hard to get better, are sitting on the end of the bench, and they rarely get into the game. Or how about this analogy – you have an electric light bulb, and you want to know if various sockets in your house are ‘live.’ So you screw the light bulb into one socket, and the light shines. In another socket, nothing happens. When you share Jesus with someone, when you put the ‘light bulb into the socket’ and he believes; then you know that person was chosen by God before the foundation of the world, and you are in awe of God using you as his instrument to effect such a marvellous work of grace.
Simply put – if you want to see people come to faith in Christ, then you must go to them. Preachers – don’t become an office rat, a coffee shop possum, who finds reasons to stay away from unbelievers. Go to them. Be intentional. God has his elect. He is going to save people. Who? We don’t know, but they are out there. Don’t allow the good to become the enemy of the best. Of course, you must engage in sermon preparation; and you must certainly pray. You also have pastoral and administrative duties, but I know from personal experience that I can easily talk myself into staying in my office, doing good and necessary things, while neglecting the glorious privilege of sharing Jesus with those who do not know him.
And the only way you will do this effectively and consistently is to die to yourself. You must surrender your own desires for ease. As you engage in revival prayer – praying with the heart of Jesus; in the name of Jesus; using the Word of God; praying in the Spirit; seeking to live a holy life; as you pray in true faith, believing God will answer you; as you pray fervently and urgently (this comes from an intolerable burden – an intense grief over the status quo in your own life, in the church, and in the world); as you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God; as you seek biblical unity with other believers, confessing your sins to one another; as you pray together and in agreement with other brothers and sisters; and as you stay at it, never giving up, persisting in revival prayer; then a zeal for the salvation of the nations will consume you. This zeal will eventually propel you into the world. You will be filled up with Jesus and you will be unable to keep silent about the great propitiator, the marvellous expiator and reconciler, the mighty lover of your soul who has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you into his own kingdom. You can have this burden for souls every day, and when you do, God will bring his elect to you, and give you the privilege of harvesting more souls for his kingdom. Pray for it! Look for it! Expect it!
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. He planted (2003) and served as Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in Hartford, Connecticut, until December 2011. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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